Inis Beag

Inis Beag (Gaelic: "Little Island") is a the name of an island studied by the cultural anthropologist John Cowan Messenger where there is an isolated small Gaelic-speaking Irish Catholic community on one of the Aran Islands off the coast of Connemara in Ireland in his study "Sex and Repression in an Irish Folk Community." During the period of Messenger's study between 1958 and 1966, Inis Beag supported a population of around 350, mostly living by subsistence farming and fishing.

Messenger's study of this island community has often been cited by anthropologists and sexologists as an example of extreme sexual repression, with sexual intercourse being treated by both sexes as a necessary evil which must be endured for the sake of reproduction, and phenomena such as menstruation and the menopause being regarded with fear and disgust.

Breast-feeding was avoided. Kissing, caressing and any affection was seen as too sexual and was prohibited. Nudity was extremely private. For a married couple, intercourse was conducted fully clothed except for genitals. Sex was also in the dark and practiced only in missionary position. Any variation of sex was seen as deviant and sinful. Although pre-maritial sex was almost non-existent, the Ines Beag didn't have any formal sex education. Bathing was also 'unknown' and the average age at marriage was 36 for men and 25 for women. A man was considered a 'boy' until the age of 40. Dogs were whipped for licking their genitals.

The atmosphere, according to the researchers, led to high levels of masturbation, drinking and alcohol-fuelled fights.


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