We were late to sex in Ireland. In Britain, according to poet Philip Larkin, "sexual intercourse began/In nineteen sixty-three/(which was rather late for me) - Between the end of the 'Chatterley' ban/ And the Beatles' first LP."
"Chatterley" referred to DH Laurence's novel Lady Chatterley's Lover – "unbanned" in 1960 – and that Beatles LP was "Please Please Me", released in March 1963.
At the time we were still being found under cabbage heads or were carried here by storks, then as visible as the tooth fairy. Of course there was talk about “the permissive society” here in Ireland too. But it was just that – about events abroad where they did things differently.
The first hint we had that there might be sex in Ireland was just before Pope John Paul arrived in 1979. A law was passed allowing married couples access to contraceptives, on prescription. It is doubtful this had anything to do with Pope John Paul but it does establish that there was indeed sex in Ireland by then, if only available to married couples (of opposite sexes).
Playboy and condoms
This elitism continued until 1985 when contraceptives became more democratically available. It would be another 10 years before Playboy, the US magazine, was available in Ireland.
I reflected on all of this recently when I “happened” on the Channel 4 Naked Attraction programme where eligible “contestants” – in the altogether – have their parts assessed by a likely suitor.
We are so lucky such programmes were not available back then. In 1978, JB Murray, founder of the League of Decency, had a heart attack while watching a nude scene in The Spike, an RTÉ series. It was discontinued.
You can’t have TV programmes giving people heart attacks!
Mr Murray probably would not have survived Normal People last year. Definitely, he'd have passed out very early, if watching the current Netflix Sex/Life series.
Most likely he’d have dropped dead instantly witnessing THAT shower scene where husband sees rival’s member, instantly experiencing an equal and apposite collapse in self-esteem on noting that said member was at least as long as Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysilio-gogogoch, the Welsh place name. So then, size matters?
In sex matters we have travelled a journey that is every bit as long, and in such a very short time.
Sex, from Latin sexus. (You hardly need an explanation?)