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Sex or the smartphone: what do Italian women want?

Italy women blog
Protesters gather in Rome's Piazza del Popolo to demonstrate against Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in Feb. 2011, saying his sex scandals have hurt their dignity and reinforced outdated gender stereotypes. (Alessandro Bianchi /Reuters)

Some think rock ‘n roll is better than sex. Others opt for chocolate. But smartphones?

Well, si. If you’re an Italian woman. According to a survey of 3,000 European women by alfemminile.com, some 29 per cent of Italians – close to one-third – admit to checking their phones during sex, according to a report in the Italian news agency ANSA.

And not only that. Eighty-three per cent of those polled confessed to being “exceedingly attached” to their phones to the point of addiction.
Furthermore, nearly one-quarter of them “cannot withstand being separated from their devices for more than an hour,” compared with 14 per cent of their European sisters. That’s far more, statistically, than stay with their husbands once they’re married – little more than 50 per cent.

In or out of the bedroom, the survey says, about 23 per cent of Italian women check their phones every half hour, compared with 18 per cent in Europe. And men who date them can expect that 54 per cent of their inamoratas will spend the evening with their eyes, and hands, on their keyboards.

But does this say more about the women – or their partners?

The study, in fact, could be the worst blow to the image of the Italian lover since the death of womanizing Fascist poet Gabriele D’Annunzio.

And it’s a far cry from Stendhal’s contention that in Italy, “one must only make love; other pleasures of the soul are cramped here…anywhere else is only a bad copy.”

But things have moved on since the early 19th century. 

Or could it be that like former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Italian men have fallen victim to their own overblown publicity?

With near-total control over the Italian media for more than two decades, Berlusconi flamboyantly promoted a role for women as sex kittens, striptease artists and burlesque queens, at the service of domineering (but irresistible) men. He invited high profile guests to “bunga bunga” parties supplied with very young women, with himself as the director and star.

The media onslaught rolled back some of the gains won by Italian feminists and made male chauvinism “normal” again. Sexual harassment was shrugged off as flirtation and women complained of increased hassling on the street.

But they had more overwhelming problems too, as the economic meltdown heaped disaster on discrimination. The female unemployment rate rose to up to 54 per cent, and the World Economic Forum’s 2011 Global Gender Gap Report placed Italy at 74th in gender equality, below Ghana and Bangladesh. Not surprisingly hundreds of thousands of women took to the streets crying basta.

Is it any wonder that they’ve also taken so fiercely to their obedient mechanical major domos – which they know will always be under their thumbs?

Olivia Ward has covered conflicts, politics and human rights from the former Soviet Union to South Asia and the Middle East. She was the Star’s European bureau chief from 1997-2002.


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