At 1 PM on February 14, just past a gift shop stocked with vibrators, Disney erotica, and "Netflix and Chill" condoms, the Museum of Sex's disco-themed photography show, bar, and lounge are filled exclusively with couples. I'm half of one of them, since I'm there with my girlfriend. We're wondering who, besides a couple of journalists, decides to spend the most romantic day of the year ogling historically significant sex toys, the work of reclusive artists consumed by sex, and life-sized sculptures of animals getting it on?
Plenty of people, as it turns out. "Valentine's Day is one of the busiest days of the year," curator Lissa Rivera tells Creators. The Flatiron District institution draws 300,000 visitors a year, enough on Valentine's Day to warrant extended hours. "A lot of people devote all of their attention on Valentine's Day to exploring intimacy. On a normal day one might come alone or in a group, but on Valentine's Day you're exploring sexual expression with your partner."
Sweethearts come to MoSex from all over the country to spend the holiday in a place where it's socially acceptable look at naughty pictures, slurp boob-shaped jello shots, and swill a free "Aphrodisiac Shot," made from vodka and hibiscus extract. Sipping cotton candy and glitter cocktails, they eye Bill Bernstein's sultry photographs of NYC's Studio 54-era royalty and relax post-coital art experience. Sex is on the brain, but it extends far past the limbic system and into the frontal lobe, thanks to the museum's academic and respectful programming.The menu includes shocking and captivating outsider artists, an often-hilarious compendium of diverse animal sex maneuvers, Bompas and Parr's bouncy castle filled with boobs, vintage porn from the illustrated pamphlet to Deep Throat, and an archive of interesting sex objects, the crown jewel of which is William Thomas Porter and Andrew H. Shirley's pedal-operated dildo machine, Fuck Bike #001. So, what brought people to MoSex? We talked to a few couples to find out:
Patrycja & Anthony
Whose idea was it to come to the Museum of Sex on Valentine's Day?Anthony: Me. I read about it online and we spoke about it a couple of months ago, so I figured I would take her for Valentine's Day.What was your favorite exhibition?Anthony: The first room, with all the objects [Objectxxx: Selected Artifacts from the Museum's Archive].Patricia: With all the old-school sex toys, the bicycle.Anthony: The Fuck Bike.
What did you like about that room?Anthony: It was intense. There was a lot of stuff I don't see on the daily.Why do you think it's important to have a museum dedicated to sex?Anthony: It lets out your inner experience of thinking about sex.Patricia: I think it's important because people should know where all of our sexual culture came from, where it all started. It's cool to see how sex has changed over the years. That bike… why people would even think to use that is crazy.Anthony: It's too much work for just that.Patricia: But everybody has their own taste and imagination.Anthony: I also liked the bouncy castle [Jump for Joy by Bompas & Parr]. It was quick, but it was a good experience.
Alexander & Wilson
Whose idea was it to visit the Museum of Sex for Valentine's Day? Wilson: It was his idea.Alexander: It was my idea. I've come here before and I thought Wilson would appreciate it a lot. We came for the free shot. I wasn't passing that up.What was your favorite exhibition?
Wilson: I liked the room with the bicycle, but I also liked the masks in the gift shop.Alexander: I liked the woman giving head in the clip from Deep Throat [playing in Hardcore: A Century and a Half of Obscene Imagery].
Why is it important to have a museum dedicated to sex?Wilson: I think sex is such a big part of life. It's so artistic. You can't not come to a museum to appreciate it! Being kinky is a part of life, so I can't help but embrace a museum dedicated to it. It's beautiful in my opinion. I keep thanking him for bringing me.Growing up really religious, sex was a forbidden subject. Now that I'm older I embrace it completely.
Kevin & Ellen
Whose idea was it to come to the Museum of Sex for Valentine's Day?Kevin: Oh, the wife.Ellen: It was recommended to us by a friend. We have a week in New York and decided to come here for the holiday.What was your favorite exhibition?Kevin: The first room we went into was really fun. It was a lot of displays of random sex objects throughout time.Ellen: They had a lotus shoe, which was used to restrict the growth of women's feet in Chinese culture. Now it's considered a fetish as well.Kevin: I thought the penis bike was fun, too. The Fuck Bike was fun.
Why do you think it's important to have a Museum of Sex?Ellen: Learning about the different facets of sex, even animal sex, how it contributes to us as a species, is very important. It's good to see it how relevant the animal point of view is too.
Kevin: It's something we all do. We have a museum for everything, why not sex?
Renaldo & Erica
Whose idea was it to spend Valentine's Day at the Museum of Sex?Erica: A friend was telling me about it so I decided to take by boyfriend on Valentine's Day.What was your favorite exhibit?Erica: Believe it or not, learning about the animals. The turtles were my favorite. I learned that their penises are shaped like a stingray, sort of. There was a video of one trying to have sex with the wall! That was kind of weird. He was trying, but it wasn't working. But if that's what floats his boat for his masturbation to happen, that's his business.Renaldo: The toys that animals use, how they design the toys, I found very interesting. My favorite part was learning about the giraffes and the lions. They give off a scent to attract a mate. When they want to have intercourse they moan and rub up against each other, stuff like that.
It's funny, that's pretty much what humans do too.Renaldo: Yeah, pretty much! I thought it was interesting how they communicate that they want to do it.Erica: The monkeys use sign language to let each other know what they want.Renaldo: I just loved the whole thing. I didn't even know it was this deep until I came here and saw. The museum put a lot into it.Why do you think it's important to have a museum dedicated to sex?Erica: …I think handcuffs are important! I like how they have information for couples that will enhance their sex lives. And games. I think games about what you can do to, uh, stimulate the flow, that's good.
Renaldo: I think it's important because you can learn about not just your own intimacy, but how people have been intimate throughout history. What tool they used, and how to do things safety. And it's been good for, uh, fantasizing.
Taylor & Veronica
How did you hear about the Museum of Sex?Taylor: My friend suggested it. We couldn't figure out to do that wasn't too expensive, but it seemed like a good idea.What is your favorite part of the museum so far?Taylor: My favorite part is seeing Bill Bernstein's photo of J. Alexander from America's Next Top Model when he was younger [in Night Fever: New York Disco 1977-1979, The Bill Bernstein Photographs].Veronica: I agree. When I realized who that was I was like, "Oh my god," and rushed straight to the picture.
Why do you think it's important to have a museum dedicated to sex?Taylor: I think it's really important. We're coming back to the point of a new sexual revolution and it's more acceptable to talk about sex. I never really thought about this stuff as a kid, but it's cool that I can learn about it here and it's not taboo anymore, which is important.Speaking as a queer woman, it's not something I was taught in school. I learned from my friends, from the people who came before me. There are a lot of things I would do differently had I been better educated. It's important for the generations after us to have access to more information.
Veronica: Especially now that we're teaching the younger generation that certain things are ok, certain things aren't ok. The dos and don'ts have you. Some people go all in and don't realize it's ok to not do something if you don't want to do it. Don't feel pressure to do something you don't want to do. You don't have to do the norm.Sex is starting to become easier to talk about. People can feel comfortable with themselves being in a place like this, whether you already enjoy talking about it or want to figure out how to talk about it, this museum is here and it's going to get talked about.