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the birds and the bees

'Sex didn’t exist until the Late Late show': Can Irish people talk about intimacy?

A conference taking place in Cork this weekend aims to start a public discussion on sexual wellbeing.

IRELAND NEEDS TO have a frank discussion about all things sexual.

That’s the message being put forward at a Sexual Wellness conference taking place in Cork today and tomorrow. The event is being organised by Liz Madden and other members of Cork Feminista.

Madden said that the purpose of the event is to help people become “more open and sexually-liberated”.

We come from a sexually-repressed country … Ireland is changing, people talk about sex more freely now.

Speakers at the two-day conference, which is taking place at the Camden Palace Hotel, will cover a diverse range of topics including sexual confidence and health, prostitution, trafficking, and sexuality in older age.

Sexual Health Awareness Wee Alan Madden, Ray D'Arcy and Aoife Ni Mhaitiu at the launch of Sexual Health Awareness Week in 2013. Mark Stedman / Photocall Ireland Mark Stedman / Photocall Ireland / Photocall Ireland

Madden said that the media has somewhat warped people’s views of sex and who’s having it.

The typical sexual being is the young, thin, tanned woman. When did you ever see an older person portrayed in a sexual way in the media? … Disabled people are sexual beings. Elderly people are sexual beings.

Older people and sex

Ciarán McKinney, the Director of Development at Age and Opportunity, will be discussing sexuality among older people at 2.15 pm tomorrow.

There’s an assumption that older people aren’t sexual.

McKinney said there is a misconception that “whether you’re gay or straight, you cease being a sexual being once you get older”.

He stated that when the issue is raised it can get “a negative reaction, ‘Oh God, that’s disgusting, that’s gross’.”

“Older people are often the objects of fun and derision [when it comes to sex].”

He noted that older people need to be made aware of the dangers of contracting sexually-transmitted infections, as the occurrence of STIs in older age groups is on the rise.

stis ireland STI statistics in Ireland, 1995-2011 Health Protection Surveillance Centre STI Report 2011 Health Protection Surveillance Centre STI Report 2011

McKinney will also be discussing issues that face members of the older LGBT community.

There’s a degree of resilience among older gay people, many people grew up pretty much in the closet … when being gay was still illegal.

He said that many older LGBT people fear they will “have to go back into the closest” if they enter residential care.

“They’ll have to go through the nightmare of having their identities hidden again.”

McKinney said that Irish people “don’t fully have an understanding of both sex and sex among older people”.

“Sex didn’t exist until the Late Late Show,” he said, describing conversations about about sex and intimacy that took place in the early days of the chat show as “groundbreaking”.

He added that people need to be more sexually “literate” and “become aware of the joys of sexuality”, partly through public discussions on so-called “taboo” subjects.


Today at 1.30 pm Lucy Smith from Ugly Mugs and a number of sex workers will be speaking about the realities of prostitution and trafficking.

shutterstock_158018366 Sex workers' rights protest in the US. Shutterstock Shutterstock

Ugly Mugs is a service that aims to improve the safety of sex workers in Ireland and reduce crimes committed against them, by providing a platform for them to share information about potential dangers.

Smith said she will be discussing “the reality of sex work as opposed to the sensational side that is reported”.

She added that her goal is for “non-judgemental support services” to be established for sex workers in Ireland.

The conference’s full schedule is available here. Tickets are free, but Cork Feminista recommends that people attending make a €5 donation to the Camden Palace Hotel.

Read: Rise in sexual activity leads to increase in STIs among elderly

Read: EU Commissioner calls for continued pressure by police to combat sex trafficking

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