What Vienna’s Recent Sex Exhibition Tells About Its History

Vienna wasn’t always such a lustful city and prostitution wasn’t always legal. It was a long process until this liberal approach to sex came to be. The city’s inhabitants treated sexuality very differently less than a hundred years ago. A recent exhibition in the Wien Museum set out to reflect on this. It’s called Vienna – Lust. Control. Disobedience. and it shows everything there is to know about the sex culture’s interesting story. It writes a story of repression and freedom, showing remnants of a time when not all desires could be embraced freely. Homosexuality was one of them.

Strip Club Maxim Wien

Most of the exhibition is composed of pieces which show how our views on sexuality have changed since the 19th century. It proudly represents that neither the state nor the police was able to control people. Their hands couldn’t reach to people’s bedrooms, secret places, and other dark corners. With the city becoming larger and more populated, people had more anonymity as well. With these possibilities, everyone had ways out of society’s control mechanisms and could fulfill their sexual desires. Naturally, these developments also created new opportunities to monitor and control people’s sexuality as well. People still had to suffer repercussions from engaging in unpermitted sexual encounters. For these reasons, Vienna is a great place to study the evolution of how we view sex and what events drove us to become more open about it. This topic is throughoulty analyzed in the book Vienna as a Laboratory For Sexual Knowledge.

This sex exhibition was one of the most successful ones in the Wien Museum’s history and for good reasons. Probably a lot of tourists and pouters visited as well, adding up to more than 60 000 visitors within just a few months.

The Things To See

The exhibition holds plenty of postcards, dirty advertisements, posters, movie clips and other sexually themed artifacts. You can get your hands on fancy vibrators people used in 1910, which were confiscated by the police. You can also find plenty of condoms (unused) made from sheep intestines. There are also show movie flicks that show the very first orgasms that happened in films. One of them happened to the amazing Hedy Keiser as she showed off naked in the 1933 movie Ecstasy.

Cover photo of Vienna's Sex Exhibition

I can’t help but feel blasted away with the deep cultural vibes I’m getting from this image.

It was a truly unique exhibition, overthrowing even the popularity of Klimt’s stakes as well. Few things stand so firmly beside the fact that Vienna is truly the Capital of Sex. Very few cities have produced so much kinky art and literature. Which is why it is worthy of the title. The exhibition is a crown jewel on he great culture Vienna’s artists have created.

The main goal of this exhibition was to reveal the true history of sex in this city with the use of alternative narratives. It was very successful in that as well. But this story wasn’t just about how sex contributed to Vienna’s cultural development. It was much more about what was permitted and forbidden for people to do in their beds. And about how the tension between the two has changed over the years. This history is filled with plenty of battles and victories.

Vienna has come a long way in terms of openness towards sexuality. Who would have thought we would have special rules of ethics for a strip club?

Prostitution’s Influences

Not many cities have prostitution so deeply embedded into its fabrics as Vienna does. It is actually quite shocking for a lot of the city’s visitors. Prostitution is visible in every part of the city because sex bars are legal. Anybody who takes a trip downtown will see an open sex bar. They’ll quickly understand that the sex industry is flourishing. The city is full of sex-oriented places to visit and it has given birth to a lot of unique stories.

The history which led to this point is also quite shocking. Child prostitution was an integral part of the city’s culture before the first world war. A lot of popular writers like Adolf Loos and Peter Altenberg spoke about their strong desire for underage girls.


Anyone who is interested in sex and culture would have found great enjoyment in this exhibition. Sadly., it has closed already on January 22. It will hopefully open again next year. The likelihood of that happening is high, because of the exhibition’s smashing success. It perfectly shows the lustfulness of Vienna. Such an upbeat look at the city’s geniuses who made Vienna into what it is today is truly refreshing. For more information about this exhibition, please check out the Wien Museum’s official website!

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