Tuesday, May 03, 2005

New York Interlude: sex and the city

Warning: If you are offended by any references to sex and sex-related activities, including pornography, read no further. This post will offend you.

There, I’m sure that eliminated no one from the reading pool. Ocean is a clean blog, but it would be difficult to keep to its regular standards of innocence and purity and still write in any meaningful way about this day.

Because after a morning of chasing down purse acquisition ideas – all the way down to Herald Square, I decided that I needed to pause for some culturally uplifting experience. So I went to the Museum of Sex.

I had passed this place before and had wondered if it was serious or seedy. I thought no more about it (really), but then, at various junctures, references to it kept cropping up. Like, Time Out Magazine lists it (“gawking is okay; snickering is not”). Gerry Frank’s guide to NY says this about it “the entire affair is a bit tawdry…but crowds are streaming to the place and its first exhibit at least tried very earnestly to take itself seriously.”

I was curious as much about the idea of people coming to a museum to see exhibits about sex as about the exhibits themselves. It becomes fascinating to consider when boundaries are crossed – from a display of porn for art’s sake, to a display of porn for the thrill of displaying porn. I had read that this place crosses over into softcore stuff, avoiding the out and out naughty hardcore porn.

Okay, so now I have a couple of observations:

Am I naïve or what? If, at least in the exhibit about the history of pornographic film, watching a series of flicks where there is absolutely nothing left to the imagination, save, perhaps the smell of it all, if that is not hardcore porn then I really have been using the term incorrectly all my life.

Secondly, I was astonished to see that you could pull this off and not have a bunch of deprived and depraved people basically sitting the afternoon long and enjoying themselves and I don’t mean in the “learning about the history of pornography” way. Perhaps the hefty entrance fee keeps a certain type of person away.

I did also wonder if the guard in the museum got tired of anything to do with sex – sort of like being in a relationship too long to get immediately excited when someone emerges from the bathroom less than fully attired.

The patrons were of mixed ages and groupings, but all were terribly serious, almost scholarly in appearance and demeanor. An older couple, several somewhat artsy-looking single people, groups of friends, all maintaining the dignity and quiet that one generally associates with museums. Except that (unlike in other museums) everyone read the explanation cards and postings very very carefully.

And indeed, it was a fascinating presentation. The photographs from the previous century were especially interesting: graphic and not unlovely, without the trashiness that later came to be associated with these kinds of distributions.

Alright, perhaps this is as far as I should take this post. Picture taking was permitted, but after the first photo or two, I decided that I was appearing like I wanted to take some thrills back home with me and so I put my camera away. I did take two shots: one of magnets in the gift shop (I carefully arranged for decent-ish ones to be visible) and the other of the top part of a quite old photo. You can imagine what the bottom of it is like and why she has that sweet little smile of pleasure on her face.
this may have been the only display in the gift shop tame enough to photograph and post here Posted by Hello
when you let loose all those corsets and layers of skirt, intersting pictures emerged... Posted by Hello