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Controversial French author Michel Houellebecq loses lawsuit to stop release of sex film

French novelist and poet Michel Houellebecq arrives at a reading of his latest book in Cologne, Germany, Monday, Jan. 19, 2015.
French novelist and poet Michel Houellebecq arrives at a reading of his latest book in Cologne, Germany, Monday, Jan. 19, 2015. Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Jonny Walfisz
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Controversial Islam critic, the French author Michel Houellebecq has tried to stop the release of a film featuring him having sex with young women in Amsterdam.

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Warning: This article contains language and graphic details some people may find offensive.

Controversial French author Michel Houellebecq has lost a lawsuit, permitting a Dutch art collective to release footage of him having sex with multiple young women.

The 67-year-old Houellebecq agreed to work with the Keep It Real Art Collective (KIRAC) in 2022 to create an explicit film art piece, where Houellebecq would appear to sleep with women with the proviso that his genitals would never be in the same shot as his face.

KIRAC made their name with the 2021 sex film Honey Pot depicting Dutch right-wing philosopher Sid Lukassen’s attempted seduction of left-wing student Jini van Rooijen. After van Rooijen rejected him on camera, Lukassen withdrew his permission for the film to be released, a request KIRAC ignored.

At a meeting in Paris, Houellebecq had sex with an OnlyFans model on camera, but did not have his passport with him at the time, a necessary authenticating factor for the model to post the video online, as had been previously agreed.

Houellebecq agreed to send a copy of his passport to the model later. However, in email conversations between him and KIRAC co-director Stefan Ruitenbeek about the nature of the shoot, they came to a disagreement as to how the author would be portrayed.

Thibault Camus/AP
Houllebecq surrounded by reporters in 2010Thibault Camus/AP

"A beautiful film about sex"

According to Ruitenbeek’s emails, the intention was for the Houellebecq film to create a “distinction between fiction and reality”.

“If we play this game as discreetly and artistically as possible, we can really make a beautiful film about sex. By playing with the images of the real, clothed writer versus the fictional reality of the pornographic images, the full sexual dimension can become part of the film. A completeness that I dream of as a filmmaker,” Ruitenbeek wrote to the author.

Houellebecq’s requirements were that all non-sexual shots of him and the sexual shots were separated in a way so that anything explicit could plausibly not actually be him.

In December 2022, Houellebecq travelled to Amsterdam and signed a contract agreeing to participate in activities that “may or may not involve explicit content,” but also that “shots that feature their identifiable faces, aforementioned genitalia will not be visible whatsoever.”

After signing, Houellebecq had sex with at least one woman for some time, before stopping and leaving the project.

Since leaving the project, KIRAC released a trailer for the film and Ruitenbeek appeared in an interview for VICE making claims about how Houellebecq is in bed, including the statement: “He's really good in bed, he fucks like crazy, he's really manly with women. I didn't expect that at all. I thought he would cum in 3 minutes but he fucked for hours.”

The court judgement

The lawsuit was heard in Amsterdam this week. Houellebecq’s legal team claim the writer feared that the way KIRAC would portray the film, in addition to the comments Ruitenbeek made in VICE, and that the contract was breached and he was being portrayed instead as a “pornstar”.

Houellebecq also claimed he was suffering from depression at the time, a fact that KIRAC were aware of and exploited, as well as the claim he signed the contract while drunk.

The court dismissed the claim of depression without corroborating medical evidence, as well as the claim he was drunk.

Finally, the court ruled that the contract never gave Houellebecq editorial rights over the content, provided it followed the genital and face separation requirement. As the film isn’t even completed yet, it’s assumed KIRAC will follow that requirement.

This is the second lawsuit Houellebecq has lost over the film, after a Paris court rejected a claim that the trailer’s release had damaged his private life.

The author is no stranger to public controversy. His novels ‘Platform’ (2001) and ‘Submission’ (2015) both brought international condemnations of Islamophobia for his depiction of Islam. A major theme of ‘Platform’ is the protagonist’s engagement with sex tourism, which many critics read as Houellebecq’s endorsement of the industry. Alongside his public criticisms of Islam, Houellebecq has made many comments defending sex workers.

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