La dolce Viagra

A new study, funded by Pfizer, shows Italians are not sexually satisfied.

By Jack Boulware
July 14, 2000 11:32PM (UTC)
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The results are in from a recent study of the sexual habits of Italians. The research goes against the grain of what we perceive to be a healthy, sexually robust culture that produced Sophia Loren and tight-fitting leather clothing. To put it bluntly, the study implies Italians are not sexy people. Men are worried about sex, and single women are not satisfied with sex. The only people having sex in Italy, according to the study, are the elderly.

Let's get a few things straight right away.


No. 1: These numbers demonstrate a lack of sexual enjoyment among Italians.

No. 2: Pfizer, the manufacturer of Viagra, financed the study. Pfizer sold $1 billion worth of boner pills last year worldwide.

No. 3: Companies like Pfizer obviously would like to increase sales.


So are the study's results simple coincidence?

"It was a happy surprise," admitted Maria Pia Ruffilli, the head of Pfizer Italiana.

In February and March, Pfizer paid the Italian research foundation Censis to approach 1,500 citizens between the ages of 18 and 80 and have them fill out confidential questionnaires. Even with a 2.4 percent margin of error, the figures were surprising. Marcello Mastroianni would be ashamed at the self-doubt revealed among the male population.


"It's not true that Italian men are secure about their own sexual infallibility," said the Censis study. "59.2 percent admitted they were uncertain or worried about their sexual performance and 42.6 percent said they were suffering or have suffered from sexual difficulties."

Among these Latin lovers having "difficulties," 20.2 percent said they had problems with their Towers of Pisa.


As for the single women of Italy: If the men are having sexual problems, it follows that the women are too. They're having less sex, with less satisfaction. "It's not true that single women have freer, more satisfactory sexual behavior: 31.9 percent of unmarried women and 47.7 percent of separated or divorced women, in fact, said they don't have a sex life right now, and 30.4 percent judge their sex lives unsatisfactory or bad," said the study.

The only Italians who are really living it up are the previous generations. According to Censis, 73.4 percent of Italians between 61 and 70 have an active sex life, and 39.1 percent of those between 71 and 80 are still getting it on with regularity. Maybe they're still remembering the old Sophia Loren movies.

Reporters asked Italians on the street about their impressions of the study. A 27-year-old father of two thought it was ridiculous. "I think men in their 20s and 30s don't have these problems," insisted Antonio Cessia. "At least I don't. Maybe some of these men are worried about size."


A 42-year-old divorced mother believes that Italian men are no different from men worldwide: They're all insecure about sex. "Italian women have more freedom, and the Italian man is not ready for it," said Assunta Cascianelli. If you ask them about sexual insecurity, she added, "they won't admit it."

Jack Boulware

Jack Boulware is a writer in San Francisco and author of "San Francisco Bizarro" and "Sex American Style."

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