Library/Archive

Pencil in book photo by Jon MacyHistory of the CSC Library and Archive

The Center for Sex & Culture Library and Archive was born from, and is sustained by, donated collections of books, magazines, journals, zines, comics, dissertations, works of art, videos, memorabilia, and the personal papers of key members of the community. 

The Collection

The collection is unique in the world in its dedication to collecting and preserving information about sex as we have known it, do know it, and continue to learn about it, worldwide. We have our donors to thank for the vibrancy of our collection. Our donors, including Dr. Carol Queen, Dr. Robert Lawrence and Good Vibrations, were dedicated to collecting materials that have long been shunned by traditional booksellers, libraries and museums. They have collected these materials at great personal risk and expense, because they believe they had intrinsic value to society. At the Center’s library, these materials have finally found a home where they are cataloged, stored and preserved for future generations of researchers and the public.

A sample of our remarkable holdings:

1) Graduate and undergraduate dissertations, representing original research;

2) Pulp erotic fiction from the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s to today;

3) Sexual education textbooks from the 1970s to today;

4) HIV education materials from the ’80s to today; and

5) Early 20th Century “marriage manuals” (sexual instruction guides).

Availability

All of CSC’s books are searchable on our Goodreads account. We have also created a Sexology Magazine database and zine database. We are unable to lend materials at this time, unless you are a CSC Member at the Library Level. However, you may make an appointment to view library materials. In limited cases, we may be able to photocopy materials for you (in accordance with existing copyright restrictions). Please contact the librarian at library@sexandculture.org.

Future Plans

First and foremost, we hope to open the physical space of the library, on a regular schedule, as soon as possible.

Other projects include 1) creating a database of web-only published articles and websites regarding sexuality; and 2) creating and maintaining a mold free and temperature regulated archive for artworks, rare and fragile materials.

How You Can Help

The Library and Archive are an on-going project with new donations coming in throughout the year. We have several avenues in which you can participate in the continued growth and support of this rare collection:

1) Fiscal support – please consider making a donation to our library members fund or buying books from our Alibris store.

2) Become a volunteer or intern – if you can’t donate money, consider donating your time. Volunteering is a great way to learn about the collection. We have regular trainings for volunteers to become involved with cataloging and other projects. Contact the librarian for further information. library@sexandculture.org 

3) Tell your friends -  this is one of the only sex libraries that is accessible to the public and we want it to stay that way. Let your friends, family and colleagues know about us! Come use our library. We have free wi-fi. 

4) Add books to our collection— we have wishlists available through Alibris and Amazon.

Archive Mission and Scope

The Center for Sex and Culture archive contains a broad range of materials that are representative of the breadth of CSC’s mission. The CSC archive shares some commonality with political history archives such as that of the GLBT Historical Society, archives devoted to to specific sexual communities, such as the National Leather Archives, and sexological archives, such as the Kinsey Institute. However, the CSC collection is organized around the desire for sexual liberation of one sort or another and the belief that undoing cultural restrictions on consensual sexual activity is an inherent good for the physical, psychological and sexual health of our community, no matter how narrowly or broadly that community is defined. 

     The CSC archive is composed of historical material (primarily but not entirely sexual) that represents many separate but overlapping sexual subcultures. These include, but are not limited to: the Leather/BDSM community; the interrelated porn and swing/swap renaissances of the 1990s when trans issues were less clearly and vehemently separated from sexual issues than they are today; and the various feminist movements focused on women’s sexual agency and sexual health

     The CSC archive contains materials not directly related to any of the subculture of themes mentioned, but sharing aesthetic sensibilities or relevant historical antecedent with these subcultures or this theme. “Relevance” should be broadly interpreted, with the hope that CSC’s decision making in the collection process will be able to preserve notions of culture and theme not directly represented by individual artifacts. While CSC is invested in portraying history accurately and without distortion, CSC also makes no pretense to maintaining a completist collection that represents an idealized notion of universally balanced truth. It is our belief that such a think is impossible and that efforts to maintain such a collection would be doomed to failure and disingenuous. We applaud the value of archives built under such holistic notions, but do not believe that goals of complete or objective truth can ever be realized. 

The structure of the archive, and its collection, are steeped in the philosophy that sexuality is plural, diffuse, living and evolving body of knowledge and practice that no movement, group or individual can encompass or represent. The archive will continue acquisitions and indexing mindful of the relevance of race, religion, age, gender, partnering(s), (dis)ability, or any other identity claimed or assigned to the ways in which sexual liberation, sexual repression or personal sexual development play out in the real world. 

Our current collection contains large and small groupings of items associated with unknown individuals as well a groups and individuals of note. We have been fortunate to be entrusted with collections amassed by individuals who sought to preserve the histories of their communities and deemed CSC to be an appropriate guardian of that history. 

Larger sub-collections of note include:

  • The bulk of the Larry Townsend estate, including much of his personal collection of illustration and art. This collection also includes papers, manuscripts and personal effects, and is especially rich in art materials, many associated with Drummer Magazine during Townsend’s editorial tenure. 
  • Porn star Nina Hartley has gifted us with nearly all of her pre-email fan mail along with some personal papers. 
  • Patrick Califia built and extensive archive of his personal activities and maintained records of many organizations and community efforts with which he was involved when he was known as Pat Califia, a noted writer and theorist in the dyke BDSM world (and an editor of the short-lived magazine Venus Infers; associated materials from that publication are also part of the Califia collection). Pat Califia’s materials now reside in the CSC archive. 
  • Robert Lawrence and Carol Queen were collecting items of significance since long before the founding of CSC and have amassed a collection both broad and deep in its contents. This collection was part of the inspiration for Betty Dodson’s suggestion that CSC should be founded. 
  • Buzz Bense, founder of 890 Folsom and Eros, has donated his internationally significant collection of AIDS education/awareness posters to CSC.
  • Spectator Magazine began its life as the erotic section for underground newspaper The Berkeley Barb. CSC holds a significant cross-section of this Bay Area sex community newspaper’s files. and other materials. 
  • Libido Magazine, “the journal of sex and sensibility,” ceased publication in the mid-2000s and sent its materials, including paste-up pages, to CSC. 
  • Carol Leigh (a.k.a Scarlot Harlot) worked with CSC under the aegis of a Creative Work Fund grant to digitize her extensive library of sex worker interviews, video recordings from conferences, and films; this material is available for viewing only from her at the CSC archive. 
  • Good Vibrations founder Joani Blank donated her collection of antique vibrators to CSC in 2005. Additional, old catalogs and other historically significant material from the pre-2000 Good Vibrations is held at CSC.
  • The CSC archive also include materials donated by or associated with Cynthia Slater; Midori; Charles Gatewood
We aim to make the archive accessible to researchers as well as the general public. Because our archive contains information about the private lives of living individuals, we must manage access somewhat carefully. We are dedicated to the notion that while some people have chosen to be public figures in sexuality activism, we do not mistake the private activities of their friends, acquaintances, or lovers as publicly held information until after the time of such an individual’s death or their granting of specific permission. 
At least one month a year, we show archive material in the CSC Gallery as a means of exposing the great wealth of information and artifacts we hold. 

Please contact us for further information about the CSC Library & Archive. 

Library

library@sexandculture.org

Archives

archives@sexandculture.org

Internships

socialmedia@sexandculture.org

Above: Photograph by Library Vixen

Below: Photograph by rosey lakos

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The Center for Sex & Culture, located in San Francisco at 1349 Mission St. between 9th and 10th, strives to promote creativity, information, and healthy sexual knowledge.


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