Sex Scandals, Italian Style: Are Europeans Finally Becoming Prudes?
Well, guys, I think it's finally happened. After years of relentlessly mocking Americans for their prudish attitudes towards politicians' extramarital affairs, Europe finally has a sex scandal it wants to distance itself from.
And -- wait for it -- it's in Italy, no less.
That's right. As we sit around figuring out how many Sound of Music/West Side Story/Evita puns we can possibly squeeze out of the Mark Sanford saga (Emily, I've got Eva Perón's "I've kept my promise; don't keep your distance" lyric running through my head), Silvio Berlusconi is finally being forced to twist in the wind for his much-publicized shenanigans with the ladies.
Americans, of course, are all wondering: "What took you so long?"
I mean, here's a man who's been infamous for years for his lavish parties, libertine attitudes and openly tumultuous relationship with his wife.
But this is Europe, folks. You know, the place where François Mitterand's mistress and their (illegitimate) daughter publicly attended his funeral. They do things -- specifically, infidelity -- a bit differently over here.
Until now. Apparently, the latest accusations -- which began with his friendship with a not-quite-18-year-old girl and then mushroomed into allegations that female escorts have been paid to attend his parties and, in one instance, sleep with him -- are not sitting well with the Italian public. As many as 30 young women are being interviewed by magistrates in the city of Bari about exactly how they came to be invited to some of the prime minister's parties.
It would appear that things began to sour for Silvio when his wife of 20 years -- Veronica Lario (whom, ahem, he first met when he saw her dancing topless) announced she was divorcing him.
Then the Catholic Church got into the act when a group of bishops criticized Berlusconi for his "self-declared weakness for actresses in the bloom of youth."
Even Berlusconi appears to be nervous. Yesterday, he called on politicians and journalists in his country to kindly put aside all discussions of his sex life until after the upcoming G8 summit, which Italy will host. I mean, c'mon guys. Cut me some slack. I've got an international meeting to host here . . .
It's hard to know what to make of all this. After all, Berlusconi has been in all sorts of hot water before and has always managed to survive. But as an American living in Europe for the last three years -- granted, in the more subdued, keep-it-in-your-pants U.K. -- I have to wonder if there isn't something deeper going on over here.
First, Europeans embraced the American president. Now, it would appear that they are embracing American values.
All I can say is: Mon dieu!