“In France most accusations of rape come from women who’ve met the man she accuses via Tinder”

Her opinions about the main items of globalized feminism are surprising not to fall into absolutisms, to value differences between women from different countries and religions, and to privilege sexual freedom even at the risk of being extremely controversial. Famous since the launch of his first novel L’Image, censored in 1950 for its sadomasochistic content, Catherine Robbe Grillet is an undisputed icon of her country’s culture.

By Nancy Giampaolo.
Special thanks to Beverly Charpentier.

What is your opinion about the slogan “The personal is political” that some last wave feminists coined, even though the phrase was in use since 50 years ago?

For several decades I have heard people say that what is personal is political. But what does that actually mean in terms of sexual practices? I would like someone to explain it to me.

Do you think it is valid to make a complaint for abuse many years after the fact?

It depends on how many years “after the fact”. The more time passes, the harder it is to remember the facts clearly (both the guilty party, the victim and eventual witnesses). Someone guilty of abuse is guilty and deserves to be punished, no matter how much time has passed, but how can we be sure, years and years and sometimes decades later, that memory has not coloured our perception of the facts?

What can be understood, according to your perspective, as a sexual abuse?

To be honest, I don’t really understand the term “sexual abuse”. What does it mean exactly? I understand “sexual aggression”, but “sexual abuse”?… “Sexual aggression” is something I have only experienced once. When I was a young girl, a man pulled me into a doorway and tried to force me to have sex with him, but I managed to get away.

On the other hand…. I never felt that a man who pinched my behind in the metro or squeezed my thigh in a dark cinema should be accused of sexual abuse. I think such men are rude, annoying, oafish or silly. I have never considered a clear and open proposition to be “sexual abuse” – as long as I was able to refuse the proposition. Perhaps “sexual abuse” is any sexual act without consent When I was young, if a girl excited a man by wearing short skirts or clinging dresses, or by the way she walked or waggled her breasts… if such a girl caused a man to lose control, people said “She was asking for it”, nowadays people say she’s a victim and he is guilty of sexual abuse.

I was taught that if a girl chooses to go with a man to his room, it’s as if she’s consenting to have sex with him. Nowadays, a girl can be in a man’s bed and she can tease and excite him and then suddenly decide to get up and go home. This is considered her right.

I find it all very confusing. And the misunderstanding persists: in France most accusations of rape come from women who’ve met the man she accuses via Tinder and yet I thought that if you searched for a partner via Tinder, it was precisely in order to have sex with them, no?

As I said, this is very confusing to me. This notion of “sexual abuse” has changed. When I was young, there was something known as “conjugal rights”. A husband was entitled to demand sex with his wife at any time and it was her duty to submit. Today, a man who demands sex with his wife against her will is a rapist.

Do you think that feminism cant be a globalist and homogenous movement but should it adapt to the reality of the society / country in which it is established?

Of course! Feminism cannot be the same thing to all women in all cultures. This is why I insist on the fact that I speak only for myself, as a French woman, in France. I don’t even speak for all French women. For example, I would not presume to speak for a French Muslim woman who demands the right to wear a veil or not.

In Argentina, virtual lynching are held to alleged abusers, often without going through the courts… what do you think of the act of denouncing a man anonymously, using the internet facility?

Of course one should always follow the legal route, flawed as it may be.

Also in Argentina, special laws are requested for women, such as a compulsory quota in disciplines ranging from music to politics. Do you think it is valid to incorporate women just because they are women or should they be treated differently?

I believe that “positive discrimination” is dangerous. Surely positive discrimination leads people to question the competence of a woman in the position she holds.

This is not an easy question to answer. If a man and a woman of equal competence apply for the same position and the position is given to the woman, does one think that her appointment is merely to fulfil the quota, or does one think that the woman might actually bring a quality to the position which the man might not?

What do you think of the word “patriarchy”?

Patriarchy is an easy word which is used all too easily in order to explain everything and anything.

Of course, the notion of patriarchy is as old as time, but – in France, at least – it’s notion which is fraying around the edges; however, I personally don’t believe that it’s ever going to disappear. French anthropologist, Françoise Héritier, says that differences have always existed between men and women in every civilisation in the world, yet, according to many feminists, all we need in order to eradicate male domination, is to educate our children. Of course education is important, but we really must take into consideration human nature and the part played by hormones. Education might well succeed in diminishing manifestations of male domination, but not what actually drives those manifestation, that is to say, natural impulses – which are controlled by hormones. Women who undergo sex change tell of the extent to which taking testosterone raises their levels of aggression and their sex drive. I honestly don’t know what the answer is.

Have you ever felt a victim of sex chauvinism?

Never. I personally have never suffered from any kind of chauvinism. I have been very fortunate.