MOSCOW, Russia — Ever wondered what Soviet condoms looked like, or what Vladimir Putin would look like with two penises? Welcome to Moscow’s first sex museum.
The museum, subtly titled Tochka G (“G Spot”), opened last month off New Arbat, one of Moscow’s main drags (the directions helpfully point visitors to the “arch between RusBurger and Chili’s”). Unlike many major cities, Moscow does not have a red light district. Rather, strip clubs and brothels spread across the city in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse and still constitute a major part of its nightlife.
G Spot, open 24 hours a day, can be added to that list. Its identity is not subtle. Upon entering the red-walled basement museum, visitors see a 6-foot phallus decorated in the traditional blue and white style of Russia’s famous Gzhel ceramics. If they're still confused about what kind of establishment they've entered, just a few steps away is a six-foot flesh-colored phallus.
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The museum’s main draw is an oil painting by St. Petersburg artist Vera Donskaya-Khilko titled "Wrestling" (2011). The busy multi-colored canvas is dominated by two figures — Russian Prime Minister Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama. Gone are the staid suits of bilateral meetings, replaced instead by nudity in its crudest form. Obama is decorated as an African chief, a chain of coins hanging from his neck, drawing attention to an oversized yellow penis. Putin gets a red nuclear button as a necklace, and sports two massive penises, one bright red, the other a deep green. The wall text helpfully reads: “Putin has two members, as a symbol of hyperpotency, a symbol of the gray cardinal.”
“It’s interesting, but I don’t totally understand it,” said Artyom, a 21-year-old student visiting the museum with two friends on a recent drizzly afternoon.
He would have done well to talk to the museum’s founder and curator, Alexander Donskoi, who oversees a team of 15 employees and got G Spot up and running in just three months. For Donskoi, the museum isn’t even really about sex.
“It’s a project about freedom,” he said.
Donskoi is deeply critical of current politics in Russia. During a one-hour interview, the subject of sex was hardly discussed. Instead, he gravitated toward subjects including corruption, authoritarianism and freedom of speech.
They are subjects Donskoi knows well. He was elected mayor of the northwestern city of Arkhangelsk in 2005, running as a candidate independent of the ruling United Russia party. Two years later, after announcing his intention to run for the presidency, in a bid, he says, to draw attention to his city’s problems, he found himself the subject of several investigations. He was eventually jailed for three years on charges of using a fake diploma.
Now he has put all his efforts into G Spot — an undertaking that has already irked authorities. On Thursday afternoon, he met a representative of the mayor’s office who, he said, had received requests to shut the museum down. “They can do whatever they want,” he said.
Moscow, despite its hypersexualized nightlife, has very few platforms that discuss sex in terms of its role in culture, politics and society. The museum has put together a film roll comprising scenes from the 1990 Russian film “Sex and Perestroika” and a famous clip from a 1986 talk show in which a woman announces that there is no sex in the Soviet Union.
Today, sex is everywhere, but also nowhere. Public education campaigns on condom use and sexually transmitted diseases, for example, are nearly nonexistent. Recently, a popular talk show host, Yelena Malysheva, began exploring sex issues on her Channel One program, “Health.” Her explanation of circumcision — which involved inviting a woman on stage, only to pull a turtleneck over her head and shower her in sequins to imitate how an uncircumcised penis faces greater risk of infection — quickly went viral. It also provided the perfect example of how issues of sex are regularly made fun of and infantilized. In another episode, Malysheva explained over a sad soundtrack, to a giggling and confused audience, that yes, many men masturbate while married and that it is not an evil or harmful thing.
G Spot doesn’t go into such issues, though there is a small tabletop library. Instead, its walls are covered in gaudy paintings — of a mermaid with two sets of breasts, a man serving two glasses of wine on his erect penis — and pencil drawings dedicated to spanking and the like. Sculptures show a reindeer having sex with a zebra. One wall is lined with Real Doll blow-up dolls. Glass cases display artifacts from China, France and Africa such as erotic woodcarvings and phallic talismans. Only one case is devoted to Russia, where visitors can see Soviet-era condoms (“From the Bakovsky Factory, Size 2, two roubles”) and Soviet-era art deco vaseline tins.
The Russian theme continues in the museum’s shop, which Donskoi said is the biggest sex shop in Russia. Tucked between the whips and vibrators, the latex masks and lacy lingerie, stands a rack with sexy costumes. No nurse or French maid outfits here, instead the selection plays on purely Russian fantasies: Aeroflot stewardess, Young Pioneer, traffic policeman (complete with black and white baton).
Donskoi said the most popular items were sexy tax police and prosecutor uniforms. “It’s a bit of a fetish, because everyone is scared of them most.”
If that’s not your thing, there’s always the S&M matryoshka nesting doll.