All that’s missing from explicit exhibit is the role that sex has as part of a wholesome, permanent relationship, writes Andrea Mrozek
There’s a war on sugar and trans fats in Ontario schools. The province is enforcing food regulations with religious zeal in the name of healthier children. There is no holding back when it comes to provincial pronouncements on what’s risky for your child to eat.
Not so with sex, however. There, it’s anything goes. If you feel like it, do it. This is the ethos behind the new SEX: A Tell-all Exhibition, opening Thursday at Ottawa’s museum of science and technology.
Designed by a collection of doctors, psychologists and sexologists in Montreal, this is a world of sex without stigma, to be sure. It’s also a world of sex without privacy, intimacy or connection. Nothing is sacred; everything is physical, and sex is more or less expected.
Do I want to engage in threesomes? Have friends with benefits? Have sex with men or women or both — at the same time? The recorded voice of sexologists like Jamy Ryan and Jocelyne Robert, as well as the meandering personal testimonies of unnamed individuals provide the answers. Ready to record their pearls of wisdom? In more or less each and every case the answer is “it’s up to you.”
For this sort of superficial silliness, kids can turn to the average TV show or B-rated movie script. And now the Canada Science and Technology Museum, courtesy of your tax dollars. (The museum is 80 per cent funded by you and me.)
Picture a darkened room, with a video loop of passionate kissing running in the background. White plastic naked models of a life-size man and a woman recline, facing each other. Black light causes the models — and the white page I took notes on — to really pop. The instructions are to “locate 10 male and female erogenous zones by delicately touching each mannequin.” In case youth need help, the nipples of the woman are lit up with a purple hue.
Delicately touch each mannequin? Really? I call over a member of our research team, a medical doctor, to see if I’d understood correctly. Then we call over the public relations director of the museum. “Touching the mannequin” seems like a perverse dare for all of us. I furtively reach out to do what I’ve been told. Nothing happens. Perhaps my caress of the plastic model wasn’t delicate enough.
Another portion of the museum teaches your teenager about passionate kissing. Everything is written in the first person: “My lips and tongue are among the most sensitive parts of my body. When my mouth comes in contact with yours all these nerve cells bombard me with stimulation. I feel you, I touch you, I taste you and we intertwine.” It goes on: “Mmmm, that’s so good,” and “Yes, I wanted it too.”
To be fair, while the exhibit presents the information in a more visual manner, this ethos of “sex when you are ready for it” is something your teenager is currently being taught at school. Ottawa Public Health is currently asking for people under 30 to help design the next condom promotion campaign, because in that younger age range there’s been a spike in sexually transmitted diseases. Hypersexual — that’s our world.
But should it be? What most young people want is true connection, intimacy and community. Upwards of 90 per cent of Canadian youth say they want to get married and have a family. Research shows that having plenty of sex prior to that point is not a way to get there. Sociologist Monica Gaughan conducted a study of 341 women in their late 20s in 2002, only to reveal that women who had more numerous sexual relationships during their early adult years were all less likely to be married at the time of her interview with the subjects. Mark Regnerus reports this in his seminal work called Premarital Sex in America, where he wonders how young adults in their early twenties will achieve the marriages they want when they currently engage in a pattern of serial monogamy.
The exhibit focuses on personal satisfaction and self-identification — lightly sprinkled with a safer sex message. What’s missing is the role that sex has as part of a wholesome, permanent relationship.
Opposition to this exhibition isn’t about being a prude. It’s about what is reasonable. Ask yourself whether that includes teaching youth how to achieve the perfect orgasm. Then join the prude revolution.
Andrea Mrozek is manager of research and communications at the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada (imfcanada.org)
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