Exhibitionism. Sexuality at the Museum


Collections of artifacts and artworks addressing sexuality have played an important role in the production of sexual knowledge. From antiquities to contemporary art to everyday, mass-produced objects, the stories of sexuality have been told and collected through material culture. The public display of these collections of material culture connected to sexuality has always been contentious.

There is a lack of educational concepts and methods for talking about sexuality in a museum setting, as well as still deeply-held restrictive notions of talking about sex. At the same time, museums have often excluded sexualities and perspectives from women, people of color, queer people, disabled people, sex workers, indigenous people, and people from other marginalized communities. The racist and colonial legacies of museum collections, the exoticizing of non-western bodies and desires, and the objectification of women are well-known and studied. And yet, as more and more museums and exhibition spaces around the world recognize these extreme limitations, they are using artwork, objects, and other materials to talk about sexuality in new ways and critically engage with the diversity and intersections of sexuality, race, gender, and disability.

Museums and exhibition spaces around the world are using artwork, objects, and other materials to talk about sexuality in new ways, prompted in part by a growing number of museum and collections professionals who work with materials connected to human sexuality. Museums are also increasingly becoming spaces for community gathering, creating opportunities for LGBTQIA+ people, people of color, sex workers, kink collectives, and other historically marginalized groups to engage audiences in programming that explores a variety of topics related to human sexuality.

This conference brought together professionals from a diverse array of practices and disciplines to explore, learn, connect, and share their experiences about this important topic. The conference went beyond established (non-digital) conference structures, exploring new means of conference participation and interaction online by combining pre-produced audio-visual presentations, in-depth live discussions, performances, and online socializing.

Mireille Miller-Young: The Black Erotic Archive
Annie Sprinkle & Beth Stephens: We’ve Come a Long Way – What’s the Future of Sex on Display?