So this afternoon I spent a very pleasant hour or so at the Wellcome Collection’s Institute of Sexology. The exhibition is fairly small, but they’ve managed to gather all sorts of fascinating items and documents, from ancient phallic icons through to video footage of the work done by Masters and Johnson in the 1960s/70s.
I really loved the table of sexual partners meticulously compiled by one woman (whose name I forgot to note down) in the early 1970s. She noted the duration of each relationship, and catalogued the nationality, penis size, profession, proclivities, passions, and performance of each of the men she slept with; if they managed to bring her to orgasm orally or penetrate her anally, that was also recorded. It was all very thorough.
However, the most interesting bit of the whole project is definitely the sex survey. Even just watching other people fill it in was something I could have sat and done all afternoon, regardless of the fact that I couldn’t see their answers. Their body language; the way they interacted with their friends or partners as they scribbled; the time they spent agonising over individual answers, their pencils pressed against the paper; all revealed something about our complex responses to some of these big, sex-related questions.
The answers are aggregated on an ongoing basis by the Institute, and will ultimately generate both a robust analysis of our current thinking on sex, and a huge archive of our individual sexual attitudes and experiences.
On my way out, I nabbed a blank copy of the questionnaire. You’ll find photos of its 8 pages – and the 25 questions it (currently*) contains – below the jump. Just click/zoom to enlarge.
At the Institute, all surveys are submitted anonymously, but if you fancy answering some (or all) of it in the comments section, I’d love to read what you have to say, and to get people’s thoughts generally on the way the questionnaire has been constructed, and the value of this as a social experiment. Either way, if you live in London make sure you get yourself along to the Wellcome Collection before the exhibition closes on September 20th, to check it out properly!
*One question is added/removed every week.