Session 8b: The Catholic Question; the Irish Question
Chair: Julie Blanchard
Sexuality, Identity, and Inequality: Examining the Interaction of Community, Family, and Relationships
Department of Applied Social Studies, University College Cork, Ireland
This paper draws on doctoral research carried out in the south west of Ireland at the turn of the millennium. The research was undertaken over a period of two years, from 1998 – 2000, and focused on a complexity of influences that came together in the weaving of gender identities over time. It did this in the context of the formation and development of relationships and sustaining of livelihoods within the particular community context of Killarney town. Killarney is a long established tourist resort. Set in a predominantly rural region, it is the area’s largest urban centre, and offers a wide range of tourist- and service-oriented employment. A central focus of the research was to question dominant assumptions in modern Ireland that presume the achievement, or near-achievement of gender equality.
Drawing on insights gleaned through the above research, this paper examines the manner in which gender inequalities are being perpetuated in this context. In particular, it focuses on the ways that a combination of the influences and practices of relationships, family and community come together to ‘normalise’ women’s sexuality. It argues that this is being done through a central discourse that closely links the heterosexual with motherhood. Conversely, this discourse serves to marginalise possibilities of lesbian motherhood in the particular community context. This sets boundaries around women’s activities, aspirations, and practices. Furthermore, it interacts with the formation of women’s identities, including their sexual identities, as well as their understanding of the depth, limitations and potential of equality. In particular, it serves to perpetuate gender inequalities through the development of assumptions and imagined horizons which are based on everyday practices and experiences. These are embedded in the daily routine of women’s lives and livelihoods and are informed through the social construction of a normative heterosexuality.
John Broderick and the Irish Queer Experience
National Center for Franco-Irish Studies, Dublin, Ireland
From statehood in 1922 to the rise of the Celtic Tiger in the early nineties, Ireland’s moral parameters were set by the Catholic Church. Although certain Irish writers implicitly addressed the theme of homosexuality during this period, the threat of censorship was omnipresent. The lesser know Irish writer, John Broderick, was one of the first writers to place a homosexual at the centre of the narrative and in many ways helped break down the social barriers that had been set up against such ‘deviant behaviour’.
Thus, the focus of the proposed lecture will be on the Athlone writer John Broderick (1924 – 1989), and the portrayal of repressed homosexuality in his early sixties novels, The Pilgrimage and The Waking Of Willie Ryan. A writer often overlooked by modern critics, he wrote of the anguish faced by the male homosexual in a rural environment with an adroit perceptibility, unsurprising perhaps, given the authors ambiguous leanings. He was uncomfortable speaking of his sexuality – in a rare interview, he mentioned that he ‘had not been ruled by the sexual impulse’, but spoke out instead of how the Church had given him enduring moral principals.
Therein lies the conflict in Broderick’s early work (and indeed, within the author himself): Broderick saw society as being in irredeemable decline, both morally and culturally; it is natural, given his orthodox views, that he would view sex as something worthless or base. He thus sought affection/authority in Christianity, which manifestly created physical values for love. The paradox of Broderick is thus the paradox of the church: on one hand, publicly espousing propriety and abstemiousness while struggling against the temptations of bodily desire on the other.
This paper will thus seek to scrutinize his writings in a fresh and novel manner, using gay theories formulated by Cohen, Katz and Trumbach whilst leaning heavily upon Freudian psychoanalysis and the writing of Michel Foucault. The lecture itself will be broken into three segments 1) an introduction to the writer and the novels 2) an exposition of the text at hand using the aforementioned theories 3) a reaffirmation of the texts as a valuable source for the formulation of a queer literary tradition.
Women’s Response to the Psychosexual Impact of the Abortion Experience
Bridget M. Finn
Sexuality Therapist, Independent Researcher
This paper presents an overview of the major findings of a qualitative inquiry exploring the psychosexual impact of the abortion experience with women who self-identify as Catholic, discussion of conclusions derived from these findings, and a synthesis of practical and theoretical implications of these findings and conclusions.
This research study focuses solely on the experiences of women enculturated by Western ideology with regard to the abortion issue. A triangulation of qualitative data sources from four different groups of women derived at four different times and means is combined with the qualitative phenomenological method. This exploratory research inquiry resulted in an explanatory theory of the psychosexual impact of abortion. The development of this theory is based on emerging themes and categories resulting from the inquiry.
Some major findings include: (1) it is the unwanted pregnancy, rather than the abortion, that is the identifiable trauma. (2) Received Catholic religious beliefs and values did not enter into decisions to terminate pregnancies, and did not create any conflict for participants during any aspect of the abortion experience, including post-abortion adjustment. (3) The abortion experience impacts sexual behavior and functioning with short-term fear of pregnancy and short-term lack of, or decrease in, sexual desire. (4) Women reveal a redefinition of self post-abortion. (5) The psychosexual impact of the abortion experience can be conceptualized as a phenomenon of nine interwoven themes which begin prior to the actual medical procedure, at the time of the unwanted pregnancy, to the present time. These are: “exercising choice”; “a mark of separation from the Catholic Church”; “revealed a feminist moral perspective”; “redefinition of self”; “taking personal responsibility for sexual activity”; “altered quality of attachment”; “avoidance of the trauma”; “increased/enhanced cognizance of sexual health care”; and “political awareness”.