Fan fiction depicting romances between the likes of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson are a popular form of sexual expression online. Here is a brief sampling of things that have happened to me while on dates with people I met on dating sites and hook-up apps:. And then there were the silences. The awkward, painful, countless silences of those who did not know what to do with themselves without the winking emoji. This is not the fault of OkCupid or Tinder.
Making the move to low carbon heating. Subscriber Only. Masturbating in a hotel on Camden Street on a Sunday afternoon with a load of strangers Irish sexual mores not something I find pleasurable. While it is still by no means a free-for-all, more sexual kit is certainly for sale — boosted recently by Fifty Shades Female trys to hump male Grey! However, as can be seen in the graph above, there has been a significant increase in the rate of Irish sexual mores infection in recent years, while the prevalence of genital warts has declined significantly between and The outcome of allowing others to dictate our sexuality was painfully highlighted in a conversation I had with a male friend. Temple Bar after midnight and a drunk girl is 'shifting' a guy in the square while a passer-by grabs her ass and shouts, "Nice one," for the world to hear. I pondered whether it was an Irish disease. There, they erected the first monument in the world to victims of clerical child sex abuse.
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What is it about the Irish and sex?
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In Ireland, the Catholic Church oppressed women and their sexuality for generations, but do Irish women these days face another oppressor - other women? And is the pressure to be an oversexed 'new woman' just as damaging as the sexual repression of the past?
Norma Costello speaks to some young Irish women who just want to feel pleasure without being called 'sluts' or 'skanks' and do not wish to have their sexuality dictated to them.
Temple Bar after midnight and a drunk girl is 'shifting' a guy in the square while a passer-by grabs her ass and shouts, "Nice one," for the world to hear. She turns and laughs before picking up where she left off and the night continues. I've seen this too many times. I'm not a prude, or an Irish mammy in the making, but these scenes propel me to the uncomfortable realisation that women here are a confused lot; caught somewhere between the image of the virgin mother or the town bike.
As our phones become extensions of our hands, every woman who lets the side down on a Harcourt Street dance floor is fodder for our beloved sport of online 'slut-shaming'. Two clicks and her image is blasted across cyberspace; a permanent marker for a split-second lapse of judgment. A clearly intoxicated teenage girl caught on camera carrying out a sex act on a gloating man, while a bunch of youths jeered around them at last year's Eminem concert in Slane Castle.
You don't have to be a sociologist to see there is a huge level of hypocrisy in a society that not only permits, but encourages, this 'boys will be boys' attitude towards sexuality, while Irish women continue to face much harsher judgment. Women who succumb to overtly sexual behaviour are usually labelled 'skanks' and 'slappers' while men are 'legends'. The simple truth is that Irish women are damned if they do and damned if they don't.
The media projects us as sexual predators, flaunting designer handbags and having threesomes while, in reality, we often navigate a difficult path between 'frigid prude' and 'easy slapper'.
Zara Cassidy Cross 24 is part of an emerging set of Irish women who feel they are perpetually conned by inaccurate sexual ideals. This concept of a 'new woman' has become a sort of safe phrase for women who want to talk about sex but in a totally abnormal way," she said. Zara feels our association between modernity, progress, and this new, seemingly empowered, type of female sexuality is leading to a lot of confusion among young women.
We're not 'new' women. We haven't grown new limbs or anything. It's a hyper-sexualised media construct. A columnist brags that they 'slept with 20 men before the age of 26', and we're all supposed to bow down to her.
Sorry if I don't find that appealing, and I think there's a lot of young women like me. Zara feels frustrated by cultural perceptions of women who discuss their sexuality in Ireland: "I've never had issues talking about sexuality.
It's normal behaviour, but I don't have to be a mouthpiece for other people's ideals to do it, or subscribe to some set idea of what sexuality should be.
We have to remember that, throughout history, women always talked about sex. We need to stop being 'new women' and start just being women. Zara raises the interesting point that, far from the old stereotype of the Catholic Irish girl adhering to the dictum of the church, young women now are under more pressure to be sexually active. Our great-grandparents didn't go out and get drunk at the weekends. A cultural historian would say all of this behaviour is relatively recent.
For Zara, a lot of our current sexual mores are a knee-jerk reaction to an over-arching Catholic tradition whose reach is still visible.
It shows we're still in the Catholic tradition, even if things, in many ways, have changed. For decades, Irish women's sexual mores were governed ruthlessly from Rome, but now we're taking over the role of sexual oppressor all by ourselves. It seems like we are all suspended in other people's ideas of what it means to be a woman in contemporary Ireland. We all looked shining in our communion dresses but now, according to some, we're more into leather and meeting strangers for dogging sessions in car parks.
Failing that, we're so locked into an idea of appearing 'slutty' that we utterly repress our basic sexual urges. The outcome of allowing others to dictate our sexuality was painfully highlighted in a conversation I had with a male friend. One night, over a few beers, he announced: "Girls don't wank". When I asked him where he got such an idea, he said with blind conviction a girl he had dated told him so.
Instead of feeling angry at his stupidity to fall for such a clear lie, I felt sorry for the woman who felt compelled to tell it. What had happened to this woman, where she suddenly felt being in a relationship meant denying her own sexuality entirely?
How did we end up with all these frustrated women who don't masturbate, but might give it all up in a drunken stupor on the floor of in a city-centre nightclub?
Colette Nolan 31 , from Kildare, says our thwarted relationship with female sexuality is down to a culture of silence and lack of good sex education. That silence breeds a horrible ignorance, and with Catholicism there's the guilt and shame too. For Colette, the absence of any discussion on sexual pleasure made her feel isolated and confused when she couldn't experience any. I thought there was something wrong with me. When I did have sex, it was sore, so I went to a nurse and told her.
She said there was nothing wrong with me and to go home. Colette's experience left her confused and upset. She quickly realised asking questions related to her sexuality was an isolating experience.
Irish sex education, or lack of, led me to a really vulnerable place, wide open, not knowing what I was doing, I completely left out my own pleasure and just did what was expected of me. Leslie agrees that the subject of sexual pleasure is completely absent from the Irish curriculum.
She says: "All sexual pleasure is erased from sex ed. The underlying aims are about health promotion, and in many schools it is being squeezed to fit within a perceived tiny constraint of Catholic ethos. I don't believe that male or female pleasure is being taught in any comprehensive way in Irish sex ed. It's a shame really, because if people aren't able to experience pleasure, how do they know when something unpleasant is happening to them?
Talking to myriad Irish women has led me to the conclusion there's not a whole lot out there in terms of accessible discussion on women's sexual pleasure. The Catholic hangover still rages, as women desperately try to construct a new sexual identity in contemporary Ireland. A friend of mine complained recently that female sexual pleasure has always been hijacked, whether it's by men, the Church or the media. There is usually an umbrella group waiting in the wings to tell us the 'right way' to have sex as women.
There is also massive objectification to contend with and whether or not our sexuality has always been part of the patriarchal male narrative.
Lucy Shah 27 , from Dublin, carried out research on Irish women who identified as bisexual. Lucy feels bisexual women face a huge level of judgment and prejudice in Ireland for not fitting into a socially acceptable sexuality. If a guy hears you're bisexual, he'll proposition you for a threesome. Often lesbians think we're bowing down to the patriarchy and a lot of people think we're just non-committal and need to 'pick a side'.
Everyone wants to tell bisexual women the 'right way' to be sexual. It's bullshit. But, at the end of day, as a woman, there's always going to be a group trying to control you.
If you're straight, people say that you should conform to the traditional idea of what a woman is, and if you're gay, you should conform to that stereotype. It's reductive, I hate the idea of having to fit into a box.
We're all just humans. We're just trying to live our lives. Leslie Sherlock feels the best way to facilitate good sexual practice is through educating our young women to engage in good sexual practice by removing the stigma surrounding female sexuality and engaging with the technology age.
Kids need an infrastructure to help promote critical thinking on sexuality. Leslie's commitment to dialogue is quite different to the status quo in Ireland, where sex education fits into the confines of Catholic values, despite popular culture being saturated with sexual content. According to Leslie, the dominant culture of denial and silence means we are neglecting our young people. Silence is the most damaging thing. Take the image of the abused altar boy, an invisible silent character.
Now, abuse can take new forms though technology and social media and can be harder to detect, especially if it happens among peers. In Sweden, they have taken an unusual approach to cybersex, with some teachers actively bringing it into the classroom.
For Colette, her experiences in Ireland forced her to confront the silence and fear surrounding her sexuality directly. She now travels around Ireland and the UK, carrying out craft sessions for women who want to get to know their vaginas by making them with felt and sequins.
Colette's work is popular among many women who find her workshops a nurturing environment to discuss any past sex-related issues. But, while I admire her work, I find the idea of making my own vagina out of felt a bit weird. Weirder still, Bliss Ireland, who promote sexual freedom, are probably one of Ireland's few groups to offer seminars for women on sexuality.
When I asked to attend a workshop, thinking it would be a chat about good sexual practice, I was told the workshop was "fully participatory" and that I would have to bring my own "G-spot-stimulating dildo". I declined. Masturbating in a hotel on Camden Street on a Sunday afternoon with a load of strangers is not something I find pleasurable.
Thankfully, I'm not alone. Leslie agrees that there is nothing for regular Irish Josephines who want to discuss sexuality, outside of sex therapy, which is usually linked to a problem. Lucy Shah agrees: "It's just such a sad reflection of our society that women cannot talk honestly and openly about sex, unless it's in a overly flirtatious, sexualised way or with massive shame.
It shows how our society is still so dominated by Catholic traditional values. It's so important we set up platforms to facilitate discussion so women don't feel all alone. If you're a sexual minority, your sexuality is something you've considered, but if you're straight there really is nothing out there for you.
Lucy is right - while the s may have seen a paradigm shift in sexual mores throughout the western world, here in Ireland, things crawled at a snail's pace. In fact, if the Kerry Babies incident had not forced the government's hand, I wonder would we have any form of sex education in our schools?
The sad part of all this is that, for women unhappy with their sex lives, the conflict between the shackles of tradition and the over-sexed media darlings leaves them confused and frustrated.
Perhaps this is what reaches its depressing zenith in the bars and nightclubs of Ireland's towns and cities. It appears the repression and shame of our Catholic past has given way to confused 'new women' of today. It might be time to step back and realise our common humanity instead of grappling with unrealistic stereotypes.
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Irish sexual mores. The Treasure of the Tuatha De Danann by Morgan Daimler
The future of sex for Irish women
Source: Image: Shutterstock. The Irish Study of Sexual Health and Relationships asked people about the last time they had various types of sex, and got some really interesting answers. First off, among heterosexuals vaginal intercourse is easily the most common. Not many of us seem to be terribly keen on anal intercourse, though, with just 9. Interestingly, men were far more likely to report oral sex than women were. The study also asked respondents when the last time they had different kinds of sex was, as shown in the graph above.
According to the Irish Study of Sexual Health and Relationships, men in Ireland have, on average, had three times as many sexual partners as women. Interestingly, the study found that most men and women have had fewer partners than would appear on the graph.
By contrast, those aged between 60 and 64 had sex for the first time when they were 23, and that age has fallen steadily in the intervening years, as shown in the chart above. According to the Irish Study of Sexual Health and Relationships, men have always been younger on average than women, when having sex for the first time.
Interestingly, though, that age gap was greater for 18 to year-olds six months than it was for 60 to year-olds just over one month. To view a larger version of this graph, click here.
The lowest number in a single year came in , when there were 48, births, a year which also saw our lowest birth rate Our highest birth rate came the previous year, when there were Interestingly, while there were 53, babies born in Ireland in , and 68, in , our growing population means the birth rate now 15 is at roughly the same level it was back then In the last few decades, that age has never once fallen below what it was the previous year, reaching 32 years and one month in In the last 20 years or so, there has been a worryingly steep rise in the number and rate of sexually transmitted infections STIs being reported to Irish health authorities.
Analysing a major HPSC report , as well as figures from , we can see a major increase in the prevalence of STIs in Ireland over the last two decades, as shown in the graph above. By far the most prevalent STIs in that period have been chlamydia and genital warts. Since , their infection rates have been more than double all other categories combined.
However, as can be seen in the graph above, there has been a significant increase in the rate of chlamydia infection in recent years, while the prevalence of genital warts has declined significantly between and Source: HPSC. A preliminary report for gives an interesting insight into the geographic distribution of STI infection rates.
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You may change your settings at any time but this may impact on the functionality of the site. To learn more see our Cookies Policy. Sex in Ireland by the numbers The facts and figures of life. Half of married people have sex less than once a week. Very few of us have ever had anal sex Source: Image: Shutterstock The Irish Study of Sexual Health and Relationships asked people about the last time they had various types of sex, and got some really interesting answers.
The results on frequency of oral sex were also revealing. That is, nine as opposed to three. Sexually transmitted infection rates are way, way up Source: Image: Shutterstock To view a larger version of this graph, click here In the last 20 years or so, there has been a worryingly steep rise in the number and rate of sexually transmitted infections STIs being reported to Irish health authorities. Short URL. About the author:. About the author.
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