“The younger generations reject the asymmetry between a masculine sexuality of conquest and a feminine sexuality of the citadel”

In Me too. The new sexual civility (Seuil, 400 pages, 22 euros), legal sociologist Irène Théry, director of studies at the School of Advanced Studies in Social Sciences, reinscribes the #metoo movement in the – long – history of the consent standard.

Your new work inaugurates a collection directed by the historian Ivan Jablonka who wants to promote the meeting between “all the writings of reality”. It is both a social science essay and a first-person account. How do these two registers complement each other?

I could have stuck to a very classic sociology essay placing the #metoo movement in the long history of consent, but I didn’t want to write about a social movement based on solidarity between thousands of victims’ stories s exposing “in first person, with the others”, without involving myself personally. It was not easy – as a sociologist, I have made distance from oneself a rule of life and thought – but if I decided to tell the story of the sexual assault I suffered at the age of 8 years, it is to testify to the extreme difficulty of speaking publicly about this type of violence. However, I risk nothing: it was by a stranger. I will not have to face either a hostile opinion affirming without thinking that I flout the presumption of innocence or an aggressor claiming, “word against word”, that nothing happened.

However, this is where the heart of #metoo is found: an unprecedented struggle of new generations against the social disqualification of the voice of victims, against the senseless confidence that the exercise of power or the perversion of an authority when they are animated, not only by hatred (as in war rape) or by the pure power of reification (as in pedocriminal rape), but also by condescension, this form so banal and still so misunderstood masculinist smugness and contempt.

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This condescension is not only about sexuality: like other women of my generation, I have come up against it and fought it, learning from experience that women will not be equal until they are not seen as people whose voice counts. I therefore complete each chapter of the essay with a testimony on the social and gendered issues of the interlocution: the difficulty of being understood when one is in the minority, the shame that muzzles, the secret that confines, the lie that betrays, slander that devastates, but also the duet, the confidence, the conversation, the debate – so good to live when they are based on listening and respect for the person of others.

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