A new feature at the Canada Science and Technology Museum, titled “Sex: A Tell-all Exhibition,” opened May 17 amidst heated controversy.
Having garnered widespread support in both Montreal and Regina, outrage from parents and government officials met the exhibit in Ottawa. The Heritage Minister’s office described it as, “insulting to taxpayers,” while Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro called it, “an average adult video store.”
Museum spokesperson Olivier Bouffard argued that the “overwhelmingly positive” reaction to the exhibit in both its previous locations influenced the decision to bring it to Ottawa.
In fact, before the exhibit opened, Bouffard said the museum held consultations with members of the community such as school, government and public health officials.
“It was from all the feedback garnered from outreach with various community partners that led to the decision to remove the masturbation video and raise the unaccompanied entrance age to 16,” he said.
While there are sections on erogenous zones and orgasms, Bouffard said the topics are presented in a clinical and educational manner. The interactive displays cover a whole range of topics in teenage sexuality including body image, awareness of sexuality in the media, healthy relationships, social norms and sexuality in law.
“The whole exhibition is designed to answer 100 questions that teenagers have about sexuality,” Bouffard said. “The questions were determined by using teenage focus groups.”
He said the exhibit has double the amount of text that a normal exhibition would have, and that he was surprised the teenage target audience spent time reading the majority of this information.
“We take this to mean that the information presented is something that teenagers are really interested in taking in,” Bouffard said.
“When people see all this for themselves, I’ve seen that the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive,” Bouffard said.
One family came to the opening day exhibition with every intention of protesting and discouraging viewers but quickly changed their minds after seeing the exhibit, he said.
Perhaps, the most emphatic attack on the exhibit was by Heritage Minister James Moore, who declared it outside the museum’s mandate to promote education in the fields of science and technology.
Bouffard said that the exhibit was, in fact, within their mandate, and that “this is information that affects people’s lives.”
—Photo by Vince Rozario