French ‘Minister of Culture’ Frederic Mitterrand Finds Childhood Sexual Abuse Still Not Acceptable—Even to ‘Sophisticated’ European Morals.
By Kelly Clark, Child Sexual Abuse Attorney
American political junkies often use a phrase to describe a politician’s secure standing with the electorate: “He’s a shoe-in—that is, unless he gets caught sleeping with a dead woman or a live boy.” In other words, Senator Bulbousnose will surely win, unless, that is, he steps across the unspoken final lines of decency we all know about—necrophilia and pedophilia being two of them.
So, there are two things that amaze me about the unfolding scandal in France: first, that the Minister of Culture, Frederic Mitterrand, would think that his lurid book accounts of “paying for boys” in Thailand could fly under the radar and not matter to his public career; and, second, that it almost did.
In case you haven’t read about this unbelievable story, here is a quote from the Times Online, dateline October 8:
“President Sarkozy’s new Culture Minister, Frédéric Mitterrand, was struggling to save his name and possibly his job last night amid a storm over his past accounts of paying “boys” for sex. The nephew of the late President Mitterrand, who is openly gay, was thrown on the defensive after opposition politicians homed in on a memoir in which he described his delight in visiting brothels in Bangkok.
“I got into the habit of paying for boys … The profusion of young, very attractive and immediately available boys put me in a state of desire that I no longer needed to restrain or hide,” he wrote. The autobiography, La mauvaise vie (The Bad Life), was a critically acclaimed bestseller in 2005 and Mr Mitterrand, 62, a popular television presenter, was praised for his honesty. It rebounded on him this week after he leapt to the defence of Roman Polanski, the filmmaker, who was arrested in Switzerland for extradition to face a Los Angeles court for having sex with a girl aged 13.”
Now, let’s ignore the obvious about-face he has done in the last day or so, trying to play down what he has written. After all denying the obvious is what politicians do– although trying to say that admitting that he paid for sex with boys doesn’t mean that he paid for sex with boys may set a new standard.
No, I want to ponder the two aspects of all this that I mentioned above. First, how did someone who wrote this—in 2005—get appointed to a high post in a European government? Surely he did not think no one would notice: he is, after all, the highly visible nephew of former President Francios Mitterrand and a TV personality in his own right. No, it seems he was doing what a lot of celebrities do, which is to write a lurid autobiography “revealing all” to boost sales through shock value. Surely he intended the world to know that he was tantalized and hooked by the Asian sex trade. He wanted people to know…
No, what is amazing to me is that he thought that this admission would shock people in no different way than, say, talking about drunken nights on the town or lurid sexual escapades of the kind we have grown used to with celebrities. But that he thought he could just cruise on in as Minster for Culture—that’s so rich in irony I can’t even know where to start— after admitting to deep-seated pedophilic behaviour is just stupefying. I don’t know whether this says more about the man’s flawed political judgment, or about how far Western standards for decency have fallen. After all, let’s not forget, that this book was published 4 years ago and up til now there had been no blow up. He actually thought he could get away with it.
This brings me to the second source of amazement—he almost did. In fact, had it not been for the controversy over Switzerland’s arrest and the US’s extradition demands of filmmaker Roman Polanski for sexually abusing a 13 year old girl, we old-fashioned types in the US might not ever have heard about Mitterrand’s pedophilia. But the fact that Europe heard about it and there was no uproar for nearly five years surely says something fundamental about the way those ‘sophisticated’ societies think (the condemnation by the avant garde of the US in fashionable circles for Polanski’s arrest is no less indicative). Is it really okay for a major public personality now become public minister to have engaged in pedophilia? Note that there is no indication that he has acknowledged in sorrow the wrongness of his behavior, sought help, amended his way of life. This is not a story about a guy who couldn’t find forgiveness when he asked for it. This is about a guy who didn’t—apparently didn’t—even realize that what he had done was fundamentally wrong… even by the standards of Senator Bulbousnose… even by standards of European ‘sophistication.’
Boy—no pun intended—did Mitterand get the surprise of his life. There are still some things that politicians, even in Europe, can’t do. Thank God.