I first heard about The Icelandic Phallological Museum when I was an undergrad student taking my first Human Sexuality classes and discovering the big-wide-world of people who study sex. I was somewhere on the internet, reading a top-ten list of weird sex places and lo and behold – a penis museum, in ICELAND. Needless to say, this shot to the top of my bucket list faster than you can say “baculum.”
Just last week, during a complimentary Icelandic Air stopover on my way from London to New York, I got to check this one off the list.
Immediately after dropping off my bags, I headed straight to the museum like the die-hard sex geek that I am. Coincidentally, the Airbnb accommodation I’d booked was just a few blocks from the shrine to all things penile. I couldn’t have planned it better if I’d tried.
The Icelandic Phallological Museum is in an unassuming building on a stretch of street occupied by a small supermarket and a charity shop. You could easily walk past it and miss it if not for the sandwich board out front with their penis-emblem logo on it.
After posing for a photo in front of said sign and making an excited face, my husband and I headed into the museum. We were met by a young man with long, Thor-like blonde hair who nonchalantly told us it would be 2500 kroner (~$20) for us both to enter. In exchange for our cash, we received a book of English translations of all the signs. With that, the clerk (who looked a bit like a member of a metal band) went back to his work, and we stepped through the entry. The museum is not large – it’s about the size of a one-bedroom apartment – but boy is it chock full of penes.
As we turned around the check-in desk, we were greeted with a plethora of whale schlongs. We saw specimens from humpback whales, minke whales, and, of course, sperm whales – all preserved in long, cylindrical tubes. There were snippets of stories and text on the walls that referenced penises of various kinds. Iceland is known for its Norse epics (or eddas as they’re also known), and this love of narrative was seen throughout.
We also saw a framed photograph of the founder, Sigurður Hjartarson, talking on his wooden phone—which, of course, is shaped like a penis. Mr. Hjartarson is a historian, teacher, and enthusiastic collector of phalli. He started the museum in 1997 to showcase his assemblage to the general public.
The collection does not disappoint. With over a hundred specimens, it showcases the tremendous variety of male animal genitals – from that of the walrus to the pygmy shrew. My favorite display was the exhibit of standing penile casts, reminiscent of a chess set, from all fifteen members of Iceland’s Olympic handball team. As I write this sentence, I remember why I was so amused at that one. Penis casts + Olympic handball – how can you ask for more?
In between mammalian specimens, you can see various other penis-shaped accoutrements, like penis-handled wooden flatware and a penis-shaped gavel. As you move further back in the museum, some of these additional, non-organic pieces get significantly less…scientific. There are cases full of penis-shaped ashtrays, stuffed animals (the synthetic kind), and other novelty items of, shall we say, dubious value.
To wit: the motion-sensing, animatronic “flasher” doll that sounds off creepy vocal snippets and flaps its plastic whang at you gets pretty old (and offensive) pretty quickly. The management would do well to pare down the cheap gag items and focus on the unique natural history collection. Just because it’s all about penes doesn’t mean it has to be distasteful.
All in all, I’m very glad I had the opportunity to visit this penile wonderland. If you get the chance to stop over in Iceland and have a free afternoon in Reykjavik, I recommend a visit followed (or preceded) by a couple of White Russians at the Lebowski Bar down the street. It’ll be an epic story.