Michel Foucault a pedophile?

The sordid story is going around that Foucault sodomized little boys in Moslem graveyards while he was teaching at the University of Tunis in the late 1960’s. It is due to a certain Guy Sorman who describes himself as a “leading French intellectual” but is in reality a self-promoting right-wing hack who has spent his career lauding the miracle of unrestrained capitalism. Sorman launched his attack in the middle of March on French media and then repeated it to The Times of London on March 28, 2021. He said that that after more than fifty years his conscience had suddenly awoken and forced to tell his story. We don’t know what really motivates him. Is he just someone who is pining for attention? An idle gossip? Is he simply mistaking the facts after so many years? Or suffering from the first signs of dementia?

It is certainly convenient for him to make his accusation after half a century. The accused is no longer there to defend himself. There are no witnesses we have heard from, memories have become blurred. Sorman’s story is, in any case, full of holes. I assume that he was not in the graveyard to watch the events. How then did he know what happened? Was it all hearsay? He is not the type to have been close to Foucault, though he is now said to have been a friend. Foucault did not gladly suffers types like him. He does not even say that had any conversations with Foucault – certainly not about sex. The words he records can mean anything and nothing. He claims that the boys were more than keen to take part in their own abuse but also that they were forced.

What is clear that the story is designed to do the maximum of damage to Foucault’s reputation. Not only is a he pedophile but he also desecrated Moslem graves thus revealing himself, in addition, to have been a racist. The right-wing have predictably made the accusation already grist for their mills. On April 2, The American Spectator published a piece under the headline “Michel Foucault and the Glamour of Evil” which said: “Foucault’s classroom ideas…  achieved the downfall of the university not by violent campus takeovers or hiring crackpots dispensing academic credit on public transportation. It came through the fact that a child rapist killed by the reality he dismissed as socially constructed convinced a massive portion [of] academia to cite him, assign him, and praise him. How to take such people seriously let alone as seriously as they take themselves? Pedophilia remains but one way to damage young people.” (https://spectator.org/michel-foucault-pedophilia/)

Another website casts the net even wider and includes also “progressive activists and politicians” in its catch. “Foucault is, unfortunately, one of the most influential philosophers of our era, the founder of “wokeness,” the father of critical race theory, and the man who lent academic credibility to progressive activists and politicians. His work was the inspiration for “queer theory.” Never mind that everyone of these points might be disputed.(https://www.lifesitenews.com/blogs/philosopher-michel-foucault-founder-of-wokeness-may-have-been-pedophile-rapist)

A third goes on to list names: “Every weirdo, every nutjob academic, every outlier, every criminal, every degenerate, has the roots of their intellectual justifications found in this deeply evil man’s brain. Among those who were comprehensively influenced by Foucault were Giorgio Agamben (“biopower”), Edward Said (“Post-colonial Studies”), Pierre Bourdieu (anthropology), Gilles Deleuze (metaphysics), Talal Asad (“Cultural Anthropology’), David Halperin (“Queer theory”), Hubert Dreyfus (AI), Paul Rabinow (Anthropology), Jacques Rancière (neo-Marxism), Félix Guattari (“Schizoanalysis”), and Stephen Greenblatt (“New Historicism”).” The article goes on to reserve. its special venom for Judith Butler. It concludes with the words: “If you are the disciple of a predatory child rapist, you need to re-evaluate your ideas. If your academic hero is a serial pedophile, there is no reason for anyone to listen to a word you have to say.” (https://devilslane.com/michel-foucault-prolific-serial-paedophile-rapist/)

When Foucault came to California, I had opportunity to talk to him extensively about sex and sexuality. There was never any suggestion in his words that he was drawn to pedophilia. He was preoccupied, rather, with the gay leather scene of San Francisco. One day he asked me about the bars South of Market. But since I had never been to any of them, I couldn’t tell him much. I knew, though, that they were hangouts for macho guys and not havens for pedophiles. On weekends he would occasionally pass by my house on the way to one of those places, dressed in black leather and wearing a motorcycle cap. I sometimes wondered what role he preferred in the volatile game of sado-masochism. My sense was that he was sexually submissive and that this was part of his fascination with the leather crowd on Folsom Street. He was certainly nothing like the child rapist that Sorman and his gang have unearthed in order to frighten postmodern thinking.






6 Replies to “Michel Foucault a pedophile?”

  1. Many thanks for this, Hans!

    Some readers may also be interested in knowing that Guy Sorman, pressed by a journalist of L’Express, has in the meantime retracted most of his accusations: https://www.lexpress.fr/actualite/idees-et-debats/michel-foucault-et-la-pedophilie-enquete-sur-un-emballement-mediatique_2148517.html?fbclid=IwAR0EZc5wsy2Gs4fIZHadjSr33LyGsQ-gtKiqHgnkT-feIiVSbb11qFzPYK8

    (A few excerpts: “Interrogé par L’Express, Guy Sorman, […] confirmant qu’il n’a pas vu la scène du cimetière, avance une source
    d’information différente par rapport à l’entretien avec Die Zeit : un dénommé ‘Mohammed’ qui aurait le ‘rabatteur’ du philosophe… L’âge des amants? Il n’est plus bien sûr. […] L’argent jeté aux enfants était-il vraiment destiné à les ‘acheter’? Il préfère désormais parler d’une ‘convergence d’indices troublants’.” Etc.)

  2. Thanks, Professor Sluga, for your spirited defense of Foucault against American thugs. The anglophone world has adopted this tabloid approach to Foucault from the start. If he is quoted so often in academic circles, it is simply because he is the greatest French thinker since Sartre. His reflections on power and truth, shamelessly distorted by these thugs, is a remedy both for Trumpism and for “woke” thinking.

  3. The kernel of truth/untruth may be, at least partially, connected to Foucault’s advocacy for the abolishment of the age of consent in France. In other words, the stereotypical ad hominem of ‘where there’s smoke there’s fire:’ i.e. if you’re thinking too much about an unsavory, controversial, even illegal thing, then either you’re probably already doing or in the future would like to engage in doing that thing. This form of argumentation is no doubt very appealing and persuasive to “the common man,” who, to the extent their knowledge allows them to do so, probably suspect’s Nabokov of being Humbert Humbert, just as they even more keenly would suspect Balthus of being the latter in the even rarer chance they’d been told of said French painter’s existence (perhaps by Roger Scruton on the telly).

    Moreover, there is the matter of the more-than-mere-rumors relating to Sartre’s sexual interactions with adolescent females, supposedly procured to him by Beauvoir. Similarly, there is the artistic/aesthetic (but of course also deeply political) matter of Sartre’s, and later both Foucault’s and Derrida’s, interest in, even inspiration by, the life and example of Jean Genet: a poet-pédé-penitentiare all rolled into one (hardly that unusual a combination, poet/penseur included).

    And, lastly, there have been wholly unfounded rumors circulating for decades that Foucault participated in clandestine pederastic parties in France, along with politicians and plutocrats. Such rumors feed, grow, and bloom off of both older and newer disparate unsavory cases, such as the Dutroux affair in Belguim and the Gabriel Matzneff case in France, etc.

    So that, ultimately, Foucault, who was and is one of the most paradigmatic advocates for “the uses of sexual pleasure” as both plow and field in the opening of one of the “last frontiers” of epistemological discovery–in an almost quasi occult or mystical, but also clearly libertarian techno-futuristic (what one today might call proto-transhumanist) vein–becomes an ideologically irresistible mark, flypaper, and lint magnet for critics on the (neo)right to use to instrumentalize and roll into one sort of Joycean all-purpose ball, for the purposes of collating and unifying (intersectionalizing?) all these disparate, almost encyclopedically so, impressionistic, stream of consciousness accusations they’re always dying to make about France. To wit, the terribly sanguinary and intellectually deranged basket case that was the French Revolution, but also how Catholic civilization devolves into Sadean decadence and omni-violative hedonism, etc, contra Anglo-American Burkean-cum-Russellian-Randian thought.

  4. This is the same defense men in power have used to defame all women who have ever come forward with testimonials about their assaults at the hands of powerful men.

    How sad it is that we reflexively launch into attacks against victims who finally come forward, who have their claims questioned when they have different politics than us (as if politics spares anyone from being mistreated as a child).

    Feel happy to discount victim testimony if you must in order to preserve the picture you’ve painted of your titans of industry, philosophy, or whathaveyou. Just realize that when you deploy this rhetoric, you’re literally no better than the worst right wing idiots who defend their Dear Leaders against criticism.

  5. Except that in Foucault’s case no victims have come forward. Sorman is certainly not a victim in this story.

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