Bad romance: 10 surprising facts about the Irish and sex
5. Yes, I said, I will, yes
James Joyce and Molly Bloom. Their names will always be inseparable. Molly was a facsimile of Joyce’s flesh and blood wife Nora and in Ulysses, Joyce’s masterpiece, both writer and subject scandalized Ireland two decades before it became the philistine Catholic gulag he feared it might.
Joyce understood the twin threats to Ireland (and in a way, Irish women) came from Britain and Rome, so he recorded and celebrated every aspect of the Irish themselves from womb to tomb, how they lived and how they loved, the better to keep Ireland safe from colonial powers and spiritual dominance.
6. There was no sex in Ireland before TV
Oliver J. Flanagan, the longtime Fine Gael politician, once famously said “there was no sex in Ireland before television.” Flanagan was appalled by the frankness of public debates on Irish television about matters he thought should never be discussed: sex, sexuality, women’s rights. But Flanagan lived to see his conservative standards collapsing all around him. This was in 1966, by the way. It’s safe to assume he would have been appalled by 2010.
7. There will be no sex in heaven
The only time sex is not sinful, according to the Catholic church, is when the intention or the possibility of conceiving are present. So no sex in Heaven, then. If we don’t have earthly bodies there will be no need to procreate. Don’t even be thinking about just enjoying yourselves sexually in the afterlife, because that’s sinful too. It was having sex on earth on earth that sent men and women to the other place. But if you’re dammed if you do and damned if you don’t, the Irish discovered, then you might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb.
8. Do as I say not as I do
Hypocrisy, like money, makes the world go round. But when hypocrisy reaches the towering levels that twentieth century Irish society achieved, something’s got to give. It was the denial of sex, its existence, its allure, its wonder and its normality, that gave the Irish Church so much power. Ironically enough it was sex that stripped them of it too, in a slew of ever increasing scandals that saw clergy having affairs, fathering children or abusing them. Revulsion at the double standards transformed Irish society. It’s sex in all its permutations that historians will return to when discussing the nature of Irish society in the late 20th century.
9. A pint of plain is not your only man
30 years ago, contraceptives were still illegal in the Republic. And pints, believe it or not, were another thing women could not have. To tackle this head on determined women like writer Nell McCafferty went into famous pubs in Dublin’s city centre, ordered 40 brandies, waited for them all to served, and then ordered a pint. When the barman refused, they in turn never paid for the brandies. Hit them in the pocket and they’ll always remember you.