Museum of Sex

A photo from Mariette Pathy Allen's work prints c. 1981-2006

Museum of Sex and its Punk Exhibition are Wildly Informative

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Aug. 9 2019, Updated 7:26 p.m. ET

If you’ve been to New York City in 2019, you couldn’t have missed the catchy subway ads for the Punk Lust: Raw Provocation exhibition at the Museum of Sex. When it comes to sex and loud music, it’s easy and inevitable for people to assume bad things. But that is not what the 21+ experience was – at least not all of it.

Upon entering the museum, a dimly-lit room surrounds you as vintage videos and photos are exhibited to tell the peculiar history of R-rated films, pornography, and censorship in the U.S and Europe. This section that’s in collaboration with Pornhub is particularly intriguing – more of a history lesson into humanity, sexuality, and the art of steamy cinema than anything. Did you know that the first ever moving image “porn star” was Candy Barr, an underage stripper?

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On another floor of the Museum of Sex is a space focused on the art and culture of the hated and feared transgender people and cross-dressers in the U.S. In a letter addressed to Kitty Carlisle Hart at the New York State Council of the Arts in 1988, a woman named Diane Richwine wrote:

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“I am a wife of a transvestite in San Francisco. [Male cross-dressing] is an area sorely misunderstood by society through negative and sensational media coverage. What is needed is more responsible public education and awareness for this widespread and harmless compulsion. I happen to know several wonderful, but lonely young men who are afraid of meeting women because of their so-called ‘affliction.’ These men need to begin with self-acceptance, and it would help if more women were educated about transvestism so that they do not shrink from meeting these otherwise fabulous men who make outstanding husbands and very caring fathers.”

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“I am a wife of a transvestite in San Francisco. [Male cross-dressing] is an area sorely misunderstood by society through negative and sensational media coverage. What is needed is more responsible public education and awareness for this widespread and harmless compulsion. I happen to know several wonderful, but lonely young men who are afraid of meeting women because of their so-called ‘affliction.’ These men need to begin with self-acceptance, and it would help if more women were educated about transvestism so that they do not shrink from meeting these otherwise fabulous men who make outstanding husbands and very caring fathers.”

Allow me to jump right ahead to the Punk Lust: Raw Provocation exhibition, because it really did make an impression. The whole floor featured graphic posters by legendary London punk artists such as Jamie Reid, and of course one-of-a-kind apparels handmade by Vivienne Westwood herself back in the 70’s when punk was just emerging as an aesthetic, lifestyle, and music on the street scene. Free your mind and examine punk fanzines, fashion sketches, original film photographs, D.I.Y. jewelries, music clips, instructional videos, and so many more interesting archive artifacts.

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This whole museum experience educates visitors about more than just sexual intercourse. The long history of censorship realizes how far ignorance can go and how toxic it is to be avoidant when it comes to sex – a thing that is so natural and human, yet seldom discussed in a constructive and healthy way. If you thought that the Museum of Sex was only a place of taboo fun, you would be pleasantly surprised to find that it is more than a sex souvenir shop. It is an enlightening cultural experience that really gives you perspective about human nature.

But of course the gift shop was pretty f*cking cool too.

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