Sex on Display: Erotic Museums for the Masses

 Posted by on April 16, 2011
Apr 162011
 

By DNGG

If you want to know what’s important to a culture, check out the institutions that form their cultural and national identity. Look to their museums, monuments, archives, and educational centers for clues. Search out the places and products that claim to enshrine the nation’s collective memories and you will discover what that society places value on.

While our nation has hundreds…possibly thousands of institutions that celebrate and commemorate political power, scientific innovation, medical advancements, preservation of racial/ethic histories, and artistic expression, there are some topics that are glaringly absent from field. Take sex for example. While the average American starts having sex around the age of 16 and will have sex over 100 times per year1, cultural institutions safeguarding and cataloging our nation’s sexual practices and history for future generations are hard to find. Luckily, there are a few fine sites that have stepped up to the plate to do just that, to keep the topic of sex (and all the things that go along with it) from being swept under the rug, forgotten, or buried in shame.

1. The Museum of Sex (New York City): Located in the city that never sleeps, the Museum of Sex has pledged to “preserve and present the history, evolution, and cultural significance of human sexuality.”2 Since its opening in 2002, the Museum has produced 15 exhibits and five virtual installations, while maintaining a permanent collection of over 15,000 artifacts. Straddling the line between academic resource (the site houses an impressive research library and multimedia library) and pop culture tourist destination, the Museum of Sex is a “must visit” site for those with an interest in human sexuality.

2. World Erotic Art Museum (Miami Beach, FL): The World Erotic Art Museum (WEAM) claims to be the home of “the largest collection of erotic art in America.”3 Featuring paintings, tapestries, sculptures, and a variety of unique art objects, the WEAM has a little something for everyone. Throughout its 20 galleries, visitors can find traditional representation of sex to specifically LBGTQ oriented fare to images that highlight fetishism.

3. Erotic Heritage Museum (Las Vegas, NV): A relative newcomer to the field of erotic museums (doors opened in 2008), the Erotic Heritage Museum is fast on its way to establishing itself as a major destination for sexuality scholars and educators as well as curious tourists. Sponsored by the Exodus Trust, the same organization that owns and manages the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco, the Erotic Heritage Museum dedicated to “the belief that sexual pleasure and fun are natural aspects of the human experience, that such pleasure must be made available to all, and that our individual sexuality belongs to each of us.”4 With that in mind, they invite you to drop by the next time you’re passing through the city of sin.

4. Leather Archive and Museum (Chicago, IL): If you’re looking for the kinkier side of erotic museums, check out the Leather Archive and Museum (LA&M). Founded in 1991, the LA&M houses a plethora of articles pertaining to Leather, fetishism, sadomasochism, and alternative sexual practices. With notable artifacts such as original works by Tom of Finland and the largest collection of original Etienne works in the world, the LA&M has been a mecca for those interested in Leather culture and alternative sexuality.

5.The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction (Bloomington, IN): While the Kinsey Institute isn’t a museum per se, it is one of the oldest American cultural institutions to unabashedly catalog, display images, and discuss issues surrounding sex. Founded in 1947 by sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, the Institute has been a trusted source on human sexuality for over 60 years. It is the grandfather of the modern American erotic museum/archive.

As a nation, perhaps we’re not quite ready to claim our sexuality as a central part of our national identity. However, if you’re ready to learn more about the historical (and contemporary) place of sex in our lives, the site listed here will be more than happy to help you along on that journey.

1 The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction

2 Museum of Sex website, http://www.museumofsex.com/inside/our-mission-and-history/

3 World Erotic Art Museum website, http://www.weam.com/web/index.php?categoryid=1

4 Erotic Heritage Museum website, http://www.eroticheritagemuseumlasvegas.com/#!about-us

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