Among the myriad of museums that reside in the City That Never Sleeps, the Museum of Sex certainly maintains a certain measure of infamy within the city. While numerous topics can boast a museum that highlights the final intricacies of that topic, few garner as much enthusiasm as an entire educational and historical establishment dedicated to “rolling in the hay”. Located in the Flatiron District, almost every new resident to the city as well as every tourist in their 20’s wanders into the gift shop as a point of amusement. Both couples and singles will routinely wander into the gift shop to chuckle and point at the sexual paraphernalia on sale at the “museum” and are quick to take a few pictures to text to their friends.
However, I was able to find very few people who had ventured into the museum itself. Most dismiss it as a fun spot to peruse, but assume the museum itself is a tourist trap begging to drain those with vibrant libidos of their funds with subpar exhibits.
I decided to explore the museum myself to determine if it does in fact possess educational merit within its exhibits. Furthermore, I was curious if, befitting this blog, it would be a truly quirky experience that is unique to New York. Wow, was I proven correct on both accounts.
To begin our tour of the Museum of Sex, we must start in the gift shop, which serves as the entrance of the museum as well. I was immediately greeted by an adorable bleach blonde young woman dressed in a rather alternative style. All black clothes, black makeup around her eyes, and yet despite the Elmo connotations of her outfit she was very polite and enthusiastic. “Take On Me” by A-Ha could be heard playing over the store speakers. It was a clean and surprisingly warm environment, not at all like some of the seedier “specialty shops” typically affiliated with the sex industry.
What did the store have for sale in the gift shop? Well sex-related materials, for one. Multiple models of vibrators. Whips. Chains. Blindfolds. Copies of the Kama Sutra. Lube. All of them were available. But they also had some more gimmicky items in addition to this. For example, their condoms (displayed below) were particularly amusing, lampooning everything from Star Wars to Donald Trump:
Once I had sufficiently explored the gift shop, I figured now was the time to take in the wonders of the museum itself. Admission was under 20.00, and the first room you are introduced to is an exhibit depicting the Disco Era in New York. 70’s era furniture as well as multiple mirrors and disco balls accent the room. Surrounding the room is several images taken at famed disco clubs like Studio 54, The Ice Palace, and my personal favorite, a gay club called “The Crisco Disco” (no word on if Crisco was a sponsor). It’s interesting to see how much of the sensuality depicted in the dancing in the images, while different from dancing today, was clearly a direct predecessor to modern dance clubs. There was an anarchic spirit to these disco clubs that is almost unfathomable today, and the photography manages to capture the energy of this. The seats are comfy and drinks are even available for sale to guests in this first stop of the tour. It stands as a fairly engrossing representation of a lurid bygone era in New York’s history.
No. I’m not kidding:
It costs an extra $3.00 in order to partake in the “Jump for Joy” castle. Sure enough, it is a jump castle, and inside are various sizes and colors of inflatable breasts. Tit’s amazing. Of all of the jump castles I’ve visited, it’s definitely the breast. The employee running it also checks to make sure you aren’t dropping any artifacts from there, so one doesn’t end up busting the bust. These puns are admittedly terrible, but that doesn’t mean they still won’t be printed. Each participant is given 5 minutes to jump around in the castle as they please.
Now, I was of course taken aback by this addition in the museum. This is clearly a cheap tourist gimmick, and a little distasteful. Spending $3.00 to jump in breast jump castle can be perceived as nothing less than a colossal waste of money.
So after paying $3.00 to jump in the boob jump castle I then made my way to the “Sexual Artifacts” section of the museum. Various sexual instruments that had been developed through history were all on display, and under each was the brief history of the displayed item. And boy were there some gems.
As was the stuffed raccoon plus sex doll. Apparently there is a fetish called “Plushies” that is aroused by having intercourse with stuffed animals. Some plush companies have catered by creating plush dolls specifically for this purpose:
And my personal favorite, a Braille Playboy. That’s right, Playboy for the blind. Apparently the Library of Congress started translating issues for the blind in the 70’s. I always thought this was merely a gag in “Robin Hood: Men in Tights”, but apparently it is in fact a reality.
After reading the history for each of the various artifacts on display here, it was then that I moved on to the next exhibit: the Sex Lives of Animals. And I have to admit, this may have been my favorite part of the museum. Not only because it’s hilarious to see artsy statues of animals mounting one another in a museum (and the funniest lion “O-face” photo ever), but because it may have been one of the most informative exhibits as well.
The overarching theme of this exhibit is very simple: many species of animals engage in even the most unique and bizarre of sexual behaviors that to many would seem exclusive to humans. Behaviors like oral sex (observed in foxes, gibbons, and macaques), group sex (witnessed in dolphins, deers, and garter snakes), and homosexuality (over 500 different species) have all been found in various forms of wildlife. However, there were two accounts in particular in this exhibit that BLEW MY MIND, and are 100% true.
The first one was an account at the Central Park Zoo. Two chinstrap penguins, Ray and Silo, began to engage in a homosexual relationship. Now, sure, the idea of gay penguins is just adorable, but the penguins ran into a bit of a dilemma: they wished to expand the family. Of course the problem there is two gay male penguins are not going to produce an egg. The couple then found an EGG SHAPED STONE and began trying to warm the pebble in order to hatch it. The zoo quickly caught on and replaced the stone with a fertilized egg, which ultimately hatched successfully several weeks later.
What an adorable story am I right? Well, that cute tale should properly prepare you for the second story: duck necrophilia. Apparently at a zoo in Rotterdam, a duck had died in the zoo. A heartbroken mallard, saddened by the passing of his love, paid tribute to her by making love to her recently deceased body for 75 MINUTES. You don’t get those type of stories from the Museum of Natural History, I promise you.
The final two exhibitions, “Hardcore” and “Unknown Pleasures”, was a historical breakdown and display of the art of sexual imagery, film, and art. Among some of the more bizarre findings were the first sexual “selfies”, going back to the 1920’s, authentic “Tijuana Bibles”, which were mini comic books depicting comic characters in erotic scenarios, and several other examples of early erotic imagery. They even had a display of an actual glory hole in Brooklyn.
So in conclusion, is the Museum of Sex worth visiting? Honestly, yes. The most bizarre thing about the museum is how earnestly they treat the subject matter, and I dare say it managed to be a more informative and engaging museum than some “traditional museums” I’ve visited. Despite specializing in rather titillating content, this isn’t some backroom frathouse tourist spot with Ron Jeremy oil paintings. The museum legitimately focuses on the subject from a perspective of its social, historical, and cultural impact. It’s a really engrossing way in which to learn many fascinating details about a topic that is allurig to all of us.
And hey, if learning isn’t that enticing to you, you can also jump in a room full of giant inflatable boobs.