By Hilary White

PARIS, October 9, 2009 ( – The French Minister of Culture has said that during his trips to Thailand to cruise the “slave markets” and brothels for boys for paid sexual encounters, the boys in question were not minors but “youths” and that homosexuals call all men “boys”.

Frédéric Mitterrand, the openly homosexual nephew of former French president François Mitterrand, is belatedly facing public disgrace after having admitted in an autobiographical book published in 2005, “I got into the habit of paying for boys … The profusion of young, very attractive and immediately available boys put me in a state of desire that I no longer needed to restrain or hide.”

Mitterand, 62, has since claimed that despite his description of them as “young boys” in the book, he went to Thailand to have sex with adult prostitutes, men his own age, something that is legal in France.

After a growing storm of criticism, culminating in calls for his resignation, Mitterand appeared on the evening news saying, “I absolutely condemn sex tourism, which is a disgrace, I condemn paedophilia, in which I have never participated in any way”.

“The book is in no way an apology for sex tourism, even if one chapter is a journey through that hell, with all the fascination that hell can inspire,” he said.

Members of the Sarkozy inner circle have begun defending Mitterand. Senior presidential aide, Henri Guaino, said on France 2 television this week that the controversy was “pathetic” and that there was no need for Mitterrand to leave the government.

Guaino said, “When there is a controversy as pathetic as this, with so much delay, I don't think there should be such drastic consequences.”

His autobiography, La mauvaise vie (The Bad Life) was a critically acclaimed bestseller at the time of its publication, with Mitterand, a TV presenter at the time, being praised for his “honesty”. Although the book is four years old, it came to the international limelight when its author leapt to the defence of filmmaker Roman Polanski, who has been on the run from US authorities since the 1970s after he admitted to having raped a 13 year-old girl.

Polanski has been widely defended by the Hollywood elites since he was arrested in Switzerland in September and faces extradition proceedings. Polanski, a French citizen, has been under the protection of limited French extradition laws since he fled the US in 1977. The left-leaning Mitterand has had only a short career as a politician being a staple of French media as an actor, screenwriter, television presenter, writer, producer and director. Mitterand had called Polanski's arrest in Switzerland “terrible”.

In his book, Mitterand wrote, “I got into the habit of paying for boys… All these rituals of the market for youths, the slave market excite me enormously.”

“One could judge this abominable spectacle from a moral standpoint but it pleases me beyond the reasonable.”

The far- right Front National has launched an online petition to call for Mitterand's resignation after party leader Marine Le Pen read extracts from the book on television on Monday.

The Socialist opposition party said yesterday that it was appalled that an abusive paedophile was serving as a cabinet minister. The Daily Telegraph quoted Benoît Hamon, a senior Socialist saying, “I find it shocking that a man can justify sex tourism under the cover of a literary account.”

Mitterrand responded on Tuesday saying he was “flabbergasted” that the Socialists had attacked him. “If the National Front drag me through the mud then it is an honour for me.

“If a leftist politician drags me through the mud then it is a humiliation for him.”