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October 05, 2002 07:35pm
New York Museum Exposes City's Sexy Side
Source: Reuters

(NEW YORK, NY) -- Sex in the city just got serious. New York's Museum of Sex, an adults-only institution that takes a journey through the city's sexual landscape over the centuries, opened to the public on Saturday.

The museum's debut exhibition, "NYC Sex: How New York City Transformed Sex," chronicles the way key events in the city's sexual history, as well as the everyday rebellions of anonymous New Yorkers, have influenced Americans' attitudes about sex.

"It's strange to stand around with other people watching porn," said Michael Schachner, a freelance writer in New York, although he added: "I think people check their inhibitions at the door in an exhibit like this."

Visitors plunked down $17 for admission and packed into narrow corridors to peer studiously at photos, films, objects and art that delve into the history of prostitution, burlesque, birth control, fetishes and other sex-related subjects.

Ranging from the tame to the X-rated, the exhibit aims to entertain - the audio tour features a woman's excited moan - as well as educate.

"We want people to ask questions. We want them to be informed," said Rebecca Ames, the museum's assistant curator. "We're here to show you what's out there."

Ads for brothels around New York city from the mid-1800s, photos of burlesque and striptease queen Gypsy Rose Lee and stag films from the early 1900s featuring nudity and sex acts are included among the museum's earlier items.

But one of the biggest draws seemed to be a section in the area dealing with sex in the 1960s and 1970s. Visitors - who must be over 18 years old to enter - eyed four video screens showing graphic films featuring 1970s porn star Vanessa Del Rio engaging in a variety of sexual acts.

Another wall displays photos of a blond pouty-lipped Linda Lovelace, another 1970s porn star who helped create "porn chic" with her movie "Deep Throat."

Other sections explore major turning points in America's sexual history, like the 1969 Stonewall riots in Greenwich village that helped spark the gay pride movement. Recordings of accounts by police and witnesses help paint the scene.

In the "Bizarre" section, which explores the fetish and sadomasochism subculture in 1930s New York, a severe-looking woman wearing high black boots and holding a riding crop glares out of one photo. Further down the wall are examples of early fetish gear from the 1960s.

More shocking than any of the explicit photos was the idea that kinky behavior is nothing new, said Danielle Morfi, 21, a recent graduate of Boston University, who was most intrigued by the museum's collection of vintage condom tins.

"When you think back about the 1800s, you weren't thinking people back then were having sex," Morfi said.

A portion of ticket proceeds from NYC sex will benefit ACRIA (Community Research Initiative of America), the Kinsey Institute and the Lesbian Herstory Archives.

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