Friday, February 13, 1998

John Goddard
Southam Newspapers

p. C3.

Museum braces for Valentine sex show

The Royal Ontario Museum is preparing an X-rated display of ancient erotica for Valentine's Day guests.

TORONTO -- An X-rated display of erotica meant as a Valentine's Day treat for lovers has curators joking nervously at the Royal Ontario Museum. "It's not really pornography but if somebody says it is, we're in trouble," says Brian Musselwhite, assistant curator for decorative arts. "I hope I'm not led away in handcuff," says Paul Denis, assistant curator for Greek and Roman collections.

They're talking about Love and Lust Through the Ages, an exhibit described in newspaper ads as a collection of "rarely seen salacious erotica that hides in the ROM's collections."

The show is scheduled to open Saturday for three hours only, no children allowed.

"We wanted to do something special for adults in Valentine's Day," program director Ken Dewar explained this week. "It will be closed off and we'll be warning people before they come in."

How much the precautions have to do with public sensitivity and how much with arousing curiosity in forbidden objects remains open to question. But the show's larger lesson is clear -- what might be salacious to modern Canadians was not necessarily salacious to others.

"In ancient Greece and Rome, sex was not considered a hindrance to spiritual development," Denis said. "People wore penis amulets to ward off the evil eye. Even children wore phallic rings for the same reason."

Gayle Gibson, an educator specializing in ancient Egypt, is offering clay penises and fertility figures with oversized pubic triangles collected from tombs.

"What would the future make of the Barbie doll?" she mused when asked what the figures might have meant to the people who made them.

"Is Barbie a fertility figure? Or with no nipples or a vagina, does she represent the playful aspects of sexuality?"

Two musicians who collect 19th-century music are also scheduled to sing lewd songs from lumber camps.

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Created: April 23, 1998
Last modified: April 23, 1998

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