Located rather inconspicuously on the corner of a dingy, concrete shopping centre close to Zoologischer Garten U-Bahn, is the world’s largest erotic museum. Dedicated to the art and history of sex, the Erotik-Museum opened its doors in 1996; on the ground floor, a garishly-coloured sex shop has all the offerings you’d expect – dolls, dildos and everything in between, but above the bright lights of the store, there lies a vast museum boasting a staggering 5,000 erotic artifacts of Asian and European origin, some of which date back 2000 years. From fetishism, to masochism and sadism, all sexual tendencies are covered in the museum and its glass cabinets and walls showcase a diverse array of erotic art, such as Japanese shunga, carved tribal phalli, 19th century folding portraits of fornicating lovers and exotic aphrodisiacs floating in murky jars.
As captivating as the museum itself, is the eventful story of its founder – Beate Uhse, Germany’s first entrepreneur and pioneer of the sex shop. Beate, a former Luftwaffe pilot, escaped Berlin when it was surrounded by allied forces at the end of WWII in a small abandoned plane and shortly after moved to Flensburg; it was here that her venture into the arena of the erotic began, when she established her mail order company in 1947. With over 200,000 orders placed in Germany, her sex catalogues were in high demand and their success lead Beate to open the world’s first sex store in 1962, selling contraceptives, toys, lingerie and magazines. No less than a decade later, one store had grown to 25 and 25 soon flourished into an empire spanning internet and television, earning her the title of the ‘Grande Dame of Adult Entertainment’.
Beate was determined make it in a man’s world, and her fearless and resilient nature was undoubtedly paramount to her successful career, during which she had to juggle her empire with motherhood and grapple with stomach cancer as well as the death of her first husband. Although Beate was a controversial figure, frequently blamed for moral decline, with more than two thousand charges of moral offences lodged against her, she is remembered by most as revolutionary who played an important role in sexual liberation in Germany and the abolition of Paragraph 184 which prohibited any form of “obscenity”. Beate was proud of breaking taboos and often said that she couldn’t have done everything she had if she’d have been a man, claiming that the male imagination had been her “greatest asset”.
The Erotik-Museum is open Monday to Saturday 09:00 – 24:00 and Sunday 11:00 – 24:00, 9,00 € entry. For further details visit their site.