Let's talk about sex…

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!

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*One question is added/removed every week.

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4 Responses to Let's talk about sex…

  1. Have you watched the series Masters and Johnston? I think you’d like it. I’ve given up on the next season as it’s getting a little too grim and sordid for me, but I loved the first.

  2. OK, I’ll have a go.

    Q. 10 Do you think it is just as acceptable for a woman to be promiscuous as a man?

    First, I take issue with the word ‘promiscuous’, which can be defined as ‘characterized by or involving indiscriminate mingling or association, especially having sexual relations with a number of partners on a casual basis’. That word ‘indiscriminate’ sounds like a judgment, and this definition seems to equate multiple casual partners with having low standards, which may or may not be the case. I would have preferred the question to be worded in a more neutral fashion.

    Second, ‘acceptable’ to whom? I suppose this question is asking for one’s personal view on the matter, so for me, I don’t buy into the double standard. I believe that everyone regardless of gender has a right to autonomy, including sexual agency.

    But in society generally, that double standard is still alive and well. I think among many people there’s a fundamental, unexamined belief that sex is shameful, and people who subscribe to patriarchy place that shame primarily on women (GOTN relates an overheard conversation that I think demonstrates this in spades: http://www.girlonthenet.com/2013/04/07/on-telling-everyone/ ).

  3. hurricaneros says:

    I did one of these last time I was in London! I really enjoyed being able to sit there and take my time over the questions. I would love to be on the staff that collate and read them each week, it must be fascinating.

  4. Pingback: exhibit A questionnaire… | Sweet Servitude of Master's Treasure

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