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 History/Culture: Sex Museums Offer Wide Variety of Quirky Exhibits

TravelTranslated by Guerman Grachev

Sex museums are mushrooming in different countries of the world. The first sex museum opened in Amsterdam just a while ago, in 1985. Nowadays there are approximately several dozen large sex museums running permanent exhibitions.

Most exhibits on display look somewhat alike: sexual artifacts of modern and former times; household items resembling either the penis or vagina in terms of design; assorted erotic postcards and other historical and educational printed matter relating to sex.

The museum owners seem to know well that a lack in variety of exhibits will sooner or later result in the shutdown of an enterprise. Therefore, they are doing their utmost in an attempt to make their museums stand out among the similar establishments.

Visitors of the Temple of Venus, the above mentioned sex museum in the capital of the Netherlands, can hear somebody saying “hello” in whispers as soon as they start examining the first exhibits. The hushed sounds definitely come from behind....



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The visitors turn around and see a life-size moving doll representing a middle-aged flasher or a sexual exhibitionist. A broad smile crosses the doll’s face as the raincoat on its body flies open. Around half a million visitors of the museum are greeted this way each year. The exhibition is arranged in a slightly chaotic fashion yet the collection is said to be pretty diverse.

An oil lamp from Carthage dating back to 100 BC is one of most notable exhibits. The lamp is shaped like a penis. A number of walking sticks manufactured in the 1920s are also exhibited. Needless the say, the walking sticks are penis-shaped too.

The Erotische Muzeum is another hotspot worth seeing in Amsterdam. The museum is located in the famous red-light district of the Dutch capital. An antique mechanical vibrator with a spring-activated drive is proudly displayed in the museum, which also has a collection of erotic drawings by John Lennon. The drawings were given by the Beatle to his fiancée, Yoko Ono, on their wedding day.

A four-story building of the Berlin sex museum holds an array of nearly 5,000 exhibits, which include several gems of the erotic art e.g. genuine Japanese etchings by Utamaro and Chinese silk paintings dating back as far as 18th century. The museum also houses a cinema showing those vintage silent erotic movies. The establishment is named after Beate Uhse, one of the founders of a sex industry in a postwar Germany. Beate Uhse opened a “store of marital hygiene” i.e. the world’s first sex shop, in the mid 1950s. She also pioneered the sale of contraceptive devices.

Visitors of the Museum Erotica in Copenhagen can take a closer look at the details of a private life of Hans Christian Andersen, the great Danish author of fairy tales. Lots of people seem to show interest in that kind of entertainment. The museum specializes in washing one’s dirty linen in public, so to speak. Naughty little secrets pertaining to Sigmund Freud, Aristotle Socrates Onassis and other celebrities of former times have been made available for public inspection.

It is arguable that the museum of sex toys in Prague, Czech Republic, has the most shocking exhibits. Visitors can gaze at a motley collection of sex aids and other man-made objects used for gaining most exotic forms of carnal knowledge over the last two hundred years. Several anti-masturbatory devices of the Victorian period, “the pleasure throne” (a specially designed rocking chair that was all the rage in the French bordellos in the early 1800s), and present-day sex machines and BDSM inventions make part of the exhibition.

Those who prefer subtlety and finesse to rather gross facts of life are strongly recommended to check museums in Hamburg, Paris, Venice and Barcelona, the ones that specialize in displaying works of erotic art. There is a permanent exhibition of antique erotic artifacts (some were unearthed in Pompeii) in the Neapolitan National Museum of Archeology.

The Japanese are widely known for their cultural peculiarities. The point is that there are no major “official” sex museums in Japan. At the same time, a handful of small private collections or hihokan are still open to the public at entertainment centers and resorts across Japan. However, the majority of erotic exhibitions have been shut down following a sharp decline in popularity of the above mentioned recreational facilities, which were mostly catering for lecherous pensioners in the 1960s and 1970s.

Contrary to a popular belief, the United States of America is a puritanical country. There is not much worth bragging about when it comes to America’s sex museums. A large building houses the Museum of Sex in New York. Some visitors are likely to find its exhibits pretty boring since the museum puts special emphasis on sexual education. However, you had better check it out if you are interested in the struggle for the rights of sex minorities or history of prostitution.

A similar museum in Hollywood has a more relaxed and liberal ambient thanks to California’s fresh air and the proximity of Disneyland. To some extent, the objects on display are a hotchpotch that includes ancient Eastern figurines carved out of stone and patents for bizarre sex toys.

Please be advised that a Chicago-based establishment disguised under a rather nondescript name of the “Museum of Leather Items” is not what it seems. In actuality, the museum runs an exhibition of BDSM gear e.g. whips, corsets, gags, handcuffs and the like. The museum, which is open to the public only on weekends, is worth taking a look at if you happen to be in Chicago.

There was no sex in the USSR. To be more precise, sex was an integral part of medical science. Many Russians in their late thirties can easily remember a hefty tome called Women’s Diseases, one of the few most popular authorities on sexual education some twenty years ago. It stands to reason that Igor Knyazkin, an urologist by profession, set up the first sex museum in Russia.

Dr. Knyazkin says he drew inspiration from his daily work. He noticed that it was a lot easier for the patient to show where it hurts than talk about his problems. Wooden models of a penis proved to be extremely handy for the purpose of explanation and examination. The number of penile models in the doctor’s office had been steadily growing. Finally, a collection of 15,000 models was presented for public inspection in the center for the study and treatment of diseases of the prostate gland, a clinic that is actually headed by Dr. Knyazkin. The museum is located in St. Petersburg.

The St. Petersburg museum is mostly associated with one of its exhibits, namely the penis that is alleged to have belonged to Grigori Rasputin. Rumor has it that a fanatical devotee of the notorious Siberian monk got hold of the sex organ shortly after Rasputin was murdered. The penis was cut off Rasputin’s body either during an autopsy or at a later time when somebody took it away to desecrate the corpse. The devotee preserved the organ in alcohol and fled Russia.

He reportedly handed the item to Rasputin’s daughter in Paris. The daughter sold it to an antiquary after she became strapped for funds in the mid-1970s. Maybe the story has a grain or two of truth; maybe it is just a fiction. It is up for the visitors to form an opinion of their own.

Medportal
Reprinted as permitted: Pravda.Ru


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