A unique research lab that is set up like a living room opened its doors on Valentine’s Day: the Erasmus Love Lab is now part of the Erasmus Behavioural Lab in Mandeville building. The lab design is unique. There are hardly any comparable labs conducting research into love, sexuality, and intimate relationships.
“We paid particular attention to participant privacy,” stated cultural sociologist and researcher Samira van Bohemen, who devised the initiative together with project manager Daphne van de Bongardt. “We regularly conduct research on couples and sexuality, and it’s much nicer for pairs to be able to lock the door to discuss intimate topics together.” There are also no windows, and the walls are sound-proofed.
Uncomfortable talking about sex
Not everyone finds it difficult or stressful to talk about sex. “I notice that many people, young people too, are reasonably open about sex and relationships,” stated pedagogue and sociologist Van de Bongardt. However, some experience this differently, and conditions like those in the lab can make things more comfortable. “This does not only apply to groups with a certain cultural or religious background; we also see this more among boys and men than girls and women. We hope that this space will also offer them a safe environment to be open for scientific research into these important themes.”
During the preparations for the lab, Van de Bongardt noticed that the taboo surrounding themes being researched in the new lab has not been entirely overcome. “We were sometimes confronted with frowns. People wondered exactly what the design would entail. Is it not a bit like a brothel? I had to smile at that, as that’s certainly not the case.”
However, the majority of responses from the faculty and university were positive. “I think it’s really amazing that Erasmus University is open for this.” Because, as Van de Bongardt already stated during her Tedx Talk: Relationship and sexual health play a significant role in physical, psychological, and social well-being. “That’s why research into this needs to be done really well.”
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The researchers are hoping to be able to conduct more interdisciplinary research in the lab. “Our six-person team has enabled us to achieve considerable cross-pollination between the pedagogical sciences, psychology and sociology. We also aim to expand this through partnerships with researchers from other faculties and disciplines,” stated Van de Bongardt. “This includes clinical sexologists at the EMC as well as colleague researchers at other universities in the Netherlands and even in other countries.”