The more we know
More and more, it seems, French popular culture reflects a national battle being waged about sex, gender and social norms. Even for the supposedly sexually liberated French, we are told, recent events are notable. New York Times Fashion and Style reporter Elaine Sciolino writes of a set of French films, novels and political intrigues, all of which shine light on possible changes in the country’s views on sexual propriety and gender roles. Whether it is France’s Justice Minister, Rachida Dati (single, pregnant and unsure of the father’s identity), or popular female novelists whose memoirs document serial, transient sexual encounters, or the recent surveys showing a vast majority of French women readily describing their sexual fantasies, the cumulative effect, according to French intellectual Pascal Brucnker, may very well be the stirrings of a “quiet revolution”. After reading Sciolino’s report, the Foucaultian in me chuckles at our persistence in viewing the exploration of sex – that is, our efforts as citizens and scientists to probe ever deeper into ‘the sexual imagination’ and sexual acts – as the basis for some sexual revolution. That the French themselves should ignore or forget their fellow Franc’s skepticism about this notion, is ironic.