“While online porn may seem a world away from the brothel catalogs of long ago, the Museum of Sex’s latest show shows our appetite for porn is long—and inventive.”
In our modern Internet Age, with thousands of explicit images available at the click of a button, the terms “hardcore” and “pornography” have become nearly synonymous. But while it is easy to imagine that “hardcore” is an invention of the 21st century, the desire to sexually break the boundaries of physical and social modesty has long revealed itself throughout history. Despite repeated attempts to censor, sequester or “sanitize” this sexual past, artifacts left from previous generations prove our ancestors were not as asexual as an expurgated version of history would like us to believe. Though much has been lost or discarded, many private collections were kept hidden and secretly traded. Highlights of the exhibition include: a 1855 New York City Brothel Guide; a hand illustrated sex manual from the late nineteenth century; turn of the century photographs featuring interracial sex, group sex, same sex encounters and sex toys use; early stag films; a late twentieth century “glory hole”; as well as a collection of erotic artifacts hidden for nearly a century in the brickwork of a recently renovated Brooklyn brownstone.