An Unusual Adventure at The Museum of Sex

New York City is home to a number of museums and galleries that cover just about every subject matter. When I first came to school in Manhattan, one of the museums I heard the most excitement about was The Museum of Sex. I’d always wanted to go, but I didn’t have the time to visit until this spring semester. Given my passion for body positivity and judgement-free sexuality, I felt that this place was somewhere that would be of interest to me.

So, one afternoon my friend Alex and I met on 5th Avenue and walked towards the museum with open minds that were ready to learn. When you first enter, there is a store filled with various literature and photography that focus on the sexual being as well as toys for enhancing one’s sex life. We wandered around for a bit and then paid the pricey entry fee.

All I can say is that the museum was quite the experience. There was certainly a lot to learn, as there were entire sections dedicated to the history of self-pleasure and exhibits that included what seemed to be ancient pornographic films. While we often think of the past as one void of sexuality, our ancestors were exploring their sexual desires far more than we generally think.

I thought that the most interesting section was actually the exhibition called Unknown/Known: Private Obsession and Hidden Desire in Outsider Art. It was filled with tons of photographs and sculptures created with erotic undertones. Some of them were rather disturbing, featuring young girls and a depiction of their abuse, or photographs taken of women changing without their consent. Others, however, were fascinating pieces that highlighted the best parts of the human sexual relationship.

At the end of our time there, Alex and I decided it was absolutely necessary that we take a turn in the breast-filled bouncy house. While it didn’t seem like the most hygienic choice, it is one of the more well-known experiences in the museum and we considered it a rite of passage for our time there. At the very least, it made for a good picture!

Overall, The Museum of Sex was interesting and I did thoroughly enjoy myself. However, I can’t say that the visit is meant for everyone, as you must be prepared to be confronted by a wide variety of genitalia and people from a very long time ago having awkward intercourse. The experience was ultimately a valuable one and I would definitely make the effort to go back if they added exhibits. I’d say that the museum acts as a symbol for what is arguably the best part of New York City: the freedom to be weird but also to be accepted, even loved, for that weirdness.

My Empire State of Mind: A Random Journey

I never wanted to compromise and put down stakes in any other city. It always had to be New York for me. 

-Amy Schumer

Last week on my day off I decided to take a spontaneous trip to the Empire State Building. It was about 20 blocks from my dorm, but if I took the 5th Avenue route I could go through about a million stores (and buy nothing) on my way there. I had a long week ahead of me and I really wanted to do nothing more than spend some alone time with the city. As I walked outside searching for my next adventure, I saw the shining Empire State in the distance and knew it was my duty to go.

I decided that in order to begin my journey I needed some fuel. Thus I made my first stop at Bluestone Lane for some overpriced avocado toast. To many it may seem ridiculous that I am willing to pay fifteen dollars for some bread and a cup of coffee, but let me tell you, it’s worth it. I read my book there for a while after eating, then decided to head out.

I made many random stops on my way there. The first one was to my favorite store, Madewell, where I couldn’t help but wander and look at all the clothing out of my economic reach. The employees stared at me while I walked around, probably wondering if I was going to steal something. I don’t blame them, to be honest. I was dressed in all black and wearing a leather jacket; not exactly the most trustworthy look. Even though I shouldn’t have, I ended up buying a t-shirt (on sale). I just spent fifteen dollars on food so why not spend another fifteen on something I could actually use multiple times?

After leaving Madewell, I continued my journey down 5th Avenue and discovered a weird, small branch of Strand bookstore. It was a shared space for several different store branches, including a flower shop, an espresso bar, and a clothing store. It was a really odd place but also beautiful. I spent a majority of my time in the Strand section. While the location was interesting, the book variety was minimal. I think in the future I will stick to my true love, the original store on 12th.

My walk continued and it brought me to Eataly. Somehow I ate nothing. I just walked around, taking in the smells of delicious food and the sounds of people enjoying themselves. I also mentally noted all of the things I wanted to try when I came back with my friends. The most tempting thing there was probably the bread that kept coming fresh out of the oven. That, or the Nutella crêpe section.

Finally, after much exploration, I made it to the Empire State Building. I’m sorry to disappoint, readers, but I didn’t actually go up to the top— it was too expensive. I had already spent around thirty dollars that day and couldn’t afford to almost triple that number. However, I did walk around the lobby and into the Starbucks there, so basically the same thing, right?

On my walk home I thought about what a blessing it is to go to school in New York City. Every other place I’ve been absolutely pales in comparison. The activities are infinite and every block brings forth a new adventure. Everything about this city calls me to explore, to soak in every moment. There is something about each experience, big or small, that feels incredibly important to me. For some reason I’ve convinced myself that there is significance in everything I do and I therefore must write everything down, even my random walks to the Empire State.

It’s Lit: My Love For Strand Bookstore Explained

Sometimes the best part of my day is walking home. After being in classes and studying in random coffee shops all afternoon, nothing brings me more joy than peacefully taking in the Manhattan scenery as I make the journey back to my room. I see lots of city treasures each day, but my favorite is always and forever will be the Strand Bookstore. I can hardly recall a time that I have passed this place without walking in for at least a couple minutes. It is easily one of the most beautiful places in Manhattan, as it is home to over 18 miles of books and is overall a massive literature-heaven.

Last week, feeling a load of stress weighing on my shoulders after school assignments started rolling in, I decided to drop what I was doing and get outside. I’ve found that despite New York’s fast-paced, crowded atmosphere, sometimes hitting the streets is the best place to be alone and think. Laying in my room after a long day is great, but it’s also somewhere I feel confined. I love walking outside and hearing the sounds of taxi horns blasting or the bustling and glass clinking from restaurant windows. It is where I feel welcome to stretch out my arms and embrace the beauty of solitude. The people here don’t care what I do. They release me from small-town judgement and they let me be free.

So down 12th Street I walked and there it was, Strand. As I opened the door the daily stressors disappeared. There I was surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of books. To me, books are something to get lost in. I’m a firm believer that sometimes all we really need is to forget ourselves in the pages of literature, and Strand is the perfect place to do so. The building has multiple floors filled with books and authors of every variety. Some of my favorite sections are Best of the Underground and Banned Books, but they truly have a space for every kind of reader.

I immersed myself in every shelf, book title, and author that I could. Determined to spend money on only one book, I tried my best to narrow my choices. After about an hour of wandering I decided on Man Repeller by Leandra Medine. Both this woman and her website are essentially perfection. Her writing and the site’s content are a healthy balance of think-pieces, lifestyle, fashion, and embracing female individuality. Ultimately, if this woman had written a book, then it was a book I needed to read.

That night I left Strand with a purchased book in hand and a revitalized mindset. Not unlike most of my visits there, I felt able to put daily pressures behind me and lose my consciousness in the words of great authors. Seeing all of those published works lining the shelves gives me faith that maybe one day my name and my writing can be up there, too. Every great writer has stood right where I am, reading and admiring the work of those before them. I believe that I have ideas and experiences to share with the world, so why not start now? And so I write and I wander. 

Hey There, Beautiful: Thoughts On My Morning Catcallers

Yesterday morning I started off my day in the most perfect way imaginable. I woke up early before my class and got breakfast at Wayside coffee shop across the street from my dorm. Here I read my book, sipped my coffee, and inhaled a piece of overpriced avocado toast. When I finished I felt refreshed, and as I stepped outside onto the pavement I knew I was ready to take on my busy day.

While I was walking down the street to class, mentally noting everything I had to accomplish that day, a random man sitting on a stoop looked up at me and said, Hey there, beautiful. Typically when I hear such comments I muster up an angry reply. But, given the peaceful start to my morning I was trying to maintain my emotional stability. Giving any further thought to his unsolicited feedback on my appearance would have only brought me unneeded irritation. 

So I took another sip of my iced coffee and walked silently past him. Not three minutes later, I crossed paths with two different men who suspiciously parted ways so that I was walking in between them. I passed through and heard one of their voices call to me, Have a good morning, beautiful.

I wish I could tell you that getting spoken to like this is not normal for a young women living in the city. And I wish I could tell you that I have not been the recipient of words far worse than beautiful. There have been moments where I’ve feared my own safety and this fear is heightened when the sun is down. I do the best I can to defend myself, but usually when I ask men not to comment on my appearance, they proceed to tell me how I am actually ugly and a bitch.

Ultimately, what I’d like for these men to know is pretty simple: If a woman doesn’t ask you for feedback on her looks, don’t give her any. To me, it’s not a compliment, it’s an imposition and an insult. You are not my friend and you are not my family, and thus you have no right to tell me what you think of my appearance. On top of this, you’re not telling me I’m beautiful because you’re a gentleman, you’re doing it to assert your dominance over me, and to make me feel inferior. Unfortunately sir, I would never let myself believe that what you’ve said about my face has any worth in comparison to my actual accomplishments. So please, spare us all the commentary. This way when I am walking down the street on my way to class, I have the chance to tell myself how great I look. Maybe I’ll even throw in a beautiful.

If I Am Only For Myself, What Am I? On Saturday We Marched.

“There is nothing gutsier to me than a person announcing that their story needs to be told, especially if that person is a woman.”

– Lena Dunham

The election of our newest president brought me utter devastation. I stayed up all night during the evening of the final race and cried my eyes out on the streets of Manhattan as the reality of the results hit me. I was #withher, but even more importantly I was irrevocably against the rhetoric of hatred and ignorance which were deeply ingrained in his political platform. Partisanship aside, my strongest conviction is that we all have a responsibility to uphold human decency.

Among other things, this election was an insult to women across the world. Our president engaged in blatantly misogynistic dialogue both privately and publicly. The American people voted for him in spite of this, claiming that in lieu of his other positions they could forget about his disrespect for womankind. I understand this notion, and I understand that regardless of what’s said on the debate stage, people are typically going to vote for their party’s elected candidate. However, by giving him votes we validated every malicious action he ever committed, and in doing so we have taken an incredible step back in the advancement towards complete gender equality.

On Saturday, my friends and I marched. We took to the New York City streets with the belief that we deserved better. Ultimately, we weren’t marching against our president. We no longer want to give him that validation. We marched for ourselves and we marched for our futures, may they shine brighter than we could ever imagine. We refused to simply accept that this was the way things were and we decided that every single day we will dedicate ourselves to supporting female progress.

I saw men, women, and children from an array of backgrounds standing together. We all had our reasons for marching, but the common mantra was clear: Women Are Strong. I have always had a sense of being independent and driven, and I know in my heart that I am strong. Yet, being with these massive crowds, I was gifted with a vitality that I have never truly known. Togetherness. With this network of unwavering support in my corner, I have no doubt that I am and always will be unstoppable.

After marching I no longer felt the cloud of disappointment that was this election hovering over me. I felt the opposite. I felt sunshine and warm rays that signified the coming of a new day. Thousands surrounded me and I no longer felt alone. The people there lifted me up and the experience is one I will carry with me for the rest of my existence. Similar to the night of the election, I later shed some tears. However, this time they were tears of happiness, gratitude, and most importantly, love. Human decency is alive and well. #WhyIMarch