World's best naughty museums
Who said museums had to be boring? Explicit, entertaining and educational, a growing number of sex museums are popping up around the world, taking a sometimes-serious but mostly tongue-in-cheek look at man's favourite pastime. Free your inhibitions with these exhibitions that examine the role of sex in society throughout the last few centuries.
New York, USA
From the city that brought sex to the forefront of modern pop culture, the Museum of Sex is the type of Fifth Avenue address you expect to see Carrie Bradshaw popping into. Nicknamed MoSex by locals, the museum examines the impact of sexuality and sex on cultural identity and encourages you to consider how sex shapes society today.
The collection includes works by Pablo Picasso, a section on sexual vocabulary and an impressive collection of toys and inventions designed to tickle your fancy; while their extensive museum shop will open your wallet (and your imagination). There's also an online exhibition where you can click on a red velvet curtain to see 1950s glamour shots displaying the body beautiful, and interesting inventions designed to invigorate your libido.
The museum most likely to: get you hot under the collar.
Various locations, Japan
From Japan, the country that pioneered the Penis Festival, porn vending-machines and the love hotel, comes the hihosan, which translates as the "house of hidden treasures". Located all over Japan, these small museums are often personal pornography collections put up for public display and located close to onsen, the traditional Japanese bath.
More a carnival of carnal curiosities, these museums offer a number of jaw-dropping experiences. Phallic statues? Check. Robot re-enactments? Check. Giant model of a whale penis? Check. A machine that blows the skirt of a life-size model, Marilyn Monroe-style? Check. A giant penis machine you can take a ride on? Check. If you're after kitsch and kink, a hihosan is the place to come get it.
The museum most likely to: make you giggle.
National Archaeological Museum, Naples, Italy
Pompeii was a port town of pleasure where the brothels outnumbered the temples nine to one, and phallic symbols were carved into the roads by city officials, pointing out the nearest house of ill repute. It was also buried under volcanic ash for two thousand years when Mt Vesuvius erupted in AD 79.
When Pompeii was excavated, all the scandalous artefacts, including headless Roman statues with stiffies poking out from their gowns, hundreds of phallic-shaped lamps, and frescoes of some naughty nymphs playing leapfrog, were placed in a locked room at the National Archaeological Museum in Naples. In 1849 the secret room was considered so risqué that it was bricked up to protect the public from its profane ways.
Nowadays historians have worked out that most of the phallic artefacts were talismans used to ward off evil spirits. But today, you still need to make an appointment with the museum to the room, and visitors less than 14 years of age aren't allowed in.
The museum most likely to: make you wish you'd paid more attention to your history teacher in school.
Prague, Czech Republic
For those more interested in the mechanics of good sex, the Sex Machines Museum with its lipstick-red walls in the heart of Prague's Old Town is your place. The museum is quite small but includes a number of historical gadgets and contraptions dating back to 16th century. There is an impressive collection of "creative" aids (think voyeuristic chamber pots from France and hand-cranked metal vibrators) aimed at helping people experience sexual pleasure.
Even more eye-opening is the display of a number of devices aimed at preventing people (mainly women) from enjoying a bump and tickle, including chastity belts with clawed teeth from the 1580s and iron corsets.
Upstairs, there's an old erotic cinema showing some of the world's oldest (and possibly tamest) pornography.
The museum most likely to: inspire your next Halloween costume.
The French are the masters of lovemaking, and the very definition of sexy. There's no surprise then that Paris, the city of love, has its own Museum of Eroticism. Set over seven stories and located near the Moulin Rouge club, there is a wide collection of pre-20th century art and sculpture that examines how other cultures have interpreted sex throughout the centuries, along with more contemporary (and sometimes shocking) artwork that pushes the boundaries of good manners and taste.
The highlight of the collection is an entire floor devoted to the role of the bordello in French life, open from the 19th century up until 1946, when they were shut down by the government. Along with temporary exhibitions, there are also films, interactive displays and artefacts.
The museum most likely to: make your jaw drop to the floor.
Have you been to any of these sex museums, or have any others to add to the list?