The Missionary Position Or How The Irish Learnt To Have Sex.

In #rabble8, Culture, History, Illustration, Politics, Print Edition by Sheila Lafferty11 Comments

mice ann and barry

Ann and Barry as re-imagined by Mice.

Whilst the rest of the western world was in the midst of the STI-swapping frenzy that was the sixties, Ireland was on its knees waiting outside a confession box. Sheila Lafferty, gets under the covers and gets to grips with Irish sexual cluelessness.

A sordid mix of Victorian neurosis and Rome rule meant that sex in 20th-century Ireland was a silent taboo that only happened behind closed doors, under blankets, with the lights off and supposedly with repopulation in mind. Most people didn’t understand where babies came from, let alone what an orgasm sounded like. The moral crusade against sex, masturbation and all things fun continued for decades powered by prayer, tea and priests’ sexual frustrations until Ireland joined the EU and sprinted to catch up with modernity.

The UN has been continuously placing pressure on the Irish government to implement a National Sexual Health Strategy stressing that a comprehensive sex education is a human right. So much so that it is protected under the terms of Article 11.2 of the European Social Charter, ensuring that sex is not only safe but also enjoyable.

Sex education began in Ireland at the tail end of the 90’s. The emerging abuse scandals paved the way for the primary level Stay Safe programme. The AIDS crisis saw the Department of Education and Skills instigate its Relationship and Sexuality education policy in 1997. Well intentioned (or fire-fighting) but not exactly the best place to start from when teaching people about shits ‘n’ giggles in the sack.

It wasn’t until 2012 that the Irish Study of Sexual Health and Relationships. It confirmed that half of the Irish population has never received any sex education of any form, and the other half had gained it through a mish-mash of sources, including priests and porn.

Niall Behan, CEO of IFPA, explains:

“In theory, there is a strong Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) curriculum in place in Ireland. However in reality there is major inconsistency in its quality and implementation across schools.”

Many schools lack the resources to include it into an already over-crowded curriculum. In other schools, the provision and content of RSE may be dependent on other factors such as the ethos of the teacher, principal or board of management.” Okay so the will is willing but the body is weak?!

The Department of Education and Skills are ultimately responsible for implementing sex education. Hats off to them they are doing a great job, their inspectorate report from November 2013 deemed 39 out of the 63 schools they had a good nosey around displayed “evident weaknesses” in their RSE programmes. That is nearly 50%. No wonder beer is our favourite sex-toy. Seventeen years after implementation many schools are still waiting on their school boards to deliver the RSE programme at all.

If you’re ‘lucky’ enough to receive formal sex education in Ireland it too often falls into the doom and gloom category – riding means AIDS, babies and venereal diseases. This doesn’t leave much room for the fun parts, nor does it explore sexuality which for the most part is approached in an Anne and Barry fashion.

RSE doesn’t acknowledge that these days Anne may not be all that arsed with marriage or is in fact into Tara and her brother Barry hangs out with Ben a lot and they like to play with lots of different boys and girls. Sexual fluidity is unfortunately well beyond the remits of RSE which tends to be more concerned with keeping young wans from getting up the pole and having to leg it across to the mainland for ‘a solution’.

As we all know porn provides very realistic portrayals of sex which lives in a land of penetration where men with penises the size of yard sticks can buck for hours while woman with boobs up to their chins and hair extensions down to their arses scream happily and no one ever asks the other party about what they want to do…or wears a condom.

Of course, trial-and-error is another great teacher. Experiences range from the hilarious any holes a goal, to people ending up in situations which they don’t have the tools to negotiate, where neither party understands good consent and people wind up hurt. Predictably media coverage of consent is portrayed when it is most violently violated but never explores the many grey areas where too many assaults occur.

The 2002 Report on Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland was the first of its kind. Its findings make grim reading – 42 per cent of women and 28 per cent of men experienced some form of sexual abuse or assault within their lifetime.. A petrifying statistic but useful when it comes to framing why informed, enthusiastic consent is such an essential part of sex.

Sex is a huge part of life and remains one of the few free things you can do without someone slapping a tax on it. Well actually, once upon a time there was a luxury tax on johnnies but the then Minister for Finance Brian Cowen realised it’s actually poor people that you don’t want to have any babies, so the tax was dropped to 13.5% in 2008.

In University condoms are lashed around left right and centre, reminders for STD screenings adorn every jacks back door, and whispers of booze influences and consent are beginning to flourish on campus. But not all of us traipse past those prohibitively expensive college gates. Sex Education needs to provide more than the mere mechanics of the horizontal dance. It needs to develop an etiquette that is relevant and accessible to all regardless of which way they roll from school.

Cliona Saidléar, Policy and Communications Officer with the Rape Crisis Network Ireland:

“Condom education was dismissed as an impossibility to talk about in the nineties, this is where we are at now in regards to consent.”

The RCNI alongside BeLonGTo, a national youth group for LGBT young people, have both drawn up modules for REAL U. An informal sex-ed programme devised with Foroige and funded by the Marie Keating Foundation and the HSE Crisis pregnancy programme.

The modules look at areas such as consent, sexuality, gender and the pragmatics against a backdrop of personal development. It bolsters positive body image, within real world instances which involves scoring folk, dropping hands in hormonal flurries, watching porn, the impact of boozing and all the other bits you can’t address in segregated classrooms. This integrated approach teaches not only how to use a condom but how to negotiate what you want and what you are comfortable with before you even get to that point.

This group of all stars got together and streamlined themselves, drew up a manual, developed a training course, gained a national platform through Foróige (Ireland largest youth organisation) and got busy. They intend to train five hundred teachers and youth workers and hand over their toolkit to enable happier sex and stronger people. All of this without waiting for an EU directive or a telling-off from the UN.

Formal sex education in less than twenty years has successfully lowered rates of STD’s and lowered the rate of teen pregnancies. Organisations such as IFPA continue to lobby on our behalf to enhance our safety and sexy antics. It’s brilliant that the all stars are ensuring more positivity and satisfaction for the whipper snappers of tomorrow, but what about we decrepit yokes over the age of twenty five?

Employers and the dole aren’t going to sit any of us down and chat about the ways and means in which we score and ride anytime soon. Many of us still need to bridge the gap between what the sexually inactive clerics told us, where porn misguided us and what experiences have taught us.

 

How The Irish State Put A Stall On Sexy Time.

Ireland’s sexuality was served up by the Victorians, and remained on the table like a flaccid cold fish whose manky remnants still permeate through the population today

The first biggies were banning abortions and homosexuality, that was under British rule with the 1861 Offences against the Persons Act, stopping abortion from then until now where it still exists in all its oppressive glory.

In 1885, the criminal law amendment act came to pass, forbidding bum fun until 1994.

With the 1929 Censorship of Publications Act, Ireland responded to the dirt bags across the pond enacting family planning policies. The act prohibited importing, selling, distributing or publishing anything related to the many ways and means of stopping families becoming the size of a GAA team.

Perhaps worried about the future weight of the churches collection basket the 1929 act was amended through the 1935 Criminal Law Amendment Act. It banned the sale, importation and advertising of any contraceptives. Also the legal age of riding was upped to 17.

As Ireland’s birth rates soared like skyrockets the Censorship of Publications Act 1946 was introduced  preventing contraceptive knowledge. Now anything relating to sex could be withheld from the nation.

In 1971, the future Prez Mary Robinson attempted  to propose a bill amending the acts that were flooding Ireland with children. The bill was denied a reading and not allowed to be published.

In 1976 , the Irish Family Planning Aassociation’s family planning book was well into its second addition but got banned. Luckily a nationwide game of Chinese whispers began and mis-information ran rampantly around the island on baby dodging techniques

In 1988 the Virgin Megastore was taken to court for selling condoms on their counter-tops. The case was lost and U2 stepped in to pay the fine, helping gather international shame for Ireland. There was even a bomb scare in the Seanad as Senator David Norris spoke about the Health Family Planning Act. 

1993 was the year the country finally got down and dirty.  Homosexuality was decriminalised, the state declared surrender to condoms realising the decades of war they had waged against them were futile.

AS the millenium hit, Ireland’s buddy in shite policies – Greece – is the only other country in Europe that won’t grant a licence for the morning after pill.

2003 and former Taoiseach John Bruton, opposes a cartoon style safe sex book aimed at youngsters to spare the wee innocent minds and Irelands famously progressive national broadcaster still upholds its ban on advertising condoms.

In 2008, HPV vaccines were widely contested and prevented from being rolled out.  Somehow vaccinating against cervical cancer activates the whore chromosome, a condition only found within Irish secondary schools.

Comments

  1. Not too keen on the ritual genuflection before Holy Mother EU at the start. Sure without our beloved EU civilising us we’d still be backward savages don’t you know.

  2. Sexual Policy may have changed towards the tail end of the 90s, but there was most definitely sex education in the mid 80s at the height of the AIDS epidemic.

    As for no riding in the sixties, most of my friends are proof positive that this is a myth.

    The article, while well-written, needs more accurate research.

  3. and this is why Bliss Ireland events exist…… our next one is coming up July 11th to 13th near Galway, the Bliss Summer Festival, an opportunity to explore sexuality with everything on offer from Masterclasses on genital massage to workshops on Tantra, explorations in BDSM & relationships, discussions, talks, rituals, lovely food, massages, live bands & DJs and much more….. http://www.blissfestival.org/p/2014-summer-festival.html

  4. Jeff Mooney its not that there was no riding in the 60s, its the fact that seo was tabooed by the church, i think.

  5. Did IQ’s suddenly plummet in Moscow? Or is that Vatican money I smell?
    Russian TV shoots down Kevin Annett interview

    Today, in their dubious wisdom, the producers of Russia Today, the state-run TV network in Russia, turned down a pre-recorded hour long interview with me with the glib remark,

    “Anyone who accuses the Vatican of crimes must be insane”.

    I guess these particular Russkies don’t read history, or the newspapers.

    Rather than indicating a sudden loss of brain matter, perhaps the Russians’ censoring and ridiculing of all of our documented evidence of Vatican crimes confirms what others have claimed: that the Russian government is aligning with Rome these days and involving the Vatican in the new geo-political axis of China-Russia-India. Vatican money does seem to be ending up in Russian and Chinese banks these days, and the West is clearly worrying: hence Lizzie Brit’s and Obama’s recent trips to Rome.

    Jorge Bergoglio (“pope francis”), as a westerner and not a European, is undoubtedly on his way down from the papal throne, and old Rat Boy Ratzinger is pulling the strings from the shadows like the good Euro Nazi that he is.

    Makes you wonder who really won World War Two eh?

    Stay tuned.
    http://www.iclcj.com

  6. Great article. Love the Ann and Barry image. I think you should create a suite of them;)

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  8. Pingback: Sex News! I love it! July 13, 2014 – Sex in Words

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