Q: Why is there so much talk of sex all the time? Sex is the same as it's always been and humans have always managed to do it enough to keep the population growing. It's not that hard to figure out where the bits go and what to do. In my day, you didn't talk about it and you didn't need to. Maybe all this talking about it is what's causing the problems and maybe the problems aren't worth talking about.
A: I love your way of thinking, though I must disagree with you wholeheartedly on nearly everything you say. Why is there so much talk of sex all the time? I think that Ireland as a nation is slowly beginning to acknowledge that not talking about sex creates shadows and darkness for abuse and damage to thrive. It's important not to muddle sexual imagery in advertising, sex scenes in movies, sexy clothes and sexualised behaviour, with mature, educated and healthy discussion about sexuality.
While sex is used to sell us stuff, and as entertainment, we need to be educated enough to discern between what's real and what isn't. Without education, young men are becoming anxious about the size of their penises because they compare themselves to porn actors. Young women are becoming obsessed with how their vulvas look, based on porn actors. Everyone is becoming worried because they're not having as much sex as we're told is "normal". As a nation, we're so highly focussed on reaching climax that we're losing the art of love-making. The female orgasm has become a status symbol for men, and the blame is often placed on the female (by both partners) if it doesn't happen, because in porn, the message is that women just orgasm, without stimulation.
There is a lot of talk about sexuality that isn't helpful still. The kind of giggling, back of the classroom humour where males are often pitted against females in some kind of imagined war of the sexes. This outdated, immature, incorrect and degrading approach to dialogue is more common than anything useful still. You only have to listen to some of the middle- to older-aged male radio personalities to know that they have managed to learn nothing and are determined to go for the cheap, lazy laughs, than to stand up and admit they could do with some education.
Some elements of sex may be the same as always. A penis in a vagina equals heterosexual intercourse, and a hand-job may always be a hand-job. But both can be massively improved with the use of lube for example, and if we don't talk about it, how will we learn?
I love cooking and I'm so glad I can find new and exciting recipes and ingredients so I don't get bored with the same old dishes and flavours. I think sex is much the same. Not only can we learn how to become great lovers by talking, we can also learn from science and research so we're up to date. Many people still choose to believe there are only two sexes and because of that, lots of people suffer and are excluded from society, and more importantly, from social, legal and medical support systems.
The act of sex may not have changed hugely (though there's always more to learn if you want to be a good lover), but the context within which we have sex is changing all the time. How we look, behave and what we expect are all massively impacted by the media and the media gives us lots of erroneous views and values that need to be questioned. Perhaps if we were provided with reliable sexuality education, we'd be able to figure lots of this stuff out ourselves, but until then, we need more discussion to counter the misinformation we're bombarded with every day.
Q: I'm an aspiring sexologist. I'm at the very beginning of my journey, starting a PLC in Applied Psychology in September. However, my long-term goal is to become a qualified sexologist, which is very rare in Ireland. As a young woman who has experienced gender dysphoria, depression, anxiety and low self-esteem, I believe that it is important to be and to feel loved.
What tips would you give a young woman aspiring to dedicate her career to sexology in Ireland? Education on this topic seems difficult to obtain, as there aren't a lot of courses in Ireland on sexology. As you are Ireland's only sexologist, it is an honour to speak with you and I hope I get the opportunity to some day become a successful sexologist and educate others on the diverse and beautiful topic of sex, and eliminate the stigma around it as you do.
A: What a lovely mail to receive. Thank you for your kind words. It makes me so excited to hear of young people wanting to create value in Irish society, particularly related around sexuality. This country needs to hear from its youth more than ever. At 47 years old, I know I'm out of touch with much of what young people are faced with today. In order to really help young people, I need to listen to them carefully and learn what they need from me. So I invite you to write to me more if you want, to share some of your more difficult experiences so that I can really understand how to support and advocate for young people.
Coping with any one of gender dysphoria, depression, anxiety or low self-esteem is difficult, but coping with all of them shows real strength and determination. While you may still live with one, or a combination of the above, you're planning to further your education and continue to develop yourself, which is really inspiring. Good for you! Keep going and don't give up!
As for sexology training here in Ireland, there isn't any at present. Not in the kind of sexology that would equip you to work as I do. You can find fantastic training in the UK either at undergraduate or postgraduate levels in Sheffield University. Goldsmith's in London also provide great training. The College of Sexual and Relationship Therapy (COSRT) runs great training but it's often more for CPD. I travelled to Western Australia to do a Masters in Clinical Sexology in Curtin University, which was fantastic.
Another way to sexology could be to continue your studies in psychology and to focus on human sexuality once you get to postgrad level. Dr Siobhan O'Higgins in NUI Galway is a fantastic person to talk to regarding the different academic routes to a sexological qualification in Ireland.
Sexology is the scientific study of human sexuality, so I believe anyone who has completed studies in this field can happily call themselves a sexologist. It just depends on what you want to do with that title. If you want to work with people therapeutically, you need solid training in that as well. If you want to be an educator, then the same applies. For example, learning about sexuality in the arts is interesting but it's not going to equip you to work with people.
I wish you the best of luck and please feel free to keep me posted on how you're doing. I'm really looking forward to having more sexologists here and there's plenty of work!