#slowwords this week shares a lunch and a conversation with Roberta Denti – Italian erotic writer, journalist, translator and blogger.
Based in Milan and housed in the whole world, she tells us about anything you should (and maybe would) know about feminine perspective in eroticism and much more – from the drug of pornography to the chauvinism, by starting with the virtue of being happy living solo.
With her words we sound very complicit. And, so, we wanted to read back and translate two writers who are too: her and our favorite Anaïs Nin and the Italian Amalia Guglielminetti, one of the proudest and less discovered poets of the unknown (read it: freedom in sexuality).
We’ve known each other since a year – introduced by a common friend – and we keep intercepting us at regular intervals.
In addition to her irrepressible joie de vivre, what has always amazed me is her ability to look at people, at all things and, even more complex, through the filigree. No, it is not a common dowry (and neither was it pre-social networks and smart phones screens) and in any case it is a richness that has allowed her to work as she does: living in terms of writing (collaborating with magazines and newspapers, especially for men, Playboy included) and translate.
Roberta publishes a blog, Falli Felici (here also in English) that collects her impressions as an avid traveler but above all (it’s all there, in the twist of the word ‘falli’ which is a cultivated Italian synonymous of penis) she deals with sexuality and eroticism from an open, feminine, inclusive perspective.
She guessed I should read a book (and she gave me one from Amalia Guglieminetti from which I chose to share some poems with you), by US writer Joan Didion: Play As It Lays – a memento we borrow to summarize her philosophy of life.
We begin our conversation with the elegance of solitary luncheons and she tells me about her favorite Venetian restaurant (Alle Antiche Carampane) with the most fancy social table where the other day she happened to eat with a rich Venetian flaneur. Of course, it’s not just the NY Times that has realized that solo dining is an increasingly popular pleasure.
From the elegy of the lunch alone we tackle the real topic we care about.
“The pleasure of being alone leads you to meet the other, if you are well alone first of all.
How do you succeed? Make yourself known, accept yourself, work on your awareness. Once you are comfortable with yourself, with your aversions, you radiate a light that is a magnet for others.”
Your life in a few lines
I am born – and even my origins are the key to understanding myself – and I am a binary being. I come first from two ‘lakes’. Mamma is from Lake Maggiore – precisely from Luino, the birthplace of Vittorio Sereni, Dario Fo, Piero Chiara … Dad is from Bellano on Lake Como. The country of artists boasts the birthplace of Andrea and Giancarlo Vitali and many others.
I am polyamorous, even a bipolar pinch (although I prefer to call it trip-polarity!), I am bilingual. Who knows more languages, knows more worlds.
I am born in a context where everyone is a storyteller – and a smuggler. There is this vis ciarliera which is typical of lacustrine people.
I grew up in Milan, where I studied rooted in a Milanese bourgeoisie defined perfectly by a color (the greige, invented by King Georgio, Armani) and thanks to my family, with whom I have a wonderful relationship and I hope they have it with me, I went to study abroad. The first time I was 14 years old. So you really learn that you have to take care of yourself.
I studied in the United States, in Ireland (where I have been 14 times) and finally I choose the school of interpreters and translators in Milan.
My diploma in translation ended with a thesis on the IRA (Irish Republican Army, Ireland), I immediately went to work for a year in Estée-Lauder by quickly understanding that company life is not worth for me. What better trick to get back to your studies? I so took a degree in foreign languages and literature – greeted very happily by my mother – no one in her family had graduated – at IULM (Milan) with a thesis on my first choice writer, Anaïs Nin. 110/110 and praise. Write it to make my parents happy!
She is even my favorite writer!
I am very pleased that you like her and I think she should be re-evaluated. Here too there is a prevailing sexism: she is considered only to have been with Henry Miller who instead has a flat and masculine writing. Nin’s writing is full, uterine – as she herself called it.
If we want to talk about erotic writing, it is what we women like. When she wrote The Delta of Venus in 1925, having the courage to be themselves was really something …
In the last 20 years of her life she was married and lived in New York with her husband and at the same time with her lover, twenty years younger than her, (who later married, becoming to all effects bigamous) at the other end of the country, Los Angeles.
The two men, who knew each other (think of the modernity of these relationships!), will meet only at the funeral of their beloved.
She was not a libertine, but a free woman who felt and followed a yearning for freedom and liberation that later forged her writings. Allowing her to investigate the issues most dear to her.
With irony, with irreverence, with culture you can convey any message, never, never repeat, become vulgar.
Your life continues here, you always end in returning in Italy
My base is Milan, but above all traveling alone I like to come back repeatedly to places and feel at home – and part of a community – precisely because I don’t travel as a tourist.
My New York flying visits – where I’ve been going for 20 years and where I lived once a year, once three months – continue …
Life went like this: I have a very close relationship with my family and my origins and I really like a place like Milan where I can grow them and where I can move to go to my beloved lakes or leave frequently for Venice and other nearby cities.
I like to talk about my little worlds around the world and I like having my election district in Venice as in Stromboli as in New York. Come back, like at home. It’s a bit like having more houses. Multiple families of election. More lovers of election, and even of erection!
You miss the human factor when you go, see and come back – instead I want to “live” a place.
How was Falli Felici born and why?
If I think it’s 10 years that many people tell me to make a blog! My second name is procrastination and so I postponed it so much that I landed on the web when there was a moment of maximum exposure … so it was more difficult to stand out.
The original name of the blog was Robbie Does Blogging, taken from a 70ies porn movie (Debbie Does Dallas, a cheer-leader who makes the team happy with her … pom-poms). The reference, however, was difficult and many people did not know about the film, so we decided to change it into Falli Felici.
Making people joyful and making falli happy (I disliked the italian word for penises, peni, in the plural form …) are two manifestations of my binary being.
The second part comes from my collaboration with so many men’s magazines, Playboy I would say the most legendary, where I have always written about sex. But also with Rolling Stone, the rock bible. With a fun way to deal with – in an absolute and dissolute lightness – topics that still make you tremble. We all have sex, but if we did it better it would be the optimum.
I have always thought that there should be a public health service that dispenses sex to those who cannot find it or who are alone … Wars would be canceled and the world would run perfectly. (Legal) prostitution is welcome.
Also the sex for disabled: there are many countries where it is possible. In Switzerland, in the Netherlands: we are talking about countries that have not been ruined by Catholic bigotry and the absurd idea that sex is absolute evil in the 21st century, almost obscuring the real problems – cataclysms, wars, drugs …
I was lucky not to have ‘guilt sex’, I play so much because I was born into an open and non-Catholic family. But think of all the times they forbid you, for example, from eating jam: wouldn’t you swallow it?
We should think about something else. Think instead of what happens in the Vatican, a four-year survey on pedophilia and sexuality in the Vatican, beautifully told in the book Sodoma by French journalist Frederic Martel.
The first major scandal occurred in Ireland, a stronghold of the church (in fact in the 90s they didn’t sell yet condoms and abortion was legalized just a year ago), where everything happened (told well in the famous and awarded film The Magdelene Sisters). It is endemic. In the phrase “there are rotten apples” about the perpetrators of such hateful crimes, there is a profound inaccuracy. It is the apple tree that is rotten. All the popes knew and here we are talking about horror. How do you get limited in your sexuality by the theories of such a huge group of pedophiles?
I am in favor of reopening the whorehouses. If only because I could finally do my job of election: the maitresse! I like to call myself a Bocca di Rosa with a magnificent and sensitive poem set to music by the great Fabrizio de André (Italian sing-song writer). Because Bocca di Rosa put love above all else.
Your blog manages to talk about sexuality from a cultured and extremely feminine point of view, it reminds me – in a writing version – of the films of Erika Lust. Even if you’ve always dealt with sex for men’s magazines, I read it in an opposite key. Do you agree?
I like to call it eroticism. It is clear that when I write stories for a men’s magazine, I clean them from all those alibis of love that a woman must always give to every night’s fuck. It is not that I want to convey the ‘give your pussy away’ message, everyone does what they feel and how they want. I’m saying that you can have freedom of customs and sexuality without feeling condemned by others and / or yourself. Because we women in general always need condemnations and everything comes from centuries of submission and chauvinism perpetrated even by women towards women!
The scandal is elsewhere. Every 72 hours a woman is killed for possession, violence and above all most of these murders happen in her family: in front of these impressive data women should do camaraderie but instead we are the first enemies of ourselves, look also at what happened to the #metoo movement that has already split into three stumps.
The men? They go compact all together even if they can’t stand each other. They also support themselves when they are unsustainable. And in so doing they perpetrate their domination.
Have you ever thought about turning your blog into live meetings with your readers?
I thought about it and I believe that my personality can help me to make it possible … At an oral level (…!) I am very engaging. What I miss is the ability to organize things …
We talk a lot about sex education, which happens and happens badly … for boys. But I think parents should be educated … there is no adult sexual education in our country!
With the access these guys have easily to pornography on the internet – and it’s a drug! – all this is mind-blowing! Pornography acts on the brain, creates dependency and generates violence. Here too, it is not the use of pornography but the abuse that creates emotional disasters. Incapable then to enjoy in the real they shut themselves up in a damn virtual, thus invalidating the possibility of living a full, healthy and even perverse sexuality. Forget about the sexual damage rooted in our parents. It is a subject very dear to me because I know firsthand and on my skin what it means to live one’s sexuality badly.
Sex is natural, otherwise we would not have come into this world! If you do not drive this message then sex becomes predatory and not something that gives pleasure.
This idea of live meetings with adult readers would be nice, thanks to the question: if a sexologist is talking about sex, we can already think of a pathology.
I clearly have never replaced the doctor, in fact I talk about it because I really have been meeting a sexologist. I did a job with and about myself before I even started writing about sex. My ‘first’ time was at 22, I had to work on mental blocks that made me unable to have sex before. Sure, I’ve recovered in and over the years!
Even my thesis was part of a work on myself: in front of a fundamental part of my existence (sex, which I risked losing) I decided to work on it to restore it. And to regain it because the right to full and satisfying sexuality is fundamental for existential well-being, which I love to cripple in my life as existential penessere (an invented word standing for penis-wellbeing).
How did I manage to succeed? In addition to the meeting with a sexologist, I added literature, and the understanding of foreign realities … what helps us is always the starting point: ‘there is nothing wrong with that’.
I see myself at the statue of Goldoni, or at the Tette bridge here in Venice or at the bacaros (wine bars with tapas, it’s a Venetian dialect word) to issue little tours without dogmas: it could be definitively for me! Without any pretense of teaching anyone anything … talking lightly about sex would be perfect!
Given that you are also poly-centric, what Milan gives to you and what do you think of giving it back?
Well, since it’s my city, I can talk badly about it, but those who haven’t been there for more than three months can’t talk about it!
It’s a joke!, Milan has made an incredibly qualitative and human leap in these recent years. It is more international, people smile more, someone could tell you that I have always smiled – I have always been the happy Milanese, against that common place of the busy and serious ones.
I love neighborhoods, I live in the Arco della Pace (Arch of Peace), we call it “quartierino”. It is a monumental, central area full of nightlife but where small food shops still stand and where we all talk each other.
Living alone and still loving living alone – I have the family I am looking for, in addition to the one I was born with – it’s ideal. And it really does support you for anything.
I want to tell everyone: let’s not cage at home losing our lives in front of a device. Devices, of course, are useful – we all use phones and social media – but for the interactions you and I should always prefer to meet people in the flesh and blood.
My neighborhood allows me to have it every day. I’ve had conversations with anyone! Anyone can teach you something you don’t know every day.
Speaking of living solo in relation with the legacies poured on us from average families (i.e. the prevailing Italianness motive that you cannot be happy without partners and children) what do you think of the civil unions which finally happened to be granted by (a bad and latecomer) law also in Italy? Do you think it could be useful to manage the momento of the end of our life, if even done with a friend?
Civil unions are welcome! When I worked at Gay.tv – a pioneering satellite channel at the beginning of the 2000s on LGTB issues – we have been demonstrating many times for the PACS that were not ‘pacs-happening‘ for the pusillanimity of our politicians sodomized to the Vatic-ANUS. I still remember a moment of two years ago with a miraculous emotion in Piazza del Duomo when, having finally obtained civil unions, we laid in silence embracing all the colors of the rainbow and the right of everyone to choose their partner and legalize their union.
I have always demonstrated for human rights. Whether it’s racism (I don’t have to be black to do it), women’s rights (where all men should show) and LGTB rights (I don’t have to be gay to do it). It is common sense and a good heart. Period.
Heterosexual marriages are falling, much depends on the awareness of women who understand that their independence is valuable in the face of being a babysitter, a cook and a servant unpaid for life or for who knows how long.
Men remained at the stake, in fact he no longer they understands anything. But who raises these men? Women!!!
And the corollary of this madness is that they become violent, irrepressibly violent.
Do you know what I learned recently from Radio Capital (Italian commercial radio owned by Espresso-La Repubblica publisher)? 90% of Nobel prizes were orphans. It means a lot! I do not want to give up against mothers (I’m childfree and I’d carefully chosen not to be: different does not mean worse, it means different) but it is clear that there is a great correlation between the distortions of parenthood and its consequences on freedom, on the promiscuity, on the interpretation of solitude.
Another thing that I like to remember often: why are three hours spent by a mother with her son more important than my three hours spent reading a book while listening to Debussy? I would respect both choices and it would never occur to me to attack the one different from mine.
Nature gave the woman such a big power that society took it away from her. It is a phrase of a philosopher, it is not mine.
If men could give birth, abortion would be a sacrament. This was told to me by a Dublin female taxi driver in 1990. And then it seems right to you that someone who has never given birth can say – and be credible! – ‘will you give birth with pain’ and then I must also bear it? I don’t even think about it! If I give birth in pain, am I the best mother? These are bullshits said by men and believed by women.
Today on the internet there is not only porn: there is also so much information that allows us to know more and therefore improve ourselves. There are many who have really chosen not to know, not to read up. To remain bigots and constricted.
On the net, in fact, I don’t like to argue with this kind of people. I love making controversy with those who know more than me and maybe even make me change my mind.
With the plurality of social media, with time spent on text messages and other distractions, we no longer read anything really and we don’t concentrate. We therefore have an impressive rate of functional illiteracy. If you don’t use your brain – which needs to be trained, like any muscle – emotional misunderstandings are triggered and you create excessive and unmanageable reactions.
Maxim (a monthly male magazine) editors just asked me for a story about the ‘drives’ I called “let’s touch them, if you want, emotions.” I speak of self-awareness, our true ‘seat belt’. If you have one, you can jump into the eight-wheel drive. Failing that, you squash. Many of the people who do not know each other and who are the ones who would squash themselves, usually mate and calve too! Imagine the disaster – in a world where a license is even needed to drive a 50 hp motorbike and where there are these premises for filiation.
Let me tell you one last thing: I don’t have to be Catholic to have instilled in me values like kindness and mercy. It is not a sentence of mine, it has been said by scientist Margherita Haack in a tight toscanaccio (heavy Tuscan accent).
I wanted to ask you one last question which is the one with which we usually close our conversations …
Which one? If I’m a virgin, no, you already know that … Or my phone number? (Laughs)
What have you learned from life so far?
I would borrow the answer from Lust for Life, a song by Iggy Pop, I love my life frenzy also because I only have one of it: I love being unpredictable, I immerse myself in a constant discovery of others and of myself, I wouldn’t even think about it too much: you have to live life!
Slowly we die, falsely attributed to Pablo Neruda, it is another excellent idea borrowed from poetry to answer you by paraphrasing it like this: slowly we die if we do not live.
We are becoming automatons, Chaplin said it already almost a century ago. To live, instead, is to relate to others and if we also discover the intoxicating power of kindness – because what you give out of yourself then returns to you – would be perfect.
Try to be kind every day of your life. I also have my big black days, but I try to make my contribution in my small courtyard of life that I strive to make as cute, kind, polite as possible. Everyday. Opening it to the other beings next to me. Learning every day to be curious and funny.
In short, dear Diana, you also call my life Robertie’s Fabulous World ….from the delightful Amelie’s film.