X-rated sex in Canberra: Now through Sept 20 at the Canberra Museum & Gallery

X-rated sex in Canberra: Now through Sept 20 at the Canberra Museum & Gallery

It was hard to resist taking a peek at a new exhibition, X-Rated – The Sex Industry in the ACT, a far juicier side to the capital.

Those of us who have never previously noticed anything phallic about Black Mountain Tower may always notice it now, once we’ve seen it portrayed in the exhibition X-Rated – The Sex Industry in the ACT.

The x-rated X-Rated at the Canberra Museum & Gallery (you must be 18 to go into the temporarily “adults only” part of CMAG that’s showing it) contains an unforgettable picture of the tower wearing a condom. Several other dignified Canberra landmarks, for example the Carillon and the eternally spurting (and very Freudian when you-think-about-it) Captain Cook Memorial Jet, are similarly dressed. The portrayals are part of a witty Cover Yourself In Canberra series of explicit but witty posters promoting safe, condom-employing sex.

The exhibition’s curator Rowan Henderson, taking this reporter on a sometimes blush-making (for me) sneak preview of the show explains that X-Rated is about the history of the sex industry in the ACT. This is a proper subject for CMAG to tackle, she insists, because once upon a time, for reasons X-Rated explores, Canberra and the sex industry (pornography and prostitution) were conjoined in the popular imagination. Wits called the national capital Pornberra.

X-rated sex in Canberra: Now through Sept 20 at the Canberra Museum & Gallery
Sex work was legalized in Canberra in 1992 in what was considered a groundbreaking move that focused on harm-minimization instead of criminalization. Photo: Siobahn Heanu

“So we’re looking at sex work, formerly called prostitution, and at pornography, and at their surrounding industries. We just thought it was an interesting topic, a side of things in the ACT that hasn’t been been looked at.”

Canberra’s fame as the porn-distribution capital of Australia was entirely earned.

“In X-Rated we look at the history of how the X classification came into being. When in the 1980s video-taping and video tapes became available for people in their homes suddenly people could watch pornography at home, instead of going out to a cinema or somewhere.”

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