Where NOT to take your Valentine? The Museum of Sex

Last week, I popped over to The Museum of Sex with the intention of reviewing it as a Valentine’s Day excursion. But the experience was utterly underwhelming.

The first floor featured “Action: Sex and the Moving Image,” an exhibition that had the potential to be enlightening but felt more like an excuse to watch porn in public than a learning experience. Movies were projected onto walls and platforms with lengthy uninspiring labels affixed beside them. I did not get a sense of how sex on film changed the movie industry or the way movies have altered how we think about sex. I found myself looking more at the peeling paint and shoddy-looking exhibition design than the film clips.
Figuring that my dissatisfaction was the result of latent Puritanism, I moved on to the second floor and The Museum of Sex’s “Spotlight on the Collection,” a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! freak show of fetish objects and antiquated vibrators. Other than a series of photographic prints by Sandra Torralba that mocked modern sex culture, I wasn’t too impressed. Most of the label type was too small to read easily while peeling, roughly cut labels and crooked paint lines were a distraction.
Further along the second floor was “Cartoons Stripped,” an exploration of depictions of sex in comics, cartons, and animation. The content was fascinating and illustrated (no pun intended) how sex comics have reflected political and cultural shifts in society at large. However, the exhibition’s poor design values interfered with my enjoyment and edification. A significant portion of the exhibition moved left to right while the visitor path clearly moved right to left! The labels were in a difficult-to-read typeface and either too wordy or syntactically confusing. The exhibits themselves, however, were of interest.
The third floor is home to “The Sex Lives of Animals,” a balanced glimpse into the widely varying sexual practices of other species. Dotted with marvelous life-sized animal sculptures by Rune Olsen, the exhibition looked better aesthetically than the others (maybe because it didn’t have black walls?) but did not tell me much more than I already knew. Amusing animal sex information seems to be one of those things that my friends like to pass along to one another but we could have come up with 90% of the content ourselves.
I left thinking that the best part of the museum was the gift shop. And you don’t have to pay $18 to see it.

The Museum of Sex

233 Fifth Avenue

Sun-Thu: 10am-8pm and Fri-Sat: 10am-9pm

Must be 18 or older

Save your money and get dinner at The Shake Shack instead


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