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Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Icelandic Phallological Museum

On my second-last day in Reykjavik, I visited the penis museum. It was a strange place, stocked with the phalluses of 93 species preserved in jam jars and glass tanks. There were tanned scrotums on the walls alongside paintings, drawings. And the first thing I saw, right before the whale cock almost as tall as me, was the museum founder's hand-carved, penis-themed dinner set. Indeed.

the director's dinner set

whale penis

a sad (badly preserved?) human penis
a bad carving job

a shockingly beautiful reindeer penis

   

giraffe

another whale 

horse penis

the Icelandic handball team

on the wall

uh, yes--scrotum lamps

The God Odin and Gunnlod


seal penis


cross-section
I have to admit that the silver casts of the silver-medal winning Icelandic handball team were extremely entertaining, though I failed to get pictures of the "troll", "ghost" and "Huldufolk" specimens. Throughout the museum, geeky obsession and enthusiasm mixed so thoroughly with self-mockery that I wasn't sure if it backfired on itself. I wondered how I would feel as a man--if I would feel exploited, ever-so-slightly ridiculed, a bit of a joke. Not that there isn't something inherently funny about genitalia, in general. I just wondered.

Question: Would a vagina or a clitoris museum in this style be considered refreshing or sacrilegious?

The "erotic" material in the museum (a sort of pathetic collection of dildos) was kept under a black cloth, which the viewer was requested to replace after viewing. Another question: why make any attempt to separate the penis as an organ and a cultural reference from . . . sex? (Do you really think I have Art in mind when, in the gift shop, I consider purchasing a beautiful cowhorn "sculpture"?) To take a source of universal fascination, obscene humour, folk reference, and ubiquitous symbolism out of the sexual context in which there is, for many people at least, a genuine appreciation and attraction, is to create an incomplete and condescending representation.

However. It's undeniable that the museum's collection is scientifically valuable and informative; also undeniable that the visitors' guidebook suggests that a sense of humour is essential to enjoying one's visit. And I did enjoy it. Thoughts?

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