Picture a sweaty basement, a pair of gyrating escorts disguised as nuns, and a 74 year old Italian man watching silently and receiving sporadic lap dances. This image is of Silvio Berlusconi enjoying one of his ‘Bunga Bunga’ parties. Whilst the mental picture is certainly disturbing, I cannot help but marvel at the shamelessness with which the ex-Prime Minister of Italy flaunts his sexual behaviour.
In 2009, like a testosterone fuelled teenager, he was recorded boasting to entrepreneur Gianpaolo Tarantini of his sexual potency in managing to sleep with eight women in a night. Today we see Berlusconi’s attitudes to sex have hardly changed.
Countless women have testified as to the nature of his ‘Bunga Bunga’ nights, incriminating photographs have been uncovered, and most of the public are convinced of his involvement. Yet Berlusconi still shows no remorse. In court, he described these parties as ‘elegant evenings’ which gave women, who are ‘by their nature exhibitionists,’ the opportunity to perform little shows for his entertainment.
Berlusconi is currently on trial for paying an under-age Moroccan dancer, Karima el-Mahroug, also known as ‘Ruby the Heart Stealer’ for sex. His involvement with the young girl was exposed when he tried to get her released from prison through claiming she was the niece of Hosni Mubarak, the then-Egyptian President. The officer who received Berlusconi’s call said that it was obvious the girl was actually Moroccan and he was aware that her father was a farm worker in Sicily.
From afar, it is easy to laugh. On some level Berlusconi’s appalling behaviour is refreshingly ridiculous. Especially when he is juxtaposed with the anxious politicians of our country, desperate to please and terrified to offend, who spend lifetimes polishing their public images.
One can only roll their eyes at his response when faced with the underage sex scandal. He commented that ‘it’s better to be fond of beautiful women than to be gay.’ The complete absurdity of this assertion makes one wonder how this man managed to remain in politics for so long. He is, however, the longest serving post war Prime Minister of Italy, has won three elections and founded his own party, Forza Italia.
When asking your average Brit how they think Berlusconi managed to keep power in the face of sex scandals and corruption charges, I expect their answer would involve phrases such as ‘he’s a personification of machismo,’ and an ‘Italian stallion.’ You would hardly expect this of a vertically challenged man with hair plugs. However, perhaps there is an element of truth in this. Writer and journalist, Roberto Saviano, said, “He fascinates Italian people with his smile, his women, his bluntness which says, ‘I am a man who enjoys life. What’s wrong with that?’’
He is undoubtedly intelligent with an inexorable energy (in and out of the bedroom). Additionally, as a super-salesman, he must have an ebullient charm. How else could he have worked his way up from being a crooner on a cruise ship to owning a media empire, a football team and a publishing house?
Despite a relentless flow of well-founded indictments, Berlusconi managed to win the majority of Italian men and women’s votes three times over. Perhaps we will never fully understand how, but it can in part be put down to a magnetic impertinence. After all, would you ever hear a Tory MP commenting, as Silvio did, that “The left has no taste, even when it comes to women” ?