now on view in NYC

The Sex Lives of Animals

In this “new natural history” The Sex Lives of Animals 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. Emergent research in the study of animal behavior reveals that animals participate in an astonishing array of sexual behaviors, conceding that sex is more than a biological drive to reproduce. 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 nuanced as it is in the human realm; and sex-for-pleasure, it seems, is not just restricted to Homo sapiens. 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.

The Sex Lives of Animals showcases life-sized animal sculptures created by Rune Olsen commissioned by The Museum of Sex. 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.


Stanford University evolutionary biologist Joan Roughgarden is serving as primary content advisor for The Sex Lives of Animals. A host of scientists, academics and experts are participating on the advisory board including:

Jonathan Balcombe, Ph.D.

Author of Pleasurable Kingdom: Animals and the Nature of Feeling Good

Niles Eldredge,

Curator in the Division of Paleontology, The American Museum of Natural History


Mark Elgar

Professor of Zoology, University of Melbourne


Ron Magill

Goodwill Ambassador and Director of Communications, Miami Metro Zoo


Kees Moeliker

Curator, Natural History Museum Rotterdam


Amy Parish, Ph.D.

University of Southern California


Nancy Solomon

Associate Professor of Zoology, Miami University in Ohio


Volker Sommer

Professor of Anthropology, University College London


Christian Sonne, DVM, Ph.D.

Senior Research Scientist and Wildlife Veterinarian and Toxicologist, NERI, University of Aarhus, Denmark


Laurie J. Vitt

George Lynn Cross Research Professor and Curator of Reptiles, Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History And Zoology Department at the University of Oklahoma


Linda Wolfe

Field Primatologist


Marlene Zuk

Professor of Biology, University of California, Riverside and author of Sexual Selections: What We Can and Can’t Learn About Sex from Animals


Sarah Forbes


Mark Snyder




Rune Olsen


Elizabeth Mariko Murray