Portia Munson on How Sex Toys Elevate "The Pink Bedroom”
Now on display at the Museum of Sex in Manhattan.
From a young age, Munson proudly collected pink objects and as she grew older, her love of pink evolved into a genius questioning of femininity, gender and the marketing of it. With “bulbous breasts, humorous crotch clenching nutcrackers, innocent dolls,” and “sexy lingerie,” Munson has created an immersive experience oozing femininity, shared the Museum of Sex. But, subjectively speaking, the most interesting element of the installation is Munson’s use of sex toys. Mostly considered taboo, sex toys received a rebrand within sex-positive feminism and have more recently been referred to as “sexual wellness” products.
In Munson’s installation, sex toys hold more importance than one might expect. Despite the overwhelming amount of pink objects used to portray our product-obsessed culture, peeks of penetrative dildos, clit suckers, panty vibrators and even Endless Love — decorate the room, courtesy of Satisfyer.
According to Munson and the Museum of Sex, the sex toy selection process, sponsored by Satisfyer, was very intentional. In the collaboration press release, PRNewswire wrote: ”Satisfyer seeks to be an agent of change to encourage conversation around sexual health and wellness, with the ultimate goal of reducing stigma in the category. By partnering with the Museum of Sex and Munson, Satisfyer is demonstrating its commitment by providing consumers an educational look at femininity and mass consumerism through bright, bold and thoughtfully curated art.”
As the Museum of Sex shared in its biography of Munson: ”Portia Munson: The Pink Bedroom makes space for a pleasure that is complex and subjective,” making the Satisfyer collaboration an interesting choice.
Keep reading for more on Munson’s “The Pink Bedroom” and its suggestive selection process.
How do you define female sexuality? And how is it represented in this space?
Entering the “Pink Bedroom” itself is sort of like entering a vagina or womb, and meant to feel like an all encompassing pink world. It’s intended to feel amazing and wonderful but also uncomfortable to be in this suffocating environment surrounded with objects that instruct femininity. The walls are wallpapered with puffy pink gowns, prom dresses and bridesmaid dresses, the floor is covered with all types of pink shoes from slippers to stilettos, sex toys are stashed all over the room, and the canopy, made up of a blanket of onesies, is suspended from the ceiling with ribbons.
Keepsake shelves are outlined with press on nails and filled with precious trinkets. All of these objects reveal the many faces of femininity as presented through material culture. Female sexuality is so many different things and defined in so many ways. The shades of pink, and the color itself imitate the colors of female sex organs or flowers, and is sort of inherently sexual. The whole room is made up of objects that I have gathered that are manufactured and nearly always marketed specifically for women.
You previously shared that the item selection process for this installation was intentional and meant to represent our “manufactured perceptions of nature.” How do enhance this vision?
Everything in the room is man-made and synthetic, plastic, and plastic mass produced electrified sex toys are a very modern phenomenon, which is sort of striking. It seems like the manufacturing side of our world is always looking to improve on nature and sell something that would make it better — and this is no different for female pleasure.
How did the Satisfyer collaboration come to life?
Kit Richardson, who runs the museum’s retail store, initiated the collaboration. I thought it was a great idea because of the diversity of types of sex toys and the shades of pink that they come in. And it was exciting to incorporate these toys into the “Pink Bedroom.”
What was the sex toy selection process like?
I’ve been collecting pink sex toys for over 30 years, and I view my room installations as a “painting” with different shapes and colors. In selecting Satisfyer toys, I was looking at the shades of pink and how many types of sex toys come in that color.
Other times I have shown this piece I’ve had to edit out the sexual elements of the pink bedroom. What was really fun about the Museum of Sex show was being able to emphasize that. Leading up to the exhibition, I went to sex shops around Manhattan with my daughter who is in her early twenties. It was a fun night out, picking out sex toys and seeing the variety and what is available. It’s also been interesting to see how toys have evolved over time. They are both more interesting as objects and seem to be taking women’s pleasure more seriously.
“The Pink Bedroom” exhibition also includes “Nude II.” Can you share what inspired you to elevate it with sculpture?
Nude ll is a sculpture that was made using a life size mannequin covered with novelty boob mugs which are bound to the mannequin with flesh toned pantyhose. A mannequin is, in a way, a shelf or armature. With this piece, I was really thinking about the production and selling of different notions of female sexuality as entertainment. It expands on my commentary on our society’s representation and marketing of sexuality that is presented in the bedroom.
Some of the mugs on “Nude II” are depicted in a series of drawings also in the exhibition titled “Functional Women,” which are all drawings of individual mass made objects in the shape of women or women’s bodies. “Her Body,” also in the show, is a series of watercolor and gouache paintings representing objects that touch a woman’s body, and together represent a woman’s form, despite the absence of a physical body. Each of these works are centered on the many ways in which women are used for commercial gain.
Visit “The Pink Bedroom” until July 2023 at the Museum of Sex.
This interview has been condensed for clarity.