Terry, Tiger, Iris... And the other sex witches.

What happens on the pitch remains on the pitch.

You can hardly have missed it. It is all over the press now, and on both sides of the Channel: John Terry, captain of both Chelsea and England football squads, is due to have had an affair with the wife of a teammate... And guess what, I don't care. Unlike a great majority of the press, I don't bother about what football players do outside the stadium, because after all they are just football players.

What I do care about though is how this story is approached by the media, and how it reveals in depth cultural differences between France and other Anglo-Saxon nations. Because Terry's alleged affair is just the last episode of a series of sex scandals that have been reported largely across the press. Tiger Woods, a few weeks back, was put under the spotlight because of a so-called sex addiction. Before that Iris Robinson, wife of the Northern Ireland's First Minister, led his husband to resign because she confessed an affair with a 19-year old...

Private privacy or public publicity

All this noise stupefies me as a foreign witness. As a matter of fact, with my own referential scheme, these events belong to the private sphere and are totally dissociated from the public face of these people. As Bill Maher nailed it in his brilliant tirade about the French, we have this weird concept about privacy... We think it should remain private.

What does Tiger Woods' sex life tells me about his golf skills? Nothing (expect maybe that I should no longer bet on him performing hole-in-one). Is Peter Robinson's political programme worse now that his wife is having some extramarital entertainment? And what about Terry's defending excellence? Probably not either.

Ultimately, these are private facts that have more to do with moral than anything else. So I hear that these public people are due to be examples. I agree, but they should be in their own expertise. Terry and Woods should embody values such as resilience, fair play, dedication, personal achievement... But you would not expect them to comment on bioethics or have a view on neuroscience, so why should we expect more from them than what they really are? Because they earn a lot of money? I am personally obfuscated by the paycheck these people get every week, but they reflect the individual sports skills and some economy dynamics, not a moral contract for these sports people would be bound to. After all, accordingly to the Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy, approximately 50 percent married women and 60 percent of married men will have an extramarital affair at some time in their marriage... Shocking I agree, but why would our above-mention examples differ from the norm. After all, they may well be examples, example of a real truth that people are to blind to accept.

The clear line.

In my opinion, moral is something that is very personal and as long as it does not imply unlawful behaviours, your private life and choices should remain your own business, and not be made public. You just have to be in peace with your consciousness. As far as I am aware, in Western societies, having an affair is not illegal and certainly not a crime. You can condemn it morally, but not legally. It is at the utmost a contravention to a contract, the marriage, which can lead to the dissolution of the contract. But here again, this should be a matter of interest for the only two parties, and certainly not the general public.

On the other hand, there is for me a very clear line when privacy should no longer remain private. In the French Constitution, which is largely inspired by the universal declaration of the human rights: "an individual's freedom ends where someone else's begins". And the law defines this framework very well. As a result, if in the exercise of their privacy citizens are infringing the law, then they make an indent to their contract with the Society. It is then normal for the Society, i.e. the general public, to be exposed to the contravention and its punishment. Had John Terry used of his status to force a juvenile person to perform a sex act with him, I would agree that the public scrutiny would become legitimate. But as far as I am aware all of the above-mentioned witches that have been hunted in the press for their sexual exactions where adults having an affair with a consenting partner...

The French touch.

Now that you know my opinion on these non-events, I would like to share with you some cultural facts around them, and try to cheer you up (whilst you start wondering why your partner is coming home so late, and whether she/he is part of the 50% stated earlier).

Terry's alleged mistress is Vanessa Perroncel and former partner of Wayne Bridge, another English international. I found interesting that the tabloids had to underline the fact that she was a French model, as if her nationality could explain the situation. This kind of unsaid statement is not uncommon in the English low quality press, but surprisingly enough it was echoed in more reputable titles. On the other side of the Channel, the French newspaper have started covering the news, under a very different angle. First they are talking about the un-understandable witch hunt that Terry is facing... And second they also refer to Miss Perroncel's nationality. The main difference though is that her French passport is almost a pride. Maybe it is some kind of a comforting thought that if French strikers cannot get around Terry during the upcoming World Cup, at least a French can get on top of him...

Another thought, this time for Mister Robinson and a comforting one I must say. I must acknowledge that I am not too au fait with his policy line. And I am neither too familiar with his person nor with his wife (although I have read a few statements from her that definitely do not encourage me to dig further). And yet, there might something comforting in how love affairs and public affairs can work positively too. At least in France.

During the last presidential elections, candidate Nicolas Sarkozy was facing Ségolène Royal. And despite running for the highest position in the République, neither of them was the perfect marital archetype. The later for instance had been living with her partner for over 30 years without having been ever married. They had four children together and split shortly before the elections because he would have had an affair with a journalist.

On the other side of the ballot box, mister Sarkozy was married to Cécilia with whom he fell in love as he... married her to a French celebrity. He was then the mayor of a small town near Paris. He managed to seduce her and to marry her a few years later... And yet, he built a reputation of charmer, with countless affairs. As Sarkozy started his campaign, his wife fell for the CEO of the company which was organising her husband's meetings and left him. She finally came back to her husband only to divorce officially a couple months after the elections and to return to her lover (rumors say that it was part of a deal to look good in front of the electors). And guess what, Nicolas remarried nine months after being elected, to a former model and singer Carla Bruni...

Now that is what we call a rich (extra)marital life, and mister Robinson's little hiccup suddenly looks very mild. And yet, Sarkozy came out on top to win the election with 53.06 percent of the votes ahead of Ségolène Royal with 46.94 percent. So one could then argue that to lead the French nation you have to have the most extensive adulterous record. Or with more honesty, you could argue that the private life of any one should not interfere with their career. Whoever you are.

To read further: