Tired of the same old tourist itineraries? Or are you (un)fortunate enough to be an insomniac in St. Petersburg? Well, lucky for you, the Museum of Erotica is open 24 hours a day and is located right in the center of Piter!
One large wall greets visitors with the infamous quote, «У нас в СССР нет секса»/“we don’t have sex in the USSR.” This was a misinterpretation during one of Vladimir Posner’s US-Soviet space bridge shows, when an American woman asked about sexual exploitation of women in the USSR. Since the word “sex”/«секс» had a negative connotation along the lines of pornography, the question seemed to ask about sexual immoralities in the Soviet Union. In regards to that question, a Soviet woman replied, «У нас в СССР секса нет, а есть любовь»/ “In the USSR, we don’t have (immoral) sex, we have love.” Unfortunately, not only was the question subject to mistranslation, but the second part of the Soviet woman’s reply was generally forgotten. To the allegation of a sexless USSR, the Museum of Erotica intends to prove the opposite, contributing historical accounts of sexuality development and it’s cultural significance.
Museums about eroticism began to pop up around the 1960’s, with the world’s oldest being the Erotic Museum in Amsterdam (1985) and then the Beate Uhse Erotik-Museum in Berlin (1996). Notable others include the Musee de l’Erotisme in Paris, Museum Erotica in Copenhagen, and the Museum of Sex in New York. Russia’s Museum of Erotica is an oft overlooked attraction in the heart of St. Petersburg, just across Ligovsky Prospekt from Ploshchad Vosstaniya and Galeria. It opened in 2004 with consultation from Joseph Kiblitsky, director of publishing and exhibition programs at the State Russian Museum, and Alexander D. Borovsky, curator and head of the Contemporary Art department at the Russian Museum.
Breakdown of the layout: there are five rooms for you to explore in the museum, with temporary exhibitions in the back left corner.
The History Room welcomes you after the shop, filled with old-fashioned paraphernalia and propaganda. It covers ancient renditions of the world’s oldest interaction, copies of literature (novellas and comics), photographs from bygone eras, and most fascinating of all, replicas of 18th and 19th century devices. A chair with pedal-powered feathers, a different sort of Teremok, and a subtle “sex-cycle” are typically on display. Legends of Catherine the Great and her court appear to have a hand in this room’s Russian connection, and her wax figure sits near popular court contraptions (although her erotic cabinet hasn’t made an appearance yet).
The Modern Hall follows the History Room featuring dolls and displays across the erotic spectrum, with the “biggest European collection of sex machines and BDSM constructions.” Also visible is a device rather recently unearthed from the KGB torture rooms and a throne for your next profile picture opportunity. Visitors are allowed, encouraged really, to touch most of the mechanisms housed in the museum.
The Erotic Culture Room features permanent and temporary collections of paraphernalia and memorabilia. Beyond erotic Russian banya figurines and paintings, you can see artifacts from around the globe both ancient and modern.
There is a small reading room connected to the 3D Multimedia Hall, usually with film clips of some erotic nature. Here you can see, but not play, a chess set comprised of genitalia and numerous erotic paintings. MusEros is proud of their Multimedia Hall with its 3D technologies for presenting new information, inspired by Berlin’s Beate Uhse Museum.
The Exhibition Hall is the final stop in the museum with constantly updated exhibits and showings. When my friends and I visited, there was a Rasputin exhibit! While the meaning behind the name, not only indicating the infamous court mystic, fluctuates along the lines of “where two rivers converge,” “debauchee,” and “insidious and corrupting influence,” my Russian friend told me it was also used as an epithet for a lascivious woman during that time.
The exhibit showcased Rasputin’s death specifically, presenting information about the theories surrounding his assassins, the plot, and the numerous ways Rasputin was attacked. His prophecies were also featured, and can be heard through the telephone next to the bed (don’t be alarmed when it rings).
As a note, much of the museum’s signage is in Russian, with most of the English translations in the History Room. Better bring a dictionary or a Russian friend to translate the explicit content. There is a widely held belief that the MusEros is home to Rasputin’s private part. While it may have resided there when the museum was founded, it has since ceased to be. Regardless, the museum holds an abundance of attractions and information for your perusal. And hey, if you enjoyed the museum’s focus, there is a special shop in the museum catered by Pink Rabbit/ Naughty Cat.
The MusEros offers a season ticket for the curious: beyond usual admittance, it allows you to attend workshops, lectures, and performances held at the museum.
Museum of Erotica
Ligovsky Propekt, 43/45
490 rubles for two students (come with a friend!)
Allie Sasek graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies, and a double minor in Women and Gender Studies and Planning, Public Policy, and Management. She previously studied abroad in St. Petersburg during summer 2014, studied and interned in Warsaw in summer 2015, and will return for SRAS’s Russian Studies Abroad in St. Petersburg for the 2015 fall semester. Allie intends to attend a masters program in Europe, and work as a sustainability consultant for international NGOs, businesses, and governments.