In the shadow of the Vegas Strip lies the Erotic Heritage Museum, a relatively humble building that some tourists find strangely reserved considering its contents. After all, the oddly unassuming exterior plays home to an extensive collection of erotic films, art and artifacts, from the world’s largest sex bike to an interactive version of Hieronymous Bosch’s "Garden of Earthly Delights." But even as a Sin City institution that hosts a "Puppetry of the Penis" show, its unexpected modesty makes sense, especially once you walk through the doors and learn that the goal isn’t to arouse but to educate — sans fear of judgment, shame or embarrassment.
Though it primarily acts as a space for people to engage with the history of human sexuality and its impact on culture, the Erotic Heritage Museum has also started to shift its gaze towards the future with its immersive "Sex in Space" exhibition, which curator Kayla Adams explained is focused on "blending our artistic and scientific message" and "emphasizing the imagination" surrounding the concept of interplanetary human sexuality.
And within the exhibit, the most prominent work on display is Dafne Blade’s interactive sculpture that uses the Magic Wand — pop culture’s most infamous sex toy — to comment on the power of sex, consent and self-pleasure.
"Magic Wand has an incredible history of breaking the norm and being revolutionary and diverse," Blade said of their decision to create the piece, which won the "Pleasure as Art" contest held by US Magic Wand distributor, Vibratex. They added, "So the vision aligned as I was able to make the installation without ever feeling like I was bending my artistic vision or integrity."
Inspired by "the magical portal feeling of moongates," it’s a very sci-fi piece made from over 100 decommissioned vibrators, built around a "portal" that contains "a powerful yet playful being." A genderless entity in complete control of their sexuality, the being inhabiting the work "dares you to enjoy the otherworldly pleasure of the Magic Wand with an inviting aura" in two different ways, either by placing yourself at the center of your own sexuality by sitting in the throne-like chair up front or consensually engaging with them on the other side by turning on the vibrators that make up their chest.
They also went on to talk about their desire to make a physical sculpture that people could interact with in person, creating a "full immersion" effect that they argue facilitates a different experience from works utilizing VR and other new technological elements. And from an artistic standpoint, what makes the piece even more special to them is its ability to address other pertinent concepts related to sex and consent, including queerness, gender fluity, as well as the importance of "inclusivity and empowerment for everyone."
After all, Blade explained that their practice is heavily influenced in their love of "exploring the endless possibilities of what really is considered fetish and sex and gender," mostly by "constantly playing with powerful or divine femininity, masculine femininity and feminine masculinity, both in artwork and in real life." So while the entity contains "the essence of divine femininity," Blade noted that there are no genitals, adding that they didn’t "want to exclude people with penises from being able to feel like the entity."
"Because I believe that the Magic Wand can, should and is enjoyed by anyone and everyone, alone or with other people," as Blade said, before saying that their "support and hope for a growing, loving and safer future for queer youth, POCs, trans rights and sex workers" also made them excited to work with the Erotic Heritage Museum, where the piece has the ability to increase visibility and kickstart important conversations surrounding the issues that affect these communities.
Additionally, Vibratex and Magic Wand Brand CEO Ken Herskovitz said that the company instantly fell in love with this aspect of Blade’s vision. Explaining that it contains "a story of power and pleasure that transcends gender and societal constraints," Adams echoed Herskovitz by saying that Blade’s art "provides a truly magical addition to our ‘Sex in Space’ exhibit," as it provides "excellent commentary to the history of self-indulgence and human sexuality."
"The sculpture taps into the past, present and future," as she said. "[Especially] with the Magic Wand being a multigenerational symbol of pleasure, individuality and power."
"And at the Erotic Heritage Museum, individual voice and sexual freedom are critical to everything we do," Adams continued, which was something Blade also agreed with from the standpoint of a visitor, who is more interested in the history of erotic art and contemporary commentary on the way sexuality has shaped our society and culture.
"I’ve been to many sex museums and art galleries, and what was special about this one was that it wasn’t about shock appeal, there was real history in there. It was amazing to be there," they said. "It's such an honor to have my piece displayed there."
Welcome to "Sex with Sandra," a column by Sandra Song about the ever-changing face of sexuality. Whether it be spotlight features on sex work activists, deep dives into hyper-niche fetishes, or overviews on current legislation and policy, "Sex with Sandra" is dedicated to examining some of the biggest sex-related discussions happening on the Internet right now.
Photos courtesy of Erotic Heritage Museum