Academics fear novelist and feminist icon Simone de Beauvoir’s sex life may overshadow the celebration of her birth in France this week.
Critics are concerned with the French press condemning her sex life instead of highlighting her contribution to modern thought.
The author and philosopher shocked the Parisian society of the early 20th Century with her threesomes and affairs with women.
The French press has been concentrating solely on her sexual encounters in the days leading up to the centenary of her birth, with the author’s naked behind landing on the front page of Le Nouvel Observateur .
De Beauvoir, who played a huge role in the feminist and existentialist movement, was ahead of her time with her feminist writings and sexuality.
She was also the lifelong companion of French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre.
The couple, who met in 1929 and were known for their unconventional sex life, never married.
They also believed in seeing people sexually outside the relationship, so long as they shared the details of their encounters with each other.
It is no surprise then that the media frenzy surrounding De Beauvoir’s centenary has created a massive public interest in the shenanigans of a couple who were recently described as the “”Fred and Ginger of French existentialism” by a French magazine.
Hazel Rowley, who wrote Tête-à-Tête which describes how De Beauvoir and Sartre’s open relationship dominated public opinion, said in the Guardian :
“I don’t think we should be trivialising this incredible figure by fixating on lascivious sex.
“Why are we doing this? Are we puritanical? Do we think we’re superior, and why?”
For the celebration of the centenary, more than a dozen books are to be published, along with TV films and DVD’s.
Even a new footbridge over the river Seine has been named after De Beauvoir.
Danièle Sallenave, author of the De Beauvoir biography, Castor de guerre , told the Guardian :
“This year, let’s look at all her work together, not just the affairs and the sex – important as they are.”
However, with President Nicolas Sarkozy rejecting a proposal for this year’s honours list for being too male-dominated, the impact of De Beauvoir’s contribution to modern feminist thought is more than obvious in the French society.
De Beauvoir was born January 9th 1908 and died aged 78 in 1986.