Ancient Irish sex thirst crushed by church, claims Australian TV show
JEROME REILLY OUR ancient pagan ancestors apparently shocked even the Romans with their outrageous cavorting and hedonistic celebration of sex.
But Christianity changed all that and the Catholic Church finished the job - transforming the libidinous Celts into an Irish nation that remains the most sexually repressed people on earth.
They are among the extraordinary claims made in a two-part TV series shown on SBS Television, Australia's respected public service broadcaster.
The prime-time documentary, featuring a curious mix of academic talking heads and soft porn re-enactments of the sexually voracious Fianna of ancient times, blames the church for crushing the libido of our permissive Celtic ancestors.
It also suggests that some landlords exercised "droit de seigneur" - the right to sleep with any tenant woman before her wedding night - into the 20th century, according to SBS Television promotional material.
A US expert postulates that while the Sixties brought a global sexual revolution, the men and women of the West of Ireland remained the most sexually frustrated on earth.
Australian TV viewers who watched Land of Saints and Sinners must have been shocked to learn of our endemic sexual dysfunction.
To a soundtrack of evocative Enya-esque warblings and languid slow-motion shots of voluptuous Celtic maidens doing what comes naturally, one academic describes the impact of Catholic puritanism on Irish sex.
"The female orgasm was unknown and after ejaculation the man fell asleep. Men felt that intercourse was debilitating and male sexual strivings were thought to be a result of eating massive amounts of potatoes." As well as fears about spud-induced erections, the two-part documentary, which concluded on Friday, made other claims.
The homosexuality of our ancient warriors, bishops with harems and kings who were too fond of their horses has made salacious viewing and given Australia's top TV critics plenty of material.
State-funded SBS had a huge potential audience for the joint TV4/Tyrone Productions show. The station broadcasts in more than 60 languages to Australia's population of 20 million.
Critic Tim Benzie writing in the Sydney Star Observer enjoyed the interesting facts that in liberal ancient Ireland, masturbation was generally know as a "hand festival".
He says the documentary "also illustrates clearly that sexual liberation does not necessarily go hand-in-hand with living in an enlightened age. If you want the right to stand in a circle wearing animal masks while initiates fellate to the music of Clannad, you've got to fight for it, my brethren".
Robert Wilson in The Australian enjoyed learning about the Irish saint who nailed his penis to the ground, but was otherwise unimpressed. "The inescapable conclusion is dreary. The Irish, or the programme's producers at least, still have a problem with sex if this is how they treat it."