I’ve been to The Louvre, The Musee d’Orsay, and even The Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris. In fact I’ve been to countless museums of various kinds in different cities across the U.S. and abroad. But attending the Museum of Sex in New York City last Friday was definitely a worthwhile pilgrimage. It was sort of like a beautiful dream. A museum where no one under the age of 18 is allowed means there are no misbehaved children afoot, no strollers running over your foot, and no long lines of unruly tourists at the gift shop checkout. On top of that, it is a place where you can be entertained and educated simultaneously on my favorite topic, and in my favorite way – without censorship, judgment, or bullshit. I would liken the Museum of Sex, or MoSex as they, and I, like to call it, to something of a cross between an art museum, natural history and science museum, and an experiential museum similar to The Franklin Institute, all rolled into one. In fact, if it were larger, one could consider it The Smithsonian Institute of sex. It makes me wonder why the S.I. in WDC doesn’t have a building that only allows patrons over the age of 18 and covers the realm of human sexuality. Well, never mind, sex in the nation’s capital? – My God, no. Mixing sex and politics could never take on a respectable form in America.
So how do you justify a museum dedicated to human sexuality? Well, as one of their marketing lines puts it – ‘you don’t think about Picasso seven times an hour.’ There are five galleries and the exhibits change on a regular basis. After all, as Jim O’Shea, who handles marketing and public relations, told me during our phone conversation, there are endless areas to explore in the realm of sexuality. As a sex writer, I couldn’t agree more. The mission of the Museum of Sex is “to preserve and present the history, evolution, and cultural significance of human sexuality.”
The museum was opened in 2002 by founder Daniel Gluck, a former artist. In its tenth year of operation, it has experienced double digit growth annually and has seen 175,000 patrons pass through its doors in the past year, 55 to 60% of them being tourists. There are a handful of similar museums in Europe and Asia, but the only other museum dedicated to sex in the U.S. would be the Erotic Heritage Museum in Las Vegas. Interestingly, a sex museum in Hollywood, CA, shut its doors about six years ago after only a few years in existence due to lack of business. So MoSex, having expanded to an additional story in 2009, and moving its entrance to Fifth Avenue, must be doing it right. With an impressive list of collaborators and advisors including the likes of Betty Dodson, Robert T. Francoeur, author of the multi-volume Encyclopedia of Sexuality, June M. Reinisch, Director Emeritus of The Kinsey Institute, and Annie Sprinkle, just to name a few, the museum’s staying power is not surprising.
Current exhibits include a fascinating history of sex on film, a collection of art from twenty different street artists called F*ck Art, an array of technologically-oriented sexual fantasies and facts using a variety of media which defines modern sexuality, and an educational and artistic display of sex in the animal kingdom that provides evidence that humans are not the only creatures who derive pleasure from sex. In addition, there is an ever-changing selection of the museum’s permanent collection of more than 15,000 sexual artifacts. Currently on display are artworks by Picasso and other more contemporary artists, vintage vibrators or ‘anti-hysteria’ devices, life-sized sex dolls, a turn-of-the-century anti-onanism device, and a variety of kink and BDSM objects.
The museum is open Sunday through Thursday from 10am-8pm and Friday and Saturday from 10am-9pm. They also regularly host after-hours events such as film screenings, lectures, and panel discussions. Admission is $17.50, but there is a $3.00 discount coupon available on their website. There is a gift shop that has a wide variety of books, toys for adults, and even amusing, sexy refrigerator magnets, in case you wish to take a little souvenir home to your friends back at the office. There is also an intimate little basement café aptly named Oral Fix. If the museum wasn’t enough to put you in the mood, one of the cocktails with supposed aphrodisiac qualities may do the trick.
MoSex is definitely a must see in my book for anyone who has an interest in human sexuality, the history of sex, the evolution of attitudes toward sex in the U.S., a simple curiosity, or for anyone who has sex period. And like good sex, it left me satisfied, but still wanting more. This may become a regular stop on my NYC visits.
Museum of Sex
233 5th Avenue
New York, NY 10016