22/03/15 - Let's Talk About Sex at MOSI

Sex, pole-dancing and the Kama Sutra aren't topics that you would expect to find on my blog and rightly so - Belle de Jour I am not and I'd get no satisfaction from pouring those sort of details of my life onto the Internet.  However, when an opportunity arises to hear what science has to say about these things, you may well have my interest and curiosity.  Wellcome Collection's Sexology Season does just this, bringing lectures and events about taboo topics to a wider audience.  I headed to Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry to see what all the fuss was about.

Image courtesy of MOSI
Arriving at Let's Talk About Sex, we were lucky enough to get in without prebooked tickets despite the event being sold out.  I'd been into the museum earlier in the day to see if there was any chance of sneaking in and was encouraged to give it a go as free events nearly always result in a few no-shows.  Once we'd been nodded through, we were presented by four piles of wristbands as a means of proclaiming one's sexuality - a nice touch for anyone who might have come to the exhibition to meet a prospective partner and/or to see how people categorised their sexual orientation.

There was something for everyone, from a chance to create your own Kama Sutra-inspired screenprint to a table of foods typically considered aphrodisiacs.  The screen printing was particularly popular, with a consistently large queue for the majority of the evening.  The main appeal was probably the chance to take home a little souvenir of the evening, absolutely free of charge!  Blackboards asked three big questions: 'What's your number?', 'When was your first time?' and 'Are we more accepting?', the answers contributed by the event's attendants adorning the boards in the form of brightly-coloured Post-It notes which was a great way to collect and display anonymous survey results.  

Alongside the activities was a programme of brief lectures throughout the evening, each focussing on a different aspect of sexuality.  Jamie Lawson, an anthropologist from the University of Durham, kicked off the series of talks by introducing the audience to the various ways of defining different kinds of sex as well as the link between sex and gender in both biological and social contexts.  The second talk was given by Simon Watt and was an introduction to the science behind sex, what we find attractive and why.  Simon's lecture was the one I took the most from, as I found it insightful and educational as well as having comedic elements - I wasn't surprised when he admitted that he also dabbled in stand-up!  As someone without an awful lot of scientific knowledge, it was great that I never found myself lost as he was so clear in his explanations.

Unfortunately, we missed the third of the four talks as I felt that stretching our legs would do us good and we took the opportunity to wander, taking in everything else that was going on.  We gravitated back to the main area for the fourth lecture, as who could resist a lesson on the physics of pole-dancing complete with demonstrations?  The conclusion that was reached was that the reason pole dancers' outfits tend to be on the skimpy side is more due to practicality than sexuality; the friction between steel and skin is much higher than any material, and therefore bare midriffs stick better to the pole and make the impressive gymnastics an awful lot easier.  So there you go.

Jamie Lawson

Simon Watt

Matt Mears and Katayune Presland
Nights like this are one of my favourite things about living in Manchester; a fantastic variety of people - all ages, all demographics - brought together to learn and explore and enjoy.  The atmosphere in the museum was electric, everyone mingling and chatting, and I'm so glad that I took the chance of turning up to the event and look forward to others that MOSI may offer in the future. 

The event was documented in the form of visual minutes, which was incredibly impressive.  Two guys armed with marker pens spent the whole evening creating a beautifully illustrated mind map covering all the major points of the four lectures, all the while attentively watched by an ever-changing crowd.

I realise that I'm writing this post towards the end of the programme of events but you can view the .pdf of the full Sexology Season brochure here to see what else went on and if there are any upcoming events you might be interested in.  There was also a lot of talk on the night of the whole event being recorded for a podcast which is yet to appear online.  When it does, I'll be the first to let you know!

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