“Those French bastards. Will they never learn?”, asks Joan Smith in the Independent. And answers. By the grace of the State and in the Most Holy Name of Equality, yes! Those bastards will learn. They will be taught a lesson.
There is a bunch of well-known “bastards” in France who are keen on having sex with prostituted women. Don’t take my word for it: that’s how they describe themselves in a declaration insisting on their right to buy sex. The “bastards” (salauds in French) are so cross about a proposed law which would impose fines on men who pay for sex that they’ve decided to out themselves in a monthly magazine. The “manifesto of 343 bastards” has been signed by writers, actors, and commentators who say they have used, or are likely to use, “the services of prostitutes” – and aren’t ashamed of it.
The question of whether anyone (although it’s mostly men) should be able to buy sex is shaping up to become one of the great battles of the 21st century. France’s socialist government intends to follow the example of some Scandinavian countries, which have criminalised “punters”.
If you believe in equality, it’s hard to see why men should be allowed to pay to use women’s bodies, especially against a background of alarming levels of domestic and sexual violence.
To my astonishment the most logical riposte from among the Independent comments to Ms Smith’s last quoted non-sequitur comes from a man blogging from the bottom corner of the political diamond, conservative-socialist authoritarian David A.S. Lindsay. Mr Lindsay says,
Alike in Britain and in France, by all means let it be made a criminal offence for anyone above the age of consent, raised to 18, to buy sex. And, with exactly equal sentencing, for anyone above the age of consent, raised to 18, to sell sex. Are women morally and intellectually equal to men, or not?
So far as I can tell this is not sarcasm; he wants both buyers and sellers of sex criminalised. I differ, but one cannot fault his logic on the “both or neither” point.
Edmund from King Lear gave me the title of this post. It is mostly there because I am incapable of passing up a nifty lit ref. However it does occur to me that there is a way it might be made relevant. Many people will particularly want to cheer the way the salauds proudly snap their nicotine-stained fingers in the faces of their would-be oppressors:
Nous aimons la liberté, la littérature et l’intimité. Et quand l’Etat s’occupe de nos fesses, elles sont toutes les trois en danger.
Aujourd’hui la prostitution, demain la pornographie : qu’interdira-t-on après-demain ?
Hell, I cheered that, and I’ll be in church tomorrow and I had to look up “les fesses” in a French dictionary. (By the way, does “quand l’Etat s’occupe de nos fesses” have the double meaning I think it might have?) But it would really be nice, and principled, and a bloody good strategy for those who do not cheer, for those godly folk and their secular equivalents whose skin crawls at the thought of prostitution, to also stand up for the bastards. Because as the bastards say, “Today prostitution, tomorrow pornography: what will they forbid the day after next?”