An exhibition at the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa has aroused considerable criticism, including from the minister whose government department funds the museum.
The museum’s website says Sex: A Tell-all Exhibition, which opened May 17, “presents information on sexuality in a scientific, engaging and interactive manner.” It adds that the exhibition was created by The Montreal Science Centre using “a scientific committee made up of doctors, public health experts, science education specialists, and sexologists” in a process that also included consultation with “a focus group of young people” and “parents.” The exhibition was earlier presented in Montreal and Regina without arousing controversy.
In general, the complaints revolve around whether it is really science that is being presented or a particular moral/philosophical view. The complaints are particularly pointed because the museum says the exhibition “was designed for adolescents 12 and older, parents…, teachers of high school and their students, health care professionals, and anyone else who wishes to learn more.” There is a “Teacher’s Guide which includes in-class activities” for before and after school field trips to the museum.
National Post columnist Barbara Kay called the exhibition “a waste of taxpayer money.” She explained: “The museum’s mandate is education around ‘science and technology.’ Showing kids naked bodies; different kinds of condoms; exposure to 12 different sexual orientations (none of them heterosexual); advice on what to do with an unplanned pregnancy (abortion, no other option); praising the joys of promiscuity: Are any of these motifs remotely related to science or technology? No.”
Toronto writer and broadcaster Michael Coren, in an article on mercatornet.com, was more blunt: “The exhibition itself is a mixture of the clinical and the prurient. Juxtaposed with scientific depictions of eggs and sperm and explanations of procreation are tales of why abortion is so important and… videos of boys and girls masturbating… it’s what is known as child pornography.”
What the exhibition is really about, Coren said, is a “campaign of normalization” to make any kind of sex acceptable. So, one video presents a woman talking about “the delights of having multiple lovers” and “another film has a dozen people being interviewed about sexual orientation and there is not a heterosexual among them. Which is horribly dishonest, in that the vast majority of the world’s population is heterosexual.”
Coren continued, “The exhibition is open to everyone, but children under the age of twelve have to be accompanied by an adult. So a five or an eight-year-old can go along to watch the porn movies, see graphic pictures of naked women and stare at the illustrations of people copulating, as long as some dunderhead or pervert who has managed to reach the age of eighteen holds their hand.”
Coren concluded, “It’s the campaign to accelerate the learning process, make public what should be private, eliminate notions of love and romance, assume that sex is morally neutral, and encourage children to act upon every any impulse and lust, that is so profoundly malicious.”
When the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada (IMFC), a Christian policy group based in Ottawa, began receiving complaints about the exhibition, staff went to the museum, had a discussion with the Director of Public Relations and viewed the exhibition firsthand. As a result, IMFC said it was “able to condemn this exhibit with authority… based in… solid research.” IMCF concluded the exhibition “includes information displayed in a manner designed to be both erotic and titillating and shows sex without relationship, commitment and certainly without marriage as the norm.”
As a result, IMFC wrote a letter to James Moore, Canada’s Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, whose department oversees the museum and provides 80 percent of its funding. The letter charged that instead of presenting scientific information, the exhibition “espouses a specific point of view including the approval and promotion of anal sex, multiple sexual partners and sex without emotional/marital commitment” and “includes what can only be described as soft pornography, expressly designed for youth in the context of a museum.”
The IMFC letter also states that while surveys show a majority of parents “want sexual information to link sex with love, intimacy and commitment,” this is “completely unrepresented in this exhibit.” Further the exhibition fails to support the position of “as many as 91 percent of parents” who “want their teens to delay sexual activity until after the completion of high school, reducing the risk of abuse, STIs and unintended pregnancies.”
The letter noted that an animated video of children masturbating had been removed from the exhibition and the age at which children could enter without adult accompaniment had been raised from 12 to 16, but that the exhibition was still unacceptable. It urged Moore to cancel the exhibition.
Indefensible and Insulting
Life Site News has also posted a couple of articles critical of the exhibition. One of those articles quoted Sebastien Gariepy, a spokesman for James Moore, as saying that the exhibition clearly falls outside the museum’s mandate to “foster scientific and technological literacy throughout Canada.” “This content cannot be defended, and is insulting to taxpayers,” Gariepy continued. “We have expressed our strong concerns to the president of the Museum, and we encourage Canadians who are concerned to do the same.”
The museum has not cancelled the exhibition, which is scheduled to run until early 2013.