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THE SEX FILES: We talk with Dr. Victoria Hartmann, PH.D. Director of the Erotic Heritage Museum, Part 1

Dr Victoria HartmannDr. Victoria Hartmann, PH.D. says she is “very passionate about the work I do in the field of human sexuality” and that passion, plus her sparkling good humor, obvious high intelligence and her ease in explaining just what the Erotic Heritage Museum offers the world, made my visit there so special. As previously noted, I stopped by the EHM in Vegas during a short book/lecture/vacation I managed out west just when an ice storm was pelting the east coast (really, I couldn’t have planned it better.) I stopped into the EHM and had a long conversation with Dr. Hartmann while she took me on an exclusive tour of her amazing “entertainment complex, educational facility, an art gallery and a store all wrapped into one” and I just loved the place. I can’t thank the engaging Dr. Hartmann enough for her time and insights, so much of which I had to split into two parts. Enjoy.

Salacious ‘funhouse’, serious sexual research facility, community safe haven for sexual expression, gallery, store… what is the Erotic Heritage Museum exactly?

It’s all of the above. The EHM isn’t about any one particular sexual topic….just as human beings, indeed all species on our planet, express and explore so much diversity in sexual behavior, procreation and everything to do with sexuality; we felt it was best to include anything and everything people associate with sex. With so much material to draw from, we are constantly changing exhibits; adding new ones, and expanding others. We’ve created a facility that exemplifies consent, acceptance, honest communication and support of each other as sexual beings; a sex positive all-inclusive space for anyone, no matter how unique the variety of one’s sexual behavior.

And your particular background?

I’ve always been fascinated by human sexuality, as far back as I can remember. As an adult I spent the first 15 years of my career as a film maker. I grew up loving cinema and moving images; you can find so much emotion and human complexity in film. I love being stimulated visually. I would, as an only child growing up, spend hours at the movies watching films I enjoyed, over and over. Eventually I began studying technique and lighting. I noticed style of filming, angles and how mood was set. In my twenties I went from a brief stint as an actress in low budget horror films to directing and producing soft core erotic films for various outlets, from video stores, cable to internet. I’ve filmed a small amount of XXX material as well. Telling a story through the medium of film expanded my mind and allowed me to explore a wide swath of sexual psychology. During that time I pursued my education, eventually earning two Doctorates and two Masters degrees, one an MBA and a Masters in Public Health. My two Doctorates are in the field of Human Sexuality, one with a clinical focus. I’ve trained as a counselor and have worked at clinics with transgender populations and with survivors of sexual assault. I lecture from time to time at health centers and universities, and my research is being published in an Anthology that will be distributed this fall to Universities around the country. In addition to my work at the Museum, I am currently writing journal papers on a clinical method I have developed to identify different subsets of a particular paraphilia.

It seems obvious that Las Vegas would be the perfect place for the EHM, but then again I am thinking you must have lots to compete with seeing as you are a block off the strip and all its distractions. So, Vegas…good and bad for what you do?

A little of both. There is so much glitter and glam in Vegas, plus an endless selection of entertainment, it’s sometimes difficult to get people’s attention; we simply cannot compete with the large advertising budgets of casinos. That said, we are quite unique, and with our internet presence and word of mouth we get a good amount of traffic. The style of the Museum I believe could only make it in Vegas; we are bright, colorful, certainly push peoples’ buttons, and have an element of entertainment that fits well with the Vegas environment.

Tell us about a couple of your favorite exhibits?

The “Flesh” exhibit by Tracy Sydor. It’s dark and visceral. She has a style of photography that stuns people into silence. Her work is focused on domestic and sexual violence, and works with survivors to depict what they have been through, and how they have healed, in a very “in your face, you can’t look away” kind of way. We’ve mounted her work on floating frames that glow from the back, and the walls are wrapped to look like notepaper where people have begun writing about their own experiences with trauma. We’ve seen people freeze, cry, or wander subdued by each image. It’s powerful, meaningful and pulls in the viewer. My second favorite space in the Museum is the Sex Education exhibit. It’s an entire area of the Museum filled with sexual science and the exploration of sexuality from an academic perspective. I think it goes without saying this would be one of my favorites.

This is a great spot to stop at part 1 of Dr. Victoria Hartmann’s interview. Stay tuned for part 2 next week.

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