Dildos, phallic amulets, vintage adult magazines and explicit life-sized sculptures of people having sex. These are among the 500+ pieces of erotic art and historical artifacts that are on display at two sex-centric museums located just blocks apart from each other in one of Bangkok’s trendiest neighborhoods, Thong Lor. 

Thailand doesn’t exactly have a culture of sexual openness, but it’s not prudish, either. The , for instance, but people tend to turn a blind eye to the rows of vibrators and anal beads sold openly on some Bangkok streets — which just goes to show that the country’s cultural norms and attitudes aren’t all that clear-cut here.

Enter Watjanasin Charuwattanakitti, a 40-year-old man who inherited his father’s obsession with erotica, and now takes that interest into bringing sexual taboos out of the shadows. Seven years ago, Watjanasin decided to take his father’s personal collection of erotic art — which numbered over 500 pieces — to the public, and opened the Kamavijitra: Siam Erotic Art Museum.

The idea came to him following a trip he made to Venustempel, the world’s first sex museum in Amsterdam, as well as New York’s Museum of Sex and Japan’s Festival of the Steel Phallus. “Other countries can openly talk about it — [so] why can’t we?” he said.

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Watjanasin Charuwattanakitti in front of Green Lantern Cafe and Museum of Sex. Photo: Coconuts Media
Watjanasin Charuwattanakitti in front of Green Lantern Cafe and Museum of Sex. Photo: Coconuts Media

Recently, however, Watjanasin followed up with his original project by launching another venue last December: the Museum of Sex, which he opened to tell the true story of sex in Thailand, since he felt that his original gallery space lacked a cultural story connected to the nation’s long history.

Together, says Watjanasin, the two venues have one combined mission: to break taboos, and advocate open discourse about sex. 


Museum of Sex

Museum of Sex on Sukhumvit Road. Photo: Coconuts Media
A display cabinet filled with sex toys. Photo: Coconuts Media

Near exit No. 3 of the Thong Lor skytrain lies a narrow alleyway filled with newspaper stands and food stalls, on which the Green Lantern Cafe stands. Only, this cafe doesn’t just offer coffee and tea — go inside, and you’ll find that it actually houses Bangkok’s one-of-a-kind Museum of Sex. 

Hidden in plain sight, indeed.

Walk past the coffee counter, and you’ll see a stone carving of Apsara, the “prostitute of the heavens” — and right next to it, a display cabinet filled with sex toys and palad khik, or penis-shaped talismans. This is where the Museum of Sex tour begins.

Stone carving of Apsara, prostitute of the heaven, on showcase at Museum of Sex on Sukhumvit Road. Photo: Coconuts Media
Stone carving of Apsara, the “prostitute of the heavens,” on showcase at the Museum of Sex. Photo: Coconuts Media

The trip extends up to the second floor, where visitors can browse through framed photos of sexual positions described in the legendary ancient Hindu text Kama Sutra, alongside covers of vintage underground porno publications and Thai temple murals depicting scenes of some steamy, ancient sex. 

“I visited temples and asked people around [there] where I can see these murals,” Watjanasin said, pointing to a mural painting he saw at Wat Kongkaram in Ratchaburi province.

Museum of Sex on Sukhumvit Road. Photo: Coconuts Media
Photos and artwork on display at the Museum of Sex. Photo: Coconuts Media

Inside another room is an informative exhibit that details the lesser-known sex-themed stories of traditional Thai literature and lore. 

“Do you know that in the past we called the vagina, ‘frog’?” Watjanasin asked us, as he led us towards his own artwork depicting a vagina-looking frog. Or is it a frog-looking vagina?

Museum of Sex on Sukhumvit Road. Photo: Coconuts Media
Watjanasin’s “Kob (Vagina).” Photo: Coconuts Media

In one corner of this room, the collection covers a brief history of Thai brothels tracing back to the early Rattanakosin period, when the Sampeng area alone had up to 40 registered bordellos — that is, before the profession of prostitution became officially outlawed in the 1960s. We learned that back in the day, it was common practice for the brothels to hang green lanterns at its front doors to signal that the establishment had already paid its taxes – hence Watjanasin’s chosen name for the cafe/facade that visitors go through to enter the Museum of Sex.

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Museum of Sex on Sukhumvit Road. Photo: Coconuts Media
Framed photos of sexual positions described in the legendary ancient Hindu text Kama Sutra. Photo: Coconuts Media

Admission to the Museum of Sex is free, as long as visitors buy a beverage from Green Lantern Cafe first. According to Watjanasin, most of the visitors he’s had so far are foreign tourists, and the number of Thais coming in has been fairly low.

Speaking about the foreign visitors, Watjanasin said: “After they get tired of shopping malls, they look up on the internet for something different and they find this place. They really like it — some of them even came back to donate some things for the museum.”

Not satiated by a visit to the Museum of Sex, though? Watjanasin suggests a short trip to his other gallery space, the Siam Erotic Art Museum, or Kamavijitra.

 

Kamavijitra: Siam Erotic Art Museum

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A life-sized statue inside Kamavijitra on Soi Sukhumvit 38. Photo: Coconuts Media.

From the Museum of Sex, cross Sukhumvit Road via the BTS skywalk and go down the pathway for exit No. 4 — there, at Soi Sukhumvit 38, get a motorbike taxi to take you to “38 Mansion,” which will land you right at the entrance of the Siam Erotic Art Museum.

Also known as Kamavijitra, this sister site of the Museum of Sex opened seven years ago, and fills four floors inside the 38 Mansion building. While the latter is mostly meant to be informative and features a small collection of 50 pieces, Kamavijitra offers a whole lot more sex: Here, visitors can find more than 500 erotic objects collected by Watjanasin’s father, Uthaipun Charuwattanakitti. 

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The first floor of Kamavijitra on Soi Sukhumvit 38. Photo: Coconuts Media

What originally began as a hobby in collecting Buddhist amulets grew into a passion for obtaining erotically charged objects, from antiques and paintings to mini statues and large-scale sculptures, for the elder Charuwattanakitti. 

“Some items were even given to my father for free because they [the original owners] believed these things were bad luck,” Watjanasin said. 

The fourth floor holds the highlight of the entire place: rooms set up in various sexy scenarios that visitors can take a voyeuristic peek into, to see stuff like life-sized statues of people having sex, a century-old sandstone Lingam, a sacred Hindu phallic sculpture, and shunga prints displaying kinbaku, the Japanese art of rope bondage.

Kamavijitra on Soi Sukhumvit 38. Photo: Coconuts Media
Photo: Coconuts Media
A century-old sandstone Lingam, a sacred object representing the phallus of Hindu god Shiva. Photo: Coconuts Media
A century-old sandstone Lingam, a sacred object representing the phallus of Hindu god Shiva. Photo: Coconuts Media

Watjanasin said that the collection — viewed as priceless by him and his father — never won full approval from the rest of the family, however: “My mother and my siblings never wanted to get involved with any of this. I was the only one who helped my father arrange the stuff.”

Admission to Kamavijitra is THB500, and available by appointment only. 

Kamavijitra on Soi Sukhumvit 38. Photo: Coconuts Media
Photo: Coconuts Media

 

FIND IT:

The Museum of Sex is at 1045, Sukhumvit Road, Watthana, Bangkok
Open 1pm-10pm, daily
Phone: +66 80 994 6683

Kamavijitra: Siam Erotic Art Museum is at 25/14, Soi Saengchai, Soi Sukhumvit 38, Khlong Toei, Bangkok
Open Mon-Fri, 10am-6pm
Phone: +66 80 994 6683