I had my reservations about visiting the Museum of Erotic Art in Paris, mainly because of where it is – close to the Moulin Rouge and surrounded by porn shops. Guilt by association might suggest it would be tacky, seedy even. It was a pleasant surprise.
The museum grew from a private collection. What I hoped was that it was a reasonably comprehensive collection from around the world. It was. The lower levels are dedicated to the erotic art from cultures around the world, Africa, South America, etc, with particular attention paid to India, China and Japan. The upper floors concentrate on the history of pornography in the West. The upper most floor is dedicated to contemporary art.
I could have taken many photos but I was really only interested in recording those relevant to this blog.
The first is a statue of the goddess Shakti revealing her sacred yoni. This is a symbol of the act of creation. The second is an example of the Tantric celebration of sex. The third is a shunga that clearly depicts the relaxed attitude the pre-contact Japanese had to sex. One of the things that most shocked Westerners was that some shunga depicted children. Clearly the Japanese did not see parental sex as a private matter.
I think it is important that these museums exist. They clearly provide proof that other cultures viewed sex quite differently from the Christian West. Centuries of successful censorship has meant that the ‘average’ Westerner simply has no idea of this other world. Of course that was the intention. The authorities feared that Westerners might begin to reject the Christian view.
Whilst I have only mentioned it briefly, in Indian aesthetics, the companion of the erotic mode is humour, and that is clearly in evidence in the museum. Where the West takes sex very seriously, other cultures saw the humour in it. What else is one to make of a tribal mask with a penis nose?