The French and sex (credit)
The French and sex : background....   Anecdotes about the French and sex....

WARNING ! In terms of sexual capability, there is no difference between the French and any other people on earth ! What is rather different is the way it is seen, the way the French talk about it, the indulgence they show (even the feminists) for what would be considered unacceptable in other cultures.

  • Sex and sin : for the French, sex is fun ! No sense of sin ! Sex is pleasure and nobody should ruin your pleasure. No moralizing, no religious pressure.

  • Sex and jokes : French humor is heavily based on sex. Making jokes about sex is a literary tradition since Rabelais. When someone makes a joke with a sexual allusion, everyone laughs, including women.

  • Sex and politics : the French are extremely indulgent for all sexual misbehavior by their politicians and, on the contrary, seem to be proud of them. Why ? The answer is probably in the image of power in French society : all power comes from the King and if the King is sexually over-active, it shows that he is a powerful, therefore protective and benevolent, king. Endless anecdotes are told about the presidents and sex (Hollande, Chirac, Mitterrand, Giscard, etc...).

  • Sex and privacy : Sex is part of private life but less than money. It's much easier to talk about sex at a dinner table than money.

  • Sex and crime : Popular jurys are notoriously indulgent when a murderer acted out of passionate love ("crime passionnel") and there are several famous cases of a murderer released without being sentenced although he/she had admitted the murder (well-known historical cases include Madame Caillaux in 1914, Yvonne Chevalier in 1951 and many others).

  • More to come......


Facts & figures

  • Contraceptive methods are surprisingly different : in France the pill is the most frequently used (40.6% vs. 16% in the US), followed by IUD (18.9% vs. 5.2%). In the US, the most frequent is sterilization (33.1% vs. 4.6% in France). The answer "absence of contraceptive methode" is identical in both countries (23.6%). (see detailed figures, including Japan and China).

  • More to come.



Do all Frenchmen have a mistress?

This is a message on the official information boards of the City of Paris. Translation : "Celebrating Valentine's Day : the flower shops of Paris offer you 50% off on your second bunch! Do not forget your mistress!"


Is that a validation of a well-known stereotype about the French or a sign of their sense of humor (or both) ?



  • In many French City Halls, the image of the French Republic is a bust which would probably be considered unacceptable in the US : see Brigitte Bardot

  • Felix Faure, president of France died February 16, 1899 at the Elysée Palace during a brief "meeting" he had with his mistress, Meg Steinheil, between two political appointments (it is reported that the ambassador of the pope was in the waiting room !). Still now, it is a matter of constant jokes : a journalist asked a policeman "Does the President still has his conscience ?" and the answer was "No, she just left by the rear door".

  • When President Mitterrand died in 1996, his two families led the funeral, wife and mistress, children on both sides.

  • When IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was indicted in New York for alleged sexual assault on a cleaning lady in a hotel (May 2011), among the most outrageous comments, a high ranking politician (J.Lang) said "after all, nobody was killed" and a prominent journalist (JF.Kahn) wrote "all that for hanky-pankying"... (read my column)

  • In January 2014, when the pictures of President Hollande were published as he was sneaking out the the Elysee Palace to spend the night with his mistress, the French were not shocked by the fact that he cheated on his "official" mistress but by the way he announced in a 18-word official statement that he "repudiated" her ("I have decided to put an end to my relation with V.T."). Cheating is OK but being rude is not classy!

  • A personal experience (several times) : When they hear or read a description of life on American campuses with the existence (and often the abuses) of Title IX officers, most French people, who admire American colleges, simply do not believe it !

  • More to come.....


A few tips about love in France

  • Regarding dating : the concept of "the talk" (how far shall we go? what are we, each of us, looking for ? etc) has no equivalent in France and doesn't seem to exist (yet?). It does not mean that couples do not talk about the future of their relation but it means that , at least at the beginning, the French prefer an implicit agreement to a business-like discussion which would be considered boring and un-romantic.
  • Educating a French girlfriend or wife (for American men) : if you marry a French woman, be ready for a partner who will be exactly like an American woman when it comes to issues regarding her independence or her freedom but who will express it much less openly. Both French men and women are generally very surprised and shocked by men/women relation in the US that they consider very often too hostile.
  • Of course a French woman will gracefully accept (and expect) all forms of classical galanterie (like holding he door) and will not consider it a sign of dependence. See the page on French woman.
  • Educating a French boyfriend or husband : if you marry a French man, be ready for a partner who will behave rather differently from an American one : he will not always try to reach a consensus and sometiimes make alone the decisions he thinks are the best for you or both of you without asking your opinion.
  • More stereotypes to come....



  • ElaineSciolino gives a very perceptive explanation of the French when she shows how their whole vision of life is based on "seduction", with no sexual connotation, as the English word could suggest.
  • More to come.....
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Harriet Welty Rochefort writes articles and books about France and the French. Order her books :

  • "Joie de Vivre", Secrets of Wining, Dining and Romancing like the French, St.Martin's Press, New York, 2012
  • "French Toast, An American in Paris Celebrates The Maddening Mysteries of the French", St.Martin's Press, New York, 1999
  • "French Fried, The Culinary Capers of An American in Paris", St.Martin's Press, New York, 2001
  • "French Toast - Heureuse comme une Américaine en France", Ramsay, Paris 2005

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Together or separately, Harriet and Philippe Rochefort speak about Intercultural Differences : click here for information.