Day 36: The BODIES Exhibit is Hardly BTS

Amygdalae Galore! Hymen Extravaganza! Medulla Oblongata Mania! Welcome to Bodies, a breathtaking display of the human anatomy that fits right in with P.T. Barnum’s carnivalesque spectacles (though its agenda is considerably more sober.) A couple of friends have raved about this exhibit at the South Street Seaport so I was pretty excited about going with A.H. – whose idea it was to check out Bodies – and deciding whether the scientific feast of the flesh was worth giving up sex for.

The exhibit is set up so that one starts at skeletal system, and more layers  (muscular, nervous, circulatory, digestive, respiratory, urinary and reproductive systems; as well as fetal development and the treated body) are added in successive rooms. Containing about twenty bodies in total, each exhibition uses real human bodies that have been preserved permanently by a process called “polymer preservation” so that they will not decay. From what A.H. and I could tell, the exhibitor did more than a decent job of preserving the specimens, who are sure to land more modeling gigs if cosmetic labels wanted to get real with their “Beauty is only skin deep” campaigns. A.H. and I noticed that the bodies were posed in Olympian-athletic stances and had facial features that looked rather Asian. (I would find out later the horrifying backstory to this.)

This might seem a bit naïve, but A.H. and I have always thought that a man’s two balls were physically connnected to each other. But there it was, each testicle hangingly forlornly from a cord, one on each side of a javelin-throwing model’s member. Alas, a man’s testicle is not his brother’s keeper. I have since found out that the cord-like structure is called the spermatic cord and is formed by the vas deferens and surrounding tissue that run from the abdomen down to each testicle. You learn something new every day, what can I say.

Also, the Bodies exhibit pulls no punches with its pro-health, anti-smoking agenda. One part of the exhibit is a display of smoking and its health risks, such as blackened lungs and emphysema. Smokers are encouraged to kick the habit right there, by dropping their cigarettes, lighters and other tobacco products into a large clear locked box. There were probably 400 packs of cigarettes, dozens of lighters and packs of matches in that box.

While I can say that the Bodies exhibit is very interesting and fascinating – particularly the intricate networks of blood vessels in the circulatory system as well as the awe-inspiring display of the human embryo and fetus in various stages of development – I’m not sure about Bodies being BTS. I wasn’t too savvy about the technical terms to fully appreciate what it was about. More than that, getting this “intimate” with the workings of the human body actually makes me want not to have sex for a few days, and I’m sure Derek Shepard’s with me on this.

If the display itself is intriguing, wait till you hear the story of how they got the bodies for the exhibit – a backstory that plays like a sick, all-too-true remake of “Invasion of the (Oriental) Body Snatchers”. In 2006, reporting from Dalian, China for the New York Times, David Barboza described “a ghastly new underground mini-industry” with “little government oversight, an abundance of cheap medical school labor and easy access to cadavers and organs.” Two months ago, the exhibition company behind Bodies posted this bone-chilling disclaimer on its website: “This exhibit displays human remains of Chinese citizens or residents which were originally received by the Chinese Bureau of Police. The Chinese Bureau of Police may receive bodies from Chinese prisons. Premier cannot independently verify that the human remains you are viewing are not those of persons who were incarcerated in Chinese prisons.” And just so you don’t miss the irony, the “History of the Human Anatomy” timeline on the same website nonchalantly announces, “1832: As the interest in anatomy grows, England passes the Anatomy Act to offer an adequate and legitimate supply of bodies and prevent body-snatching, grave-robbing, and murdering as means of providing anatomists with cadavers.” It’s the kind of remorseless coup de grace that would make even Hannibal Lecter squirm. 

When you think about it, it’s the same wisdom – or lack thereof – informing exhibits on human anatomy like Bodies and gay hookup sites. Nobody is what they appear to be if you bother reading the fine print. 

2 Responses to “Day 36: The BODIES Exhibit is Hardly BTS”

  1. Your comment about the exhibit making you NOT want to have sex reminded me of a Hebrew myth: Adam’s second wife (after Lilith) was made before his eyes. The skeleton, the blood, the guts, and everything. Adam (the prick) was disgusted and wouldn’t touch her. She fled the Garden and disappeared for all time…

    Or in more modern terms – I’d say most people who work in stockyards are probably vegetarian.


  2. JP how many wives did God make for Adam? I was only aware of Eve… What
    Hebrew writing are you referring to?

    I digress…

    Glad to see there is no end to the depths of depravity we will sink to in importation of things from China for our amusement… What’s next, Chinese gladiators that kill each other for our amusement?

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