A Night at the Sex Museum
The Coveteur's resident sex columnist explores the aptly named "Funland" exhibit, complete with breast-filled bouncy castle.
Welcome to The Coveteur’s brand new series about sex and dating, brought to you with the expertise and humor of our friend Lindsay, of the laughably addictive Tumblr, Tinder in Brooklyn. In her own very DGAF way, she’ll be breaking down the good, the bad and the downright bizarre that is, well, dating in the time of Tinder (and all that other shit we Gen X, Y and Z-ers have to deal with). Check back often, because you know there’s lots to discuss, and let us know what you think on Twitter, @thecoveteur, #TinderinBrooklyn.
One of the best things about living in New York is that I can always find something completely fucking ridiculous to do with my time—none of this small town “let’s drop ecstasy in a corn field and see what happens” business (though I’m sure that has its merits). Nope. I’m talking about the kind of absurdity that you just can’t get anywhere else.
Which brings me to last week, when I found myself jumping around inside a giant bouncy castle of BOOBS. Yup. Ginormous, squishy, inflatable tits. A whole bouncy castle of them! That, my friends, is how I justify paying New York City rent.
The bouncy castle of breasts (aptly called Jump for Joy) is just one component of the outrageous Funland exhibit currently showing at Manhattan’s Museum of Sex. "Funland: Pleasures and Perils of the Erotic Fairground" is an interactive exhibit that evokes the sights and sounds of a classic carnival—only naughtier. Aside from the bouncy castle, the installation features several other ‘carnival attractions,’ all designed with an added dose of titillation and eroticism in mind.
Recently, my friend Emily invited me to check it out with her, and let me tell you, I’m certainly glad I did. I cannot overstate the sheer majesty of my experience. It was fucking GLORIOUS.
HERE'S WHAT TO EXPECT...
As you enter the exhibit, you’ll find a giant maze. Complete with dim lighting, trick mirrors, and plenty of dead ends, it requires expert navigation skills in order to reach the end—at which point you find, drum roll, the G-spot. The metaphor underlying this piece shouldn’t be lost on anyone.
You will then find the Foreplay Derby—a carnival game in which participants race wooden penises down a track. Beyond the penis races (which my date DOMINATED,BTW), you’ll find the bouncy castle of breasts. Make sure you leave yourself enough time to wait in line for this one, darlings. When I visited there was literally a bouncer standing guard to handle the crowds. (Evidently, bouncing boobs make people rowdy.)
Last but not least, at the end of your journey you will arrive at Grope Mountain, a literal climbing-wall made of dicks. And other organs. But still,
SO. MANY. DICKS.
Clearly, the Museum of Sex is not the MET, and THANK GOD. I’ve seen enough Renoir to last a lifetime, but one thing I hadn’t seen prior to my Funland visit was a bunch of racing phalluses set to circus music. If that isn’t already an item on your bucket list, I politely suggest you tack it on there right now.
Anyhow, after spending a solid hour running through the Funland exhibit, I emerged with a few questions. The first one being: Who the hell came up with this? And more importantly, might they be accepting applications for a new best friend? I set out to investigate.
Who the hell came up with this? And more importantly, might they be accepting applications for a new best friend? I set out to investigate.
As it turns out, Funland is the brainchild of Bompas & Parr, the renowned conceptual artist duo based in London. Meet Sam Bompas. Sam is one half of this visionary team, and he might also be my spirit animal. I was lucky enough to get him on the phone, and while I never found the guts to ask him about an available BFF position, I did have the chance to ask him about a few other things...
Lindsay A.: Thank you so much for speaking with me, Sam, I really appreciate it.
Sam Bompas: Of course! You know, I was actually warned about you!
LA: Seriously? That is a perfect start to the interview.
SB: [laughs] The Museum of Sex people mentioned we might hear from you… and they told me a bit of what to expect. Some… cheekiness?
LA: That’s amazing. Yes, I do like to keep things… I’d say casual, but cheeky works, too. People try to make everything sex-related so serious, which I think is silly.
SB: Brilliant. That’s perfect. Actually, that’s sort of what our whole exhibit is about at the end of and the day. We wanted to bring a lightness to sexuality—it’s more flirty than overtly sexual. There is a sense of play that is so important.
LA: Well, you definitely achieve that. I haven’t had that much fun in a museum, well, ever, actually. So how did Bompas & Parr get involved with the Museum of Sex?
SB: We were actually first working with the Museum on a series of cocktails that were served in the Museum Bar. [Sidenote: Yes, the Museum of Sex has both an in-house bar AND sex shop. I told you this place was awesome.] Our big idea was a ‘grape foot cocktail’—you would first receive this sort of footbath with unguents and oils, and then you would proceed to crush your own grapes with your feet. The barmaid would then make the cocktail using that grape juice.
LA: That is outrageous! I want one!
SB: It was great fun… it really played on taboo. Anyhow while we were working with the museum on that, we asked them, you know, had they ever considered a breast bouncy castle? I did some research, and it appears no one had ever actually made one, which is strange because the concept seemed almost obvious!
LA: It’s like the fantasy sequence of every teen sex comedy. There should be more of these.
SB: One in London would be great. It’s such fun.
LA: I do think you should tell people to come wearing a sports bra though—that is probably the only thing that could have enhanced my experience.
SB: [laughs] So you were jumping with enthusiasm!
LA: You have no idea. Okay, so from the bouncy castle you expanded to the rest of the fairground?
SB: Well, once we got the go ahead for the bouncy castle, we knew we wanted to create a larger experience. But obviously, we also knew had to bring some more academic rigour to the concept. So we brought in Vanessa Toulmin, who is the director of the National Fairground Archive to work with us. We began sorting through these huge archives, gathering footage. Some of that footage you’ll see inside the exhibit had never seen the light of day before we got our hands on it, actually.
LA: Seriously. So tell me about how you incorporated the sex element to the carnival setting. Or was it there to begin with?
SB: There is something very titillating and flirtatious about the fairground because it has this whole element of plausible deniability. When you get in a carnival ride, there is this potential for physical contact with complete strangers, and there is a lot of excitement in that. Imagine you are on a roller coaster, perhaps with a date, and as the ride moves you’re jostled around in your seat—you brush up against the other person, your hand grazes theirs. That was the flirtatiousness we wanted to capture.
LA: You know, I’ve actually been on several carnival dates, and I always thought of it as so innocent.
SB: The innocence aspect is important as well. Is the touching accidental, or something more? With the exhibit, the whole challenge was to create that same sense of plausible deniability. When you go to the Museum of Sex, it’s very erotic, and yet there is no real outlet to express that…
LA: It’s true. You know, the floor below Funland, they have a Linda Lovelace exhibit going on [Sidenote: GO] and there is absolutely no release, as you say, while you are inside. I was just down there, and it’s so funny because the first thing you see when you walk in is this MASSIVE porn clip! It’s a scene from Deep Throat that is projected onto an entire wall of the gallery… really outrageous! And yet everyone is very silent, like, very politely watching this clip of oral sex. It’s like, people know how to behave in museums and they keep it up—even when there is a 10-foot-tall blowjob happening in front of them.
SB: It’s amazing, isn’t it? This notion of propriety, even in a sex museum, is so ingrained. To play with that, we wanted to allow interaction as well as release. The bouncy castle, for example, gives people permission to laugh and scream, and they do! Because they know that’s sort of expected behaviour in a bouncy castle. And when you put that castle in a museum, it’s challenging.