From top: Taffina Flood with her daughter Sadie O’ Nolan with protestors on O’Connell Street in Dublin last week; Dan Boyle
Whenever a new paramour entered my life (it doesn’t amount to a very long list) my Mother would ask me:
“I hope you have respected her?
The word ‘respect’ was laced with nuance but never hinted of innuendo. There are some things a child and parent should never speak about, particularly a son and his mother.
Hers was an ongoing piece of parental moral advice. She had been telling me not to mess the other person around, not to let them down, not to make them feel uncomfortable; God forbid – never to hurt them.
For the most part it has been sound advice, advice I have sought to keep, but on occasion I missed. When added to my natural physical shyness it has meant that I rarely, if ever, initiated anything. In that I don’t think myself that unusual.
Through a whole range of misconceptions, misapprehensions and the weirdest of hang ups the general Irish approach to sex, sexuality and relationships has been pretty fecked up.
After generations of avoiding the priest with his blackthorn stick randomly waved through the ditches and the hedgerows, it seemed possible to express in a new Ireland, more open ways to enjoy our collective sexuality. In ways where pleasure won out over shame. But someone had to go out and spoil it for everybody else.
For some Ireland has stepped out of its sexual darkness to turn itself into a 21st century Sodom or Gomorrah. For those who long for a return to the times of sexual backwardness, we are re-living the last days of the Roman Empire.
The truth is we are neither. We do, however, have a problem. The sect of shamed sex Irish has become mirrored with a new sect of shameless sex Irish.
Those who are brash and uninhibited have their qualities, but when they are used to supersede intimacy, by erasing any thoughts or actions of caring for someone, being affectionate towards them, or even moving towards the possibility of loving them, then we have a real problem. And that problem is a problem of men, or at least a problem caused by men.
Much of the talk surrounding the recent Belfast Rape Trial centred around the quality of the evidence, the burden of proof required or the meeting of certain legal niceties. The verdict is what it is, so the legal system has determined.
But being legally not guilty, in this case, certainly does not mean being innocent. Innocence in its widest sense. Innocence in being free from shame. Innocence in being able to maintain character and honour.
Unfortunately, no legal system can attest for these failings. They are character failings profoundly shown in the words of the exonerated towards each other.
The macho language of delight, as Kavanagh probably wouldn’t have called it. The Lord of the Flies glee of boasting where few ‘men’ have sexually gone before.
The law has declared them innocent, although the innocence they each would have had seems to have deserted them so early into what are still very young lives.
And all that was needed was a little respect
Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle
Top pic: Rollingnews