A feminist collective in the people's republic

Sexual Wellness

Liz Madden Co-Organiser of Cork Feminista

 

[Sexual] Wellness… The active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a healthy and fulfilling life’’ – The World Health Organisation

This June 21 and 22, Cork Feminista will host a Sexual Wellness Conference at Camden Palace Hotel. The conference will comprise of stimulating discussions, presentations, workshops, and artistic performances on various topics surrounding sexuality and sexual health.  Everyone is welcome and a donation of five euro is suggested.

As an organiser of the Sexual Wellness Conference, I feel compelled to share with you what I’ve learned about from speaking to sex researchers, recovering sex addicts, sex workers, people working to combat sexual violence and trafficking, public health officials, and people living with HIV, as well as many others who will speak or facilitate a workshop on the topics of sex and sexual health.

We live in an increasingly health-conscious society where many people seek to improve their mental, physical, emotional and social wellbeing. It is most common for people to attend classes on yoga, mindfulness, meditation as well as self-help groups to increase their state of wellbeing. Another type of wellness that is becoming increasingly popular is sexual wellness.

Sexual Wellness is a growing phenomenon and is now being promoted by professionals and organisations who work in the area of sexual heath. Many people are curious to know what exactly sexual wellness is, where it originated and why it is important.

Wellness is a concept that emerged in the 1970’s as people began to explore alternative health, medicines and natural therapies. Wellness later became a ‘movement’, and in 1975 the first Wellness Resource Centre opened in California. The centre claimed its purpose was to ‘’promote self-love, nutrition, exercise and social environment’’.

The terms ‘’Health’’ and ‘’Wellness’’ are very much interlinked and many people question what the difference is between the two words. ‘’Health’’ refers to the state of being, while ‘’Wellness’’ suggests a way of living or a lifestyle. Wellness is about becoming aware and understanding the healthy choices.

In Ireland, people have been slow to adapt to the idea of sexual wellness. We have a long-standing history of sex abuse, body shame and lack of sex education which in effect, has produced a sexually ill nation. Ireland is reputed to be one of the most sexually repressed countries in Europe.

Significant legislative and societal developments occurred in the 1990’s which have shaped people’s awareness, openness and understanding of sexuality and sexual health. In 1990 the first HIV/AIDS documentary was screened on Irish National TV.  In the same year, marital rape was recognised and made illegal. Following this in 1993 homosexuality was decriminalised; and, in 1994, Ireland introduced its very first contraception leaflet.

In 1995, sex education was introduced to post-primary schools and promoted as the Relationships and Sexual Education Programme. By the late 1990’s, the Government appeared to be making progress to advance sexual health. However, this positive focus was soon shifted as a series of sex abuse allegations were made against the Catholic Church.

Abuse allegations continue to emerge and the voices of victims who have been harmed by Religious authorities remain to echo. A most recent example being the maltreatment of women who were previously residents of the Bessborough mother and baby home in Blackrock Cork. The mothers who gave birth in the home claim to have experienced abuse and neglect while in the care of nuns.

Ireland’s history of sexual oppression has highlighted the demand for change.  There is an obvious need for a space to explore and discuss questions and concerns around sexuality.

In recent years there have been notable developments in terms of sexual awareness and wellbeing. In February of this year, an RTE documentary called ‘Somebody to love’ explored the sex lives of people with intellectual disabilities. The documentary focuses on body awareness, sexual attraction and parenting through the lives of people with intellectual disabilities.

Another group who are overlooked in terms of sexuality are the aging population. We live in a youth obsessed culture whereby the sexual needs of older adults are generally ignored. Sexually transmitted diseases and sexual assaults are increasing in older adults their sexual heath is at risk of being ignored.

Sex addiction is another area of sexual heath that calls for serious concern. According to the Rutlans Centre for addiction, there has been a rise in people seeking help for sex addictions. Sex addiction accounts for 5pc of all addictions and there are over twelve recovery meetings throughout the Republic of Ireland.

With the many sexual health problems that continue to face us as a society, I question if we are ready to take the necessary steps to transform from sexually ill to sexually well?

Sexual wellness not only requires us to care for our physical heath, but also to be mindful of our attitudes, ideas, perceptions and behaviours towards all areas of sexuality. We can achieve sexual wellness by embracing diversity, challenging the sexual ‘norms’ and respecting peoples sexual choices.

We can also become more educated and informed through open discussion, such as the one that Cork Feminista will host, which will explore the diversity, positivity, and power of sexual wellbeing through experiential and research-based knowledge as well as artistic expression.

Cork Feminista hopes to attract a diverse audience of women and men of various backgrounds and ages. For the full schedule of time and speakers, please check out www.corkfeminista.com. The event sponsored by Camden Palace Hotel.

Read this interesting article on the importance of sexual consent on a refreshing blog called “Statements and  Implications” .     

http://browsingthrough.wordpress.com

Cork Feminista member , Katie Halligan, who is currently doing her Master’s in Women’s Studies shares a very in depth and fascinating reaction to the Sex Industry talk which took place at our conference :

Having completed the first part of the MA in Women’s Studies in UCC, I am now in the middle of the second part which is a dissertation focusing on how a number of selected countries manage their sex industry. When Cork Feminista announced that the Sexual Wellness Conference would include two talks; one presented by sex workers advocating sex work, and another presented by anti sex work campaigners I was grateful for the opportunity to listen to both sides of the debate in real life! So far my research has highlighted how contentious the issue of sex work is in feminism, with a deep divide between those who want to see sex work decriminalised and those who want the sex industry abolished. The literature I have reviewed, including the works of Catherine MacKinnon, Andrea Dworkin and Kathleen Barry (abolitionists) and Margo St James, Gail Pheterson and Kamala Kempadoo (advocates who are sometimes referred to as sex positivists) informed me that the topic is highly emotive and a difficult one for feminists to address. This was confirmed by what occurred at the Sexual Wellness Conference.
The sex work advocates, Lucy Smith from Ugly Mugs, Lady Grew and Jenny O, spoke on Saturday in a room full to capacity with people, who gave the speakers their full attention. There was a tension in the atmosphere as each one spoke of their frustration at being stigmatised for working in the sex industry. The anger in Lucy Smith’s voice increased as she spoke about her work with Ugly Mugs, a website that sex workers can access that aims to promote safety in the sex industry. Their presentation generated support from the audience, interest in the ‘other side’ of the debate (the dissenting voice of those who don’t’ condemn sex work), and consideration (it is a debatable topic and there are two points of view – one that condemns the sex industry because it is dangerous, and another view that recognises women’s agency and their choice to sell sex, hopefully in an environment that is hospitable, meets their health and safety needs, needs that people in other forms of work have access to). I spoke to Lucy Smith and Jenny O after their talk, the conversation was brief, but due to the underground nature of sex work in Ireland the opportunity to speak to people engaged in the sex industry was one that I did not expect when I started my dissertation.
In a move that emphasises the conflicting views in this debate the Cork Sexual Violence Centre pulled out of the conference. Their decision disappointed me, and I felt it was a shame that they did not use the platform the Sexual Wellness Conference offered to articulate their standpoint and argue why sex work should be criminalised and ultimately abolished. There is strong evidence to indicate that people engaged in the sex industry experience violence and abuse, and I can understand that listening to people advocate an industry that inflicts harm and pain on those forced into it would be distressing, but I felt it was a great pity that they refused to partake in the conference. It was obvious from the reaction of a number of people who attended the sex workers talk that they were considering a new perspective of the sex industry, one they might not have before, and I believe SVC missed a chance to reiterate why they are opposed to the sex industry, and why the campaign to criminalise purchasers of sexual services was so important for our society.
The sex workers talk and anti sex work campaigner’s decision to remove themselves from the conference illustrated that the sex industry continues to pose some of the most difficult, yet fundamental questions for feminist theory, feminist activism and society in general.

Here, one of our volunteers, Siobhan Ramos, talks about her admiration for the speakers who spoke so eloquently about there experiences with thier sexuality:

”It was a privilege and pleasure to be able to hear the myriad of voices and their own experiences, concerns and issues which were present at Cork Feminista’s Sexual Wellness Conference. I attended with about as open a mind as one can have; I was the axiomatic tabula rasa. My naïve hope was that I amalgamate all the information accrued into a neat bundle and critically assess it from a distance, an impartial but highly curious observer. However, like the concept of sexuality itself, the information I received was complex, dynamic and sometimes difficult to understand or process. I could not simply be impartial and observant – the stories I heard demanded of me to be involved and impassioned and inspired.

I was inspired especially by the voices of courage I heard breaking any and all silence surrounding their sexualities. Those telling very personal, intimate anecdotes and stories in order to help others learn, understand and accept both themselves and all around them. Stories such as that of John Kidney, who talked about redefining himself as a multidimensional sexual being in trying to reconcile both the pressures of a traditional masculinity and the stigmas surrounding his mental illness. He allowed us all to examine these topics as an intersectionality most of us hadn’t even thought of, as if refracted through a prism. Stories such as that of Austin Kelly, living as a gay man with HIV and refusing to let it define him or consume his identity. He told us of the ups and downs, the good days and bad, and allowed us to see an epitome of the key link between positivity and sexual wellbeing. Stories such as that of Darrin Matthews, who spoke of the difficulty in “coming out” twice; once as a lesbian and next as a trans* man. He spoke of the levels of hardship many trans* youth in Ireland have to face, living in a country which will only help them if they can be “diagnosed” with a mental disorder. Stories such as those of Trish Connolly, who allowed us a glimpse into the realities of sexuality, disability and control. It is frightening to think that those already experiencing the liminalities and fringes of society experience even more harrowing situations including isolation, admonishment and repression when it comes to their sexual expression.

As a women in Ireland, I feel my body is barely within my control, and will not be fully until all my sexual and reproductive rights are met. However, these courageous speakers allowing to vicariously experience with them has enabled me to shift my perspective on sexual identity and control. We are all sexual beings; to deny anyone any part of themselves is beyond reproach.It is in humane. While I live through my own sexual identity quite freely, there are so many others who are stigmatised, repressed, marginalised, vilified and worse – and all due to one of the most basic commonalities of humanity. While I was sickened and saddened to hear of such hardships, the perpetual optimism of those telling their stories created in me a true sense of pride. A pride of self expression and fearlessness and dynamism. The change society needs begins in discussion like these, in grounding the commonality and fluidity and sweet complexity of human sexuality in all of its forms. My tabula rasa has been etched upon by many during this conference; their influence is now set in stone.”

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Jxrt4ZoCvAU watch the video of one of the discussions from this year’s
Sexual Wellness Conference .

Thankyou!

A big Thankyou to everyone who came to our Sexual Wellness Conference over the weekend ! We hope you all enjoyed it and we were delighted to see such a great crowd at the talks!
A huge thank you to all of the speakers who took part also !
Keep an eye to our Facebook and Twitter for new events!

SEXUAL WELLNESS CONFERENCE

SATURDAY 21ST – SUNDAY 22ND JUNE

CAMDEN PALACE HOTEL

Sexy poems , discussions ,boosting your self esteem and how to block porn from your internet is one of the many fascinating talks taking place at our conference this weekend ! Don’t miss out!!

See you this Saturday to kick events off!

Here is a list of the events we’ve organised! For more information on any of these of events please contact corkfeminista@gmail.com
____________________________________2014________________________________________

16TH MAY: CAMDEN PALACE HOTEL CORK

Red: The Cork Feminista Film Collective proudly presents “Better Than Chocolate”
8TH MARCH: LINC, 11A WHITE ST, CORK

Celebrate International Women’s day at Cork Feminista’s self-care workshop!
14TH FEBRUARY: CAMDEN PALACE CORK

Eat, Play, Love: V-Day Love Feast with International Foods and Performances
28TH JANUARY: THE OTHER PLACE

Are You the New Feminist of 2014? What are our member’s ideas and goals for feminism and how we can incorporate them into Cork Feminista’s aims for 2014.
_____________________________________2013______________________________________
7TH DECEMBER 2013| CORK CITY LIBRARY

Turn a Wish into a Gift with Cork Feminista’s Giving Tree for Edel House.
28TH OCTOBER | CORK OPERA HOUSE

Candlelight Vigil in remembrance of Savita Halappanavar. A vigil in remembrance of the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar.
28TH SEPTEMBER | THE OTHER PLACE

Cork Feminista’s Third Birthday Bash! Mad Hatters Tea Party and Feminista Fair. Local Arts, crafts and collectible items with a feminist bent.
7TH SEPTEMBER | THE OTHER PLACE

Online Activism Training Day – delivered by Maureen Considine
31ST AUGUST | SHARMAN CRAWFORD STREET

Cork Feminista Supported the Magdalene Survivors at a protest outside Sisters of Mercy Convent which called on the four religious orders to pay into the compensation fund for survivors.
11TH AUGUST 2013| PATRICK STREET CORK

Magdalene Laundry Survivors banner signing demo; compel the four religious orders to pay into the governments’ compensation fund for survivors. The Four orders that ran the Magdalene Laundries have refused to pay into the compensation fund for survivors of their regime. We stand with the survivors in demanding that the orders pay compensation to their victims.
23RD JULY 2013| THE OTHER PLACE

‘Do you identify with a lie?: Exploring the gender and sexuality spectrum.’. Speakers- Darrin Mathews, a representative of TENI and Trish Connolly a Researcher in the area of gender, sexuality and disability.
25TH JUNE 2103| THE OTHER PLACE

Film Screening ‘ Breaking Ground Documentary’- The Story of the London Irish Women’s Centre. Followed by discussion on Resource centres in CorkCity.
16TH JUNE 2013| THE OTHER PLACE

CuntCraft Workshop run by Artist Colette Nolan. Colette’s workshops use poetry and Cuntcraft to encourage women to tell their stories
8TH JUNE 2013| SUNDAYS WELL

A field trip to the Spirituality Centre Sundays Well to research about the Magdalene Laundries.
21ST MAY 2013| THE OTHER PLACE

What does justice mean for the Magdalene Laundry survivors? Speakers Dr Sandra McAvoy and Claire McGetterick (committee of Justice for Magdalene)
30TH APRIL 2013| MR BRADLEYS

Fundraising pub quiz
APRIL 16TH 2013 | THE OTHER PLACE

Hello fanny: A reunion with your vagina. Guest speaker Mary sky (energy healer). A discussion based on body image as portrayed by media and the cosmetic industry.
MARCH 2013 |NEW ORGANIZERS

Liz Madden, Maureen Considine and Emily Davis Fletcher became the new Co-Organizers of Cork Feminista
FEBURARY 14TH 2013 |CIT CRAWFORD COLLEGE OF ART AND DESIGN

Screening of “Until the Violence Stops” documentary followed by a RISING dancing party St Aloysius, Secondary School, Sharman Crawford, St Cork. Organised by Maureen Considine, Helen Bohan and Catherine Dunne
___________________________________2012___________________________________________
6TH DECEMBER:QUAY CO-OP MEETING ROOM

Pro-choice letter writing event
2ND NOVEMBER: QUAY CO-OP MEETING ROOM

Stop cuts to child benefit- The impact of cuts to child benefit on low-income families. Speaker Liz Madden (community activist) from campaign against cuts to child benefit.
22ND SEPTEMBER: BODEGA

Cork Feminista’s 2nd Birthday. Planning next year’s events.
Project Calendar Meeting
21ST JUNE: QUAY CO-OP

An open discussion on the Irish Social Welfare System and the difficulties women face in it.
With speakers Gaia Charis & Liz Madden.
15TH MAY: UCC

A film screening of ‘As If I Am Not There’ with Director Juanita Wilson. In association with Hanna’s House & UCC Women’s Studies.
20TH APRIL: SOLIDARITY BOOKS

A film screening of ‘We want roses too’ in partnership with Solidarity Books
8TH MARCH:METROPOLE HOTEL

International Women’s Day Celebration – World Cafe Style Discussion with a performance from Rashenkoti Dance Tribe.
25TH FEBRUARY:UCC

“From X to ABC: 20 Years On” With Speakers: Dr Lisa Smyth, Queen’s University Belfast (Author of Abortion and Nation: The Politics of Reproduction in Contemporary Ireland (Ashgate 2005); Dr. Mary Favier, Media Spokesperson for Doctors for Choice; Niall Behan, CEO of the Irish Family Planning Association; & Dr. Brenda Daly, Law & Government, DCU. In assocation with Women’s Studies UCC.
23RD FEBRUARY: QUAY CO-OP MEETING ROOM

How do I tell them I’m Pro Choice? A lobbying workshop focusing specifically on how to discuss the issue of abortion with Irish politicians. In association with Cork Women’s Right To Choose Group.
26TH JAN: QUAY CO-OP MEETING ROOM

Lived Experiences: Migrant Women Living in Ireland. Speakers on the night included Tabi Rose Eseme, Chairperson of Cork African Women’s Group; Nilmini Fernando, Sri Lankan, PhD candidate at UCC Women’s Studies; Fiona Finn, CEO Nasc & Claire Cumisky, Legal Information Officer, Nasc.
6TH JAN: THE GATE CINEMA

Cinema Trip to see The Iron Lady
_________________________________________2011__________________________________

19TH NOVEMBER: QUAY CO-OP MEETING ROOM

Advocacy & Activism Training. An intensive 4 hr training session for anyone interested in running campaigns/becoming an advocate. This training is based on increasing your skill set and as such is not issue specific. This will be an introductory training and so is aimed at those who don’t have a huge amount of experience already. Sessions will cover what is advocacy, how to run a campaign, how to work with the media, public speaking and how to lobby politicians. Our aim is to have external trainers where possible for each session.
23TH OCTOBER: CRAWFORD COLLEGE OF ART AND DESIGN

Documentary Screening: Marina Abramovic, Artist is Present
This is a Cork Feminista event, hosted by Maureen Considine
20TH OCTOBER: QUAY CO-OP MEETING ROOM

A Discussion on Prostitution. Speaker: Wendy Lyon, Statement: Louise (former prostitute).
8TH SEPTEMBER: 8 NORTH MALL

1st Birthday – The Future of Feminism. A roundtable discussion with Clara Fisher & Padraig de Ris. Music by DJ Terasa Jackson.
9TH JULY 2011:CORK CITY CENTRE

Join the Dots Demo
6TH JUNE & 2ND JULY:THE WOODFORD

Planning meetings for Join the Dots
3RD JUNE:THE OTHER PLACE

Launch of ‘Queer As Political’ Art Exhibition as part of Cork Pride
25TH MAY: THE METROPOLE HOTEL

Book Club: Room by Emma Donoghue
13TH APRIL:8 NORTH MALL

‘This is my constitution’ performed by Ungovernable Bodies.
8TH MARCH:8 NORTH MALL

Cork Women – A Centenary Celebration. Kathy D’arcy, Dr Sandra McAvoy, UCC and Deirdre O Shaughnessy, Cork Independent were all speakers,
19TH FEBURARY:8 NORTH MALL

LGBT Love – Why civil marriage is a feminist issue! With Hazel Cullen, LGBT Noise, Moninne Griffith, MarriagEquality and Dr Angela O Connell.
27TH JANUARY:THE METROPOLE HOTEL

Book Club: Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy
_____________________________________________________2010______________________________

5TH DECEMBER:SCOTTS BAR

Fundraiser: Table Quiz
4TH NOVEMBER: 8 NORTH MALL

Deputies Kathleen Lynch & Deirdre Clune spoke on the topic of Gender Quotas. The meeting was chaired by former Deputy Mairin Quill
19TH OCTOBER: QUAY CO-OP

Book Club: Wetlands by Charlotte Roche
6TH OCTOBER:GATE CINEMA

Movie Night: Made in Dagenham
8TH SEPT:VICTORIA HOTEL

I’m not a feminist but I want equality for women now

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