Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Sex Museums!

Hey, gorgeous. My story on sex museums ran a week ago or so on AlterNet, but if you're too lazy to click over, I'm bringing it here to you--much like a cat brings its half-dead animal victims to your doorstep.

There were no crushingly mean comments this time around, though one commenter complained that there was no mention of the Icelandic Phallogical Museum, even though there, like, was. In the second paragraph. I tried to feel miffed and insecure about it, but it just wasn't up to the level of the chick who yelled at me: "You have Numb Vagina Syndrome!" 

Anyway, here you go. I killed it just for you:

Sure, there are undeniable pleasures to seeing a nicely curated Natural History Museum exhibit on African savanna animals, but sex museums offer a whole different spin on the museum experience.

Risque exhibits like a giant inflatable boob bounce house (the Museum of Sex) or displays of the sex toys our pervy ancestors stuck up their primitive orifices (several museums--our ancestors were a randy lot) mean lots of visitors and sex museums are popping up all over the world. Even Iceland has one—the Icelandic Phallological Museum, featuring more than 215 penises and “penile parts” from mammals, including Homo Sapiens.

Here's a list of some of the world's best, if you happen to be in the area. Just don't call yourself a sex tourist, 'cause that's a whole different thing.

Museum of Sex, New York City

Around since 2002, MoSex puts a cheeky spin on sex ed, sexual history and erotic art. Running now is FUNLAND: Pleasures & Perils of the Erotic Fairground, an art installation by conceptual artist duo Bompas & Parr, featuring carnival attractions so guests can “contemplate the sexual subtext of carnivals.” (“Carnival sexual subtext” being for most people, maybe...zero?) Still, it's clever, silly and arty with grown-up fun like the boob bounce house (you can really jump in it), Grope Mountain (a body parts climbing wall) and a hall of mirrors maze leading to a “grotto” representing a woman's g-spot. Which is genius. Once inside the grotto, you can manipulate your hands to play the theremin, which is even more genius.

The Sex Machines Museum is small, but has about 200 gadgets showing how humans can't leave well enough alone when it comes to sex. See devices designed to make sex better or at least more interesting, like a racy 1880s chamber pot with a mirror or a chair with strategic holes to facilitate oral sex. There are also contraptions designed to block out sex entirely, like a German chastity belt from 1580 and a really horrible looking electric (!) anti-masturbation device from 1915 (Which, as you know completely wiped out the worldwide scourge of masturbation forever hence. Jk.) If you need to take a breather to balance your humours, step into the theater to screen 1920s porn from Spain, some of world's earliest.

MusEros, St. Petersburg, Russia

“Know everything about what others are silent!” says MusEros' (translated) site, referring to the Soviet penchant for secrecy in, well, pretty much everything. In the History Room (“You will know at first hand that there was sex in the Soviet Union!”), there is a special sex chair reportedly used by Catherine the Great. The Modern Room showcases human ingenuity via a seesaw festooned with strategically placed dildos, a chair rigged up with a naughtily-situated feather-covered spinning wheel, and a glass case of blow-up dolls including men, women, and sheep, waiting with mouths permanently agape ready for your love. The Erotic Culture room has sex artifacts from all over the world and fun facts like “For a long time Koreans believed that the best way to turn a man on was to prick his root of penis with a needle.”

The newly reopened Erotic Heritage Museum makes good on any expected Vegas showiness with exhibits like props from a “Star Wars” porn parody, a Ron Jeremy fortune telling machine and an extensive chart on all Game of Thrones sex acts. They have historical artifacts like Chinese figurines from the 1700s doing “it” and vintage porn posters plus pieces of more dubious educational value like a penis made of pennies. You can also get tickets to Puppetry of the Penis, which you will have to look up yourself—though be forewarned that is sometimes referred to as “genital origami.”

The World Erotic Art Museum was started by the late Naomi Wilzig, a spunky erotic art collector/grandmother and features of 4000 works, from 300 BC to the present. It's a lowbrow/highbrow jumble with Chinese shunga books (erotic art offered as gifts to new brides on their wedding night) and erotic drawings by acclaimed artists workin' blue including Rembrandt, Picasso and Klimt happily coexisting with more kitschy stuff like a four-poster bed with, naturally, penis posts. Guests also dig WEAMs gift shop fare like 1970s/80s Mexican sex-themed comic books for $5 and an especially good collection of postcards.

Amsterdam's Sexmuseum, may not be the most comprehensive museum of its kind, but it's the longest operating sex museum, first opening its doors in 1985 with a small display of 19th century erotic objects. It's since expanded to three floors (albeit narrow Netherlands-size floors) of sexy detritus including fetish gear, a flashing mannequin showing his mannequin naughty bits and historical artifacts like a 16th century chastity belt. Admission is cheap and you'll know the place by the giant bronze penis/seemingly irresistible photo op spot out front.

This wide and varied collection is based on the huge erotic art collection Alain Plumey and Jo Khalifa amassed over 30 years. Their devotion resulted in 7 floors of over 2000 pieces including Aztec fertility idols, Nepalese temple carvings and some Japanese wooden dildo/shoe combo which seems unfit for either purpose. Currently running is an exhibit devoted to the history of brothels from the late 19th century until 1946, including “Polisson et Galipettes,” a collection of freshly-restored erotic silent film shorts made in France between 1905 and 1930 used to 'warm up' the patrons of Paris's famous brothels.

Jeju Loveland, South Korea

Jeju Loveland bills itself as a sexual theme park, but it's more like an erotic sculpture garden with over 140 naked statues going far beyond typical “statue mode” of standing around looking dignified. Loveland is located on popular honeymoon destination Jeju Island and was created to help newlyweds lose their inhibitions by wandering among statues in various states of fuckery and a lovely penis garden. (No figures on how many newlyweds leave with even more inhibitions.)

There's also a Museum of Sex and Health on site, with a mashup of sex education films, novelties like a hands-on "masturbation cycle” and sciencey human body part models alongside less anatomically-correct pieces like a penis with wings and a penis tail and, for good measure, a regular penis in the usual place.

Antique Vibrator Museum, San Francisco

“Your great-great-grandmother might have owned a vibrator” notes Antique Vibrator Museum's web site, in probably not their most alluring enticement. Still, the Antique Vibrator Museum, located at the Polk location of seminal (er...) sex toy store Good Vibrations, offers a fascinating history of hysteria, the vibrators designed to help relieve this rampant “problem” and vintage ads that hedged around the benefits of the vibe without saying exactly where women could put it. ("American Vibrator ... can be used by yourself in the privacy of dressing room or boudoir, and furnish every woman with the essence of perpetual youth.")

Highlights include a 1906 Detwiller pneumatic vibrator that ran on (ack!) compressed gas and a Magic Rotating Disc with its box showing its tasteful use on non-crotchal areas like the feet, back and oddly, the upper arm. There's also Dr. Macaura's Pulsocon Blood Circulator, a turn-of-the-century hand crank number that never caught on, perhaps due to hand crank twisting motions meeting voluminous bushes of 1800s-era ladies. The Good Vibes site also offers a virtual tour of vibrators, starting with the extra scary ones from 1869-1920

(Photo: Salvador Dali, Paris, 1938.)


Donald said...

The vibrator museum -- how is its research into the quite dramatic change the orgasm has undergone over the last 100 years? I don't mean the orgasm itself but rather the more important part: what we think it is.

What's remarkable to me about the orgasm of hysteria is how readily we understood it as a sort of involuntary reflex, rather like a belch. I imagine it accidentally occurred between people married to each other sometimes, who were polite enough to make nothing of it. This is why we allowed doctors in waistcoats and bowler hats to give them to total strangers, just like any other medical treatment. Nowadays, of course, the pendulum has swung to the personal, emotive side. The mood has to be right, the relationship has to be perfect, and the chores have to be done to get down this far on the to-do list.

At some point, we got from one to the other. Who was the first person who started off with a mechanical orgasm that means nothing and, presumably in mid-moan, emerged in one that means everything?

in bed with married women said...


THAT is exactly what is interesting to me about it to--the line between the physical and emotional, the graduations between and how our attitudes about what "should" be going down changes what we feel in our bodies, heads or hearts.