In Me too. The new sexual civilization (Seuil, 400 pages, 22 euros), the juridical sociologist Irène Théry, director of studies at the School of Advanced Studies in Social Sciences, reinserts the #metoo movement in the – long – history of the standard of consent.
Your new work inaugurates a collection directed by the historian Ivan Jablonka who wants to promote the encounter 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 adhered to a classic sociology essay that places the #metoo movement in the long history of consensus, but I didn’t want to write about a social movement based on solidarity among thousands of victims’ stories that expose “in first person, with others”, without involving myself personally. It was not easy – as a sociologist I made distance from oneself a rule of life and thought – but if I decided to tell the sexual violence that I suffered at the age of 8 it is to testify to the extreme difficulty of speaking publicly about this kind of violence. However, I risk nothing: it was from a stranger. I will not have to face either a hostile opinion that claims without thinking that it does not take note of the presumption of innocence or an attacker who claims, “word for word”, that nothing has happened.
But this is where the heart of #metoo lies: an unprecedented struggle of the new generations against the social disqualification of the voice of the victims, against the senseless trust that the exercise of power or the perversion of an authority when they are animated, not only out of hatred (as in war rape) or the sheer power of reification (as in pedocriminal rape), but also out of condescension, this form so banal and still so misunderstood the macho complacency and contempt.
This condescension isn’t just about sexuality: like other women of my generation, I went against it and fought it, learning from experience that women will not be the same until they are seen as people whose voice matters. I therefore complete each chapter of the essay with a testimony on the social and gender issues of interlocution: the difficulty of being understood when one is in the minority, the shame that silences, the secret that confines, the lie that betrays, the slander that devastates, but also the duet, the confidence, the conversation, the debate, so beautiful to experience when they are based on listening and respecting the person of others.
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