PARIS, France (CNN) -- French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand said Thursday he will not resign over accounts in a book he wrote in 2005 about paying to have sex with "boys" in Thailand.
In an interview with French television network TF1, Mitterrand said he "absolutely condemn[s] sexual tourism, which is a disgrace, and ... pedophilia," in which he insisted he has never participated.
Despite the use of the French word "garcon" in his 2005 book "The Bad Life," Mitterrand, 62, has previously said the term did not mean "little boys." He said the males he paid for sex were his age, or maybe five years younger, but not underage -- and the relations were consensual.
"Anyway, you can recognize someone who's 40 years old ..." he told TF1. A 40-year-old man "doesn't look like a minor," he added, suggesting that his partners were middle-aged men.
His actions, Mitterrand said, were "without a doubt, an error," but "a crime, no," he said in the interview.
Despite recent calls to resign from the far-right National Front and the left-leaning Socialist Party, Mitterrand, who is openly gay, vowed to stay in his job. He said he met Thursday morning with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and that the president supports him.
In a July interview with the weekly French news magazine Le Nouvel Observateur, Sarkozy said he had read Mitterrand's book, and found it "courageous and talented."
The controversy over the revelations in his book -- which he called neither autobiography nor memoir -- erupted anew after Mitterrand deplored the arrest last week of filmmaker Roman Polanski, who fled the United States in 1977 after pleading guilty to having sex with a 13-year-old girl.
The culture minister told TF1 that he was "too emotional" when he denounced the filmmaker's arrest in Switzerland as "horrifying."
"To see him thrown to the lions for an old story that really has no meaning, and to see him alone, imprisoned, when he was going to attend a ceremony where he was to be honored, that is to say, he was trapped, it's absolutely horrifying," he said October 4, according to Agence France Presse.
The far-right National Front organized an anti-Mitterrand demonstration in Paris on Thursday evening.
"Send this message on to everyone who will not put up with this indecency!" the party's Web site said.
The party's vice president, Marine Le Pen, has demanded Mitterrand's resignation for what she termed his sexually deviant acts. Mitterrand responded, saying, "It's an honor to be dragged through the mud by the National Front."
Mitterrand's acts of "sexual tourism" have left "a dark smudge" on the government, Le Pen said.
The group is also gathering signatures on a petition, online and on paper, from those who want Mitterrand to step down.
"We really hope he will resign," National Front communications director Julien Sanchez told CNN.
"It's an embarrassment for our country, that our culture minister has done this. It affects our international image. It's not right," he added. Watch report on the controversy surrounding French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterand »
On the other side of the political spectrum, the left-leaning Socialist Party suggested Sarkozy should consider Mitterrand's position.
"It's up to President Sarkozy to decide whether or not we can be involved in the fight against child prostitution and sexual tourism, and whether or not the acts written in an autobiography -- written by a minister -- are acts of sexual commerce," said party spokesman Benoit Hamon.
"If everything is relative and Mr. Mitterrand can be excused because he's famous, well, I don't excuse his behavior," Hamon said.
Martine Aubry, the leader of the Socialist Party, said she would wait until she had read the book before making any judgment.
Mitterrand said on TF1 that he had had sexual relations with boys -- using the French word "garcons" -- but added, "you must not confuse pedophilia with homosexuality."
He also described his book as a mixture of his life and the life of others, and denied accusations that it was a glorification of sexual tourism. The minister said he never had sex with "young boys" and denounced those who accused him of such acts, saying that maybe they were confusing their own fantasies with what the book was really about.
Mitterrand told an interviewer in 2005 that assertions that he liked "little boys" were untrue.
"It's because when people say 'boys' we imagine 'little boys,'" he said then. "How to explain that? It belongs to this general puritanism which surrounds us, which always makes us paint a black picture of the situation. It has nothing to do with that."
Mitterrand was a television personality, not a government minister, when the book was published. It caused a stir upon its publication, as well, and has been the subject of heated debate several times since then.
In one passage, published by the French newspaper Le Monde on Thursday, Mitterrand describes in detail a sexual encounter with a "boy" he said was called Bird.
"My boy didn't say a word, he stood before me, immobile, his eyes still straight ahead and a half-smile on his lips. I wanted him so badly I was trembling," he wrote.
Mitterrand also wrote about visiting clubs to choose young male prostitutes in Thailand -- where prostitution is illegal and sexual intercourse with a minor is statutory rape and is punishable by imprisonment.
"Most of them are young, handsome and apparently unaware of the devastation that their activities could bring them. I would learn later that they didn't come every night, that they were often students, had a girlfriend and sometimes even lived with their families, who pretended not to know the source of their breadwinner's earnings," the book said.
"Some of them were older and there was also a small contingent of heavier bruisers, who also had their fans. It was the artistic side of the exposition: Their presence made the youthful charm of the others stand out."
He also wrote that while he had read reports and seen documentaries on the evils of "le commerce des garcons" (the boy trade) -- the misery, the piles of money from which "les gosses" (the kids) got only a few crumbs, the ravages of drugs -- "all of these rituals of the fair of the youths, the slave market, excited me enormously."
"The profusion of very attractive boys, immediately available, put me in a state of desire that I no longer had to restrain or conceal."
Mitterrand -- the nephew of the Socialist former president Francois Mitterrand -- joined Sarkozy's center-right government this summer.
Wikipedia, the user-edited online reference Web site, has locked down Mitterrand's entry, preventing changes to it, in a possible sign of the intensity of the debate surrounding him.
CNN's Jen Carswell in Paris, France and Alanne Orjoux in Atlanta, Georgia, contributed to this report.