Italian Dating Is a Lot Like Italian Swearing

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Photo: Annapaola Martin/Courtesy of Ilaria Perrone

Ilaria Perrone, sex columnist for Grazia.it, the go-to magazine for the "It" girls of Milan, has given up on dating. “Italian men are romantic but they are also liars,” she told New York sex columnist Maureen O’Connor in the latest entry in Italy in 30 DaysExchange Rates conversation series. Skyping from Milan, Perrone explained the hazards of dick-centric dating and swearing. Turns out Italians say "What the dick?" the way Americans say "What the fuck?" And don't even get her started on the shortage of cunnilingus slang.

What is dating like in Italy?
It can be very difficult, because in Italy men date because they want to have sex. They are not always interested in you as a person. If you go with a boy in Milan, you know 90 percent of the time, you will be with him that night. Even if you don’t have sex, he will try. He will always try. But if you want to see him again, you have to wait. 

I used to talk with friends who lived in USA, and they tell me, “We go on real dates. I meet him on Tinder and we go out to dinner.” And the men would say, “The American girls are so free! It’s easy to take them home and have sex with them, but with you Italian girls, it’s not so easy.” At least, that’s what they say; I don’t know if it’s real. Italian men are romantic, but they are also liars. They treat you like a princess, and the next day they disappear. That is also a kind of lie.

So is it always sex on the first date? Blow job? Something else?
No, no. In Italy it is totally different, we have sex first. I know in New York you do the other things first, then sex after, but here we think blow jobs are more private than sex. You can have sex with a condom on a first date, but oral sex is more complicated.

I mean, you really know someone’s genitals after oral sex. All five senses.
Blow jobs are palatable for some Italian women, but I think some don’t want them at all.

If those women never give oral sex, do they still receive it?
You know, I was discussing this during dinner with a friend of mine recently. We don’t have a real word for this. We have to describe the action, licking the puss. But it doesn’t have its own word, I think because it’s taboo. Some women and men don't like this, either. I think there are two kinds of men, one that thinks this is not macho and doesn't like it, and one that really likes it.

Our casual terms for cunnilingus are descriptions, too. You “eat her out,” “dig her out,” “lick cunt,” but those are verbs. Only things done to a penis are “jobs,” blow job and hand job. But wait, you said “puss.” Is that Italian for pussy?
No, here is the most common rude word for vagina: figa. If you walk down the street in Rome, boys will call you figa. Sei un pezzo di figa, “you are a piece of vagina.” It’s a rude way to say “I really like you, girl.” 

Oh, like a rude compliment. Our version is “piece of ass.”
Yes, it’s the same! We just use the other part. We don’t have a good word for anal sex, either. It’s so rude if a man says he wants to take your ass. I think there just aren’t as many words for these things in Italy.

Do you have a word for rim job?
No, what is that? 

When you lick a butthole.
Oh. No. No, we don’t have that word. You do? 

Yes, several! Nicki Minaj raps about it. What about words for penises?
We have so many of those! In the south, they say minchia. In the north, cazzo. When they are talking they insert this word, the way people from London say “fuck.” Che minchia fai? Che cazzo fai? It means “What the fuck are you doing?” In Genoa, they say belin. Same meaning, but when you use it to swear, it’s at the end of the sentence. Portâ via u belìn is a rude way to say “Go away!” in their dialect. Literally, “Take your penis away from here.”

You could say it to men who call you a pezzo di figa.
[Laughs.] It’s very rude. We also have different words for men and women masturbating each other. If a man touches you, it's ditalino. If you use your hand on a man, it's sega, which is also the thing you do when you cut a tree, saw.

Because of the back-and-forth movement? How violent.
Yes. I think all of the words about men are violent. Except pompino, the word for blow job, which sounds funny. 

I’m so obsessed with Italians defaulting to penis when they swear, instead of sex. I wonder if that’s because the sexual culture is male-dominated?
Yes, I think so. It’s a dick-centric culture. Italy had protest and revolutions in the ‘60s, just as they did in the USA and U.K., but the sexual revolution was different here. They still had their parents. When you live with your parents, when you live with the Pope and the church, it’s difficult to change your mind so quickly.

Like it’s a sexist version of sexual freedom? I can never figure out how open Italy’s sexual culture is.
They are open about men. In this country, men can do whatever they want because they are men, they are like this, they need sex, they need affairs. Particularly in the south, you would hear people say about Berlusconi, “He had a lot of women and that’s good! Men who have a lot of women are real men.” 

What about women who have lots of men?
The opposite. I think we are now changing ages, but men have had the most change. It’s like we are in Disneyland. It makes it more difficult to have relationships. A lot of women become obsessed with finding marriage. I think perhaps this is like New York, a lot of women searching for the right man, and a lot of men running around. We have this in common with many cities. 

Do you have a boyfriend?
No, I don’t. I think I want one, but it’s so difficult to find someone who is interested in you, not just sex. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve had a real date.

Let’s say I was visiting Milan and did just want to have sex. What should I do?
In the U.S. and U.K., girls use Tinder, so here in Milan they get dates with Italian men that way. I have friends who tell me it’s not so easy to get Italian girls to go on dates with Tinder; they have to be pushed. But American girls are easier because they are here on holiday. I was in Sicily this summer, and two guys told me they use Tinder to meet Americans. 

Here in Italy, men come to you. I was in Paris recently and the men are so shy, you have to go to them. Italian men who are out with their friends will come to you together, introduce themselves, invite you to parties and clubs. If you’re in a bar or a club in Milan speaking English? Someone will come to you immediately. He will ask where you’re from and then you will go with him to a club.

Because they think I’m a slutty American?
Because it’s exotic for them, and because they are friendly with girls they don’t know. They are friendly with Italian girls, too, but really they speak to everyone.

This interview has been edited and condensed.