Yes, Josepha Madigan, the Republic’s Minister of State for Special Education, was brave and right to disclose she had been a victim of sexual assault and to point out that so many women shared the same experience.
The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre praised her as a “role model” whose example would help thousands of other victims of sexual assault, rape, violence, abuse and even lesser crimes such as “groping” to come forward.
And yet, the takeaway message from all of this — for me — is that it is evidence the sexual revolution has failed to change human nature.
If so many women are still victims of male sexual aggression, it indicates there can never be “gender equality” — since men remain the aggressors and women the victims.
The outcome of the sex revolution itself — in which “procreation” was to be replaced by “recreation” (the construct that was launched by Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy magazine) — seems to be a much older, even Victorian trope: sexuality can also be dangerous, rather than merely recreational.
Sex crimes ranging from daily cases of abuse and rape, of the Jeffrey Epsteins with their “Lolita Express” consignments of under-age girls ferried across borders for his pleasure, to the murder of Sarah Everard and even the recent report that during the Euro football tournament, male domestic violence against female partners rose alarmingly.
The sex revolution promised that emancipation from the repressions of old rules would just be fun. Relationships could be entered into freely and without commitment — and discarded, too, according to choice.
Unintended pregnancy could be prevented by birth control; sexually transmitted disease could be cured by modern medicine and pharmaceuticals. What’s to hold anyone back from The Joy of Sex, in the words of Alex Comfort’s best-selling manual?
Women could enjoy the freedoms that men — or some men — had enjoyed over the centuries. Gender equality would ensure that what was sauce for the gander was sauce for the goose.
For centuries, virtually every organised society had set boundaries to sexual behaviour, because what was sauce for the gander could be punishment for the goose.
Since testosterone, the male hormone, produces aggression as well as sexual arousal, taboos were constructed to contain male violence against women.
In the 16th century, the Renaissance prince Baldassare Castiglione was setting out protocols to replace brutal male manners with a code of chivalry — a concept now considered patronising and even patriarchal, but it was an attempt to put manners on swaggering males.
The historian of European morals, the Irish Protestant writer W E H Lecky, said the arc of civilisation was to make men gentler and to tame them to make them fit for women’s softer manners.
The early suffragettes, such as Christabel Pankhurst, believed banning men from sexual licence would make them more civilised and eradicate the double-standard — her battle cry was “Votes for women — and chastity for men”.
Males have always, and in all societies, been more disproportionately involved in crime, assault, battery and violence. There are never, ever, as many violent offenders in a female prison as there are in male jails.
The project to tame men, to make them gentler and more feminine, has been going on a long time — and if we compare statistics and conditions with the 16th century, or even the Victorian era, society in general has become more feminised, less brutal, less violent.
But here is Ms Madigan reminding us that almost every woman among her peers has suffered some form of male aggression, assault and gender-based violence.
The nuns in my schooldays used to warn us “never, ever be alone with a man after midnight” and I think we imagined fellows would turn into werewolves at the stroke of 12.
Such warnings were the subject of merriment and even ribaldry, yet now we are being reminded that male assault really is a thing and we must put a stop to it.
Of course, we must try to put a stop to it. Fianna Fail Senator Erin McGreehan, who was justifiably offended at being groped in a nightclub, says girls and boys must be educated and taught to respect their bodies and those of others.
Certainly they must, even though it’s not the newest idea in the world and has been an underlying theme in morals and manners ever since — if not before — the Renaissance.
I regard the #MeToo movement and the campaign to teach sexual consent as a modern attempt to reset boundaries that were, to some extent, dissolved by the sexual revolution and the permissive society.
However, I believe we also need to revise superficial ideas of “gender equality” to accommodate the truthful, biology-based fact that men and women are different, especially when it comes to sexuality.
Young males, particularly, are driven by testosterone and social restraints are needed. Robust penalties should be applied when an offence is proven.
Josepha Madigan has delivered a conservative, age-old message in a modern context.