Czech-mates: The Sex Machines Museum
Posted July 27, 2004
By JULIE MAJOR
PRAGUE– The museum’s brochure describes examples of its displays in five languages. The subject matter itself, however, translates universally.
“Sex is everywhere. It fascinates all people,” says Oriano Bizzochi of his Sex Machines Museum on Melantrichova in Praha 1. “When people see sex, they smile because they recognize it.”
The museum is the brainchild of Bizzochi, who also founded the Museo delle Curiosita ( Curiosity Museum) in the Republic of San Marino, dedicated to the bizarre and unusual. His newest museum touches on a more common human theme.
He and his staff easily differentiate potential customers from the lookie-loo tourists who walk slowly by his store front craning their necks for a free peep. More curious individuals light up before venturing in.
“They come inside the museum,” Bizzochi says, “and they all smile. It doesn’t matter where they are from, what they speak. They react the same way.”
Once inside, visitors are treated to three floors with more than 200 objects on display, from 18th Century chastity belts and 20 th Century anti-masturbation devices to a gallery of fetish items. The machines, some real, some fantasy, complement displays of implements and devices used throughout the past 500 years. There’s even a small theater showing almost quaint erotic film clips from Spain.
At first blush, Prague seems a curious spot for the world’s only museum dedicated to sex machines. Cities like Paris, London or New Orleans may seem more logical to others, but not to Bizzochi.
“This is a good street, where the tourists come,” he says. “ Prague is big but small. London, Paris, they’re spread out. And tourists are naturally curious. They’re ready to look.”
Bizzochi is a bit unusual himself, but not because he created this tribute to objects of titillation. Sex isn’t a prurient obsession to him. “I am very normal,” he insists, “but I enjoy learning of what other people do with sex that’s different.”
He possesses an innate ability to turn novelty and oddity into profit. He’s a 21st Century version of Barnum and Ripley and Guinness, those ingenious individuals who instinctively understand what the people want to see, then sell it to them.
He started with his Curiosity Museum, collecting the strange and unusual to display in one place. While acquiring items for that museum, he consistently came across sex appliances and curios in antique shops and from collectors around the world. So many that four years ago Bizzochi brought them to Prague for public display.
It’s a collection people obviously want to see. Museum manager Lucie Poricka says 70,000 people visited the museum last year, respectable considering the museum relies mostly on its lobby, exterior signage and location to draw customers.
“In the beginning, we had problems,” Poricka says. “We’re near the historical clock and in the heart of Prague. But it’s quiet now because the people see it’s not hard porn or a strip bar. Journalists are coming now from Prague for interviews.”
Humans have always explored issues of sexuality, but openly sharing sexual discovery has long been taboo. Even convincing the museum’s owner to discuss his museum with foreign journalists becomes a protracted dance of verbal foreplay.
For the first 20 minutes of our interview, Bizzochi relies on Poricka to translate his Italian into English; but as he realizes his visitors are genuine and interested, he slides easily out of Italian and speaks near-flawless English.
As we talk, he chain-smokes Marlboro Reds, gesturing with his hands through veils of smoke.
The walls of his third-floor office are covered with pen and ink illustrations of patented sex devices– “all American!” he gleefully points out– and a poster of an 18 th century vibrator. He shows us his new exhibit of genital piercings, then opens a curator’s room to show off his latest acquisition, a replica of a mid-17 th Century traveling peep show box with hinged viewing doors.
Behind his desk, dozens of paint chips are taped to the wall of his office in assorted shades of red. Brick. Crimson. Scarlet. Fire engine. Cherry. Lipstick. It’s obvious he’s taken great pains to evoke the perfect shade of sex.
The color red, incidentally, has several insinuations of sex.
Human behaviorists attribute the color with passion, heat, love, excitement and aggression, Chakras, if you believe in that sort of thing, associate the root chakra at the base of the spine with a human’s animal or base nature, of which sex is a part. The chakra’s color? Red.
Bizzochi understands this inherently. Every wall of his museum is painted in rich, lustrous red. He even designed the museum’s logo himself, a simple S of white snaking across red lying underneath.
The S, he says, is suggestive of the curves of a woman’s breasts and hips, and of two bodies joining together. “It’s simple,” he says, tracing the white arc with his fingertip, “but sensual.”
Much the same could be said for his museum.
IF YOU GO:
The Sex Machines Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. Admission is 250 Kc for adults, 200 Kc for groups of eight or more and 150 Kc for students with ID. Minors under 18 are not allowed.
For more information, visit http://www.sexmachinesmuseum.com