Can Bastien Vivès really “give himself the right to draw everything”?

“Me, I give myself the right to draw everything”, launched the author of comics Bastien Vives in 2018. A statement he has always stood by: Melons of Wrath in 2011, as well as The Mental Dump and Little Paul in 2018 depict rapes and sexual assaults on minors. Accused of promoting child pornography, even to make the apology of incest and some child crime, the author was to benefit from a “carte blanche” at the Angoulême International Comics Festival. Bastien Vivès affirmed Monday in The Parisian “No, I’m not a pedophile and no, it’s not my fantasy. If one wants to read my works honestly, one realizes this easily”.

Wednesday, taking note of the controversy and the “physical threats” received by the artist, the biggest annual meeting of comics announced the cancellation of this exhibition. The highlighting of this disparaged author, on the occasion of the 50th edition of this unmissable meeting of the comics, made people cringe a lot. However, beyond the controversy, there is the question of the publication and distribution of these works. Is it really legal to draw and publish child pornography images in France?

“explicit” images

In Little Paula ten-year-old child with an oversized penis is sexually assaulted and even violated by women around him. “Article 227-3 of the Penal Code prohibits any production and production of images of minors of a child pornography nature as well as their distribution”, immediately poses Emmanuelle Haziza, criminal lawyer. A person prosecuted for this risk five years’ imprisonment and a fine of 75,000 euros. Originally designed to avoid child pornography photographs and videos, “the law changed in 1998 and the term ‘representation’ was added”.

“In 2007, the Court of Cassation, which was looking into the case of a Japanese animated film, decided: the non-real images of a minor, himself non-real, fall within the framework of the law”, recalls the specialist in questions of sexual assaults on minors and corruption of minors. The pornographic character of the work is quite clear: a sticker stating “pornographic work” was stuck on the covers of the comic strip. “The European Court of human rights defined as child pornography the “lascivious exhibitions of the genitals or the pubic region of a child” and “explicit sexual behavior”. From the moment there is a fellatio, it is clearly explicit, ”emphasizes Emmanuelle Haziza.

From rape to “crazy accidents”

If ever the creation, publication and distribution of Little Paul found themselves before a judge, the material element would therefore be difficult to challenge. “There are still a large number of people who do not even understand the problem of sexual violence, or even sexual crimes, and cry out for censorship when they are asked to respect the law”, regrets Mona Messine, author and publisher. So far, no complaint has been filed but Little Paul was quickly removed from the shelves of Cultura and Gibert. It remains to prove the moral element, that is to say the intention. “In the event of a trial, everything would be debated on the moral element,” says Master Haziza. “Someone who does not know the Internet at all and who types:” child photo “in a search engine and comes across a child pornography site by chance will not be incriminated”, she illustrates. In the case of Little Paulof The Mental Dump or some Melons of Angerthe intention to disseminate child pornography remains to be demonstrated.

Before the publication of Little PaulBastien Vivès told our colleagues at HuffPost : “There is never a vice in my opinion (…) It’s always crazy accidents that happen to Petit Paul”. In one of the most criticized scenes in the book, the ten-year-old “accepts” a blowjob from his teacher. However, since April 2021 (i.e. after the release of the book), French law has ruled: any sexual relationship between an adult and a minor under the age of 15 is rape. It is therefore the representation of a rape of a minor that the author includes in these “wacky accidents”. In Melons of Wrath, the heroine is repeatedly raped and then, in turn, sexually assaults her little brother. Incestuous sexual assaults are also present in The Mental Dump where we can notably see a 10-year-old child receiving a facial ejaculation from her own father.

“Incest, me, it excites me to death”

“My books are part of a humorous burlesque genre. This provocative tone, it happened to me to take it again sometimes, in an awkward way, in my interviews”, affirms the artist. Because beyond his works, Bastien Vivès provokes an outcry because of his remarks in the media. “Incest, me, it excites me to death (…) Since I can’t do incest in real life, and that I don’t have a big sister to be able to do that, I do that in my books, “said the author in May 2017 to the Madmoizelle site. By promoting Little Paulthe designer also said at HuffPost : “Improbable proportions, humour, excessive sexualization… It’s the kind of comics that kids would steal from their parents’ top shelf. As I often say, porn comics are bought by adults and read by children. »

The author, however, claims that his “very cartoonish” style has been worked on in order to avoid any “intellectual malaise” or “ambiguity”. “But at no time did I want to hurt victims of crimes and sexual abuse. And I obviously want, if my words may have offended these people, to offer them my most sincere apologies, ”said the author on Thursday. It remains to be seen whether this will be enough to put an end to the controversy. Because society has evolved since “Lemon Incest”, what was singing Serge Gainsbourg with his daughter in 1984, or the television sequence of 1990, during which the writer Gabriel Matzneff did not hide his pedocriminality in the face of Bernard Pivot. Movement #MeToo released the word on the sexual violence and cracked the omerta. Today, “society is questioning the term ‘work’ for work that is based on mistreatment, even fantasized,” explains Mona Messine.

Men who discuss pedophilia without it shocking anyone at prime time, it’s over”

In particular on incest, which Bastien Vivès stages in several works. “Society is much more attentive to these subjects and the legislator follows. We are witnessing a change in morals, which was possible fifty years ago on television, when men discussed pedophilia without it shocking anyone at prime time. Today, it’s over, ”judges Emmanuelle Haziza. “Fantasy and fiction are not illegal, fortunately. But it is the duty of the artist to question its provenance and this is not always done”, underlines the author and publisher Mona Messine, who encourages “more diversity in the world of publishing” for greater ethics. Still, the contours of the beginning of child pornography in comics and the end of freedom of expression can only be drawn by the courts.

Can Bastien Vivès really “give himself the right to draw everything”?