Sexuality, the law and the experiences of women in Ireland
The history of women’s experiences and expressions of sexuality in Ireland is for the most part very sad. It is a history of controlling women, of disciplining women, of punishing women. As is often if not usually the case, women’s experiences and expressions of sexuality have been problematised in ways that men’s experiences and expressions have not. This is related primarily, it can be argued, to the traditional position and function of women in the family and their role in and experiences of reproduction. This chapter is about power and powerlessness. It describes the power of those positioned to construct, interpret and represent female sexuality. The focus is on their propensity to frame female sexuality as problematical, even deviant. In the chapter, I consider the life experiences of women, those experiences crafted by the powerful. A great deal has been written about the experiences of women and sexuality in Ireland, particularly in terms of the harsh consequences for women (Ferriter, 2012; Quinlan et al., 2015; Quinlan, 2017). Much has been written about the difficult, often cruel and sometimes even fatal experiences of women whose experiences and expressions of their sexuality set them at odds with the dominant discourse and culture (Crowley and Kitchin, 2008; Garrett, 2016; Quinlan, 2017). The contribution that this chapter makes is in the framing of women’s experiences of sexuality in Ireland within the context of laws enacted to manage and control their sexuality/sexualities within the society in which those laws were created. This chapter details changes in sexuality and consequent changes in legislation in relation to sexuality that have taken place in Ireland over the past 80 years. The laws enacted generated the policy responses to women’s sexuality/sexualities that shaped the experiences of individual women. These laws emerged from a prevailing societal consensus, as laws generally do in democratic societies, and they contributed to a societal sense and understanding of what is right, appropriate and acceptable in terms of women’s experiences and expressions of sexuality. The consequences for women who contravened societal norms in terms of experiences and expressions of sexuality were severe. This chapter considers the revolution in Irish sexuality and its implications. The time period covered in the chapter is 80 years, the span of one lifetime. It is extraordinary to see how, over those 80 years, Ireland changed so profoundly.
Citation : Davy, Z., Santos, A.C., Bertone, C., Thoreson, R., and Weiringa, S.E. (2020) The SAGE Handbook of Global Sexualities. SAGE.
Research Institute : Institute for Research in Criminology, Community, Education and Social Justice
Peer Reviewed : Yes