Ian Callagy asks Dr Mel Duffy about the MA in Sexuality Studies (MASS) programme, in Dublin City University (DCU), which is now into its second year.


The MASS programme started in 2010 when DCU’s School of Applied Language and Intercultural Studies (SALIS) joined with the School of Nursing and Human Sciences. Together they had, as Dr Mel Duffy puts it, a “mad-capped” idea to start a Masters programme in human sexuality. “We were very aware of the fact that there were so many negative attributes hitting the media around the issues of sexuality and what we wanted to do was to have a programme that captured that as well as the joys and positivity of sexuality”, Duffy says.


At first the organisers didn’t want to concentrate solely on LGBT. “We wanted a programme that covered all sexualities”, Duffy explains. The programme also had to have an interdisciplinary programme. To that end a meeting was convened to examine all the post graduate modules in DCU. Finally, after carrying out all of this research and preparation, a programme was put together. It was now time to offer students the first MASS ever taught in Ireland.


The next step in the process for accrediting the MASS programme had begun. Dr. Wallace Wong (expert in Transgenderism, Canada), Dr. Mark Casey (University of Nottingham), as well as other academics from UCD and TCD, all took time out to examine the programme. Following that, the MASS programme was fully validated.


Meanwhile, in 2010, the organisers decided to host a conference on sexuality. A second such meeting was put on earlier this year. Duffy says that over 100 delegates from 23 countries came to both events and they fulfilled a need to discuss the many issues around sexuality.


The first conference was opened by the well known Historian, Diarmaid Ferriter and was closed by the legendary Journalist, Mary Raftery. The latter, Duffy states, “was superb. She enthralled people.” In fact both Ferriter and Raftery perfectly suited the conference, as Duffy explains: “He gave the history [of sexuality in Ireland] and she gave the outcome of what happened during that history.”


This year’s conference featured former Fine Gael MEP, Mary Banotti. Duffy describes the ex-politician’s contribution as “wonderful” and acknowledges her ability to draw on her vast experience as an activist for Womens rights over the years. Banotti, who was once a nurse, gave a talk on the development of Womens sexuality throughout her life. No one better could have been chosen to open the conference, says Duffy.

Another who spoke at the 2012 event was Amnesty International Ireland’s Executive Director, Colm O’Gorman. Senator Katherine Zappone also addressed delegates and talked about the battle for sexual equality.  Duffy says the speakers were able to talk from “a philosophical, theological, sociological, psychological and any other intellectual angle, human rights, all of that, for the legitimacy of why two consenting adults cannot love each other within a properly recognised framework.”


When asked what the outcome was for students, who participated in the MASS programme in the past, Duffy says five students had graduated initially. She describes the graduates as “a very interesting group”, adding that, “they came from various backgrounds: there was a psychologist, a sociologist, an activist, an educationalist.” Duffy has high hopes for each of the participants and is quick to give them praise.  The progress they made, it is hoped, will extend to the next batch of students for the future of the MASS programme. Indeed some of the new participants are from countries such as Iran, Nigeria and the US. This highlights the fact that sexuality is a universal issue.


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