Who is Guillaume Pley?
He’s a 28-year-old radio presenter from Normandy in north-western France.
Why has he been in the news this week?
The radio DJ posted a video online called “How to kiss a girl in 10 seconds” in which he is seen making various attempts to do just that, with unsuspecting female members of the public.
As the video went viral, Pley's stunt was met with widespread condemnation, protests, and even threats of a possible sexual assault probe. This week he issued a pseudo-apology live on air. But does he really accept that it's not "just a kiss"?
Tell me more
In the video (see below), entitled “Choper une fille en 3 questions”, which roughly translates as “Picking up a girl in three questions,” Pley walks up to several women he doesn’t know, in public.
He asks them questions like “Do you have a boyfriend?” “Do you find me attractive?” and finally “Will you kiss me?”
He never gets a clear “Yes” from any of the six women (and more than once gets an unequivocal "No") but that detail doesn’t prevent him from forcing himself on all of them.
So how do they respond?
None of them seem particularly comfortable even with Pley’s approach, or his lead-up questions, and in almost every case, the would-be Casanova feels the need to physically grab the women by the head, to stop them from recoiling from the kiss.
Pley’s fourth lucky target is bemused and annoyed by being asked “do you find me attractive?” in the first place.
After clearly saying she’s had a boyfriend for a year, she answers: “I don’t know, I don’t know you, I’m not going to judge you…I don’t have an opinion…I’m not going to kiss you, you’re crazy, who do you think you are?”
All of which, it would seem, Pley translated as “I find you awfully attractive, and despite my relationship, I’d love for you to kiss me, but I’m too timid to say ‘Yes.’”
He tries it, and she pushes his face away and says “Get out of here! Are you serious?” Pley’s response is revealing: “Don’t get upset, it’s just a kiss…Miss World, eh…”
The fact Pley chose to include this encounter as one of the five in his video, naturally begs the question, how embarrassing or inappropriate were the ones he left out?
Here’s the now-infamous video (with English subtitles), which had 3.4 million views at time of writing.
How have people reacted to him?
To be sure, some of Pley’s fans (among them his 144,428 Twitter followers), loved the video, and came to his defence on social networks.
This apparently female Twitter user said: “Us, we support our Guillaume Pley,” including the hashtag #TeamPleyers, an obvious pun celebrating the DJ’s purported sexual prowess.
— clémence (@ClemencePley) October 21, 2013
But in the following days, as the video began to seep out into the wider French public, the condemnations began to pour in, with feminist website ‘Madmoizelle’ launching a comprehensive attack on it, and warning of possible legal consequences to Pley’s actions .
“Forgive us for emphasising, but [France’s] penal code states: ‘A sexual assault involves any sexual attack committed using violence, constraint, threats or surprise.’”
The website also pointed out that Pley seemed to target, in particular, women in a vulnerable position: sitting alone, or withdrawing money from an ATM, for example.
The article’s author took to Twitter to confront Pley directly, saying “Hello Guillaume Pley, I think you’re confusing seduction with harassment. Warmly,…”
— Charie_Marlotte (@charimari1) October 21, 2013
Another said simply, “Guillaume Pley…that human infection,” while many attacks on Pley were accompanied by the hashtag #cultureduviol (rape culture).
Guillaume #PLEY… cette infection humaine…
— Karine B (@Karine_BG) October 21, 2013
In response, the blogger Daria Marx on Tuesday evening organized a protest, attended by around 20 people, outside the Paris offices of radio station NRJ, Pley’s employer.
Leading French feminist group ‘Osez le feminisme’ later brought the video to the attention of the CSA, France’s national broadcasting commission (equivalent to the US FCC or British Ofcom).
“Often under the guise of humour, there is behaviour and [media] content which can become normalized,” the group said.
“And because of this kind of harassment, women have the impression of being treated like objects,” they added.
A petition on Change.org to force Pley to delete the video itself from Youtube, had over 9,000 signatures at time of writing.
What has Pley himself said about it all?
Well, he made a statement at the start of his radio show on Monday night. But whether it really constitutes an apology is up for discussion.
“I’m sorry if I shocked certain people and those who run certain websites,” said Pley, after noting the women had all given their consent to be featured in the video, and that he was a “nice guy” who was “well brought up.”
He acknowledged the video was "a bit clumsy" and that his lunges "might appear a bit abrupt, especially the first one" – referring to the encounter where he tricks a woman into kissing him on the cheek, only to surprise her with something more at the last second.
He then holds her by the head while kissing her on the mouth, as she struggles to get away.
However, his acknowledgements are almost all qualified in some way, or followed up with excuses like "but she was laughing."
"Sometimes there are people who don't understand, just as there are some who do, so it's better to explain things twice rather than not at all," he said.
The Local's French Face of the Week is a person in the news who – for good or ill – has revealed something interesting about the country. Being selected as French Face of the Week is not necessarily an endorsement.