Archiving Public Sex

2014, Art Museum at the University of Toronto, Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies, University of Toronto, Temporary Exhibit
activism, archival photos, censorship, history, installation photos, police harassment, porn, queer interest, video content
About This Project

Date: April 29 – June 28, 2014

Partner: Art Museum at the University of Toronto and the Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies

Venue: University of Toronto Art Centre – map

Project Members: Curated by Nicholas Matte, Curator of the Sexual Representation Collection with Lisa Kadey and by Master of Museum Studies Students, Jessica Martin and Ana Martins


Archiving Public Sex highlights materials from the Sexual Representation Collection of the Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies. Photography, video, event posters, press releases, pulp novels and more provide the opportunity to consider when, why, and how sex has become public, and under what terms. The exhibition features documentation of many economic, artistic, and activist interventions.


The first section of the exhibition focuses on commercial shops and streetscapes, while the second section highlights event venues through posters from the Feminist Porn Awards and Morpheous Bondage Extravaganza, two large, international, public events staged in Toronto.  Histories of censorship, legal regulation, and activism are then provided through materials related to the Canadian Committee Against Censorship – an organization which fought to preserve access to sexual materials in Canada, and the “Pussy Palace Bathhouse Raid,” which provoked activists to fight for protection against police harassment.


Archiving Public Sex is a look at what sex is publically encouraged, celebrated, restricted or permitted within the context of a prevailing social climate and some of the ways that people have produced and fought for greater sexual freedoms. In turn, the exhibition demonstrates the importance of preserving key records and archival ephemera, especially for minority and marginalized groups. How have mainstream, minority, and niche sexualities been shaped by diverse commercial, legal, artistic and activist contexts and social interventions? And how do these sexual histories remain relevant to our understanding of sexuality today?