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Pssst – These Are the Most Erotic Scenes Within the Arts
The master of sex, on painting nudity, censorship and a new podcast
Feature 09 May 2019

For decades, Liz Goldwyn has been a fixture in the world of art and fashion. But, whether she was curating the Sotheby’s fashion department or editing Vogue NYC, one ambition kept calling after her: creating a one-stop shop for all our sex-ed needs. After years of dreaming and scheming, The Sex Ed is live, and Goldwyn kicks of the podcasts’ second series of episodes this week, which might become your guilty pleasure.
What is the most erotic scene in an old master, modern or contemporary art work you can think of?
Amongst my favorites are L’Origine du monde by Gustave Courbet (1866); A T.C. Cannon oil painting that hangs in my dining room of a woman, topless, unfolding a blanket of stars/ the universe overhead; Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party (1974-79); the black and white photographs of Storyville in New Orleans by E. J. Bellocq; I love 16th century Persian erotic art and Japanese shunga as well.
What do you think of nudity censorship in the arts, especially in showing works dating back to last centuries- does it go too far?
I actually heard from an authority at a major British arts institution (not naming names) that the British Museum in London has a drawer full of genitals cut off from classical statues by prudish curators back in the day!
We can see a rising number of sex and body related posts on girl power/feminist IG art accounts – a good development?
For every sex and body positive post you see on IG there are countless educational accounts (including ours, @thesexed) being shadow banned or deleted — sometimes temporarily, sometimes permanently. While IG allows male sexual health & medical accounts to overtly advertise products like viagra and sexual enhancement products on their accounts, there is a double standard when it comes to women’s sexual wellness. Most of us cannot advertise and have to be very careful about content— even when it is tasteful and informative. Meanwhile, you can see men with millions of followers posting images of themselves balancing trophies on a naked woman’s ass as though she existed only to serve as an object of his pleasure—with no complaints. So…. we still have a ways to go.
Can you compare reading a playboy with purposely looking at nudity in old masters?
I will answer this with a quote from *Nina Hartley’s episode of The Sex Ed podcast because I love how she puts it:
*(Nina is a world-famous adult film actress, director, author, and educator. She first achieved mainstream recognition in the 80s and 90s for promoting sex-positive feminism.)
“If you make “sex art,” it’s called pornography because we don’t value sexuality enough to let the great artists handle it. But sex and passion and pleasure are equally worthy of artistic endeavor as love, and death, and war, and allegory, and the Bible. Each culture gets the pornography it deserves because the explicit material we put on screen is a reflection of culture, not an engine of culture.”
What does the art world need to learn in regards to handling sex in art / curating sexual content?
To be intersectional; to re examine the male gaze that is so often curating/collecting and setting prices; to re distribute power accordingly. To self reflect on double standards that celebrate typically patriarchal depictions of nudity sex work and“femininity” — without creating space for work made by “others.”
What is the funniest story pitch you have received far on @sexed?
We had a call for submissions on our IG about oral sex stories and received the coolest psychedelic drawing of one woman’s mushroom trip which involved getting epic head from a lover— she translated it into artwork and it was quite original and mind blowing!
Anything else we didn’t ask but should know?
The new season of The Sex Ed podcast is now streaming with 22 weeks of episodes exploring the intersections of sex and artificial intelligence, fetish, Hollywood, fashion, Tantra, religion, bondage, disability, race and more with high profile guests from the aforementioned fields. Check us out wherever you stream!
I am really excited about the range and breadth of these interviews— it is my goal to make these conversations more commonplace and mainstream—and remove the shame, fear, trauma and taboos around talking about sex and spirituality as part of a holistic approach to wellness.
To celebrate the new season, we partnered with the collective Black Women Animate to create custom, closed captioned animated gifs for all 22 episodes. Black Women Animate is the first and only production company designed to improve the representation of black women in animation. BWA helps black women, women of color, and non binary artists of color in the world of animation obtain visibility and job opportunities.

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