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A window into the world of sex

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There are few things in life less sexy than numbers. Even the number 69 only approximates a sexual position, and is more a cause for mild amusement than genuine arousal. This project by the creative agency Nice and Serious for the Wellcome Collection, has no desire to titillate though, only to educate, and to do so in an inventive and exciting manner. The project, called “Sex By Numbers,” takes the form of an interactive online infographic, which has been revealed recently to coincide with the Wellcome Collection's “Sexology Season.”

Sex by Numbers has no desire to titillate, only to educate

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The idea behind the project is to map the sex lives of average British citizens in a playful manner, by using data drawn from three National Surveys of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles, which has collated key statistics based around sex in the UK between 1990 and 2012. A book of the same name by esteemed statistician David Spiegelhalter, will also be published by Profile Books later in the spring. The idea is to take the raw data and present it in an interactive and interesting way, in the process unravelling the various misconceptions and exaggerations that surround sex in the UK, even in this highly enlightened (for the most part) modern age. The study that forms the basis of the project uses data culled from over 45,000 people, making it the largest scientific study of sex in the world (let alone the UK) to date.

The project maps the sex lives of average British citizens in a playful manner

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Some interesting facts gleamed from the research include the dramatic increase in sexual partners in the last 20 years for women between the ages of 16 and 44, a number that has increased only slightly in men, suggesting that the gender gap is finally closing. It also shows that men have (in general) had more sexual partners in their lifetime than women, especially men between the ages of 35 and 55. These facts (and many more besides) are all presented in bold, colourful charts and are complimented by a range of subtly suggestive images, my personal favourite being the kitchen window stocked with conveniently shaped produce (not to mention the faucet and taps!). The Sex By Numbers site also uses GIF animations and responsive content that asks the user direct questions about their own sexuality in a fun way.

This project was created by the creative agency Nice and Serious for the Wellcome Collection

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Tom Tapper, creative director and founder of Nice and Serious, said they started by looking at “The most interesting data sets,” as in “The sort of stuff people would discuss with friends at the pub.” He felt these sets would “Pull users into the site and compel them to share with their friends.” He also felt that the way the data was presented needed to be illuminating, and “Show change over time or an anomaly that would shed some light on an interesting social and cultural issue.”

We started looking at the sort of stuff people would discuss with friends at the pub” Tom Tapper, Nice and Serious founder

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The Wellcome Collection kicked off the Sexology season in Manchester last week with the first in a programme of 35 events that will run through until the 30th of March. It will also continue with major programmes in Brighton (2-30 March) and Glasgow (1 May-4 June), as well as events in London such as the Institute of Sexology exhibition. The various programmes all deal with sexology research, covering topics such as sexuality, gender, porn addiction, and the correlation between sexual appetites and ageing. The season also includes a unique songwriting project called the “Sounds of Sexology,” which will see young people composing and penning lyrics inspired by their responses to the recent research. The workshops will culminate in a performance at the Roundhouse on 17 February as part of Roundhouse Rising, a festival of emerging music talent that will also be streamed for free online.

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Benjamin Hiorns is a freelance writer and struggling musician from Kidderminster in the UK. He wouldn't even dream of sharing details of his sex life (or lack thereof) on the internet.

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