Erotic Heritage Museum
3275 Industrial Rd.
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Students, Seniors, Military $10
Vegas4Visitors Grade: B
At a Glance
What is it?
A museum, interpretive center, theater, and gift shop all dedicated to the study and celebration of human sexuality.
Where is it?
On Industrial Road, one (big) block west of The Strip near Treasure Island.
Is it worth the cost?
It was when it was half what it costs now.
What else do I need to know?
Definitely not for kids or prudes.
What’s the bottom line?
Interesting and original but not as interesting as it used to be an too expensive.
In its original incarnation, the Erotic Heritage Museum was one of my favorite attractions in Las Vegas, a fascinating examination of all different aspects of human sexuality. Run as an adjunct of the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco, it balanced the lurid with the literate, delving into everything from free speech to pornography to the AIDS crisis and more.
The people behind the first version of the museum got into a dispute with the owners of the property and some of the exhibits and they weren’t able to keep it up, so to speak. The museum closed for but was brought back under new management, which is more closely aligned with the landlord who also happens to run the giant strip club next door. Although a lot of it is the same as it used to be, a lot isn’t and something seems to have gotten lost in the translation.
The entry room is a combination erotic library and gift-shop. No, you can’t buy porn here, but they do have reproductions and original artwork and your basic souvenir style tchotkes, albeit with a sexual bent to them. There is also a performance space that doubles as an erotic wedding chapel, complete with Egyptian temple style backdrops and big plush daybeds. Take that Elvis impersonator ceremonies!
A small theater off the main room is featuring a production of Puppetry of the Penis and if I need to explain why you really aren’t paying attention.
The main exhibit hall is accessed through a lobby designed to look like a red light district alley, complete with neon signage and cardboard stand-ups of various stars from the adult entertainment industry.
Once inside the museum, you are confronted with an almost overwhelming series of experiences, from artistic to graphic to humorous. There is art, photography, interactive exhibits, video, literature, and historical objects providing insights and context around a topic that is too often dismissed as “dirty.”
While there are a few serious explorations of things like the politics of pornography, some of the best exhibits from the original verison of the museum are gone. For instance there used to be several panels from the AIDS quilt displayed near graphic video and photography of 1970s era gay erotica, which created a dichotomy that almost forced you to pause and consider the impact one had on the other. That’s gone now, replaced by props from a “Star Wars” porn parody. Another room is dedicated to the non-stop showing of celebrity sex tapes, so yes if you always wanted to see what made Paris Hilton a star, you can. The shift in tone is not radical but it is noticeable and the whole place feels like it is trying to be titillating instead of thought-provoking.
The most disappointing thing about the new version of the museum, though, is the almost obscene hike in admission price. It used to be $15. Now it’s $30. Double the price for a less interesting experience?
Still, it is a unique, one-of-a-kind Vegas experience and there is enough here to still at least consider a visit, even at the new price point. But just in case you hadn’t figured it out yet with a name like the Erotic Heritage Museum, it shouldn’t be surprising that this is not a family attraction. It is in no way appropriate for anyone under the age of 18 or prudes so leave your judgments in the parking lot. You know… the one next to the strip club.
- Puppetry of the Penis