Newest Review: ... you what is in there - as some people may not want to look - although it kind of deceives the point of going to a sex museum. They have... more
Sex, pics and videotape...
Sex Museum (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
Member Name: Morgenhund
Sex Museum (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
Advantages: Enlightened approach
Disadvantages: Exhibition slightly dated as no references to Internet pornography
Having been told by friends that the Sex Museum, located on the Damrak, only 250m away from the Centraal Station was worth a visit, as there were etchings that looked similar to works by Beardsley, I duly headed to the museum. The first thing to confront me was the fact that there was a steady throng of visitors, from the puerile gaggle of guys on stag nights, the bemused Japanese tourists, who were posing for photos next to a flasher exhibit, and the broadminded who just wanted to see what was to be seen.
Admission was EUR 2.50, which is considerably lower that entry to a lot of museums, and there was a tour route to take you through the museum although there was nothing to stop you from doing the museum in whatever order you wanted to do it in. The museum does advise that some items may be distasteful there is for example one room containing samples of pornographic material for various non mainstream interests - bestiality, scatology etc. and visitors are warned about the content of the room before they choose to enter. Each room is named after a sexually renowned celebrity the Oscar Wilde room and the Catherine the Great room are two examples. The museum is on several floors, with very tight and twisting staircases, so this museum is obviously therefore not ideal for those in wheelchairs.
The museum seeks to be an educational experience it is not merely an out and out display of pornographic material - it includes artefacts dating back to antiquity and seeks to track the sex industry from a factual point of view rather than being a collection of old pornography. Various topics are dealt with prostitution, voyeurism, erotica in antiquity, literature, the use of media to spread pornography, although in this instance there is no reference to the use of the Internet for the propagation of pornography.
Part of the exhibition contains a number of artefacts from bygone eras for example there are some 17th chastity belts - as well as a number of oriental and Greek pottery artefacts depicting graphic sexual acts. There are a large number of sexually explicit paintings from around the world, with most of these really doing nothing more than showing the very kitsch nature of some of the items on display.
Before people wince when I say that the exhibition is a hands-on experience, dont be horrified by the prospect of a mucky magazine free for all. The hands-on section of the museum consists of a number of "What the butler saw" machines which you can try out to see how people in bygone ages got their (cheap) thrills, as well as two phone booths with English and Dutch recorded phone sex lines to listen in to. Similarly there is a walkthrough miniature red light district featuring mechanical exhibits leaving little to the imagination, as well as a collection of literature on prostitution etc. through the ages.
In exploring the medium of photography there is a special focus on how titillation has developed - from the barely risquι to the fully explicit, and similarly how the medium of film has been used down the ages. This being a retrospective, there is again no real mention of the DVD age, but the role of the video player and its propagation of porn, and it making pornographic films "affordable" by the masses is one item looked at in detail. Times have clearly changed from when film projectors were hired out to groups of gentlemen with several reels of film for them to watch.
Before anyone accuses me of neglecting the focus of my visit I was slightly disappointed the artwork which was Beardsley-esque was far from abundant - most of the etchings were certainly not Beardsley or even similar, and there was nothing in the exhibition about Beardsley's etchings.
Overall the museum is certainly worth a visit as it does put a new perspective on sex and past attitudes to sex. Obviously this exhibition may shock some, so those of a certain disposition may be best advised to give the museum a miss. It covers a topic very openly, something which is a commendable approach prudishness is after all not the way to tackle a subject which exists and which has always existed and will continue to exist and be propagated from now until eternity. The only down side is that the space available to the museum means that in some areas the surface is barely scratched.
Summary: An enlightened approach to sexual titillation
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