Nicholas Lezard: Lessons from lechers and libertines

A sex addiction clinic is the last place a sex addict should head to

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The allegation by the biographer of his estranged wife that Silvio Berlusconi has been urged to attend a sex addiction clinic by some of his closest advisers is but the latest chapter in the ongoing farce that is "Silvio Berlusconi: Prime Minister of Italy".

Ah, the fabled "sex addiction clinic". I've always thought that if there was one establishment that would be on the top of one's list should one want to have more sex than previously, it would be a sex addiction treatment centre. Just think of it! All those people gagging for it. All those secret, night-time trysts. And just think of all the phone numbers you can swap.

I make light of this matter because it is one which it is right to make light of. The only problem I have with Berlusconi's presumed priapism is that it deflects attention from his cynical and dishonest politics. But I have to say that when he appoints former topless models to his cabinet and then openly flirts with them, or when he nips off to an 18-year-old woman's birthday party, I smile broadly and rejoice in the knowledge that the stupid old goat has done it again. Hard, of course, on his increasingly exasperated wife and the hapless objects of his affections, but the first can always divorce him and the others can always slap him in the face... only, funnily enough, these things do not seem to have happened yet.

The thing is that the lecher and the libertine have always provided powerful lessons for the rest of the male population – and a great deal of entertainment for the entire human race. Not only lessons in What Not To and How Not To when it comes to seduction or the satisfaction of desire – but also How To. Casanova's memoirs, among the greatest of any age, show a bold, generous spirit, successful with women because he really did like them. How duller would the world be – not only his own world, but that of subsequent generations – had he been forced to curb his instincts in the drab, airless language of the 12-step programme? (I assume that "sex addiction" is treated in the same way as alcoholism. If it isn't, don't bother writing to tell me how it is.)

Don Juan, who in Spain alone seduced, or ravished, a thousand and three women, would never have been allowed to strut on the stage; Byron, in real life, would be a footnote to the history of literature instead of one of its most colourful figures. And Berlusconi certainly is colourful. He is like a figure from a Renaissance play – a figure of fun who doesn't realise that the joke's on him, compelled to follow his dick wherever it leads him.

"I can't stop him making himself look ridiculous in the eyes of the world," says his wife, Veronica Lario, and the world loves a clown. In Berlusconi's case, we (by which I mean men) use the example of his own lustiness to keep it in our trousers and act with a certain dignity, lest we end up looking like him.

Meanwhile I am off to the bookies to see if one will give me some decent odds on a hunch I've long entertained; that Berlusconi is protesting too much. I wouldn't be that surprised if he was actually gay.

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