Prostitution and Trafficking

Italy's Sex Scandals Jar View of Women's Success

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

One of Silvio Berlusconi's "escorts" has publicly encouraged women to view their beauty as a marketable asset. Some of the prime minister's political opponents say his tenure has degraded the atmosphere for women in the work force.

ROME (WOMENSENEWS)--When Terry De Nicolo, a 38-year-old escort and regular visitor of Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, was interviewed by a public television program last June she defended a woman's right to see her body as a marketable asset.

"Beauty is an economic value and must be sold like any other skill. If you are a beautiful woman you must be able to sell your body in order to achieve your goal. If you are ugly you need to stay at home and live a mean life with only 2,000 euro (around 2,700 U.S. dollars) a month," she said.

De Nicolo went on to say that every Italian woman would jump at an invitation to one of Berlusconi's parties and the chance of making connections to become rich and powerful.

"If you want to be rich and powerful, you must be a lion and not a sheep. You must be ready to sell even your mother to get what you desire," said De Nicolo, who resides in an expensive penthouse in Milan and is known for her high-fashion wardrobe.

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Some aspects of De Nicolo's attitudes were echoed a few months later in an online survey of university students released Aug. 24, by unversinet, an Italian social network. The survey posed this question: In your opinion, is it more important to study or get a recommendation to become enrolled at your university?

A small portion--16,218 out the 450,000 students who replied--expressed shock at the premise. But the vast majority, 86 percent, said the second option of getting a good recommendation--and essentially using your connections--was more important.

The percentage of female students who said they would not mind having sex with a professor in order to gain university entrance was 57 percent, sharply higher than the already strong response of 45 percent in 2010.

Gifts and Employment Offers

During investigations spanning from 2007 to 2011, the Italian Public Prosecutor Office found escorts who frequented Berlusconi's parties received expensive gifts and employment offers, even if they weren't qualified for them, in return for their "performances."

In 2007 Berlusconi--currently facing charges including corruption, tax fraud and paying for sex with a minor--and Agostino Saccà, the director of Rai Movie, a cinema section of Italian Public Television, became embroiled in scandal when the prime minister was discovered using his influence with Saccà to get acting parts for his female friends.

Two years later, the daily La Repubblica reported that former showgirls and actresses who socialized with Berlusconi were on the list of European parliament candidates for Berlusconi's right-wing People of Freedom (PDL) party. Not long after, Veronica Lario, Berlusconi's former wife, sought a divorce and described her husband as a sex addict in a letter published in La Repubblica.

Some members of the left-opposition, Italy of Value party (IDV), contend that Berlusconi's behavior is influencing the attitudes and workplace conditions of young Italian women.

Giulia Rodano, a member of parliament responsible for equal opportunity for IDV, was in Rome in September for IDV's annual meeting, where she spoke with Women's eNews.

"When meritocracy really works, Italian women get high-level positions and do their jobs remarkably," said Rodano. "They are a minority now but we are protesting in all Italian squares to obtain equal opportunity."

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As I am reading this article and being appalled by the callous attitude exhibited by the escort woman, my eye was drawn to the upper right corner of the web page to the ad from bare minerals. It asked me, "are you a force of beauty? enter and find out" then a large button tells me to "rollover". This, in my opinion, sends conflicting messages to the readers of your important and timely publication.

This is not unlike to "Stockholm Syndrome", where kidnapped people begin to empathize with their captors. I recently read Kathy Bolcovac's "The Whistleblower", and watched the movie only a few days ago. Both are heartwrenching, as they make known the fact that girls are kidnapped into prostitution. The Sarajevo example is among the worst in the world, because these poor young women only become ill and die from their situation. In Italy, the high class prostitute who admitted that this was her only way to success, by this exclamation of it as an expectation for women, is really showing that once in there is often no way out. Women's groups need to focus upon how girls are moved into prostitution in jr high/middle school and high school, then are there for life, usually as permanent slaves, whether high paid or not, who can be sold around at the will of those who 'keep' them. Later, they are so incorporated into this life, they have buried in their minds, the realities of what they have lost and what they are too frightened to change. Many would not be accepted back into their families, and that is an unspoken reality in many places, though we only recognize this as a problem in Muslim culture - why do we not see this reality as it exists here in North America as well as in Europe and other places?
This issue is so angering to me that once I begin speaking of it, it is difficult to stop!