Sunday 21 July 2019

Lorraine Courtney: 'No sex please, we're the puritanical 'progressive' Irish'

Sexy photo: The ad in Dundrum Town Centre that angered some parents.
Sexy photo: The ad in Dundrum Town Centre that angered some parents.
Lorraine Courtney

Lorraine Courtney

Twenty years ago, Jacqueline Gold, the chief executive of Ann Summers, was sent a bullet in the post. The accompanying message said: "If you set up on our main street, you'll need very heavy security." The company had to fight a court case in Dublin to keep trading on O'Connell Street.

I didn't think anything like this could happen again and yet here we are. There's hysteria this week over some underwear posters at Dundrum Town Centre in the capital. The ads are promoting Agent Provocateur's pop-up shop at House of Fraser ahead of Valentine's Day.

A group of parents feel these posters are too suggestive for such a public place.

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One tweeted: "We parents who spend our money in your store will do so no longer, as your company pays no heed to all the complaints received in relation to the window dressing of your Dundrum outlet. We want our children's innocence protected."

But why are people getting their knickers in a twist over a poster of a model in a lacy pink bra? It is a sexy picture but hardly past-the-watershed stuff.

Sadly, I don't think it's really about the children at all - a child wouldn't give the model a second thought. It's about a very long line of commentators now wagging their fingers at how our world has deteriorated into sex and smut. Think of the children, they cry.

Sexual behaviour used to prompt deep alarm among the puritanical Catholic right. Today, it causes deep alarm among the puritanical progressives. And right now they are doing their best to restrict and regulate sex for the rest of us.

We have an ongoing moral panic about online porn and the people crusading against porn only define it by the most hardcore and violent scenes, not the romantic ones - yes, they do exist too.

What happened to sex? Well, all we hear about right now is stories of bad sex, sex that's demeaning and sex that isn't consensual. Millennials are having less sex than their parents and a recent study found that women aged 25 to 34 are the least satisfied with their sex lives.

We used to blame Dev and his backward notions about comely maidens dancing at the crossroads for our sexual repression. We said that he set Ireland adrift from the rest of our European neighbours, shutting us down for years, and heaping piles of Catholic guilt on us all.

We can't blame him now, but it seems that we are heading back to a time of covering up table legs in case they offend anyone and reprimanding anyone who talks the wrong way about sex.

It's hard to argue for calm in this debate because the emotive script about kids and sex is so widespread. But some plain talking and some rational thinking are needed.

Banning lacy underwear ads is exactly how censorship happens - not by one sweeping act, but by teeny tiny steps against things we "all" are supposed to be against.

We can't let them take the joy out of sex now.

Irish Independent

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