Those French bastards

Not my choice of words, but the (accurate) Independent’s translation for the Manifesto signed last week by 343 ‘Salauds’ demanding the right to have sex with prostitutes.

It’s bad enough that they should claim this right, in the light of a proposed revision of the law which would punish the client, not the provider, but their appellation is drawn from the  1971 group who fought for the right to abortion. The 343 ‘salopes’ including Simone de Beauvoir, Catherine Deneuve, Francoise Sagan, Agnes Varda and many more, not only argued for the right to abortion, but came out as having had an abortion themselves , thus risking trouble with the law. (The men who signed the petition didn’t all admit to having sex with prostitutes – they wouldn’t want to sully their image. )

This is horribly shameful, and the surviving original salopes have made it clear that they think so.

Oh, and one of the signatories was DSK’s lawyer.



11 thoughts on “Those French bastards

  1. It’s outrageous that these people are appropriating the name used by feminist activists from the 1970s. But the law itself might be a different issue. I’d like to hear from sex workers’ groups before I accept this author’s claim that it’s a good law (especially since the author appears to be opposed to all forms of sex work).

  2. Indeed, while these men may be bastards and their choice of how to sign their manifesto seems in poor taste, I myself have concerns about the law. If the goal is protecting sex workers, then as Mark says I would like to see some evidence that sex workers have been consulted. Also, the results of the Swedish law have not overall been encouraging when it comes to improving the lives of sex workers. Most sex worker groups seem to think that criminalizing johns still stigmatizes sex workers and drives their work underground, and so it tends to have the same effect as any other anti-prostitution laws in making sex workers less safe, and what evidence there is about the Swedish model seems to support their view.

    On the other hand, if the goal of the law is something other than protecting sex workers, then while I can certainly see why sex work would be an appropriate target for feminist analysis and criticism, alongside an endless array of other topics, I don’t see criminal law as an appropriate response to the issue. This would be the case even if the law did not actively endanger sex workers; it obviously applies much more strongly if the sex worker groups are right that these laws do actively endanger sex workers.

  3. One thing the article does not highlight, and which just adds to the horrendous aspect of this manifesto, is that not only do they claim to a right to have sex with prostitutes, they claim to a right to “their” prostitute (this catch phrase, “touche pas a ma pute”, is by the way, another spin off, of “touche pas a mon pote” a french anti-racist slogan). This use of the possessive, to me, is one of the most insulting things in there.

  4. I’m 100% in agreement about the outrage being expressed here. I can’t, for the life of me, resist suggesting that this article’s title be revised to incorporate the following pun:

    Those French Bâtards!

  5. @ 10:14 Anonymous, unless you’re an expert on French grammar, I’d caution against imputing too much significance to the use of the personal pronoun rather than an article; patterns of usage and meaning of French possessive pronouns don’t correspond exactly to their English “equivalents,” and I’m not positive that to translate “ma pute” as “my prostitute” perfetly captures the sense of the phrase. This is not, strictly, to say that you are wrong, just to say that we should be careful about drawing conclusions from a tiny detail of translation.

  6. Actually, the phrase ‘touche pas a ma pute’ is a sort of reference to an older one ‘touche pas a mon pote’ (don’t hurt/touch my mate) which was the catchphrase of SOS Racisme, in the 80s and meant to express solidarity with non-white people who were getting harrassed in the streets by thugs or/and the police. This makes it even more insulting, of course, in all sorts of ways. Also, I think that ‘ma pute’ translates pretty straighforwardly as ‘my whore’.

  7. axlothea, can you clarify why it is that the fact that the phrase refers back to a gesture of solidarity with people of color makes this more insulting? I’m not following the claim you’re making.

  8. Yes I can. It is insulting of the ‘salauds’ to use the SOS Racisme movement in the same way that it is insulting of them to use the ‘343 Salopes’. ‘Touche pas a mon pote’ meant participating in a movement aganst various manifestations of racism. ‘Touche pas a ma pute’ means protecting one’s right to pay for sex. (If ‘touche pas a’ means ‘hands off’ then it’s like a contrast between ‘Take you hands off my friend’ and ‘hands off my grub’.) And I don’t mean either that sex workers don’t deserve protection – as people or as professionals. But the new law that those men are protesting against would change one thing: customers will be more likely to be prosecuted and prostitutes less likely. So it’s fairly clear that they are looking after their own interest, not protecting those of sex workers.

  9. Is it possible that the ‘salauds’ intend for their statement to be precisely a gesture of solidarity with sex workers who don’t want to have to hide their work in fear that their clients will be arrested? As Matt and Protagoras say above, it seems like there are some questions to be raised about whether this sort of legal ‘remedy’ will do much to keep sex workers safe, about whether sex workers’ groups were consulted in its drafting, and about whether this actually reflects their interests. Depending on the answers to those questions, you might be more or less inclined to interpret the statement as a kind of solidarity gesture (though I suppose that would also depend on which of the several opposing feminist analyses of sex work you lean towards).

    I ask all this as an actual question, not a leading one — I haven’t found a full translation of the statement so I really don’t know.

  10. Original amonymous here – just to clarify, I am French, and I’m pretty sure the possessive here is meaningful. (I can see how it might be used as a turn of phrase here, but then they really should have thought about it more and realized it was inappropriate.)I have seen many complaints about it by native French speakers, so I don’t think it’s just me.
    I also think that there’s little doubt that these men are thinking about their own interests and not that of the prostitutes they claim a right to. As such, I agree with axiothea that the reference to the catchphrase is incredibly insulting.
    Nonethess, I would very much like to hear a sex-worker’s take on this law, and I haven’t found one yet. It seems to me that if clients risk prosecution, they are more likely to demand that sex-workers work in hidden/unsafe conditions, which wouldn’t protect them all that much. But again, I would like to hear their own opinion.

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