In the wake of the release of Fifty Shades of Grey, Erin Lindsay explores how open we Irish are when it comes to sex and discusses the impact the highly anticipated movie had on society...
This weekend saw the release of the massively anticipated “Fifty Shades of Grey” movie, with cinema screens around the world booked out with eager patrons. The ’Fifty Shades’ series of books, dubbed as “Porn for Mammies”, sold in its millions, becoming the first book to sell a million copies on the kindle.
 
 Its popularity has had a massive knock-on effect on the sex industry as a whole – as the book’s popularity rose, so did the sales figures of sex toys.
Love it or hate it, the book broke new ground in regards to sex and brought erotica and kinkiness to the mainstream. 
 
Gone are the days of hiding a ‘dirty’ book in your sock drawer – now reading ‘Fifty Shades’ on the bus into work won’t attract a second glance.  
But in the midst of it all, a lone cinema in Buncrana, Donegal bans the film from showing on their screens. One local cinema amongst millions around the world may not seem so important but it begs an important question for us Irish – how open are we sexually? And what does being open about sex actually mean?
 
The issue at hand is full of contradictions. How many of us would go and see ’Fifty Shades’ in the cinema but get embarrassed about saying the word ‘vulva’? 
How many would go to an Ann Summers party with mates but would hesitate to bring up contraception on a one night stand? Society has come on in leaps and bounds in terms of being more open about these things; but maybe not open in all aspects.
 
We live in a hyper-sexualised society, especially compared to what it was twenty years ago. Adverts, music videos, movies; as the saying goes “sex sells”. We live our lives surrounded by depictions of sex from a really young age and as a result, we may get a skewed version of what sex is really about.
 
Fifty Shades itself is an example – the books sparked a huge debate on its depiction of sex and relationships with the characters of under confident, submissive Ana and controlling, dominant Christian and their relationship dynamic being widely renounced by the BDSM ( Bondage , Discipline, Sadismasochism/ Sadism and Masochism) community and many people calling for the boycott of the film before its release.
 
 But although the series is debatable in its depiction of healthy sex and relationships, it has become massively popular. Society seems raring to go when it comes to sex. But are we approaching it in the right way and talking about the stuff that matters?
 
This time last year saw a surge in the number of recorded STIs ( Sexually Transmitted Diseases) in Ireland. Data from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre showed a huge increase in the levels of chlamydia, gonorrhoea and HIV infections. 
 
The data also showed that 70% of cases of STIs were in people under 30. A survey conducted in 2011 by UNICEF dove into the emotional side of sex in Ireland and the results were interesting. It found that 22% of girls and 19% of boys surveyed had lost their virginity before the age of 15 and 40% had been drinking alcohol beforehand. 57% of teens surveyed looked to the internet to get information about sex, with 21% using porn to teach themselves about sex.
 
More than a third believed porn to be an accurate and educational representation of sex and 80% had never spoken to their parents about sex.
Ireland isn’t the country it used to be and sex isn’t the taboo it used to be either. The fact that ’Fifty Shades of Grey’ is a mainstream success in our cinemas pretty much sums that up. 
 
People are more ready to talk about their sex lives and more open to casual sex, to whom they have sex with and to different things that can go on in the bedroom. 
But there is still a long way to go when it comes to our interpretation of sex, relationships and everything in between.