Selima Hussain/Staff Writer
Sex, art and psychology intertwine for students taking the Psychology of Sexual Behavior course, taught by Professor Paige Telan. As part of the curriculum for the class, Telan requires her students to make a trip to the World Erotic Art Museum, located in Miami Beach.
“Part of the reason I require students to go to the museum is because we’re not exposed to a lot of sexual imagery in [Western] culture,” said Telan. “I wanted students to have an experience with sexual imagery as an art form.”
The erotic museum contains over 4,000 works of art, ranging from sexual sculptures, furniture pieces, paintings, and etchings, to more modern displays like video presentations and slideshows. It carries ancient and contemporary pieces from all over the world, and is the only museum in the nation that is entirely dedicated to erotic art.
“There is a certain level of shock with this assignment, but I think each student walks away with something different. Not only do I require students to go there, but I also ask them to reflect on what they experienced,” said Telan. Sarah Mayhew, a senior majoring in psychology, was not expecting the erotic museum to carry such a diverse and exhibitionistic collection of art. “I guess I was very surprised to how open it was,” said Mayhew. “I wasn’t expecting [the museum] to be so out-there and visual. It was an interesting first assignment.” Anisa Hosein, a senior majoring in psychology, was also surprised.
“I didn’t really know what to expect,” said Hosein. “But it turned out to be really nice, clean, sophisticated…I liked it.” Other students, like Sasha Bensol, had somewhat higher expectations of the museum. “It was cool to see the artifacts and how far sex dates back, but I thought it would be more interactive,” said Bensol, a junior majoring in psychology.
Although reactions to the museum vary, certain works capture student’s attention more than others. “There was a piece with a naked woman who was holding the earth,” Mayhew said. “I thought that was really cool because it made me think about women’s empowerment.” Bensol found an antique chair modeled after sexual organs to be a particularly interesting piece. “After reading the card with the description of what the piece was about, I couldn’t believe all the things that had happened on that chair,” Bensol said.
While the erotic museum is famous for carrying sexual, unusual, and somewhat outlandish pieces, the difference between art and pornography is a question for discussion. “I see something that’s pornographic as having a single purpose — for arousal,” Telan said. “But art sparks different emotions in people, and as a psychologist, I’m interested in the range of emotions it provokes.”