Italian P.M. thinks rape is a compliment

Silvio Berlusconi says there are too many beautiful Italian women to protect them all from rapists -- you're welcome, gals!

By Kate Harding

Published January 26, 2009 2:58PM (EST)

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has offered, in his own words, "a compliment to pretty Italian girls, of which there are millions." Aw, that's nice. What was the compliment? In response to a proposal to increase the military presence on city streets following a series of highly publicized rapes in Rome, Berlusconi said, "We can't think of deploying a large force. We would have to send as many soldiers as there are beautiful girls. And I don't think we would manage."

Wow, I'd hate to see Berlusconi's idea of an insult to women. Presumably, that would be something even more offensive than suggesting that A) only "beautiful girls" are potential victims of sexual assault, because B) rape is the natural consequence of lust, which means that C) rape is a compliment if you think about it, ladies! Oh yeah, and D) women -- the hot ones, at least -- will never be safe to walk the streets of their hometowns, as long as there are fewer soldiers than heterosexual civilian males. (Also, soldiers never commit rape, if you follow this line of reasoning.) But hey, what are you gals so pissy about? He said millions of Italian women are beautiful! You want flowers now, too?

And hey, what are you guys so pissy about? Sure, he just implied that you're all essentially beasts who can hardly be expected to keep a lid on your irresistible desire to commit violent crime, but come on, fellas! What red-blooded male doesn't want to force himself on a woman who's saying no? Amirite?

Wait, you're all still pissy? Oh, OK, well you've obviously failed to appreciate that it was just a joke. "I believe that on every occasion it is always useful to use a light approach and a sense of humor," Berlusconi says in his defense. And, you know, he's got a point there. Making a decision about whether to deploy troops to your own cities because violent crime has gotten out of hand is tough work; such convos go down way better with a few chuckles. About how it's impossible to keep women from being raped without assigning each one a military escort. Because civilian men are pretty much all potential rapists. Get it? Haha? Anyone?

Kate Harding

Kate Harding is the author of Asking For It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture--and What We Can Do About It, available from Da Capo Press in August 2015. Previously, she collaborated with Anna Holmes, Amanda Hess, and a cast of thousands on The Book of Jezebel, and with Marianne Kirby on Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere. You might also remember her as the founding editor of Shapely Prose (2007-2010). Kate's essays have appeared in the anthologies Madonna & Me, Yes Means Yes, Feed Me, and Airmail: Women of Letters. She holds an M.F.A. in fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts and a B.A. in English from University of Toronto, and is currently at work on a Ph.D. in creative writing from Bath Spa University

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