“Lock them up and don’t let them see the cold light of day” more than likely was a thought that ran through the head of the nuns as they threw single mothers back into their rooms after a long day at the laundry working tirelessly to make a quick bucks for the holy orders that ran such kips. Single mothers were placed in these institutions because they had a child outside of marriage, children were given up for adoption or sent into some industrial school and the mothers looked upon with disgrace, daring to have sex outside of marriage. Even at that, it was not only single mothers whom were sent but women whom may have been single but seen to have been too beautiful for how she may tempt man to “partake of her flesh”. Women from society of all types were sent against their will to the laundries. The last of these institutions only closed in 1996, closing its doors never again to be opened thankfully. Ireland however has still held itself back all these years, the closing of the last Magdalene laundry marked a delineation in the role of Irish society perhaps not frowning upon the sexual being that is inside all of us but to think it was a complete delineation is far from the truth.
The Ryan report unmasked the level at which child abuse was prevalent all through the schools run by the Irish church and to what extent the abuse was perpetrated. Priests, most of whom were placed under an obligation to stay celibate, were shown to have been abusing children to satiate some sort of urge they had which can be attributed partially to the twisting of norms at the time at what was accepted and what was not. Sexually you only had sex to procreate and sex for any other reason was seen as a sin except in households where the wife was expected to grit her teeth, spread her legs and think of Ireland in what became a societal norm and not seen as it should have been, an abuse of women’s rights , a violation of her own body.
Donal Fallon’s article recently on thejournal.ie on the rise to prominence of the Irish sex shop (http://www.thejournal.ie/readme/sex-shops-ireland-706612-Dec2012/) illustrates in parallels the acceptance gradually of the rise of the acceptance of some aspects of our sexuality and the decline in catholic faith as the 90’s came and went so did more sex shops to the point they are now a feature very much of the Irish landscape. When Peter Stringfellow opened his strip club in the mid 2000’s, the old dears of the Legion of Mary (LOM) sought to close down the establishment for lap dances (http://www.irishexaminerusa.com/mt/2006/07/19/stringfellows_closes_in_dublin.html)
Ireland however is still trapped in a mire of sexual repression. Speaking to a friend last night from Boston he told me he was amazed at a recent trip to a gay sauna where men would only ‘play’ with him in the dark room, they would not give him the time of day but in the dark anything was fair game, sex with the lights off common enough I’m sure with Irish people ashamed at the thoughts of making love. Typically the Irish male is at complete odds with the Irish female in the bedroom, the woman likes to be held while the Irish man upholds the stereotype of being masculine and being afraid to cuddle, show me an Irish man who wears his heart on his sleeve and I will buy you a pint (perhaps). Where does this come from this cold heart? A mix of Catholic guilt, pressure to conform to male stereotypes and a lack of emotion from parents perhaps all conspire to create this cold shameful sexual Irish being.
Abortion and homosexuality aside, issues discussed to death on the corridors of http://www.Politicalworld.org Ireland, lets face it, are sexually constrained. Our youth are only now being thought about contraception, years after Nell Mc Cafferty and others went on the pill train and young men could not buy condoms in the Virgin Megastore on Aston Quay. Online young men are afraid to come out to express their sexual preference as are young lesbians. Cast of your shackles Ireland, we are but a nation economically screwed, morale is low and we have no money to spend but we do have one and other Ireland.
Make love, not war!