Right now (ending this week), they've got a show exploring homemade erotica – drawings, photos, and these unbelievably adorable penis cozies. Don't you want the pattern?
According to associate curator Garry Milius, for people who didn't have access to porn – which was most people in the pre-Internet age — homemade erotic art was as good as it got. "People didn't have access to erotic material — or if they did, it wasn't what they were interested in" he points out. Plus, "sometimes, the act of creation was itself an erotic experience."
The Kinsey Institute has a video on these vintage sex toys (might not be safe for work or when kids are around -- it just shows old sex toys but some of them are graphic). Most of the stuff in the video doesn't measure up to today's commercially-produced sex toys. The drawings are mostly technically terrible; the "models" are homey, if not homely; the fetishes are sorta … specialized. But there's one huge advantage: you can be a lot more certain that the people involved are enjoying themselves, not doing it for a paycheck.
A lot of the items on display were created by lonely prisoners using whatever they could get their hands on – ballpoint pens, even soap. But some were donated by their creators – like one married couple's photo album, chronicling lovingly naughty adventures from throughout their long marriage. Still others were passed along by family members who didn't know what to do with Uncle Clyde's weird collection. Almost everything is from the mid-20th century, when Alfred Kinsey was doing most of his work, though there is an altered penny (with sexy images carved into it) from the Civil War, and another altered coin from France in the 1700s.
These days, it just takes the click of a mouse to find married couples who get turned on by putting their private moments on display. But these are from an earlier time, when that wasn't an option – there wasn't the technology, and society just wasn't as permissive, for better or for worse.
The takeaway seems to be: Don't feel weird about your own freaky tendencies in the bedroom. If you knew what your neighbors were up to, you'd feel nice and normal – and maybe even inspired to get up to even more no-good shenanigans!
What do you think of these vintage sex toys? Should we go back-to-basics?