Why you should care

Because getting off has a wild and curious history to celebrate.

In this original series, Extreme Museums, join OZY for a look at some of the world’s weirdest and wildest exhibitions. Read more.

For centuries, museums have committed to archiving every facet of human history. Yet without sex, there would be no human history. You’d be hard-pressed to find something that holds attention better than the fascinating array of taboo ways people have found to get their “little death.” With such a plethora of positions, titillating toys and sensual stylings throughout our hedonistic histories, it should be no surprise that hidden around the world, there’s myriad museums that celebrate kink.

Sex Machines Museum

It’s fitting that the first sex toy museum, tucked away in Prague, was the offspring of the Curiosity Museum started by Oriano Bizzoch. Few things have focused mankind’s curiosity as much as finding new ways to get off. For 17 years, the museum’s eclectic collection of 300 exhibits — from steam-powered dildos to voyeuristic chamber pots and the decidedly less fun iron corsets and electric antimasturbation devices — has strived to do one thing well: “To create amazement,” says spokesman Marco Mussoni. Nevertheless, the museum offers insight into how cultural and technological revolutions leave indelible marks on sexuality: dildos that Chinese royalty gave their many wives to keep them faithful; steam-powered sex machines prudish Victorian men created to treat women’s “hysteria”; and the explosion of sex toys precipitated in the wake of the plastic revolution.

Fee: $12. Open daily 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Leather Archives & Museum

From burlesque to bindings and from strip clubs to stirrups, the windy city (Chicago) knows how to celebrate big sighs. Since 1991, the LA&M has strived to “[make] leather, kink, BDSM, and fetish accessible,” according to its literature. But the museum isn’t just for people to leer at a leather lineup — though there are plenty of beautifully crafted restraints and spanking benches, as well as exhibits showcasing famous, classically trained dominatrixes’ garb and the history of leather bars. Toys aside, there’s also a meticulous archive of historically influential kink and LGBTQ-related literature and art: the writings of Tony DeBlase, Joseph Bean, and Jim Kane; copies of fetish magazines like Drummer, Bound & Gagged, Sandmutopia Guardian; and the largest collection of art by famous homosexual painter Etienne.

Fee: $10. Open Thursday and Friday: 11 a.m.- 7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday: 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Venustempel Sex Museum

This informal institution comes with a serendipitous mix of camp and reverence. When Venustempel opened in 1985, it was a paltry handful of display cases of 19th century sex relics. The Amsterdam museum, with halls named after famous historical sex symbols like Cleopatra and Rudolph Valentino, has expanded into a globe-trotting collection (although a bit light on Asian relics) exploring the historical cultural influence on sex. From copies of the infamous English erotica novel Fanny Hill to chastity belts and weathered Chinese books of sex advice for newlyweds, there’s something for everyone. Keep an eye out for the two whimsically massive plastic penis statues — surrounded by people snapping photos, of course.

Fee: $6. Open daily 9:30 a.m - 11:30 p.m.

The Museum of Prostitution

Amsterdam also hosts the only museum that takes visitors “behind the scenes of the oldest profession of the world.” The biggest attractions are re-created working girl-rooms, which offer intimate, personal window into the lives of people often objectified. On the whole, the museum aims to teach not only empathy with sex workers, but also about the roles they’ve played in the conversation about women and human rights. Situated in the red-light district of a city that has, in recent decades, been on the forefront of advancing health care, agency and legal protection for sex workers, the museum could hardly have found a better home.

Fee: $12 for basic admission. Open daily 11:00 a.m. - midnight.

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