Emanuel Macron, the leading contender to be the next president of France, is an extraordinary fellow. At 39 years-old he has seized the moment, creating a new political movement out of thin air.
Monsieur Macron is not afraid to embrace the unconventional. He is married to a 64-year-old grandmother, 25 years his senior. The unusual marriage makes it not totally surprising that Macron has been forced to repeatedly deny allegations that he is gay.
The couple initially met when Macron was his wife’s 15-year-old student. “She was the extrovert latin, French and theatre teacher, blonde-hair in the style of Brigitte Bardot,” according to a widely quoted an account in Paris Match, the Vanity Fair of France.
As the fairy tale goes, Macron was starring in a school play; Jacques and his Master, by the famous Czech-French writer Milan Kundera. The student and his teacher began to rewrite plays together and see one another every Friday. Should the relationship have become sexual, the age of consent in France for such as pairing is 18-years-old.
In the lead-up to the election over the weekend, Mr. Macron once again laughed off the sometimes nasty allegations regarding his sexuality. This time it was an assertion by a Russian news site that he is part of the “gay lobby” in France.
By the standards of French society, the allegations are novel, but not necessarily more scandalous than those faced by numerous politicians. The current French President, Francois Hollande, was caught having an affair with a younger actress, Julie Gayet. He was cheating on his girlfriend a the time. And later claimed he was “too poly-traumatized” to make his new relationship “official.” Macron is boring in comparison.
Sexual norms are indeed different in France. A recent survey finds that “some 55% of French men and 32% of French women admit to cheating — figures that could help explain why so many French are unfazed by the dalliances of President Hollande.”
President Hollande is deeply unpopular, not because of his moral lapses, but because he has failed to do much about France’s deep economic malaise, or to create the promise of a better future.
For his part, the would be president, Macron, talks about his marriage as “not altogether common, [between] a couple not completely normal, even if I hate that adjective, but [between] a couple who exist.”
Some voters in France may well be swayed by accusations that Macron is living a lie, or by a more conservative, or bigoted view, of gays. But ultimately, Macron’s ability to convince the French people that he can provide a better future, may be fare more important to his chances of winning the presidency.