Frederic Mitterrand, the French culture minister, is facing calls for his resignation after writing in a 2005 autobiography about paying boys for sex.
The passages came to light after Mitterrand defended film maker Roman Polanski over charges that he drugged and raped a 13-year-old girl in 1977.
In the book, titled La Mauvaise Vie (The Bad Life), he described his experiences of sex tourism in Thailand.
Mitterrand wrote: “I got into the habit of paying for boys. All these rituals of the market for youths, the slave market excited me enormously. The profusion of young, very attractive and immediately available boys put me in a state of desire that I no longer needed to restrain or hide.”
He did not specify that the boys were underage and said he used the term ‘boys’ loosely.
The culture minister, who is a senior aide to French prime minister Nicholas Sarkozy, has been attacked by politicians from all parties.
Socialist Party spokesman Benoit Hamon told Reuters: “As a minister of culture he has drawn attention to himself by defending a film maker accused of raping a child and he has written a book where he said he took advantage of sexual tourism. To say the least, I find it shocking.”
Another senior Sarkozy aide, Henri Guaino, tried to defend him on France 2 television this week, saying the controversy was “pathetic”.
In 2005, Mitterrand was praised for his honesty. However, in the light of the Polanski scandal, his apparent support for sex with young boys has drawn anger from other politicians.
Polanski is facing extradition to the US to answer charges over the rape after being arrested by Swiss police last month. A number of prominent French celebrities and politicians have spoken out in his defence.
Mitterrand had said: “I strongly regret that a new ordeal is being inflicted on someone who has already experienced so many of them.”