Ten must-sees at the Museum of Sex

Good for: Kinky historians

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  • Photograph: courtesy Museum of Sex

    Ferier Brothers, antionanism device

    Ferier Brothers, antionanism device

  • Photograph: courtesy Museum of Sex

    Vibrators

  • Photograph: courtesy Museum of Sex

    Male Bonobo Soliciting Sex for Sugarcane

  • Photograph: courtesy Museum of Sex

    Brothel Guide

Photograph: courtesy Museum of Sex

Ferier Brothers, antionanism device

Ferier Brothers, antionanism device

Ferier Brothers, antionanism device
The old wives' tale about going blind from masturbation started with the Victorians, who came up with contraptions like this one, which was designed to prevent young boys from fondling themselves. "It's an important object in telling the history of how sexuality has been controlled," says museum curator Sarah Forbes. The leather harness fit over the wearer's lower torso, and a cast-iron sheath encased the genitals, making it physically impossible to achieve an erection.
Where to see it: "Spotlight on the Permanent Collection," ongoing

Antique female vibrators
In the late 1800s, doctors in England created female vibrators to treat a medical condition called paroxysm, or a woman's prolonged inability to reach orgasm. Early versions, including the Macaura Institute's Pulsocon, utilized hand-cranked turning mechanisms. Later advertised as personal scalp/hand/body massagers, the tools were sold in the catalogs of national retailers like Sears Roebuck as household devices. In fact, electric vibrators, such as the Eskimo and Premiere models on display at the museum, were some of the earliest domestic items to get juiced, predating tamer appliances like clothing irons and vacuums.
Where to see it: "Spotlight on the Permanent Collection," ongoing

Rune Olsen, Male Bonobo Soliciting Sex for Sugarcane
Norwegian sculptor Olsen created five sets of life-size figures—including an aroused male bonobo looking to trade sweet food for some sweet action—specifically for the museum. The two-foot-tall animal is constructed primarily from newspaper, wire and masking tape, using glass mannequin eyes and graphite-drawn muscles to give it a more realistic appearance. Forbes thinks viewers are likely to see similarities between themselves and the renderings, noting that "animals engage in every sexual act humans do—and beyond."
Where to see it:
"The Sex Lives of Animals," ongoing

"Guide to the Harem or Directory to the Ladies of Fashion in New-York and Various Other Cities"
Forbes likens this booklet to a Lonely Planet guide for sex. "You would come to New York [in 1855 and] see these brothel guides all over the place," says Forbes. "They would tell you exactly which madam to go to, where [the brothel] was located, what the girls were like...details down to what the wallpaper looked like." Largely distributed on city streets, the pamphlets included a large number of brothels in the museum's neighborhood, which was then known as the Tenderloin District.
Where to see it:
"Spotlight on the Permanent Collection," ongoing.

Rune Olsen, Male on Male Dolphin Blowhole Sex
Another highlight of "The Sex Lives of Animals" is this pair of male Amazon river dolphins engaging in sex play known as blowhole penetration. The behavior, performed in both homosexual and heterosexual encounters, has been observed primarily in captivity and shows an example of nasal copulation between animals.
Where to see it: "The Sex Lives of Animals," ongoing.

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