Speaking of Sex

February 14 - October 11, 2014
Hirshland Exhibition Gallery, Carl A. Kroch Library, Cornell University

Information for visitors

Cornell University Library’s new exhibition, Speaking of Sex, celebrates the 25th anniversary of the
Human Sexuality Collection.

A quarter of a century ago, the Library began to gather rare books, letters, photographs and original artwork, films, erotica, and all sorts of ephemera related to sexuality – much of which was ignored or shunned by academia and society at large. By focusing on marginalized and contested areas of sexuality, the collection encourages us to think about sex from many angles and is a vital resource for the emerging field of sexuality studies.

The exhibition showcases words and concepts – such as perform, desire, silence, trans, deviant, commercialization – that the collection’s objects inspire researchers and visitors to consider more deeply. It includes items from the original 1988 Mariposa archives gift through very recent acquisitions. Come see a 1730 Dutch wanted poster for sodomites, a century-old vibrator, and photographs of recent protests in India. The exhibition runs from Valentine’s Day to National Coming Out Day.

Archives benefactor David B. Goodstein, ’54 said “It is as if sexuality, this most vital of human concerns, is filled with too many dangers to allow it to be studied seriously.” We help correct that. Researchers emerge from our reading room ready to talk and write about sex. What are they saying? Speaking of Sex, we invite you to join the conversation.

View the online exhibition

Related Events

Jewelle Gomez
Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 4:30 pm to 6:00 pm
Lewis Auditorium Goldwin Smith Hall

Jewelle GomezJewelle Gomez contributed to the founding of Cornell’s Human Sexuality Collection as an Advisory Committee member. We are delighted to have her return during our 25th anniversary celebrations. She is a novelist, teacher, poet and activist. She is the author of THE GILDA STORIES (Firebrand Books, 1991), winner of two Lambda Literary Awards (fiction and science fiction). THE GILDA STORIES is a very American odyssey. Escaping from slavery in the 1850s Gilda's longing for kinship and community grows over two hundred years. Her induction into a family of benevolent vampires takes her on an adventurous and dangerous journey full of loud laughter and subtle terror.

Co-sponsored by Africana Studies & Research Center; American Studies; Creative Writing Program; LGBT Studies; Minority, Indigenous, and Third World Studies; Department of Performing and Media Arts; and Society for the Humanities.

Saving Sex:
Urvashi Vaid, Susie Bright and David France in conversation with Dagmawi Woubshet
Tuesday, March 18, 2014 at 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm
Goldwin Smith Hall, Lewis Auditorium, 232 East Ave, Central Campus

Saving SexJoin us for the opening lecture for the Human Sexuality Collection exhibition: a conversation with guest speakers Urvashi Vaid, activist, author of Irresistible Revolution: Confronting Race, Class and the Assumptions of LGBT Politics, and former director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; Susie Bright, the pioneering feminist sex writer and founding editor of lesbian sex magazine On Our Backs; David France, journalist, author, and producer of the Academy Award nominated documentary How to Survive a Plague (2012); and moderator Dagmawi Woubshet, associate professor of English at Cornell.

The presentation celebrates the opening of Cornell University Library's exhibition Speaking of Sex, featuring rare books, photographs, original artwork, erotica, and all sorts of ephemera related to sexuality. The university’s Human Sexuality Collection celebrates its 25th anniversary by asking how these items can be used to think more clearly about sex now and in the future.

A reception will follow in Kroch Library, level 2B, at 6 p.m.

This event is co-sponsored by the LGBT Resource Center, LGBT Studies, and the Feminist, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program at Cornell. 

Human Sexuality Exhibition Presentation with Susie Bright: "How to Read a Dirty Movie"
Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm
Uris Hall, Auditorium, Central Campus

How to Read a Dirty MovieJoin Susie Bright — the pioneering feminist sex writer and founding editor of lesbian sex magazine On Our Backs and the 5th Estate Hall of Fame member of the X-Rated Critics Association — for the presentation, How to Read a Dirty Movie, a video clips history and analysis of independent erotic filmmaking.

Bright chooses examples of gay and straight, romantic, and didactic porn to explore exceptions to the eroto-phobia and sexual illiteracy that plague American erotic cinema. She illustrates how Hollywood habits have infiltrated porn stories to make them more palatable to women.

This event celebrates Cornell University Library’s new exhibition, Speaking of Sex, in the Carl A Kroch Library, in the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, and is co-sponsored by the University Lectures and the Feminist, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program.

Steel Closets: Voices of Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Steelworkers
Anne Balay, English, Indiana University Northwest
Tuesday, March 25, 2014 at 4:30 pm to 6:00 pm
381 Ives Hall, Central Campus

Steel ClosetsAnne Balay will talk about her oral history project with LGBT steelworkers, the transcripts of which she just placed in Cornell’s Human Sexuality Collection. Department of Labor Relations, Law, and History Seminar