REYKJAVIK, Iceland – No way around it. To get into that museum restroom, I was going to have to grab the door handle and pull. No problem in most places.
But this is the famous Icelandic Phallological Museum. The handle on that door was shaped like – you guessed it – a penis.
Two visitors behind me were waiting to see what I would do. What else? Seize the unusual opener, give it a jerk and walk inside. I heard their giggles as the door closed after me.
When my 10-day cruise on the Ocean Diamond ended, I had about five hours to spend in Reykjavik before my Icelandair flight home. Reykjavik is a very walkable city so I was quite happy to have the extra time to explore.
As usual, the crew of the Ocean Diamond made our debarkation very smooth and easy. We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, walked off the ship one last time, put our room keys in the kiosk to signal that we had gone ashore for our final departure and made our farewells.
Our luggage was already waiting on the dock. All we had to do was claim it and head for a waiting bus to the airport. Or, in my case, leave my luggage in a secured area so I could walk around Reykjavik.
I heard that a couple of departing passengers were gong to the Blue Lagoon in their free time before plane departure. But I already knew where I was heading. The dock was in downtown Reykjavik, the walk wasn’t far and I needed the exercise. Plus I knew it would be a great story – if I handled it properly.
It all started as a joke
Nicknamed “The Penis Museum,” the Phallological Museum is the only museum of its kind in the world. The collection belongs to one man. And it all started as a joke.
When Sigurður Hjartarson was a boy, he used to spend his summers in the countryside. He was given a pizzle (bull’s penis) to herd cattle. Then he grew up, got a job as a headmaster in a secondary school and shared some of his childhood adventures with his teaching friends.
As a jesting reference to that herding tool, some of the teachers who worked at a nearby whale station during the summer brought him a whale penis. However, instead of teasing him, the gesture made Sigurður intrigued with the idea of collecting specimens from other mammals.
Before long, Sigurður had enough organs that his family decided the items needed a new home. The result was a museum where Sigurður could share his collection with others. When the museum moved to Reyjkavik in 2011, the collection had grown to contain nearly 300 specimens from 93 different species of animals, one from every single mammal in Iceland as well as many foreign species.
Every single Icelandic mammal?
That’s right. The donation from an Icelandic man made it every mammal.
The collection became complete in April 2011 when 95-year-old self-proclaimed womanizer Pall Arason donated his symbol of manhood to the museum upon his death. His pickled penis, testicles and scrotum sprouting reddish gray hair is a main attraction.
Neatly organized in a modern storefront building in the downtown shopping area, the museum is more of a learning institution than a porn place. Shelves have specimens in formaldehyde-filled glass jars. Other specimens are dried and mounted on the walls. Because many of them are unrecognizable, each exhibit has a sign explaining what it is and some information about the animal.
As stated in its information, the goal of the museum “is not merely to titillate, but to advance the ‘ancient science’ of phallology, which examines how male genitalia have influenced history, art, psychology, and literature.”
The educational aspect is not surprising since the 73-year-old Sigurður spent 37 years as a principal and teacher of history and language before retiring in 2004. The museum’s curator is now the founder’s son, Hjörtur Gísli Sigurðsson.
The biggest penis on display is from a sperm whale, almost six feet, weighing 150 pounds. It is only part of the organ which in total would have been about 16 feet long and 900 pounds.
The smallest is from an elf. After all, this is Iceland where more than half the population believes in elves and trolls. Of course, if you can’t see the elf’s appendage, don’t worry because elves are supposed to be unseen.
A museum section shows penis objects in folklore. Another has penis-shaped implements like phones, knives, a bar kit and a cooking pan, plus a chic lampshade made from bull scrotum. Labeled “For vegetarians only,” a photo shows phallic-looking carrots, potatoes and peppers.
An unusual set of silver casts looks like a work of art. But on closer inspection it is actually casts of penises belonging to the men of the Icelandic National Handball Team, silver medal winners at the 2008 Olympic in Beijing. There is also a photo of the smiling men.
A future donor reported to have the largest penis in the world has his photo hung in a place of honor. A New York writer/blogger, 45-year-old Jonah Falcon has agreed to donate his super size appendage (9-inch flaccid, 13.5 inches erect) when he leaves this earth.
The museum gift shop, as might be expected, carries gag gifts like penis-shaped bottle openers, cigarette lighters, candles and suckers. T-shirts, caps and bumper stickers are among the most popular souvenirs.
For me, the museum was like visiting a biology class. Perhaps risqué to some but purely scientific and educational to others. The owner cares enough about his collection that he has said he plans someday to be among the displays himself. That shows a lot of dedication. Or cojones.
Photos by Jackie Sheckler Finch