Sex at centre of new exhibition

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Published: Wednesday 19th November 2014 by The News Editor

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An “Orgone Accumulator”, a vibrator, saucy postcards, erotic pottery and illustrations from the Kama Sutra are on display in a new, year-long exhibition tackling the study of sex.

The Institute Of Sexology – a show at the Wellcome Collection – features more than 200 objects, including sex toys, paintings, medical artefacts, films, carvings, prints and photographs.

And one object which visitors will be able to try for themselves is the “Orgone Accumulator”, a reflectively lined box which Austrian psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich created in 1939 to generate “vital libidinous energy” in those who sat inside it.

The box – used by writer William S Burroughs – was later parodied as the “orgasmatron” in the 1973 Woody Allen sci-fi film Sleeper, a clip of which is also on show.

The Institute Of Sexology is the first UK exhibition to bring together sexologists, pioneers in the study of sex such as Sigmund Freud, Marie Stopes and Alfred Kinsey.

It uses eyebrow-raising objects from the last 150 years to tell their story and how their work has shaped attitudes towards sexual behaviour.

Also on display is a mechanical vibrator from the early 20th Century, which was claimed to cure everything from colds to “female hysteria”.

Visitors will also see illustrations from 1970s sex manual The Joy Of Sex, and videos of animals – such as elephants, porcupines, cows, hamsters and cats – copulating, from US sexologist Kinsey’s archive.

Objects from around the world include an early 20th Century Japanese porcelain fruit containing a model of a couple engaged in foreplay, a 19th Century Chinese statue of a couple copulating and Roman models of male and female genitals.

Closer to home, the exhibition looks at the work of Scottish-born Stopes, who fought for advances in the field of birth control and women’s sexual rights.

The letters she received after publishing Married Love in 1918 – including one from a man who detailed his wife’s preferred sexual position and another who told her to “go back to your own country and preach your dirty methods there” – are on show.

Visitors will also see a chart from 1914 in which Stopes records her own sexual impulses at different times of the month, entitled Tabulation Of Symptoms Of Sexual Excitement In Solitude.

The exhibition also looks at the work of Freud, who believed sexual emotion was the key to neurotic symptoms, and Kinsey, who wrote that “the only unnatural sex act is that which you cannot perform”, and whose team interviewed over 18,000 people across the US about their sexual history

A lab which William Masters and Virginia Johnson secretly established at Washington University to observe and record hundreds of individuals having sex is also assessed.

Co-curator Honor Beddard said: “The Institute Of Sexology presents the study of sex in all its complexity and contradiction.

“Highlighting the profound effect that gathering and analysing information can have in changing attitudes about the human condition, the exhibition reveals our understanding of sexual identity as ever-evolving story.”

The free show will also feature changing commissions, live events, discussions and performances throughout the year.

Wellcome Collection – which has recently shown exhibitions on the brain and death – is part of the Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation dedicated to achieving improvements in human and animal health.

::: The Institute Of Sexology opens at the Wellcome Collection on Thursday and runs until September 20, 2015.

Published: Wednesday 19th November 2014 by The News Editor

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