In my recent Spectator World article about intellectual attempts to normalise paedophilia I wrote:
French intellectuals were especially energetic…A who’s-who of Gallic literary figures signed a petition in 1977 that called for sex between adults and children to be decriminalized, including Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir.
Foucault, who was posthumously charged with raping Tunisian boys by his fellow writer Guy Sorman last year (charges, in fairness, that are unproven and that Foucault is unable to respond to), helpfully clarified that when he said children he meant children.
Let me get the most unimportant thing out of the way: Sorman made his accusations this year and not last year. Minor as this error is, it might well be reflective of a lack of seriousness in referencing Sorman's claims.
When my piece was published, some people suggested that Sorman's allegations were easily debunkable. This was news to me, but only because I had not looked into them as closely as I should have done. Here are his claims, to the Times:
The young children were running after Foucault to say what about me? Take me, take me. They were 8, 9, 10 years old. Foucault was throwing money at them and would say, 'let's meet at 10 p.m. at the usual place.' He would make love there on the gravestones with young boys. The question of consent wasn’t even raised.
When I reflected on these accusations it struck me, as it should have done before, that if they were true there should be other people who could verify them. As it turns out, the paper Jeune Afrique went looking for them and found people who remembered Foucault having trysts with young men rather than with boys:
Moncef Ben Abbes, true memory of the village, is categorical: “Foucault was not a pedophile but was seduced by the young ephebes. Guys of 17 or 18 whom he briefly found in the thickets under the lighthouse next to the cemetery.
To be clear, this is still bad, but not as bad as what Sorman alleged. No one has stepped forwards to endorse his accusations.
Sorman himself appears to have backtracked:
Asked by journalists to clarify these astounding allegations, Sorman has become increasingly evasive and vague. He is no longer sure of having “seen” Foucault “buying” little boys; he is no longer capable of commenting on their age; he did not “see” the cemetery scene, which was just a rumor. As for his meeting with Foucault, which he first situated in 1969, he now claims that it actually took place in 1970, even though Foucault had left Tunisia in the autumn of 1968. Sorman no longer appears to be willing to assume either the responsibility or the consequences of his accusations, which he acknowledges as unverifiable and from which he ultimately appears to have disassociated himself.
While I wanted to reference Sorman's claims neutrally, and without explicit or implicit endorsement, to do so still gave them too much credit as they are so weak. I should have known that to begin with. As much as Foucault's ideas regarding children and consent were absurd and repulsive - which, along with those of others, was the primary focus of the piece - that does not mean that claims against his actions do not merit as careful study as if they were aimed at anybody else.