Big in ... Paris

More
Kikuo Johnson

When the French blogger Sophie Fontanel declared her embrace of celibacy in her book L’Envie, published in France in 2011, readers didn’t know what to make of her. Progressive or reactionary? Visionary or prude? In a culture synonymous with sex and romance, whose public figures are hardly renowned for restraint (one Australian paper has called Fontanel “the anti–Dominique Strauss-Kahn”), her declaration proved polarizing.

Many readers celebrated her honesty, confessing their own sexual indifference as they would a shameful fetish. One long-married reader told a French publication that Fontanel’s book elicited a sense of relief not just in her but in her friends, most of whom “saw themselves in this lack of desire.” Others have labeled Fontanel backwards and regressive. An Italian journalist accused her of resurrecting “the Catholic morals of another century,” while a writer in Le Figaro predicted the onset of a “new chastity” trend and, with it, the return of “vanilla sex.”

Booming sales of the book—which will hit U.S. stores this summer as The Art of Sleeping Alone, a counterintuitive twist on the best-selling live-like-a-glamorous-French-lady genre (see: Bringing Up Bébé and French Women Don’t Get Fat)—have even prompted some to wonder whether France’s libidinous reputation is entirely deserved. In Elle France, one writer suggested that perhaps the French are in on the ruse, embellishing their sex lives to maintain their national hegemony on lust: “In short, do we not tell everything when it comes to sex?”

Jump to comments
Presented by
Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

A Wild Vacation in the Pacific Northwest

A not-so-ordinary road trip, featuring extra-tall art bikes, skateboards, and hand-painted vans


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in The Sexes

More back issues, Sept 1995 to present.

Just In