By Arleigh McKerlich
A big part of Sex Talk in the City is about breaking the ice and creating opening points for conversation about sex and sexuality. In one of the 4 videos included in the exhibition (all done by the wonderful Gwen Haworth) a former nurse tells the story of how she got involved in sex education – she was frequently seeing women come in to the hospital dying of STDs because they were too ashamed to speak of them.
Thanks to a few cuddly creatures in “The Classroom” portion of Sex Talk in the City, STDs aren’t nearly as frightening to talk about. In fact, when they were being installed MOV staff openly picked their favourites – at least, their favourites as cuddly creatures.
Founded by Drew Oliver in 2002, GIANTmicrobes Inc. is a US-based company that makes stuffed toys of microbial life of all kinds. At the MOV, we have as our guests a few of their “venereals” series, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, HPV, syphilis, herpes, and HIV. Each creature comes with a tag that has an electron scanner picture of the microbe in question and a series of facts and trivia that both inform and amuse the reader.
Originally marketed to children and as gag gifts between adults, the popularity of the toys have expanded from the Common Cold and E. Coli to Red Blood Cells and Dust Mites. Many medical professionals use them to break the ice when talking to patients about difficult topics and educators use them to make important health issues more approachable. On their website, the company states that “the dissemination of information is exactly the point.” Many reviewers speak of how the cuteness of the toys can make the diseases and creatures who cause them seem less scary.
Products like the GIANTmicrobes are part of a recent approach to sexual health education where the belief is that the facts about healthy sexual activity should be accessible to everyone.
If these adorable little diseases seem like common sense, visit Sex Talk in the City to see some of the (significantly less adorable) methods that been have used in the past and present to educate Vancouverites about sex.
So tell us, what STI is YOUR favourite? How have these kinds of learning tools changed how you understand your own body?