Institute of Sexology

Sexology is the study of all things sex related, from the biological to the sociological. If it is somehow loosely related to human sexual behaviour, a sexologist somewhere will have researched it. Glasgow, along with Havant, Manchester, Brighton, and London, is hosting one of the hubs for the Wellcome Trust’s exhibition The Institute of Sexology. The exhibition is a first for the UK in bringing together the pioneers of studying sex.

The Wellcome Trust is a charity that funds research into improving human and animal health. Its sexology exhibition is currently running and will last until September of 2015.The University of Glasgow is directly involved as researchers from our institution and Glasgow Caledonian will be leading the research in the Glasgow hub promoting the study of sex.

These hubs around the UK will function as locations for young people to come together and participate in song writing sessions, with the aim of engaging with sex in society through writing music and song lyrics. The groups will look at different parts of sexology including gender and sexuality, female pleasure, and how sex is represented in popular lyrics.

The University of Glasgow’s Dr Lisa McDaid will take part in the Glasgow section of the study, teaming up with LGBT Youth Scotland, and will focus on encouraging young people to examine sexual attitudes and behaviours through song writing. New Rhythms for Glasgow, a community music charity, and Tramway are also involved in putting the project together. Other hubs will examine other themes such as body image, sex education, mental health, and consent. The Glasgow research is inclusive as it will focus on those with minority sexualities. Over the ten week period they will discuss research techniques and conduct their own research about representations of sexual stigmas and attitudes.

At the end of the project the hubs will all host their own performances, with Glasgow’s taking place at Tramway. Those involved will work closely with songwriters and researchers so as to engage properly with their given research area. A selection of the songs will be available online, as well as at listening posts at The Institute of Sexology exhibition in London next February.

The exhibition as a whole takes a look at the entirety of sexology from its key figures to its collected data. Sexologists highlighted include Sigmund Freud, Marie Stopes, Alfred Kinsey, and the team behind the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (NATSAL). Without NATSAL, modern laws may not have been created and passed – Scotland recently made equal marriage legal, and through these face-to-face surveys, the governments can document the sexual behaviours of the population, leading to these progressive and 21st century policies.

Much like what this NSFW issue of qmunicate seeks to do regarding sex, sexology has helped make human sexuality something we can feel more comfortable discussing than ever before. Given its treatment as a legitimate science it can be held in regard alongside the likes of sociology which we have no problem discussing casually in society. Wilhelm Reich, who is documented in the exhibition, promoted adolescent sexuality, contraception, abortions and divorce in the early 1900s, at a time when these things simply were not talked about.

It has never been a straightforward study, however. The curator of The Institute of Sexology, Kate Forde, says that it “offers a complex, often contradictory story of the study of sex, and highlights the profound effect that the gathering and analysis of information can have in changing attitudes about the human condition. “She notes that our sexual identities are in a constant state of evolution, and that many studies associated with sexology attempt to throw off preconceived notions of what sex actually is.

The point of the entire exhibition is to break down what sexologists know and deliver it to the public. What the researchers know about sexuality, sexual attitudes, health and behaviours is aiming to be passed over to those who go along and engage with The Institute of Sexology. Keep your eyes on Glasgow’s hub and show your support for what is going on at Tramway.

[Scott Wilson – @HeartofFire]

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