Bravo Melanie McDonagh. Your stand against the coarsening of society’s sexual sensibilities is very welcome. But it is not just in Britain that porn has gone mainstream. We French now have our share of outrageously lewd tastes, too. Long gone are the days when the French could hide their perversions behind a veneer of sophistication, as if sex was somehow something that the French did in a classier – plus distingué – way. Our revolutionary ancestors would roll in over in their graves if they knew how unenlightened and childish we have become when it comes to pleasures of the flesh. Crude, cheap sexual material, whether it is on TV or in magazines, has become as common in Paris as it is in London, or any other global city. The sex world is flat.
Take French magazine Lui. Supposedly a smooth equivalent of Playboy, it appeared again in September for the first time since it stopped printing 20 years ago. Billing itself as the new ‘magazine for the modern man’, it invites readers — including women – to flip through pages of nude women and then cackle at a porn comic towards the end. I wish the sacrosanct concept of ‘gender equality’ were not applicable in every aspect of society’s fatuities. French News agencies placed Lui magazines right next to Vanity Fair, Elle and other health magazines, and the first 350,000 copies of Lui were sold out only a few hours after publication. Chief Editor Frédéric Beigbeder, who offered former Prime Minister Dominic de Villepin the first issue number in public, wants to ‘integrate sexuality into our culture and all social spheres in a very natural way’. Doesn’t sound very natural, does it?
In the 17th century, the Marquis de Sade regaled le haut monde with his libidinous quill. In the 1960s, le tout Paris thrilled to the bawdy songs of Brassens and Gainsbourg. It was all ooh-la-la. These days it’s more Oh mon Dieu!
We too have a filthy one-upmanship, with publications outdoing each other to find a new taboo to break. A few months ago, the popular middle-class magazine Paris Match displayed Gustave Courbet’s obscene painting The Origin of the World on its cover. I was appalled to discover that French TV debates led by sexual experts are being broadcast weekly at peak viewing times on our main public channels.
Our society, like Britain’s, champions sex over substance in the arts, too. In literature, the a la mode French porn novelist, Jean-Philippe Toussaint, author of Making Love and Naked, was awarded a couple of literary prizes. And last but not least, French cinema has recently celebrated the triumph of Lesbian pornography, with the most controversial Cannes Palme d’Or awarded movie ‘Blue is the warmest colour’ controversial, and unanimously applauded for being so. In the race to the puerile bottom, Britain and France are heading for a tie.