Sex by numbers.

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Carla Bruni-Sarkozy and French President Nicholas Sarkozy

Let’s play pretend. Ready? You’re a supermodel in the nineties, back
when the word actually meant something. You are truly, genuinely super,
one of fewer than ten supermodels in the world. Your peers are Cindy
Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Claudia Schiffer,
Stephanie Seymour, Helena Christensen and Elle Macpherson.
You began modeling when you were 19 and quickly landed campaigns for
Christian Dior, Yves Saint-Laurent, Chanel and Versace. You work and
play hard with the biggest names in the fashion, film and music
industries. Life is good. You are the hotness.
You walk kilometres in tricky shoes down the catwalks of Milan, Paris,
New York and London and by the mid nineties, you’ve starred on 250
magazine covers. It’s an endless, global party and you earn $7.5
million a year for turning up.
For two decades, famous men are desperate to sleep with you. Some
succeed. Eric Clapton writes in his memoirs about falling madly in love
with you and how he begged Mick Jagger not to steal you. Mick does
anyway and is your on-off lover for years.

Carla Bruni

Meanwhile, you have other romances and revel in your freedom, telling one reporter “I bore myself silly with monogamy. I prefer polygamy and polyandry.”
Maybe you’re joking. Possibly you aren’t.  Gradually, pop culture and the fashion industry move on from the supermodel phenomenon and it’s time to find other things to do.
In 1997 you quit modeling to pursue music and release several acclaimed albums over the next decade. You fall in love with a philosophy professor eight years your junior and have a son with him. That relationship ends. You turn 40.
OK. Time for a question. Quick: how many lovers have you had? Take an informed guess. What would be a fair number, given the extraordinary life you’ve led, the extraordinary men who’ve pursued you, the fact you were unmarried?
Oh, by the way, your name is Carla Bruni and nine months ago you did get married – to the President of France. So come on, how many?
This is the storm that has recently blown up around the French first lady and she’s handled it with as much style as she has her wardrobe since marrying Nicholas Sarkozy.
At least Carla knew it was coming. The controversy was triggered by a song she wrote on her new album that mentioned “my 30 lovers”. She insists the reference was poetic not autobiographical. Her true number is closer to half that, she says, wryly noting she’s never written up an official list.

“It’s not that I had a lot of lovers,” she told Vanity Fair this month. “It’s that I never hide them. It’s a different thing. I have not one day of regret.”

I love Europe. It’s kinda hard to imagine Therese Rein saying something similar in the Women’s Weekly, isn’t it?

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But such candor wasn’t enough. More information please, demanded the media. We want details! Cue an interview on US current affairs program, 20/20 (which you can find on Youtube – I recommend it, it’s heaven).
“I never counted my lovers,” she repeated to Barbara Walters, laughing, when she primly enquired how many men Carla had actually slept with and demanded to know why she’d sung 30 if that wasn’t her official number. “Twenty lovers doesn’t sound good,” Carla replied in her sexy voice, without a hint of defensiveness. “Ten lovers doesn’t sound good – I mean phonetically, for my song.”
This baffled me briefly because ‘twenty’ and ‘thirty’ sound phonetically similar. Then I remembered her songs are in French. Duh.

“I was 40 years old when I met my husband,” she elaborated. “I was not a girl of 19. I have a past and I don’t think it’s shocking. I think it would be shocking for me to pretend not to have a past.”

Too true. Still, it’s rare for any woman to admit her number of sexual partners, even in ballpark terms. In fact there’s little honesty from either gender on this subject – for (different) reasons of judgement. If pressed, it’s fairly safe to assume a man will inflate his total by 50% and a woman will deflate hers by the same amount.

So is ‘about 15’ a lot or a little for a former supermodel at 40? I’m thinking it’s modest, given the corresponding number of partners a hot, famous unmarried man would have accumulated by the same age. George Clooney, hello?

When I wrote about Carla’s number on my blog recently, the comments exploded.  “I’m in my early twenties, not a supermodel and halfway to Bruni status” said N.
“I keep getting the same number, 8, but can’t help thinking there must be some I’ve forgotten about, mainly because they were errrrrr forgettable” wrote C.
“I’m 32 and have only slept with my husband. Best decision ever,” said L.  “Think about it – say she started at 18. That’s one every 16 months til she’s 40.” said J.
When you put it like that….Anyway, apart from her sexual history (is anyone asking the President for his number?) the new First Lady of France also had another issue. When things started to get serious with Sarkozy, she decided to show him the nude fashion pictures she’d posed for during her career that were now on the internet. “You must know that this is going to come out,” she warned him. His response? “Oh, I like THIS one! Can I have a print of it?” Vive la France.

Carla Bruni

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