Manhattan’s Museum of Sex is home to New York City’s kinkiest, most risqué exhibitions and objects, right down to a breast filled blow-up playground and a "RuPaul Speaks" fortune-telling machine. The Met this is not, and that’s more than okay: check out erotic galleries, ogle sexy ephemera, browse the multi-format video collection, and shop for sex toys, all under the guise of education. This is guaranteed to be the friskiest way to learn about historical and social aspects of society, culture, and sex. Go with an open mind and read on for everything you need to know about the museum devoted to man’s oldest pastime: getting it on.
History and Background
When the Museum of Sex debuted on Fifth Avenue on Oct. 5, 2002, with its inaugural exhibition NYCSEX: How New York Transformed Sex in America, it was seen as a progressive leader in the museum world. Since then, it has created more than 30 exhibitions exploring the cultural significance of human sexuality. The museum has collaborated with The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, New York University’s Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Pornhub, New-York Historical Society, and the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. With a permanent collection of more than 20,000 artifacts comprised of works of art, photography, clothing and costumes, technological inventions, and historical ephemera, the museum maintains a massive collection of sexually related objects. It also houses a research library and an extensive multimedia library.
What to See and Do
The four floors of the museum usually feature one exhibit per level, and those rotate every several months, drawing from the museum’s vast collection of things like S&M gear, historical memorabilia, Japanese Shunga prints, vintage condoms, vibrators, and men’s magazines. Exhibits range from historical ephemera and paraphernalia to art and photography to movies to interactive games. Past and current exhibitions include the Sex Lives of Animals, The Eve of Porn: Linda Lovelace, Punk Lust: Provocation 1971-1985, and Mariette Pathy Allen: Rites of Passage 1978–2006, a collection of queer and trans photographs.
A separate part of the museum was unveiled in October 2019 after renovations and is devoted to Super Funland: Journey into the Underground Carnival. It is four floors of carnivalesque erotic amusements, including a mirrored tunnel of love, a sexy mechanical bull, sex-themed games, a porn video generator, and a 4D theater, all created by artists and designers including RuPaul, Rebecca Purcell, Bart Hess, and Thyss. Instagram opportunities abound. It also includes the beloved (and much Instagrammed) Jump for Joy: Bouncy Castle of Breasts, the inflatable boob-filled wonderland.
For an atypical souvenir, stop by the shop to browse a selection of toys, apparel, and gear, including vibrators, nipple clamps, X-rated candy, adult books, perfumes, and a variety of lubes. There’s also a sexy, dimly lit bar in the basement with an extensive cocktail menu. After all, you may want (need?) a stiff drink before or after the exhibits—or both.
How to Visit
The Museum of Sex is open Sunday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., with the last entry at 9 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 12 a.m., with the latest entry at 10 p.m. It takes about 60 minutes to experience the museum. Guided tours are offered Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays at 2 p.m. and Saturdays at noon and are free of charge. Admission cost is $19.50, with some attractions costing extra. Military and student discounts of $3 off are available on site, not online.
Tips for Visiting
- Visitors must be 18 years or older, and sometimes IDs are requested.
- Although the museum stays open late, they stop admitting people one hour before the actual close time.
- Photographs with small cameras and without flash are allowed.
- Visits to the store and bar are allowed without an admission ticket.
- There is a coat check that is complimentary for coats and bags.
- All bathrooms are gender-neutral.
- The carnival games cost extra (from $3) and aren’t included in your ticket.