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Sex in the Cities – Berlin

The text below is the excerpt of the book Sex in the Cities – Berlin, written by Hans-Jürgen Döpp, published by Parkstone International.

The many and varied points of view encountered in this museum demonstrate the multifarious aspects of sexuality. The exhibits reveal that nothing is more natural than sexual desire; and, paradoxically, nothing is less natural than the forms in which this desire expresses itself or finds satisfaction.

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Arab slave trader, c. 1910. Bronze.

Items long hidden in the vaults of public museums and galleries of private collectors can be seen here. Many of these images and objects were forbidden in a western society which was less open to sexuality and anything associated with it. So they grant us a rare, and therefore more fascinating, glimpse of what is part and parcel of human nature.

Eastern societies, on the other hand, have always known how to integrate the sexual and erotic into their art and culture. For example, Chinese religion, entirely free of the western notions of sin, considers lust and love to be pure things. The union of man and woman under the sign of Tao expresses the same harmony as the alternation of day and night, winter and summer. One can say – and rightly so – that the ancient forms of Chinese thought have their origins in sexual conceptions. Yin and yang, two complementary ideas, determine the universe. In this way, the erotic philosophy of the ancient Chinese also encompasses a cosmology. Sexuality is an integrated component of a philosophy of life and cannot be separated from it.

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Indian miniature painting.

One of the oldest and most stimulating civilizations on earth thus assures us through its religion that sex is good and instructs us, for religious reasons, to carry out the act of love creatively and passionately. This lack of inhibition in sexual matters is mirrored in art from China.

The great masters of Japan also created a wealth of erotic pictures, which rank equal to Japan’s other works of art. No measure of state censorship was ever able to completely suppress the production of these images. Shungas depict the pleasures and entertainment of a rather earthly world. It was considered natural to seek out the pleasures of the flesh, whichever form they took. The word vice was unspoken in ancient Japan, and sodomy was a sexual pleasure like any other.

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Heinrich von Ramberg, The Glasses, adapted from a novella by La Fontaine, 1800.
Coloured lithograph.

The art of ukiyo-e (pictures of the floating, transitory world) inspires works that are technically and artistically perfect. The fantastic and the grotesque blossomed early, especially in Japanese art, as well as literature. Sexuality and its associated matters have more than 10,000 representations, different ones in different cultures. In India, eroticism is sanctified in Hindu temples. In Greece, it culminates in the cult of beauty, joining the pleasures of the body with those of the mind…

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