Are women exhibitionists by nature

It’s a special sort of man who turns up on trial accused of sex with an underage prostitute and defends himself by arguing “women are by nature exhibitionist”. Then again, only a very particular sort of person would become besties with the late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, appoint a topless model as his country’s minister for equal opportunities, or tell the press “We don’t have enough soldiers [in Italy] to stop rape because our women are so beautiful” – and ex-Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has tried them all.

The permatanned ex-PM’s surprise attendance at his trial last week was a reminder of how ridiculous Italian politics used to be before the country’s economy got beyond a joke and Berlusconi was replaced by the colourless technocrat Mario Monti. Berlusconi’s alleged crime - paying for sex with 17-year-old dancer Karima al-Mahroug, also known as Ruby Rubacuori, or Ruby the Heartstealer – is said to have taken place at one of the 75-year-old’s “bunga bunga” parties, where young women poledanced dressed (then undressed) as police officers and nuns in what the former prime minister has called “an atmosphere of good cheer and affection”.

Presumably it was this good cheer and affection which led Berlusconi (personal fortune: $US9 billion) to pay a reported total of €127,000 to three women including Nicole Minetti, who is accused of helping to run a prostitution ring in order to service the former Presidente’s needs. Maybe good cheer and affection is what protected him from the other 24 lawsuits brought against him since he first took office in 1994, although the law he introduced giving senior politicians immunity from prosecution probably helped too.

Just a week before this latest trial opened, Berlusconi reportedly told the following joke during a political visit to the Italian island of Lampedusa: “Did you hear the latest poll? They asked women between twenty and thirty years old if they want to make love to Berlusconi. Thirty-three per cent said yes! Sixty-seven per cent said ‘Again?’ ” Meanwhile women belonging to that demographic have been appearing, scantily clad and submissive, as a mainstay on the television channels he runs for decades.