Flavie Flament: La Consolation - Book review

Reviewer, Anonymous
Type of WorkBook review

 Book Review

Flavie Flament: La Consolation

Paris: Editions Jean-Claude Lattès, 2016. ISBN : 978-2-7096-4714-4.

 By Anonymous Reviewer (2017)

Not all minor attracted persons are in favor of legalizing non-violent child erotica. Some of them may hold that even if erotic pictures do not involve violent imagery, this does not guarantee that they were created within an innocent, completely consensual context.

I must say they really have a point. In fact, most will remember the notorious case of Eva Ionesco, who sued her own mother for taking softcore photos of her when she was a young girl.

In principle, child erotica can only be really morally sound if it was produced without any type of coercion and if its release was not against the minor's will. To be sure, the material of Eva Ionesco never struck me as particularly “innocent” or even beautiful, and she did not exactly seem to be the archetypal happy model either.

However, the recently published book La Consolation by Flavie Flament (42) demonstrates that things that superficially might seem to be completely okay, actually can be immoral after all.

In the late 1980s, Flament was one of the models of the controversial photographer David Hamilton, who for many “girl lovers” seemed to embody the very standard of responsible, harmless, and respectful erotica. In what may be termed an autobiographical novel, the author describes how she unearthed repressed memories of her childhood.

As an adult, Flament was mysteriously suffering from severe post-traumatic symptoms and even feared she would die or go crazy. Finally, she recalled what had happened to her as a 13-year-old model, known as Poupette – a French nickname for young ladies that literally means “little doll” or “dolly”.

We read how her mother pressurizes her into accepting the mostly annoying modeling sessions and anything that accompanies them. Her mother is very unstable and suffers from depressions or bipolar disorder. The insecure Poupette is repeatedly psychologically abused and humiliated by her and the girl develops the delusion that it is her task to do anything needed to make her mum happy.

More in general, Poupette is emotionally neglected and craves for attention and affection. She is being used by her mother so that the latter may vicariously achieve societal success. Her mother encourages the girl to exploit her blossoming beauty to impress people, especially adult men, although previously she had told her daughter that she was ugly and fat. On top, she accuses Poupette of being very self-centered ...

Her mum is overjoyed that the world famous British photographer David Hamilton takes an interest in her. He lives at Cap-d'Agde in Southern France, next to a nudist camp. Inspired by her beauty and grace, Hamilton ends up choosing her as his new muse. Quite soon, Poupette loses most of her naive fascination for the modeling and simply prefers spending time with her friends.

On another occasion Hamilton asks her to find naked 'mouses' (mice, a code word for vaginas) for him at the nudist beach and comments that some of them are so ugly that he would not like to photograph them. He even asks her very excitedly to give her opinion about some of the vaginas that he finds attractive. This peculiar behavior makes her very upset and she feels like a prisoner of his whims.

Her aversion to the photo sessions is soon accompanied by a revulsion towards Hamilton as a person, especially after he starts fondling her erogenous zones and forces himself upon her, which culminates in a shocking rape scene under the shower. Hamilton uses her as a sex toy or slave without showing her any compassion. The way Flament describes the rape evokes the image of a selfish, narcissistic predator. After abusing her he does not talk to her and does not even look at her.

“Poupette cannot talk. She is dead on the inside. Her heart is mechanical. Her gestures are robot-like.”

From then on, she is supposed to satisfy his sexual needs on a regular basis, which she continues to experience as being raped each time it happens. She mentions unwanted oral and manual sex, but also vaginal penetration, albeit a bit less rough than when he took her virginity.

I got the impression that there was more violence the first time than later on, but the sexual encounters were never based on any willing participation of Poupette, real affection or even positive sexual excitement on her part. Fortunately, although the description of the systematic abuse is rather graphic, only a sadist would feel aroused by it. Hamilton clearly was not a psychopath in that he did not beat her up, threaten her or torture her, but what he did do was certainly enough to scar her for life.

Poupette continuously feels the urge to run from her abuser and considers the option of informing her mother that she does not want to have sex with him any longer, but she believes that she needs to do so to make her mum happy.

“Un viol. Un pola” (One rape for one Polaroid picture.)

She believes that she herself is the only one to blame for what is happening to her. She even feels some pity for Hamilton, whom she basically seems to experience as a disgusting, but pathetic and deeply perverted old man.

“She tells herself that ultimately it is good the way it is. He seems to be happy, she was there for him.”

The author demonstrates how the abusive situation of an erotic model without real personal rights even attracts other males with bad intentions who take advantage of her.

Flament also explains how Poupette uses dissociation to flee from the recurrent ordeal and how her traumas eventually come to be repressed altogether.

Although La Consolation is mostly a very shocking and dark book, we also read about a few positive experiences, such as the moment her grandpa gives her a horse, and a beautiful love relationship with a boy around her own age. There is a healthy resilience within Poupette, which makes her dream of better times and of exciting journeys to distant destinations.

Writing her book may be regarded as essential for Flament's therapeutic healing process, and the title refers to the consolation it may offer her younger self Poupette.

“Everything is intact. My dreams, my enthusiasm, my taste for the other, my illusions, my laughter, my love for life, but also my critical sense, my ability to evaluate things.”

Curiously enough, David Hamilton is not mentioned in the book, although the precise descriptions of the “British photographer” could probably only refer to him. This is related to the fact that in France, after a specific limited period of time, long passed in Flament's case, a child molester cannot be prosecuted anymore. It is not very surprising that the author turns out to be a strong supporter of changing the French law on sexual child abuse.

What is more, if victims publicly accuse a perpetrator after the legal deadline has been reached, they may face a serious defamation claim. Nonetheless, because her description of the photographer is so easily recognizable, Flament was soon encouraged to admit that it had been Hamilton, during an interview about the book.

After her revelation, three other women also claimed to have been abused by Hamilton when they were his child models. Two of them used to be known to Flament and vice versa. These victims stated that they felt liberated by her publication. A third woman had suffered the same fate around twenty years earlier. All of their stories are strikingly similar and show that the photographer developed a personal pattern in his abuse.

David Hamilton strongly denied that he had ever abused any of his girl models and even went as far as claiming that La Consolation was no more than a novel, and therefore completely fictitious. He also insinuated that Flament was simply looking for attention, which seems hardly plausible, as the author was already quite famous in France as a television and radio presenter. Unless she suffered from serious psychotic delusions, it seems very difficult to believe that none of what she describes is true. As could be expected, he threatened to sue her for defamation.

Soon after he had been accused in the media, David Hamilton committed suicide in November 2016, at age 83. Flament responded as follows to this death:

“By his cowardice, (Hamilton) condemns us again to silence and the inability to see him convicted. The horror of this news will never wipe out that of our sleepless nights.”

To make matters even more absurd, some people even accused Flament of causing Hamilton's death.

Quite understandably, Flavie Flament opposes any rights of pedophiles to produce softcore erotica and supports prevention of the type of abuse she experienced as a girl. From a psychological point of view, it is only natural for her to link the erotica with the abuse. Also, she and her fellow victims were not really willing participants in the modeling, which means that in Hamilton's case there were at least some models who were used for his work against their will. I agree that at least part of his production depended on a form of so-called “hands off” sexual abuse.

However, all this does not imply that there could be no innocent types of softcore erotica of minors, which involves basic, everyday consent, does not depend on manipulation, and is never accompanied by “hands on” sexual abuse. In fact, there are a few (former) models who have claimed they used to be completely willingly involved in the production of precisely this type of erotica, albeit of the so-called 'nonude' subtype.

In the notorious case of the so-called Webe web (or Webeweb) Models, several models, notably Lily Model and Sandi Model, spoke out on YouTube to defend their former photographer, Jeff Pierson, responsible for the non nude photo shoots (< https://youtu.be/m2MIKX5VVd8 >), when he had been accused of producing child porn.

More generally, there have been several female models who used to be involved in nonude modeling and are still active as a model after coming of age, without complaining about the earlier sessions.

Examples of popular models of this type include: Diana Newstar aka Amber Newstar, who continues to work as an erotic model under her real name Lucie Bibrova, and Karisha Terebun, who used to be known as Alina Balletstar.

A similar phenomenon can be seen in mainstream modeling. For instance, Thylane Blondeau, now 17, got involved in a controversy about so-called provocative pictures in Vogue when she was 10, but this did not stop her from remaining a famous fashion model. Other legal child models have not been deterred by public outrage either.

We need more accounts of former underage erotic models (girls and boys) who were not assaulted, 'groomed' or abused by their photographers and feel perfectly happy about their softcore modeling, including that of the nude type. That would enable a sharper distinction between the moral and immoral variants of child erotica.

A popular soft-core nude model was the Ukrainian Maya Poprotskaya better known as Anya, Dasha or indeed Maya. She worked for several modeling studios in the early 2000s, as a preteen girl, notably Ukrainian Angels, later renamed LS Studio(s).

According to a message on GirlChat of Decemner 1st 2019 posted by someone who calls him- or herself  RedViolin ( < https://annabelleigh.net/messages/731418.htm >), Maya would have posted a statement on her experiences as a nude model on a Russian blog about former child models in 2014.

According to this message, Maya and her family had responded to an ad about modeling. They had been interested in the money, but it turned out that Maya really enjoyed the nude modeling and she still viewed the aesthetic nude photos taken of her as works of art in 2014.

All this happened against the background of a much more relaxed approach to nudism and sexuality than is common today. She was not forced to strip and she was never touched sexually by anyone from the studio. The atmosphere had been fun and relaxed and often female photographers were used to put the models at ease.

This does not mean that absolutely everything had been okay. Maya mentions the fact that the models were strongly discouraged to become friends with each other, that they were given only three photos of each set that was taken of them, and also - although her story seems inconsistent in this respect - that she was ditched by LS Studio. Neither she nor her parents ever pressed charges against the company though.

Maya expresses a rather original opinion about the extent to which nude child modeling should be legalized [translation used at GirlChat]: 

  • "I understand the fact that these nude photo sets of me cause sexual feelings for everyone. Not only "perverts" are affected by them.[...] I think, there's a solution for it by requiring special licenses for watching materials with child sexual content. Just as people get gun licenses in some countries. These licenses would make people responsible for their actions."

For now, it seems important to stress that in order to be morally acceptable, softcore erotica must

  • (a) be consensual in the everyday, non-judicial sense,
  • (b) not be accompanied by any type of sexual abuse, and
  • (c) be released after the model has grown up and has become fully aware of the possible social consequences of its publication.

We can be sure that through this book, David Hamilton's work has lost what was left of its former respectability and its romantic air of beautiful innocence.