Using the letters published by popular Sunday Press agony aunt Angela Macnamara between 1963 and 1980, this fascinating book offers a unique insight into intimate relationships within family life in Ireland. It charts how dating and married couples negotiated a new understanding of their intimate and sexual lives, and shows how women rejected relationships where sex was a duty within marriage as opposed to an expression of love.
The analysis of the column s letters reveal how this transition provoked anxiety amongst Angela Macnamara s conservative readership as they struggled to reconcile seeing their bodies less as conduits of sin and more as instruments of pleasure.
The problem page became a vehicle through which people explored these two different understandings. Asking Angela Macnamara explores these developments within intimate life as part of a greater process of informalisation within Irish society. Children demanded that their parents defend and explain their use of corporal punishment in the home. questioned the Catholic Church's position on moral issues such as contraception and homosexuality.
Gay men questioned why their sexuality was both criminalised by the State and treated as a disorder by the psychiatric profession. Angela Macnamara emerges from these debates as both a traditionalist in defending Catholic social teaching and a modernist in encouraging an open discussion of sexuality.
Angela Macnamara was married to Peter Macnamara for forty-five years and has four married daughters. She is now an occasional journalist and speaker. She has worked as an educator, lecturer and counsellor, with particular expertise in the area of Christian Relationships and Sexuality Education. Her previous publications include 'Will Our Children Build Healthy Relationships?' and the best-seller 'Ready, Steady Grow' (2000).
Paul Ryan is Assistant Lecturer in Sociology at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth.