The XX Factor

Do Italians Care about Berlusconi’s Sex Life?

Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP/Getty Images

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi

Many Americans believe the stereotype that Europeans just don’t care very much about the bedchamber antics of their politicians. “Monica Lewinsky would never have mattered in France,” some say: Over there, people have the urbane idea that a statesman’s politics and his personal life should be viewed separately (though as Slate’s Christopher Beam pointed out back in May, Americans are more tolerant of sexually errant politicians than you might think).

But for the Italians, this supposed European custom of an indifferent shrug toward sexual improprieties seems to be losing its appeal. Jasmina Tesanovic of Boing Boing reports that amid the ever-increasing, ever-more-brazen evidence that Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s prime minster, is a total philander, cynical leader and generally gross dude, the Italian people are pretty much fed up:

Some politicians are speaking of a possible referendum to depose Berlusconi, some for asking President Napolitano to intervene with all his legal might. Some from Berlusconi’s party speak of purging the party from the inside. Yet others speculate about somehow creating an emergency national government. But nothing stops the drift toward the abyss.

It’s hard to blame them. While Americans on the left might fantasize about a national view of a person’s sex life and work life that’s a little less puritanical in its logic, no one could want to be “governed” by this embarrassing, lecherous mess of a man. With the next scheduled election hanging far out in 2013, the Italians, if they wish to get out of this shameful situation sooner rather than later, may have to—dare I say it—think a little more like puritans.