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The Sex Lives of Animals considers the tremendous complexity of animal sexual behavior. The exhibition also posits new interpretations of developing research, such as the evolutionary benefits of non-reproductive sex for both individuals and social groups within the animal kingdom.


 “…animals engage in kissing, hugging, self and mutual stimulation, oral sex and every kind of penetrative intercourse imaginable.”


Sex is more than a biological drive to reproduce: emergent research in the zoological field of ethology – the study of animal behavior – reveals that animals participate in an astonishing array of non-reproductive sexual behaviors. Surprisingly, all conceivable sexual partnerships and sex acts exist, from foreplay to post-coital cuddling: animals engage in kissing, hugging, self and mutual stimulation, oral sex and every kind of penetrative intercourse imaginable. Sex in the animal kingdom is as multifarious and nuanced as it is in the human realm; and sex-for-pleasure, it seems, is not just restricted to Homo sapiens.

To visually realize these concepts, the exhibition showcases life-sized animal sculptures created by Rune Olsen. The Museum of Sex specifically commissioned these pieces due to the artist’s ability to convey the intensity and urgency of instinctual behavior that is both arousing and transformative. Composed of the “social materials” of newspaper and tape, the sculptures explore the physical world with the immediacy and expressiveness of hand drawing. Interestingly, Olsen’s animals all incorporate anatomically-incorrect, human, glass eyes, which further juxtapose the shared instincts and urges of humans and animals.


In this “new natural history” the Museum of Sex presents an uncensored story of the birds and the bees, moving animal sexuality beyond the confines of reproduction and mating, towards discussions of orientation and cognition. The Museum invites patrons to explore the most intimate part of the natural life cycle, where it is often said we are most animal-like, and apply these concepts to larger issues regarding sexuality in general.



Sarah Forbes, Curator

Dr. Joan Roughgarden, Primary Content Advisor

Rune Olsen, Sculptor

Elizabeth Mariko Murray, Collections Manager

Mark Snyder, Creative Director

Noelle Daidone, Director of Public Relations and Special Events


July 24, 2008 – Present


Exhibitions, Present