Okay, let’s be honest, museums aren’t typically the sexiest places. However, there is in NYC one museum that is very sexy—so much so that it is named the Museum of Sex! Sarah Forbes was the curator of the museum for twelve years, and the “Curator of Sex” has just released her memoir, Sex in the Museum: My Unlikely Career at New York’s Most Provocative Museum. In it, Sarah chronicles her experience and shares what she learned about everybody’s favorite topic: S-E-X. Being ever-curious at XOXOAD, we asked Sarah to come up with a list of the five exhibitions she curated at the museum that surprised her the most.
Top 5 Most Surprising Exhibitions I Curated at the Museum of Sex
1) Kink: Geography of the Erotic Imagination: Instead of playing into the stereotype of a dark and foreboding space, here, in this hot pink gallery, patrons were asked to touch and experiment with the materials (latex, leather, rubber, fur etc.) that are the underpinnings of many kinks and fetishes. Based on the book, “Deviant Desires: Incredibly Strange Sex,” I was able to work alongside the author Katharine Gates, to remind museum visitors that kink can be a fun and playful addition to sex!
From pony play to medical play, from BDSM fantasies to those of feeders and gainers, patrons were able to explore and learn the “how” and “why” defining these erotic scenarios and dynamics. The diversity of the erotic imagination is infinite, and there is no one size fits all version of eroticism and sexuality.
2) Sex Lives of Animals: My way of reinventing the natural history museum, here I showcased the scientific research that animals engage in oral sex, anal sex, group sex and beyond. They also masturbate and make their own sex toys. Facts I certainly didn’t know before working in this exhibition. While same sex relationships have been a political and social battle in our human society, more than 500 animal species have been documented to have same sex relationships. Male Amazon River dolphins have even been witnessed to have blowhole penetrative intercourse.
This exhibition was so exciting because it was all about sharing the wealth of information that exists about the natural world, buried deep in academic journals and so rarely shared with the general public. This is the biology class few of us were ever exposed to in school and proof how natural sex is, in all of its forms.
3) Universe of Desire: Why We Like What We Like: While social scientists are always trying to get to the heart of sex and desire, nothing has been more telling than an examination of what we are looking for and doing online, when we think no one is looking.
Rooted in the research found in, “A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What the Internet Tells Us About Sexual Relationships” computational neuroscientists Ogo Ogas and Sai Gaddam analyzed more than 400 million internet searches to provide some “truths” about sex. While we are all unique, it was fascinating to see that about 80% of people are looking for the same 20 or so search terms! Although Rule 34 says if you can think of it, porn exists of it on the Internet, it seems more people than not are searching for similar content: images of a penis, vagina, breasts and feet (and surprising to some, “cheating partners” porn as well as animated/illustrated porn).
4) Hardcore: A Century and Half Of Obscene Images: While the Internet would lead you to believe porn was a recent creation, “hardcore” images can be found dating back centuries. Anyone who has ever read Marquis de Sade can attest. Here I was able to highlight graphic erotic content dating back to 1821 through 1972 (this is when Deep Throat was released starting the porn industry as we know it).
Surprising to some, Victorians were obsessed with documenting sex. Images include the “money shots,” hand made sex toys, BDSM, interracial sex and same sex partnerships. Mixed in are a few “stag” films, the nickname for underground black and white pornographic films from the mid 1900s as well as some secret erotic collections never before exhibited. As an Indiana Jones of Sex, for over a decade I found many of the artifacts hidden in attics, garages, basements and secret drawers. Who knew Grandma had such a sexy side.
5) ObjectXXX: Selected Artifacts from the Museum of Sex Archive: Ever heard of a merkin? An artificial hymen? An ass lock? A torpedo tit cat suit? A condom dress? These are just a few of the seventy unforgettable artifacts I hand selected from the more than 15,000 artifacts in the Museum of Sex’s Permanent Collection. Each one a show stopper, in many ways it is these artifacts that trace my unbelievable decade long learning experience as the Curator of the Museum of Sex.
SEX IN THE MUSEUM is available now in hardcover and e-book!