10 Pages

Where Are We?

Sex sells. Sex titillates. Sex intrigues. Yet sex is not something we, as a society, are comfortable discussing in public in a meaningful way. We have technical language, bedroom speech, and gutter talk, but as a whole, we aren’t sure how or even if we want to talk about it. Is sex natural? Is it private? Is it dirty? What is kinky? What is normal? Even in zoos, animal sex is referred to as mating, a denatured discussion of gene pools rather than terms of attraction. Anecdotally, we’ve heard about visitors complaining because the zoo doesn’t protect visitors from seeing such “animalistic” behavior, especially in front of children. While we can laugh about sex and zoos, refusing to talk about it does not mean sex is not omnipresent in all social interactions; it’s central to the artifacts that define culture, and appears in some form in the collection of almost every museum. Sex and sex roles are socially relevant to everyday experience and are intentionally designed into everything from children’s books (Crabb & Bielawski, 1994) and computers (van Oost, 2000) to television scripts (Kim et al., 2006).