Slow News Month: Sex Sells, Part 2

8 Nov

Oh, for the love. Here we go again. I mean, come on people! Have we not yet learned that SEX SELLS?

Did you see my exposé (very risqué) on how cheap ploys of boobies on magazine covers might help boost slow August beach sales?

No, you didn’t? Oh. Well then. Go here. I’ll wait.

Did you click?

You didn’t?

Ok. Let me try a different tactic. Hang on.

Sex in Ancient Rome

Ah! Gotcha, didn’t I?

So, this is my point. We are about as evolved as cave people.

Anyhoo, all that to say how pleased I am that I get to walk my almost-six-year-old son past this poster at the newsstand every day this month. That there is just your run-of-the-mill vintage booby-stroking, on the cover of an erudite BBC-mastheaded publication about history. I’ve learned that if I act nonchalant, it seems normal. So far, so good. I don’t think he gives it a second glance. I, however, beg to differ.


Here the big cover story is a cute little play on words. The term “brothels” in Italian literally translates to “closed houses.” So here, the genius copywriter went for the easy hook: “When the Closed Houses Were Open.” (Get it? Get it?! Open? Closed? So clever, right? I know. The mind boggles.) Subtitled: And if we were to reopen them?

Yeah, question mark. Don’t make that any sort of question. Please, I’m begging you: reopen them. As soon as possible.

Oh. I take it you didn’t read my other post. That one with the map?

See! You did it again. Trying to get away without clicking. Geez. You guys are a tough crowd. Here you go: Prostitution in Rome.

But, truly, folks? The best part of that cover story (besides the fact that it’s the second magazine about history that uses sex to sell, which is just brilliant), is the Sora Gemma poster.

Oh my gosh, are you serious? You’ve never heard of the legendary Sora Gemma? For shame!

Ok. So, there’s this poster that gets reproduced on magnets you can buy at the newsstand downtown. The poster is a sign that showed the price list for “Gemma’s Pleasure House” and it makes us modern-day folks have a good ha-ha because–well, come on! It’s a price list! For sexual stuff! That’s always comic gold, right?


In all the reproductions, the man’s family jewels have been discreetly scratched out. I know. Total rip-off for us ladies. But, you know. Modesty and all.

People get a big kick out of this and related signage from the fascist period, when bordellos (in Italian that would be bordelli, and BTW, the word bordello in Rome is also slang for something akin to “a big mess”) were still open and running. We like to laugh at things printed in big block letters that say “Discounts for young men if it’s their first time!” etc. The etc. being other guffaw-worthy gems like “towel and water included in the price” and the extra 5 cent charge for soap and 25 cent charge for cologne, and the pricing based on half-hour, full hour, or a “doppietta.”

Ok, wait. In the interest of accurate reporting, I must now go and research what a doppietta was. Clearly the easy answer would be a threesome, right? Because “doppio” means double, and so one would logically assume that would mean two women, no? Hmm. Yahoo answers always comes to my rescue for these embarrassing questions I never want to admit I need answers to. That way I can point my digital finger and make fun of the person who was actually brave enough to post.

Yep! Thank you! Mr. Mendez even verbalizes what I missed, in his own question about what the heck a doppietta was: “The doppietta can’t possibly be two women, because it costs less than a half hour!” Mendez, rock on. That is a very astute observation you’ve made there.

Let’s phone a friend for the answer:

il singolo rapporto sessuale doveva durare sui 10 minuti

la doppia erano 20 minuti, intendendo che uno poteva avere 2 rapporti, cosa piuttosto difficile in 20 minuti…

con la mezz’ora potevi sbizzarrirti 0_0

Nicely done, by a user named “web ser,” who informs us that the sexual act was to be completed in a span of 10 minutes. Therefore, the “doppietta” means you could have sex twice, because simple math will tell us that 10 minutes + 10 minutes = 20 minutes, therefore still coming in well under (or at least theoretically one sexual act of intercourse under) the 30 minute price uptick. He also comments that of course depends on whether one was able to actually have two acts of sexual intercourse in 20 minutes, helpfully adding “rather difficult.” Hey, web ser! Speak for yourself! You have no idea who Gemma’s clientele was, now do you? These were virile men of the fascist era! Please, do not underestimate their testosterone-laden capabilities.

Our informed respondent then goes on to state at the end of his response that therefore: “in a half hour you could really go crazy.”

Nice. Thank you for that.

Oh, folks. Good times were had by all, I can assure you. Especially by Gemma who was laughing all the way to the bank, no doubt about it.

Personally though, in my tantalizing research for this post, I also enjoyed the following:


Franca’s casino (another word for bordello, as a reader helpfully pointed out that gambling halls are called casinò with the accent on the O) has warm bidets and military discounts. It’s a win-win. Yes!

Or, how about a tip on decorum and just plain old good business sense:


Kind clients, please don’t bother the women unless you’ve already paid. (Molestare in today’s parlance is akin to bother or annoy; however, I wouldn’t doubt if this was a bit more literal back in the 40s when this was still operative!)

Hey! You want an entire revealing slide show on the topic? Honestly. This fascinates me to no end. Go.

Still resisting, eh? What if I told you you could see this picture:


And the caption says: Rome, 16 November 1949. Pieraccini responds to Merlin: “Honorable, you’ve said each woman had 100 appointments per day: that’s not possible […] Even if you considered 15 minutes per appointment, 100 appointments would take 25 hours!”

Ha, ha. I told you you’d want to go look. God, you guys are so predictable, but I love you for it.

And, in closing, let me pass the mic to Indro Montanelli, Italian journalist and historian whose Wiki profile states “generally considered one of the greatest Italian journalists of the 20th century,” who had this to say on the matter:

Il bordello è l’unica istituzione italiana dove la competenza è premiata e il merito riconosciuto.
— Indro Montanelli

In other words: “The brothel is the only Italian institution where competence is prized and merit is recognized.”

Amen! No wonder he was so great. That there is what we in the business call “telling it like it is.”

Ok. Now back to your regularly scheduled programming. That is all. Until the next history magazine puts lewd photographs on its cover, that is. Just give it a month or two.


11 Responses to “Slow News Month: Sex Sells, Part 2”

  1. dgsquare November 8, 2013 at 4:16 pm #

    Fyi casino is not the gambling place, that would be casinò. Casino is another name for bordello or casa chiusa, house of prostitution. And that is also used as a big mess.
    About the poster, change itinerary, your kid sees it, he’s not blind. …

  2. Marc November 8, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

    Indro Montanelli a great one? NO WAY!!!!

    The bordellos were closed in 1958.

    …and that was one of the greatest mistakes of the italian State.

  3. Jane November 8, 2013 at 11:38 pm #

    Mmm, weren’t the case aperte encouraged by Dads Uncles etc. for the middle class boys,during those times when the prospect of going to war -which only a real man is expected to do- was imminent? Or when sex with a social peer was postponed until marriage?

  4. Catherine November 9, 2013 at 10:38 am #

    Seeing these adverts again makes me think that this must be behind the ingrained attitude of many Italian husbands towards sex/affairs – that it’s an exchange. And a quick one!

  5. Shelley Ruelle November 9, 2013 at 12:02 pm #

    Hey thanks for that. I figured as much. I will duly correct my post.
    Not changing itinerary. Not worried about my boy seeing boobies. We live in Italy. That’s prime time around here. Can’t live in a bubble. Plus, he has two sisters. So, they’ll be getting plenty of what mom thinks about respect for women at home, when they hear how they are not allowed to go anywhere near “veline” clothing, etc. 😉

  6. Shelley Ruelle November 9, 2013 at 12:03 pm #

    Well, so much for Wikipedia being unbiased, right?! I tried to publish an article on Wiki this past summer and got SO shut down by the Wikipedians. They are militant and a closed caste of … lasciamo perdere.
    I agree that closing the closed houses was probably a mistake. Although I don’t know much about it, I would much prefer not to have to explain to my children why there are naked women standing on the main streets in plain daylight.

  7. Shelley Ruelle November 9, 2013 at 12:04 pm #

    No idea. Don’t know the history. I just use cheesy magazine covers as a spark for going off about things I don’t know much about. Free blog, after all. No one paying me to do in-depth research. 😉

  8. Shelley Ruelle November 9, 2013 at 12:04 pm #

    Hard to generalize. Although the popular stereotype certainly in my experience is that it’s normal and accepted to have an amante on the side. Who knows. I don’t think any country has more or less cheating, just different attitudes about how to address it publicly or not.

  9. Gil November 11, 2013 at 8:01 am #

    Thanks for enlightening me about a part of Rome that my daughter and wife didn’t point out when we were there!!!

  10. Shelley Ruelle November 12, 2013 at 1:08 pm #

    Ha… well, you know. The good, the bad, the…

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