The Institute of Sexology: Small but perfectly informed

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Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

Sex toys in tortoise shell from the 1930s, 2000-year-old bronze tintinnabula (wind chimes) shaped like penises with birds legs, a small Shunga shell, and painted manuscripts of Kamasutra – these are just some of the items on display at the Wellcome collection’s Institute of Sexology – Undress Your Mind.

I had to fight my mind getting distracted by thoughts like ‘how many men in here have an erection right now?’ This was especially disturbing as I kept finding myself next to a 60+ gentleman with white Einstein hair who was breathing heavily, bending down to get a look at the Chinese ceramic couple copulating.

Hoping to indulge in phallic worship, this is not THAT kind of sex exhibition, but an introduction to ‘the interdisciplinary study and classification of human sexuality.’

Slowly making my way through the elegant grey space, I learn about different aspects of Sexology in rooms dedicated to these different approaches and times.

‘The Consulting Room’ teaches of Dr Sigmund Freud and Dr Marie Stopes – I especially enjoyed a collection of letters to Stopes which demonstrated that humans have changed little while beliefs and fashions have. I also liked Freud’s porcupine.

Continuing on, I also visit ‘The Tent’, ‘The Classroom’, ‘The Box’, ‘The Laboratory’ and ‘The Home’. This brilliantly curated exhibition leaves you in ‘The Library’ – a tribute to the sexologist’s archives’ where literature mentioned in the exhibition can be browsed.

The fairly small exhibition is drier than I expected but perfectly informed. More than a static display, there will be talks on cruising, researching porn and examinations of sexology pictures from the late 19th century, from the first of December.


You can visit the exhibition at the Institute of Sexology, 183 Euston Road, London NW1 2BE, until the September 20, 2015.

Click here for more details.


Image courtesy of Wellcome Library, London

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