The loud and frequent virtue signaling against sex is a fraud. When I was a university student I remember being required to study the poetry of Pier Paolo Pasolini, but I was not informed about his radical films or scandalous personal life. The selective sources were not unique to Pasolini; it was characteristic of the teaching of Italian culture in general. An obvious attempt to promote la bella figura, to make a good impression.
Here’s what I found out long after graduation. In 1949 the gay teacher and poet Pasolini reportedly admitted he had engaged in masturbation with 3 or 4 minors, but surprisingly at trial he was acquitted. He was expelled from the communist party because of the scandal, and went on to be tried over 30 times for his creative writing, radical films and other “immorality.” But as far as I know he never spent any significant time in prison.
In his 1964 film “Comizi d’Amore” Pasolini interviewed Italian kids about what they knew about sex, and most said they didn’t know where babies come from, or they didn’t want to talk about it. P.P.P. also asked adults if they thought sex is an important subject, and if they would like to see pornography. Some said yes, but a few said they don’t think sex should be discussed in public. One man said life would be pointless without sex (presumably he meant sexual pleasure).
Some university students in Bologna said they didn’t feel that Italian society inhibited their sexuality in any way (!), but one student admitted there is a tradition of conformism here. In the south one man said virginity is necessary if a woman wants to marry. One young man said males are not allowed to even talk to girls. One young lady said girls in a small town can’t be seen too often in the square because of the risk of comments about her “honor.” In Naples a man complained that streetwalkers (sex workers) cost 10 times as much now, without any hygienic security, compared to when the brothels were allowed or tolerated.
P.P.P.’s film is not a complete or accurate picture of Italy at the time, because many people chose not to be interviewed. The people who spoke in the film were selected, or self-selected. P.P.P. might have been inspired by the publication of Prof. Alfred Kinsey’s more rigorous research “Sexual Behavior in the Human Male” (1948), but P.P.P. was far from scientific.
Before the screening of his last and most controversial film “Salò or the 120 Days of Sodom,” P.P.P. was brutally murdered and the crime was never solved. I haven’t watched his last film, but from what I’ve seen, that film contains some truly disgusting scenes, an attempt to shock rather than entertain, educate or inspire viewers.
If P.P.P. hoped “Salò” would help Italians overcome their excessive conformism, I’m afraid he not only failed but even had the opposite effect: traumatizing Italians against the sexual revolution. The film is also blatant political propaganda, since the bad guys in the story are all on the right. He once claimed that authoritarian governments are always on the right, but his knowledge of the Soviet Union at that time was woefully incomplete. The national trauma that P.P.P. contributed to still plagues us today, with many Italians virtue-signaling against any accusation of being soft on sexual transgressions.
A more serious anti-fascist work of art is Bertolucci’s film “The Conformist.” It includes a scene of a chauffeur sexually abusing a young boy. In another scene a young woman on her honeymoon confesses to her husband that she lost her virginity at age 15 to a man who was 60. She used to call her first lover Zio, uncle. The woman and her husband discuss it with amusement and then reenact the deflowering.
A few years ago I went to a small town to see a play, and the apartment I rented overlooked a square where several boys (age 10-11) were playing soccer. When a girl the same age walked across the square the boys stopped playing to say hello, but the girl didn’t stop, she didn’t reply, and she didn’t even look at the boys. Apparently, in provincial culture girls are still at risk of comments about their “honor.”
And yet in the play an actor told a scandalous joke: “Do you know why it’s so important to use extra virgin olive oil? Because in Italy the oil is the only thing there is that’s virgin!” The ongoing crusade against sex was part of the cold war against communism, and is still part of the Catholic war against atheism.
Italy today doesn’t officially discriminate against homosexuals, but widespread homophobia is beneath the surface. When I first came to Italy as a student in the 1980s I was amazed to see the men’s restrooms in train stations frequented by gay men hooking up. Or were they frustrated hetero men unable to score with honor-bound Italian women guarding their precious virginity? How ironic that even the supposedly progressive judiciary is now eager to virtue-signal by coming down hard on anyone who promotes sex education, buddy massage, or social nudity.
Although there are few naturist (nudist) resorts in Italy, compared to other European countries, I’ve observed that many Italians are regular visitors at family naturist resorts in neighboring France. I suspect it is also true in nearby Croatia, but I don’t have any personal experience at any of the many naturist resorts in Croatia.
A few short years ago I showed the film “Little Manhattan” to a class of 11-year-olds in a big city school, and afterwards we talked about the story. I asked them if they thought the boy should have asked the girl for permission before kissing her suddenly. Surprisingly, two girls answered “No,” and nobody disputed their opinion. Apparently these traditional boys and girls thought an uninvited kiss is romantic.
Even Asia Argento reveals a tendency to be defensive about her honor. A.A. seems to be sexually liberated, and in her fascinating autobiography “Anatomia di un cuore selvaggio” (Anatomy of a Savage Heart) she says that “me too” isn’t a synonym for puritanism. Nonetheless she seems eager to distance herself from “prostitutes.” As if sex workers don’t deserve the same respect as any other paid laborers. In more modern countries like Germany and Holland sex work has been decriminalized.
A.A. was famously furious about her experience with Harvey Weinstein, who she calls “the pig,” even though the crime (as she describes it) was hardly a brutal or life-threatening event that would justify the kind of extreme punishment she hints at: torture. I once read a description of a young American woman who was held down and gang-raped by several anonymous attackers, and yet the victim says it was a very negative experience but NOT the end of the world. Eleven-year-old Jaycee Dugard was kidnapped and repeatedly raped while a prisoner for the next 13 years, and she wrote that she would do it all over again simply because her two beautiful children were born as a result of the rapes.
A.A.’s victimization – by her own account – was far less serious than either of those women. Accusations of abuse or rape years after the alleged event are usually impossible to verify, but the accusation itself is often extremely destructive to the accused. A.A. chose the Cannes Film Festival in October 2017 to denounce Harvey Weintstein, which was also the moment when a local prosecutor in Palermo decided to torture minors to solicit false accusations of sexual abuse against an obviously innocent foreigner.