Dispatches from the front lines of the “Smithsonian of Sex.”
As veteran curator of New York City’s Museum of Sex, Forbes amiably escorts readers through her adventures “turning shocking concepts and images into something that leaves people with a great understanding—or at least broader thinking—of sexuality.” A winsome tour guide, she includes details of her postgraduate life as a “super anthropology nerd,” a background nicely suited to MoSex’s heady subject matter—though the author found museums generally misleading. An anxious neophyte, Forbes was hired within her first year in Manhattan at age 22, “having never watched porn, visited a strip club, or owned a vibrator” and with sparse orientation. A crash course in human sexuality began immediately as the author, mentored by a distinguished co-curator, developed and produced a series of installations on the origins of pornography, the history of condoms, the art of burlesque, X-rated comics, and the sex lives of animals. Particularly taboo was an exhibit spotlighting kink, sexual deviance, and erotic fetishism, for which Forbes scrutinized a simmering subculture eroticizing adult-baby play, BDSM, and giantessophiles and macrogynophiles, whose fantasies “often include the idea of being smothered or crushed.” These intensive, specialized work assignments helped buffer the emotional pain when the author’s long-distance relationship dissolved: “I was a single, twenty-four-year-old museum curator. And on my agenda: porn, porn, and more porn.” As the museum’s popularity grew, Forbes began to cultivate “a new awareness of people. Especially men. She became self-taught on sex history and the works of persnickety collectors and designers on their orgasm machines, sex toys, and RealDolls. The author comes off as an unpretentious and genuinely inquisitive narrator, and her crisp, chatty prose style nicely buffers the shock value of her material. By the time romantic happiness rebloomed, her tenure at the museum had delivered personal and professional contentment as well.
A provocative chronicle steeped in eyebrow-raising details and personal honesty.