Occasions of Sin: Sex & Society in Modern Ireland by Diarmaid Ferriter - review by Mary Kenny

Mary Kenny

Country Matters

Occasions of Sin: Sex & Society in Modern Ireland


Profile Books 694pp £30

As a schoolgirl in my Irish convent school, I encountered two versions of sex education. One very decorous version came from the nuns, who would tell us that God had made sexual congress very pleasurable so that the human race would be induced to continue, but that God also insisted that this pleasure be confined to marriage. The second version came from the country girls, who knew all about the bull being taken to the cows and the stallion being taken to the fillies. They even knew a revealing detail about the stallion with the mares and fillies: a ‘teaser’ horse – poor nag! – was employed first to arouse the fillies, and when the females were fully aroused the stallion would be given his unrestrained way while the teaser horse would be removed, unfulfilled. 

Given these country girls’ rich lore about agricultural practices, I find it slightly implausible to be told that rural Irish people were completely ignorant about sex in days gone by. In this history, Diarmaid Ferriter tells us that Sean O’Faolain, the Cork writer, knew nothing whatsoever about the

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

RLF - March

A Mirror - Westend