New York is cosmopolitan. I stood on 27th and 5th, two blocks from the Empire State Building. I noticed the sign, “Museum,” it read, in red neon. New York is famous for many things, but museums…not so much. But this isn’t just any old museum; it’s the Museum of Sex!
The Sex Lives of Animals exhibition was designed as a “celebration of the diversity of animal sexual behaviour.” It cleverly combines accurate science and informative display features to deconstruct the mystery of sex in wildlife.
The literature told me that, the aim was to present an uncensored story of the natural world, moving animal sexuality beyond the confines of reproduction and mating, towards discussions of orientation and cognition. By exploring the most intimate part of life, where it is often said we are most animal like, we can appreciate the significance of research on animal sexuality and, perhaps, extrapolate these concepts to larger issues regarding sexuality in general.
The exhibition told the stories and bizarre behaviours that lie behind this universal urge and showed the extraordinary strategies animals use to ensure success in the highly competitive world of animal sex. For humans, sex is for pleasure, for the continuation of generations, and has served evolutionary purposes. Males and females of the animal world are out for their own benefit. They rely on peculiar sexual strategies to achieve their goals with the risk of violence or death often not very far away. Animals, I learned, have to find a way around conflict, and seek to satisfy their need to procreate in any way they can. Homosexuality, incest, and necrophilia, you name it – animals do it.
The various stands explored different aspects of sexual behaviour, from the belligerence of the dominant male and the cunning strategies of the female, to the concept of sexual advertising. Shocking stuff!
And whilst on the topic of shocking science, image how shocked I was when I met this cheeky monkey sporting a Dublin City of Science t-shirt!