Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Sex and the British Museum

Who says that museums are dank repositories of moldy old exhibits? The august British Museum, for one, is making a bid to be seen as cutting edge and, well, sexy, by offering this 6 week-long "sex-ed" course for schoolkids:
For Key Stage 3,4 and 5 Students 
Explore sex and relationship education (SRE) at the British Museum through object enquiry, activities and discussion. Working with an artist educator these sessions aim to provide SRE in a cross-curricular, creative and informative way using British Museum objects and contemporary issues to generate discussion. Workshops are based on the session themes listed below. This session would complement in-school SRE and participating schools will be provided with a set of images and information to take back to school. 
The aims are that students will:
 • Learn about sex and identity across culture and time.
 • Use objects in the collection to discuss contemporary issues.
 • Use this session to complement in-school sex education teaching and learning.
 • Leave the project feeling comfortable to discuss SRE with their peers, parents, teachers – and feel confident within their own sexualities. 
National Curriculum: SRE and PSHE 
Session themes exploring cultures:
 • Pornography and consent – Japan, ancient Egypt and Greece
 • Body image – ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt
 • LGBT – India, ancient Mesopotamia, Greece and Rome
 • Gender and transgender identity – Africa, India and the Aztecs 
Sessions can also be adapted to suit your needs in school. Please let us know if there is a particular focus for your visit.
As awesome as it all sounds, historian Mary Beard expresses a few hesitations:
I have a good deal of sympathy with the basic position. That is to say, there is nothing as good at exposing one’s own arbitrary norms as looking at the arbitrary norms of the past. Part of the point of history is, after all, to show us how WE look by the standards of other times and places. 
But I wonder how effective this is when done head on, in dedicated sex classes at the museum. And I wonder how difficult it is going to be to police the government’s norms in all this. What, for example, is the line going to be about Greek paedophilia? Assuming that the Athenian norm (and it was probably wider than Athens) was for adult men to have sexual relations with boys, how is the museum going to approach that? Just as another bit of cultural relativism? That might be the historical logic of it. But it doesn’t quite fit our own legal framework. So how is the discussion going to go?
Good question, Mary. I have a feeling that, for now at least, the moppets will be steered away from the "unacceptable" paedophlia and bestiality exhibits and directed toward the "acceptable" transgender identity ones.

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