For decades now, while we have made some positive steps, Ireland has had an unhealthy attitude towards sexual health and awareness. By being willfully ignorant of sexuality and sexual health in our society, the country had effectively tricked itself into believing that such things didn’t happen in Ireland: extra-marital relationships, contraception, same-sex relationships, abortions.
Many of you will have picked up today’s Sunday Independent and read the front-page article describing Michelle Mulherin TD’s outrage at a website giving advice to teenagers and young adults about sexual relationships. The advice in question dealt with threesomes and relationships involving more that two people. You can read the article at SpunOut.ie (which is an excellent website that helps young adults deal with the various issues that arise during growing up).
Now, I’m not sure what aspect of this has Mulherin flapping about. Is she shocked that teenagers in Ireland actually have sex? Or that some people in the country actually partake in sex with multiple partners? Or that a website funded by the HSE gives advice – on the physical and emotional aspects of such relationships – to people who might actually be looking for such guidance? Maybe Ms Mulherin would prefer if people delved into sex acts without informing themselves of the health, relationship, and emotional issues surrounding them.
The simple fact is that younger people have sex, and just like their older counterparts, some of these people have sex with multiple partners at once. This is a fact. It happens. As I’m sure all of you will agree, it is of the utmost importance that people – young or old – having sex should be aware of the various aspects surrounding sex, whether it’s physical (consent, contraception, the human body, etc.) or emotional (love, happiness, sadness, jealousy, etc.).
It makes sense to me that such information and advice be given via a website: young people constantly use the Internet for their day-to-day lives, and the Internet is full of advice and tips on almost everything you would want to know, from making pancakes to finding the meaning of life, and everything in between.
What alternative should we put in place if SpunOut.ie was not available to young people? Should we export the problem – as Ireland is very adept at doing – and get them to visit health websites based in the UK or elsewhere? Or should we just let teenagers trawl through the dregs of the Internet and let them learn about sex from pornography websites?
Michelle Mulherin states: “There is nothing right about this. I will be raising the issue with Minister for Health James Reilly as to why he is putting taxpayers’ money towards [SpunOut.ie]. It is totally inappropriate. It goes against the common good which is what the Government should be trying to achieve in society.”
Why is Mulherin so against using tax money, via the HSE, to educate younger people on sexual relationships and awareness? To me, this is exactly what tax money should be spent on. She also believes that it’s inappropriate and goes against “the common good”. Well, pardon me, but I don’t see how what people do in their bedrooms has anything to do with society or the common good. It appears that Mulherin is advocating that the Government should be doing what it can to prevent sexual empowerment, to stop people engaging in certain relationships, and to censor the very advice and guidance that responsible people are trying to seek in order to have healthy relationships.
With the publication of the piece in today’s Sunday Independent, SpunOut.ie have released a statement defending – and rightfully so – their work and the article in question. You can read ‘Arm Young People With Facts, Not Fear’ here.
The statement hits the nail on the head in saying:
“An adult’s discomfort does not negate a young person’s right to information. Silence does not breed confidence, instead it creates fear and confusion. We should arm our young people with the facts and trust them to make responsible decisions.”
Michelle Mulherin is so uncomfortable with the idea that young people have sex, that she would rather silence the proper information and pretend that such things do not happen in Ireland. This mentality has pervaded Irish society throughout the years, and is why we are still extremely immature towards a whole host of real-life issues regarding sex and relationships.
What would people rather? That young adults get proper guidance and facts about the realities of sexual relationships, or that they obtain misinformation (an potentially damaging information) about sex from dodgy porn sites?
Well done to SpunOut.ie for addressing what is a real situation for many people, unlike those who would rather no such advice was ever given, preferring to bury their heads in the sand and pretend that such sexual relationships don’t happen in Ireland.
Ms Mulherin, you need to open your eyes to modern Ireland and the realities of its citizens’ personal lives. You need to stop trying to control vital information to young people in their formative years, and instead promote a society that can pride itself on strong sexual health and awareness.