Not every vacation is a family vacation. Sometimes—either before, after or just without kids—a person wants an adult place to go. Sure “adult” could mean a coffee shop or the symphony, but sometimes “adult” means, you know, adult. (In case you can’t tell, I’m winking my eye and smirking like a teenager right now.)
In the 1990s, Rudy Guiliani and New York tourism and redevelopment offices cleaned up New York and swept away the adult bookstores. Even Times Square became Disneyfied. So how could an adult attraction stay open in New York’s age of clean storefronts and political correctness? Simple. Get a board of distinguished advisors, collect educational research materials, charge admission, and call it a museum.
New York City’s Museum of Sex opened in 2002. To some critics, it may seem like no more than a museum of porn and raunch. But it’s actually much more.
Located at 233 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, the Museum of Sex features both permanent and rotating exhibits. (I’m sure there’s a joke to be made about rotating exhibits, but I’m above that.) The permanent collection includes a research library (Stop grinning. That means books.), a media library (There’s the pornography—as well as educational films and media.), and artifacts that include “art, photography, clothing and costumes, technological inventions, and historical ephemera.” Among that “ephemera” is a collection of vintage prophylactics. (I hope that…well, I just hope.) There’s even a collection of pornography donated by a retired Library of Congress librarian, and a collection of artifacts from the Harmony Theatre, originally a burlesque theatre and later featuring exotic dancers, which also closed in the 1990s. (I hope they washed everything well enough. I’m just saying, it was an old building.)
Current featured exhibits at the Museum include Action: Sex and the Moving Image and Sex Lives of Robots. Past exhibits focused on Kink and Sex in Design. Future exhibit plans include Sex Techniques. There are even online-only exhibits. Those include Mapping Sex in America (Share your stories!) and U.S. Patent Office Sex Inventions. (Some of those sex machine photos are definitely not safe for work.)
All kidding aside, the Museum is dedicated to the “exploration of the history, evolution and cultural significance of human sexuality.” Its collections present a variety of sexual preferences and subcultures. Collaborating institutions include the Library of Congress, the Museum of History of the City of New York, New York University, and the New York Public Library. The Museum has reportedly refused funding from the pornography industry.
Ticket prices, hours and directions are listed at the Museum’s website. Note the policy that all visitors must be age 18 or older. So find the kids something else to do for this part of your New York vacation, and leave this place to the adults.
Photo Credits: Licking Sign by Endlisnis, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License; Museum of Sex by David Shankbone, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 License.