The New Erotic Heritage Museum in Las Vegas

Jersey BoysPhoto by Steve Fey
50% discount for locals!

I’m not sure what sort of person I expected to meet when I first visited the new Erotic Heritage Museum on Industrial Boulevard at Desert Inn. I do know that it wasn’t a Methodist minister. But that’s just what executive director Ted McIlvenna is. To my greater amazement, I learned that his wife, daughter and son also are involved in the operation of the museum.

I’m as curious as anyone, I suppose, so I had to ask how a man of the cloth came to open a museum dedicated to erotica and sexuality right here in “Sin City.” The answer is that McIlvenna was initially sent by his church to study gay men, with an eye to converting them to the straight heterosexual path; when that effort failed (“zero success,” McIlvenna says), the church asked him what people needed to know about sex and sexuality. Some years and adventures later, the result is the Erotic Heritage Museum.

The museum is partly an illustrated history of erotica (including conservation efforts), partly a history of First Amendment law in the United States, and partly a museum of contemporary erotic art. When I first visited, the exhibits were only partially installed, and some items were a complete mystery to me. Now plaques explain the history and uses of all of the historical items on display.

Jersey BoysPhoto by Steve Fey
The “mouse wheel” apparatus for
bondage and sadomasochism

Prominently displayed near the entrance is a “mouse wheel,” intended for use by women involved in bondage and sadomasochism. Most of the rest of the first floor is dedicated to historical displays, including an interesting timeline of the events surrounding the release of the porn film “Deep Throat” in 1972 and the legal turmoil that ensued. That controversy resulted in the “community standards rule,” which is still used to determine if artwork or activities are legally “obscene.” Certainly it’s true that community standards can vary a lot. Just look at the standards in Las Vegas and Salt Lake City.

Jersey BoysPhoto by Steve Fey
A peepshow booth

I was very interested in the various old-fashioned “peep show” devices on display. The exhibit includes several booths of the kind that were once standard outside every military base in the country; after depositing a coin, the serviceman would be presented with a short movie. Another booth, dating from about a century ago, was designed with two compartments separated by a window. The gentleman would sit on one side of the window while a lady on the other side would display her various talents and attributes for his amusement. Not so different from some Internet sites, but considerably less convenient for both parties.

Jersey BoysPhoto by Steve Fey
A Francois Dubeau painting in the
tradition of Matisse

The second floor houses exhibits of contemporary erotic artists. On opening day, in early August, the exhibitors include François Dubeau, whom McIlvenna refers to as “the next Matisse,” Bobby Logic, Todji Kurtzman, Jacqueline Cooper, Keith Murray, Michael Grecco and Jefferson Gord (whose works appear downstairs, next to the mouse wheel). These works are all fine art, and I would not be surprised if McIlvenna were right about Dubeau, who has a wonderful sense of line and shape.

The museum’s organizers are interested in sex law, and in the entry foyer visitors will find a listing of pertinent court decisions going back to 17th-century England. A sign inside the museum lists “The Basic Sexual Rights of Adults,” which covers 10 points, two of which are worth quoting here.

No. 2: The right to sexual entertainment, freely available in the marketplace, including sexually explicit materials dealing with the full range of sexual behavior.

No. 3: The right not to be exposed to sexual material or behavior.

To me, those are the two most important rights of the 10 listed. If you’d like to read the other eight, then by all means drop by the museum at 3275 Industrial Road between 11 a.m. and midnight, seven days a week. Admission is $15 for adults, but Las Vegas residents receive a 50 percent discount. Click here for Megan Edward’s newest observations about this museum.

Go ahead, I dare you.


12 responses on “The New Erotic Heritage Museum in Las Vegas

  1. I took the dare….

    I attended the “Celebration” party last night at the Museum. In a word this is an AWESOME place to visit!

    The collection at this museum is eclectic, original and impeccably displayed. Much of it is surprising. There are some framed photograph stills from movie clips from the 1950’s depicting scenes of female bondage in such films as “Last of the Mohicans” and a western starring Ronald Reagan.

    The upstairs gallery has some stunning art — and there are plenty of naughty surprises. One very cool surprise was finding your article framed and on display on the wall! The floor, ceilings and over-all design is interesting and not at all what I expected. The museum store has some great values as well.

    Members of the House of Gord were in attendance last night and there was no shortage of gorgeous and flamboyant women (performers and guests) in the crowd.

    This is a cultural resource that I intend to recommend to all of my friends. It truly is a gem.


  2. From Dr. Laura Henkel (Director of Art & the Associate Curator of the Erotic Heritage Museum):

    “We are offering our first figurative drawing class this Friday at 9pm.
    The class will last three hours with a live model and an art professor donating his time.

    The price for the class is $30 and $15 for students with valid I.D. We
    hope that people may wish to come early to enjoy the Museum. If you would like to participate, please call 702.369.6442 to reserve your space.”

  3. Today I revisited the museum, which my wife had never seen. There are even more displays and more variety in the displays. The store is now open in its full space, as well.

    The Museum of Erotic Heritage just keeps getting better.

    — Steve F.

  4. Please be aware the museum raised their prices substantially. It’s now $20 for adults, and $15 for Las Vegas residents. I don’t think we’ll be forking over that kind of money for this.

  5. It’s still worth $15 to see the museum. You can learn a lot from wandering around reading the various displays. And the art is really nice, too. Not going just because you don’t think “dirty displays” are worth fifteen bucks is depriving yourself of a great experience.

  6. You’re right, Steve. It’s a remarkable place — thought-provoking, educational, and entertaining, too. I’ve paid more for museums that offered significantly less.

  7. Sorry to hear about the hike in fees. I saw the museum after it first opened and no it’s not worth the added costs. It was OK for the $7.50 but $15 is going to keep us from going again. We’ve been to the Erotica Museum in Paris and I just checked their prices, 8 Euros and a 3 Euro discount online, that’s $6.41 US dollars. No, I’m not including the price of the airline flight, since that’s what everyone is going to argue. However, if they can keep prices low in a city like Paris, why can’t Vegas?

  8. Hey Everyone,
    It is $15.00 for locals. Since the Museum opened in August of 2008, five new exhibits have been installed. There are several special events going on at the Museum on a monthly basis which are pretty amazing in terms of entertainment. Plus, there is a $100 membership fee whereby you get in the Museum for free for the year and also receive a discount in the Museum’s store. I hope that helps with some info. The Museum is continually changing, evolving and if you don’t see something there you like the first time, you might be surprised to see something completely different the next.

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