The Broader Picture: Size does matter

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The Independent Culture
OLE EGE charges pounds 5 a head to see his enormous penis. Thousands come to visit it every year. It is an unforgettable sight and has grown into a major tourist attraction in Copenhagen.

The son of a former head of police, Ege is Denmark's best-known photographer of nudes; he learnt his craft in the Sixties as a pornographic film-maker. In May 1994 he opened the city's "Museum Erotica" with the motto "Liberty and freedom of speech and depictions is better than censorship".

The exhibitions housed inside trace the love life of Homo Sapiens from the Stone Age to the Space Age. "It's just like any other museum except there is more giggling," says its curator. "Denmark is still perceived as the carnal culture capital of the world. We were the first country to liberate pornography in 1968 - but Denmark is no longer the hotbed of sexual revolution. The 'free love' generation settled into family life; now they have started extolling a monogamous existence.

"In 1975 there were 75 X-rated cinemas in Copenhagen, catering for 1.1 million people who couldn't get enough pornography. The last closed in 1992. Now there are just 15 adult-only shops in the city. The Red Light district has been relocated. The museum is a way of preserving the relics of an important social movement."

Ege's penis, along with other parts of his collection, is housed in a four-storey building that once served as a 19th-century brothel. The first floor is devoted to some ancient Etruscan erotic doodles, some amorous Chinese watercolours and a fairly naughty Athenian vase dating back to 530BC, as well as a few rather tame early postcards. The smorgasbord of historical sexual paraphernalia continues with some smutty daguerreotypes, an assortment of lewd 19th-century French lithographs, and some frank wax tableaux. Then comes the giant golden phallus (actually polystyrene, gilded in 24 carat gold). The third floor concentrates on promiscuity between 1650 and 1950 and contains two of Hitler's "Sexual Health" pamphlets - very collectable items among Europe's erotica experts, and the museum's most valuable exhibits.

The museum hosts regular school tours and at the moment has special educational exhibitions focusing on Aids, prostitution and homosexuality. Danish schoolchildren use the museum with their teachers as part of their sex education. "The subjects are made visible for them. It is first and foremost an educational environment," says Ege. "We don't try to be moralistic. It is up to individuals to make up their minds. We merely present the history of erotica. Hopefully they can see how it has evolved and see the difference between erotica and pornography. Erotica is a valid and worthwhile art form and it should be displayed. It arouses emotions, it involves the imagination, and it brings pleasure. But above all it deals with the truth. The naked truth." !

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