Sex-Negativity in Science Kills Intellectual Curiosity

Nov 08, 2010 • Opinion

Due to the amount of interest generated by the discussion of why it hurts when semen gets in the eye, we have been writing about the topic at length, including running tidbits from experts in different scientific disciplines and checking out all your leads.

During a recent survey of links, we encountered a piece by PZ Myers, biologist and associate professor at University of Minnesota, Morris, which drew our attention, not so much for its interesting infographic, but because of his general attitude.

Semen information

His post, which essentially showcased the above infographic of semen facts, said only the following:

This is a somewhat disturbing infographic. Some people are just a little too obsessed with their secretions.

Myers neither specified where the infographic originated, nor addressed any of the information on it. Further, he seemed to dissuade readers from any discussion, suggesting that those who may be interested in the topic are inappropriately obsessed with their secretions.

Since when is it common practice for a professor to dissuade people from pursuing information? Yes, semen relates to sex. So? Does that make it less worthy than, say, blood? Has our understanding of blood or urine not done much to expand the field of medicine?

It’s a shame that someone in the business of teaching would take such a position. Instead of engaging those who may be drawn to learn more about their bodies, Myers is actively discouraging their intellectual curiosity. Fortunately for us, scientists like Scicurious exist — she reviews literature relating to sex on a regular basis on her blog Neurotic Physiology. As for those of us with “a disturbing obsession” with our bodies, what they secrete and what they do, feel free to tune in to The Carnal Carnival, a joint project by science writers to educate the public on various aspects of the body.

This month, they’re tackling orgasm.

Here’s to scientists who aren’t afraid to talk about the human body.

UPDATE: one of our readers came to PZ Myers’ rescue over direct message on Twitter, informing us that he is, in fact, very pro-sex and the post was merely trying to discourage his childish commenters. Our reader also noted Myers makes up about 40 percent of Scienceblogs’ traffic.

Our question now is this: if commenters are childish, isn’t it preferable to engage in informed discourse on a topic and show by modeling? If one makes a somewhat childish comment themselves, regardless of how “pro-sex” they may be, they’re setting the tone for what’s acceptable. If an informed discussion should fail to persuade commenters from posting childish responses, Myers could deny the publication of these comments or just ignore them and encourage the intelligent commenters who are trying to have an adult discussion to do the same. As someone who isn’t only an educator, but a widely-read blogger, these things are doubly important to consider.