Walking Through A Phallic Wonderland

Walking Through A Phallic Wonderland

Photo by
Art Bicnick/The Reykjavík Grapevine

It’s all about the dicks at Iceland’s weirdest and wildest museum

How does one measure distances in different places around the world? In some places, it’s as simple as kilometres or miles. Or maybe by minutes, or proximity to landmarks or by how many Tim Hortons’ you’ll pass before arriving at your destination.

In recent years, a new geography has emerged on Google to make sense of distances between various Reykjavík locations. So many searches for shops, restaurants and government offices seem to include the helpful suggestion of how far away that place is from the Phallological Museum. There’s a joke in there about men who earnestly believe their pecker to be the centre of the universe, but it’s funnier to think that a museum dedicated to penises and penile parts is the centre of Reykjavík.

Upon learning the sad news in early February that Icelandic Phallological Museum founder Sig­urður Hjart­ar­son had passed away at 82 years old, it seemed only fitting that we would venture out from the Grapevine offices — conveniently located just 80 m from the penis museum — to check out the massive (not that size matters) collection he amassed.

How it started

Walking down the stairs into the expansive subterranean museum, visitors are treated to a recording of Sig­urður’s voice welcoming them to the museum and explaining how it came to be. “The living room got increasingly full with amputated phalluses, and finally my wife told me I could not keep them at home anymore,” stood out as a reminder that perhaps a partner that leaves dirty dishes in the sink isn’t such a bad thing in the grand scheme of things.

The living room got increasingly full with amputated phalluses, and finally my wife told me I could not keep them at home anymore.

Sig­urður’s fascination with penises began when he was given a cattle whip as a child that was made from a bull’s penis. Over time, he began collecting paraphernalia and was gifted whale penises from whaling stations. All the while, he worked as a highschool teacher, teaching history and Spanish.

A proper museum was opened in Reykjavík in 1997, but the collection was displayed in Húsavík from 2004 to 2012. At that point, penises and penile parts were shipped back to Reykjavík for display, where they are to this day.

How it’s going

It’s a wild experience, walking into the penis, museums’ relatively new location in Reykjavík’s Hafnartorg shopping district. A long corridor of collected and donated penis-related art lines both sides of the long corridor visitors walk on route to the museum proper. It’s a far cry from the single-room set-up the collection previously filled on Laugavegur. It’s slick and professional.

Before entering the exhibition, guests arrive at the Phallic Café, where creamy drinks and penis shaped waffles are among the delicacies on offer. The area — notably teeming with pairs and groups of women at the time of our visit — is inviting, whether sitting down for a bite or simply browsing the souvenirs on offer — Groucho glasses with a penis in lieu of a nose, aprons adorned with penises and t-shirts emblazoned with the slogan “It’s All About Dicks” stood out as must haves.

Venturing into the exhibition, the signage on the wall — pointing the way with a penis instead of an arrow — directs visitors to the first room, housing casts of the penises of the silver medal winning 2008 Icelandic handball team, as well as the disembodied members of a number of deer from the United States, Iceland, Poland and other European nations. Mood lighting is provided by lamps crafted out of bull testicles.

The members of the famous Icelandic horse are also on display. Their penile preserves are far less cute than the animals are in real life.

A visit to the museum is an educational experience, to be sure. For example, we learned that what rodents lack in penis size, they more than make up for with their large testicles. It’s also clear that the staff of the penis museum has a great sense of humour — as evidenced by signage apologising for a ruminate construction that reads “we are growing.”

The fact, as told by Sig­urður, that walruses have the largest penal bones of all animals is quickly forgotten when entering the next room, displaying samples in increasingly larger containers, displaying the phalluses of a narwhal, killer whale, sperm whale and blue whale. Whale erections — which visitors learn have refractor muscles that serve to hold the penis inside their mate’s body — are mounted on wooden blocks on the walls like trophies in stuffy hunting lodges.

In addition to the visual displays of penises, scrotum and penile bones, museum imparts an impressive amount of information on the courting and mating habits of each animal featured. It’s all surprisingly interesting to navigate.

The members of the famous Icelandic horse are also on display. Their penile preserves are far less cute than the animals are in real life.

Moving beyond the wild animals, visitors find themselves in a part of the exhibit displaying the curators bowtie, codpiece and other paraphernalia crafted out of the penis skin of a sperm whale. This is followed by displays of carved sculptures of penises, including a bronze phallic amulet from 1st century France, a winged phallus from Pompeii and a carving of Osiris’s penis. This area is accompanied with information on various historic rituals, folklore and practices centred around fertility and penises.

The exhibition ends with a display of phalluses of mythological creatures. The troll probably should’ve seen a doctor while alive, and it’s to everyone’s benefit that the Yule Lads don’t come down from the mountain in the nude. The penis of the Ghost of Snæfell is ghostly, indeed.

Up and at’em

Sig­urður should be immensely proud of the collection he amassed in life and the legacy that stands to his perseverance now. The Icelandic Phallological Museum — being the centre of everything in Reykjavík — is well worth a visit.

Support The Reykjavík Grapevine!
Buy subscriptions, t-shirts and more from our shop right here!