French Sexuality, Pleasure, and Parenting
My fascination with France must have started in college. I was taking a class called, Sexism, Classism and Racism in the Media.
I learned that in America, you can’t show a woman’s face during orgasm which is easier to achieve with Toys for Adults.
You can show her being beaten, raped, and killed, but you can’t show her face in the midst of pleasure.
America has a way of perpetuating the objectification of women; so even if she’s shown having sex, it’s often parts of her body, not her whole body, and never her face. (That requires an NC-17 rating, which no movie company can afford to get.)
In France, they are much more open about sex.
You can show a woman’s orgasm in French films. You can show her pleasure.
Currently, I’m reading Bringing Up Bebe, One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting.
In the current section of the book that I’m reading, they’re discussing food. I remember I was shocked when I watched Michael Moore’s latest film, Where to Invade Next and saw how they feed the children in French schools.
They dine with table cloths, they have water on the table that the children help to pour. They eat delicious meals in several courses.
I know first hand about American schools, having spent over ten years in them, in varying capacities, from before and after school programs, to being a full-time teacher.
Kids line up to get their plastic tray, a carton of milk, and are fed fried foods, french fries, and perhaps a bag of apples- pre-cut and treated with chemicals, so as to preserve their color.
I tasted one of those apples, solely for experiment sake, one time. It was disgusting and tasted nothing like any apple I’ve ever eaten prior.
In Brining Up Bebe, I learn that French parents have some differences when compared to American parents. I’d like to highlight the most distinct among them from my perspective:
- Allow their children to have sweets- they accept sugar. So, it’s given in small amounts, at varying times, and never seconds.
- Expect that their children will be part of the cooking. They learn to bake and cook and set the table, and are part of the experience. Therefore, they learn to participate and be a part of it and enjoy the process.
- Give their children chocolate. Sometimes even at breakfast. It’s considered part of the culture. They even have chocolate sandwiches- a chocolate bar in a baguette!
- Give their children hot chocolate in winter months at breakfast. Homemade, with cocoa and milk and sugar.
- Allow their children to use sugar to sweeten hot chocolate and yogurt- sugar is on the table, children use it, and only one spoonful.
- Are expected to be at the table, to eat with others. In some households, maybe sitting in front of the TV can happen one time a week.
- Must taste each thing, but not eat it all.
- Are served in courses. Fruit or vegetables to start, then a main course. Often pasta, bread, soups in winter, and sometimes meat or fish.
- Are allowed to leave the table after they’ve tasted each thing.
- Are not expected to sit for dinner for longer than 30 minutes.
The French women also report that anything that you eat late at night sticks for years. They eat protein at one meal a day, and usually lunch. The evening meals often consist of pasta, rice or vegetables.
One key ingredient to how parents in France get their children to participate in meals in a peaceful way is what they refer to as Authority.
It’s interesting because I’ve been reading a great book called, Discipline without Shame. In this book, they recommend not saying, “No.” So I often say to Sophia, “I’m not going to let you do that.”
After reading this book, I think that perhaps a good, authoritative NO is a powerful + potent tool.
In one example, two parents are talking in a park in France. One is American, one French. The French child is playing and the mom is free to converse with the other parent. The American parent, however, has to keep chasing her toddler when he runs out the gate. She keeps bringing him back and telling him No, but he continues to do it, so she can’t actually talk.
That’s how I feel with Sophia. Trying to converse with other adults now is seemingly impossible. Whether in person or on the phone, she keeps me so busy, that I can’t have an adult conversation.
The French don’t tolerate this. They think it’s healthier for the parents and the children for adults to be able to talk, and children to play.
The French mom insists that it’s “authority” and that the American mom just needs to learn to say NO and actually mean it. She says it’s her belief that determines the outcome. Well, that’s exactly what I practice in my life and teach my clients.
If we don’t believe, no one else will, either.
So, this holds true in our own boundaries with our children.
I’ve decided that the difference between French and American parents is pleasure.
Given that America was founded on Puritan ideals, I think we still shame and hide pleasure in all its forms. Eating, sex, enjoying time with friends, all of these are becoming fast.
The mass media, in its misogyny of women, objectification, and harsh standards, expect women to be virgins, pure, and self-sacrificing. If we are mothers, we’re not to breastfeed, we’re not to be sexual, and we are to sacrifice ourselves and serve our children.
The French are expected to be sexy. There’s even a word for French moms that speaks to their attractiveness. Mothers in France are seen as being more fulfilled and thus hold a different kind of beauty. They’re expected to work, and are supported in such endeavors, with free childcare, pre-school, paid health-care and paid leave.
They’re expected to enjoy food and sex and wine and the pleasures of life. Which include beautiful faces full of orgasmic pleasure.
I think we can learn a lot from the French. And I think we’re in a Revolution here in the states, where we’re waking up, and claiming our power and our rights to health care, to education, to healthy foods. We’re claiming time and space to slow down and enjoy life.
I’m convinced that much of what ails us can be remedied by more pleasure.
- Eating nourishing meals, more slowly, with friends
- Having sex
- Setting boundaries with our children so we have space to talk to friends, sit and sip our coffee, and enjoy adult things
I hope we’re moving toward a world that works for everyone, that includes supporting this way of life. I look forward to it.
Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.” ~Arundhati Roy
All my love,