London Calling


Let’s hope he got paid a whole lot of money for this picture.

If you wander into my office, you may notice a blank US passport application lying on my desk. Up until now, the application has mainly provided me with the opportunity to engage in fantasy: when I get stressed, I take a look at the application and imagine myself jetting off to some damp and dreary exotic locale where the natives speak British English an indecipherable language and eat Marmite curious foods. Usually, I’m shaken out of the fantasy by the realization that I’ll have to get a photo taken for the passport and I’m waiting for a good hair day.

But my hand (and my hair) may have been forced by a new exhibit at the Wellcome Collection in London. The exhibit is called The Institute of Sexology: Undress Your Mind and it promises to combine several of the things I love most in life: a musty museum, scientific research, and sex. From the Wellcome Collection’s website:

‘The Institute of Sexology’ is a candid exploration of the most publicly discussed of private acts. Undress your mind and join us to investigate human sexuality at ‘The Institute’, the first of our longer exhibitions. Featuring over 200 objects spanning art, rare archival material, erotica, film and photography, this is the first UK exhibition to bring together the pioneers of the study of sex.

How could I not go?

Free baby-sitting boxes.

Free baby-sitting while you enjoy the exhibit.

The problem, of course, is my very Irish, very Catholic husband. I’m afraid he might run out of places to avert his eyes at an exhibit full of carved ivory penises and ersatz vaginas (from the Kraftt-Ebing display, naturally).

If you knew my husband, you’d know that he would insist, against all evidence to the contrary, that he would have no problem with the exhibit, but what about our two school-aged children? Surely this exhibit would not be appropriate for them. 

But he would be wrong.

You see, the good people over at the Wellcome Collection have provided an entire “learning resource for teachers” over on their website to accompany the Institute of Sexology exhibit and it’s full of lots of fun pre- and post- visit activities, such as

 Divide your class into three groups (A, B, C) and give each a flipchart and pens. Get each group to write down all the words they can think of for A) male genitalia, B) female genitalia and C) having sex. Have the groups then swap papers and circle in different colours the words they think it is OK to say  1) in the classroom, 2) round the dinner table, 3) in the playground, 4) in the bedroom, 5) in the sexual health clinic and 6) in a research questionnaire.

As I read this, I’m trying to think of what sort of sexual words would be appropriate to say “round the dinner table” and I’m coming up short. (Breast, maybe, if I’m serving Chicken Kiev?)

(On a side note, early in my professional life I worked as a corporate trainer, and I am horribly familiar with the disasters that can unfold when you give a group of people free access to flip charts and pens, even when you’re just brainstorming ideas to support the “strategic plan” and not talking about sex.)

So maybe my family isn’t ready for a trip to London, if they’re busy herding schoolchildren into museums full of wangs (not appropriate over the dinner table) and hoohas (appropriate anywhere, from this blog to the State of the Union address) over there.

There are still plenty of wangs and hoohas I haven’t seen yet here in the good ol’ USA.

The Institute of Sexology exhibit at the Wellcome Collection runs through September 20, 2015.


The black and white photo appears under a Creative Commons Attribution Licence (attribution the Wellcome Library). Royalty-free stock photos, including the other image in this post, can be found at

15 thoughts on “London Calling

  1. Ellen Hawley says:

    If you decide to apply for that passport, don’t wait for a good hair day. By the time you get off that plane, all rumpled-headed and bleary, no one would recognize the picture as yours.


  2. bodycrimes says:

    If you want to introduce your kids to wangs, do it properly – Iceland has a whole museum devoted to the penis.


  3. Belladonna Took says:

    Sex words you can use at the dinner table with your children:
    Quit fooling around and put that in your mouth
    How much do you want?
    Are you finished yet?
    Have you had enough?
    Wow! I’m full!
    Oops! Don’t worry, I’ll clean it up later


  4. Dylan Hearn says:

    We only allow people in our country who are happy to say wang (or wanger over here) or hoohaa (never heard of it. We have a whoopsie or a foofoo) up the dinner table. It’s also part of our citizen test. However, if you really want to be treated as a local, you need to study Roger’s Profanisaurus


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