Why French tolerate trysts, but are up in arms over gay sex

France was unfussed by Hollande's infidelity, but issue of same-sex relationships is a 'battleground'

BY Gavin Mortimer LAST UPDATED AT 10:43 ON Thu 30 Jan 2014

IN THE eyes of many Anglo-Saxons the French are famously and fabulously relaxed when it comes to all things sexual. Just look at the recent revelations concerning Francois Hollande, the French president, who has been enjoying what the British tabloids call 'love trysts' with a nubile actress 18 years his junior. 

What upset the French most wasn't the fact their leader was cheating on his long-term partner, Valerie Trierweiler, but that he was travelling to his meetings with her on the back of a scooter. Please! Aren't Frenchmen supposed to be the most dashing, the most debonair of lovers?

British and American commentators could only look on and marvel, knowing only too well that in their countries such behaviour is never so lightly excused.

Compared to the Anglophone world France has always been more tolerant of marital infidelity, even having an expression for that hour of the early evening when people meet up with their lovers before going home to their spouses – le cinq à sept [five to seven].

Yet there is a paradox to this Gallic sexual insouciance, one which is creating increasing friction in France as traditional values clash with 21st century reality.

For while the French are relaxed when it comes to heterosexual sex, a large minority of the country is becoming ever more strident in its opposition to homosexual sex – in short, anything that might threaten the quaint image of the contented French family.

This Sunday in Paris and Lyon sees the first demonstrations of the year against the Gay Marriage and Adoption Bill. The bill became law last year, despite widespread opposition across France, but that hasn't deterred 'Le Manif', as the protestors call themselves, from organising another massed demonstration against the legislation.

This time they'll not just be railing against gay marriage, but also surrogate births and IVF [in vitro fertilisation] treatment. According to French newspaper, Liberation, the organisers of Le Manif regard both surrogacy and IVF as pandering to the LGBT community to the detriment of the traditional family unit.

This conservative streak that runs through French society has been in evidence again this week as thousands of parents kept their children from school on Monday. The reason for the collective action? An alleged attempt by the Socialist government to teach students that "they are not born as boys or girls, but can choose to become one or the other".

The campaign was organised by a conservative group that last week sent a text message to families alerting them to what it labels "gender theory" teaching, and calling on parents to take their children out of school one day each month.

According to France24, sex education in schools could "become a new ideological battleground" between conservative France and the Socialist government.

Education minister Vincent Peillon reacted forcefully to the wave of absenteeism (around 100 primary schools reported missing pupils) on Wednesday, instructing head teachers across the country to remind parents that school attendance is compulsory. He also rejected the argument of the conservatives, saying: "The national school system is in no way teaching gender theory. It teaches equality from all points of view, and in particular, equality between women and men."

But France24 says that conservatives appear unlikely to give ground because of their "outrage" at the so-called 'ABCs of equality' programme that was introduced in around 600 primary school classes this year, and which they claim involves children reading books such as "I have two dads that love each other".

The 'Pull Students From School' initiative was launched by  the French/Algerian novelist and filmmaker Farida Belghoul but, significantly, it has the backing of ultra-conservative Catholic groups such as Civitas, which is also among the organisers of the anti-gay marriage protests.

According to France24, Belghoul has "carefully avoided directly challenging" the ABCs programme by not mentioning it by name, but Civitas has no such qualms. "Thanks to Farida Belghoul numerous parents have been alerted about an unnatural and perverse ideology that is being taught as early as pre-school under the guise of equality and 'the fight against homophobia'," the group announced on Wednesday.

With the fight set to continue, and signs it could become fiercer, maybe President Hollande will need that crash helmet of his for more than just a disguise. · 

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"An alleged attempt by the Socialist government to teach students that "they are not born as boys or girls, but can choose to become one or the other"."


This is outrageous.

Is it "alleged" or de jure? If the former, then it seems that the teabagger tendency has crossed the Atlantic. If he latter, then some reportage, SVP.

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