The Science of Sexuality at Vancouver’s Science World

Image sourced from Science World

Image sourced from Science World

Think Science World is just about sprockets and pulleys, creepy crawlies and whimsical gadgets?

Think again. Pushing the boundaries of science education, Science World has just unveiled a provocative new exhibit on the Science of Sexuality (running through Sept. 2).  The self-guided display explores the stages of human sexual development, all the way from conception to first love and beyond.

More or less an interactive, visual version of “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex, But Were Afraid to Ask,” the exhibit is targeted both at young people 12 and up “and the not-so-young alike.” Basic questions about sexuality are answered in a “positive, frank and respectful manner” through games, videos and original multimedia.

If this all sounds a bit risque for a centre best known for its OmniMax nature films and interactive sculptures, it’s because it is. According to Science World, “The subject of human sexuality is rarely presented in science centres.”  Curators opted to move forward with the exhibit precisely because Science World is a trusted resource for students and teachers and scientific information on the subject is in short supply, even in the Internet era.

The exhibit is inspired by a pioneering project at the Montreal Science Centre called Sex: A Tell-All Exhibition.  In it, 100 basic questions on sexuality are answered.  Visitors begin by learning about conception and the moment when biological gender is determined.  The next zone plunges into the roller coaster highs and lows of puberty.  Displays and interactive games on courtship and attraction, the mechanics and stages of sex, and more nitty-gritty detail follow.

This isn’t the first time that Science World has pushed the envelope with edgy exhibits.  Considerable controversy surrounded its BodyWorks exhibition, which includes actual cadavers meticulously preserved for scientific display.  The museum defended that on the grounds that it provides unprecedented insight into the workings of the body.

Emphasis in the current Science of Sexuality exhibit is also firmly on science, presented in an accessible, interactive way. The exhibition was developed only after a lengthy community consultation process, with an advisory committee composed of doctors, teachers, teen counselors, sex educators, members of the media, parents and – of course – teens.

The underlying motivation of the exhibition is to inform and educate about sexuality.  The information young people get is not always accurate, Science World notes on its website.  Not to mention, “because the exhibition presents sexuality in a very accessible manner, it may even answer questions parents have.”

Anyone been to the Science of Sexuality exhibit? What did you think? 

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