One afternoon, Dan and I took the kids to NEMO, Amsterdam’s science museum. Drifting together and apart among scores of other parents and kids, we spent the better part of a day exploring everything from kinetics to DNA. When we finally tumbled outside into the afternoon sunshine—one lucky stroke in an otherwise rain-soaked September—Dan dug out water bottles and handed them to the kids as they climbed into the boxbike. Then he turned to me, amazement on his face. “Could you believe that exhibit?” he asked.
Clearly, I’d missed something juicy.
“You need to go back in there,” he said. “It’s a huge display on the middle floor. Tons of pink and neon. You’ll want to take your time.” There was humor in his hazel eyes as he hopped onto the bike.
A few minutes later I was posing for a selfie next to a long, luminous tube like a giant emergency glow stick mounted on the wall. Inside, gooey strings and globules stretched and swirled in a thick, moon-white mix. It was a little like a lava lamp, but also nothing like a lava lamp, because the liquid was meant to be semen. Fifty-three liters, to be exact: the average amount a man ejaculates in a lifetime. How had I missed this?
With their usual composure, the Dutch families milling around seemed to barely register the sex-and-puberty extravaganza, a permanent feature of the museum. To them, it was apparently no more remarkable than the brain-science display upstairs or the engineering experiments on the mezzanine. But after reading how many orgasms a woman can have in sixty minutes (134) compared to a man (16—oh, well), watching two giggling women arm wrestling with giant tongue puppets in a French-kissing diorama, and taking a computerized quiz that revealed my abysmal “sexual assertiveness” score (the onscreen game-show host actually laughed at me), I was admittedly a bit red in the face. Despite all of my recent reading and my resolve to raise my kids with modern-minded openness about sexuality, I could feel in my burning cheeks that my hang-ups were alive and well. After all, there I stood: a married American mother in her mid-thirties, learning all manner of new sex facts from an exhibit designed for children.
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