now on view in NYC

Hardcore: A Century & A Half of Obscene Imagery

“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.”
— The Daily Beast

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.


Lisa Z. Sigel, Ph.D.

Professor of History, Department of History, DePaul University

Author of Governing Pleasures and Making Modern Love


Dr. Sarah Bull

Wellcome Trust Research Fellow, University of Cambridge

Department of History and Philosophy of Science

Aimee Burnham, Ph.D. Candidate

Department of History, University of Warwick

Dr. Colette Colligan

Professor, Department of English, Simon Fraser University

Hal Gladfelder

Senior Lecturer in English Literature

English, American Studies and Creative Writing School of Arts, Languages and Cultures

University of Manchester

Ian Littlewood

Author of Sultry Climates: Travel and Sex since the Grand Tour

Kathleen Lubey, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, English, St. John’s University

Joseph W. Slade, Ph. D.

Professor of Media Arts and Studies, Ohio University

Whitney Strub

Associate Professor and Director of Women’s and Gender Studies, Rutgers University-Newark

Jennifer Tyburczy, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Feminist Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara



Bridgeman Art Library

Nidal Jelahej

Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction

Mark Rotenberg,



SET Creative

Exhibition Design

Sarah Forbes

Curator, Museum of Sex

Mark Snyder

Director of Exhibitions, Museum of Sex



Jim Richards, CPF

Cletis Chatterton

Trey Tyler

Flores Painting

Tobin Productions

Santiago Lima

Lissa Rivera

Derek Stephan