SEOUL — In relatively conservative South Korea, the sight of a wooden door handle in the shape of a phallus might prompt hope that the door is already open.

But for the Eros Museum in the artsy Insadong neighborhood in Seoul, it’s just one of many items representing Asia’s longtime concern with fertility, health and a robust sex life. The museum, named after the deity Eros — better known by his Roman name Cupid — is tasteful and direct.

But that doesn’t mean it’s for the faint of heart or children, and it’s probably not a good first date. If the thought of one wooden phallus bothers you, wait till you see the dozens more inside.

But once you get beyond the blushing stage, you’ll find the museum opens to a fascinating look at how cultures have handled, sometimes crudely, sex education.

The owner of the museum, Shin Young-soo, wanted to introduce something new and bizarre to South Koreans, overcoming the taboo with which most view sex, said Park Dok-hyun, who works at the museum. Shin, he said, owns several museums throughout Seoul.

The drawings, sculptures, coins, paintings and photographs come from Thailand, Korea, Japan, China, Tibet and even France and the United States. Shin collected many of the items through his travels, Park said, and visitors to the museum have donated pieces.

In China and Japan, sex education often took the form of wordless drawings. And if you had any doubts about what goes where, these long rectangular scenes — composed of various human body entanglements — clear up any misconceptions.

Forget dinner and a movie. These drawings bypass conversation or foreplay.

In China, sensual books were distributed throughout palaces, many with amusing titles such as “Secret Methods of the Plain Girl,” “Secret of the Jade Chamber” and “Self-indulgence in Taoism.” The erotic paintings reached high popularity during the Ming Dynasty, which ran from 1368-1644, but not among common people.

Similarly, sexual paintings known as “chunwa” took hold in Korea. As Korean society reflected strict Confucian values, they shied from the more explicit paintings as seen in China and Japan.

As in many other cultures, followers of Shamanism — one of the earliest polytheistic religions that still exists in modern South Korea — used phalluses as a fertility symbol. Stone female sexual organ models were worshipped and regarded as a source of power and a protective force against evil.

Most of the visitors to the Eros Museum have been Japanese and Americans, according to Park. Most of the foreigners don’t overreact to the exhibits, but South Koreans are chagrined, he says, since there is little sex education in the schools.

Most visitors find the exhibits fascinating, and the museum’s hope, Park said, is to help educate visitors that sex is a natural part of life.

If you go

Directions: Coming from the north down Insadong street from Anguk subway station, the museum is on the second alley on the right. You should see a large sign with a well-endowed drawing.

Hours: It’s open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Costs: The cost of admission is 5,000 won.

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