Victoria Hartmann, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Occupation: Executive Director of the Erotic Heritage Museum in Las Vegas, Sexuality Scholar studying Pornography and Paraphilias
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
The Sex in My Business: Sex is the central focus of my work, both for the museum and in my research! The museum's mission is to preserve erotic art, artifacts and film, both those films that are/have been commercially available and those that are privately made and/or are documentaries.
A Typical Day: I get up around 6am and check my emails—I get a lot of them, and our corporate business office is located in Michigan so I get emails starting at 5am my time! I try to get to the gym most mornings but that isn't always possible. Regardless, I usually get into the museum around 9am and start my daily activities, which could range from paperwork to archiving to contract negotiations and oversight of the different departments. Sometimes it's overseeing a study or two we conduct at the museum. It's never a boring day.
The Best Part: My job mixes several different things that I love: art, business, preservation, entertainment and academia. My work at the museum exposes me to many aspects of sexuality—historical, modern, biological, neurological, anthropological...the list goes on and on. Plus, we get to educate the public in a really fun way. I also think that one of the best parts of this line of work is the other sexuality scholars I meet. They are some of the wisest, most inspiring people, and through my job, I have the good fortune to work with them. They know the stigma attached to working in this field, and in them I find the closest of cohorts. They are as dedicated to this career as I am.
The Worst Part: Many guests come into the museum expecting something touristy without a lot of depth, or they come in expecting to see live sex shows. The biggest complaint we get from visitors is that there is too much to read (but of course there is, it's a museum!). Because we study and preserve sexual items and history, people often think our work is a joke. Every so often, people come in and ask the front desk staff why we are even here, and they tell us that everyone already knows about sex and we are wasting time. These kinds of things are hurtful, but those of us who work here are all passionate and dedicated, so we smile and keep doing what we do.
How I Got Here: As far back as I can remember, I have been fascinated by sexuality, and was fortunate enough to grow up in Germany with my mom who had a wonderfully open way of parenting me. I never felt shame as I matured—she taught me that no matter what I do or how I express myself, I am ok. Once I got to college, one of my first classes was psychology, and it was there that I stumbled upon unusual sexual behavior. I was hooked, and made my focus human sexuality.
I came to the museum as an intern, but once I had earned both of my Doctorate degrees, I left academia. I went to work for my current boss, Harry Mohney (whom I met during my internship), managing his in-club cam system and one of his clubs. I was miserable—not because of him, but because I didn't feel at home in that world. I nearly left and went back to school again, but then the Museum changed hands and he took control of it because it was housed in a building he owns. He asked me what we should do with it, and a week or so later I got a call from the corporate offices that he had appointed me Director. I was stunned but said yes. I gave up the clubs and came to the museum full time. That was six years ago. It's a labor of love and I am happy we were able to monetize the museum while still maintaining our integrity and dedication to outreach and education.
What Society Thinks: Sexuality has been a favorite target for those whom would wish to silence and control people. We as human beings must always be vigilant about not letting this happen. We do better as a species when we accept each other’s sexual expression because in the end, we are all afraid of being "found out". Our sexuality is the greatest equalizer in this way, so let's honor each other’s differences. Other than my father, who passed away three years ago, the rest of my family and friends have been super supportive of both my work and the museum. I even met my amazing husband there. My children (who are now adults) also support what I do. I sometimes get approached by men when I am in my museum gear outside of the building in a somewhat salacious way, but when I respond back with the museum’s mission and what we do, I generally get an "Oh wow, that's actually cool. I should come and see it." The coldest reception to our work has been from the museum world. We attended a museum conference (AAM) last year and the attendees largely avoided us, looking down their noses at my staff and I, which was the most disheartening experience we have had. We were like giddy school children attending our first class outing, and the "cool kids" ostracized us. This reaction was a big letdown and we haven't been back. Over the ten years I have been at the museum I think we have had roughly three people come in and scream at us that we are the anti-Christ (???) and a couple of co-workers in the business office make fun of us for being "nerds", but those things don't bother us much. We like being nerds.
When I’m not at Work: My husband and I got our first puppy together some months ago, and we love to find things to do with her. We decided not to have children together, so this is the closest we will get and it's been a fun adventure. Other than that, I like to find a balance between time alone (I think a lot) and spending time with the people we care about. My husband and I are both big on nurturing the relationships we value. I play drums and am working on getting my pilots license, so I fit those two hobbies in when I can.