Sunday year I went to the 2011 Club X Sexpo, a “sexuality lifestyle expo” held at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre. I would like to claim that it has taken me this long to finalise my post about it because I’ve been busy doing the kind of FILTHY THINGS YOU ONLY DREAM ABOUT, but the truth is only that I am incredibly lazy. I still want to share though, and I wrote notes, so you can please be assured that what you are about to read is rigorously evidence-based.
I believe I was the only one taking copious notes among the racks of polyester lingerie (XS-4XL) and the dildo-strewn novelty golf course.
In addition, I believe I am also the only person who interviewed both the Fleshlight salesman and the elderly Christian bookstore proprieter.
I did it for you, dear internet friends! Please now let me tell you the story of my recent geologically speaking but many-moons-ago-internet-wise afternoon at Sexpo…
Approach and arrival
Approaching from a couple of hundred metres away I began to see people leaving the Exhibition Centre, laden with packages: nondescript white paper bags; opaque plastic gift boxes; and for the unashamed, glossy yellow bags branded ‘HUSTLER’. Reaching the entrance, I learned that Sexpo was through door number seven, right down the other end of the Convention Centre. I walked past “First Trimester Screening Australian Annual Update,” the cult-feel “Secrets of the Millionaire Mind Intensive” and “Australian Quilt Market 2011″ before seeing a woman whose diamante-script top suggested that I was close to reaching my destination. Sitting down next to Diamante Lady, I observed the arrivals for a few minutes. A group of two young straight couples. A middle aged couple. An older guy. A pair of male twenty-something friends all white shirts and gold chains. Lebanese perhaps? A young Asian couple. Another white pair in their thirties, comfortably plump. An aging biker whose leather jacket proclaimed “Harley Heaven”.
So what I noticed was that all of these people looked casual and oddly comfortable. None of the young women were tittering. The groups of young guys weren’t nervously ribbing one other. If any member of these couples was embarrassed, or was dreading their partner’s next attempt to reinvigorate a flagging sex life or ‘spice things up’, it’s wasn’t obvious on their faces. Maybe we’re not so stupid about sex after all?
I got up to pay, opting for a regular $22 pass rather than the heavily-spruiked $37 VIP ticket. As well as a free condom, a lube sample, a magazine, a shoulder bag and a non-specific ‘adult toy,’ a VIP ticket bought you ‘Priority Entry’ through a special gate just next to the regular gate. Hinting at the not-quite-right combination of sex and motorsports that I was to find inside, the VIP gate was somehow reminiscent of Formula 1. After all, as the website reminds us, “SEXPO is not just about SEX, it is about sexuality and adult lifestyles.” (That is not, technically, a lie. It’s just that edible glitter bodypaint sellers and vibrator-repair stalls outnumber alcohol and t-shirt vendors to such an extent that the latter’s presence just feels awkward.)
Being as I was a non-VIP, entry required me to walk past red-shirted security guards and two map-dispensing male greeters through this kind of semi-walled-off passage around 20 metres long. Large banners along the barrier showcased topless women and ads for paintball, and as I walked through I could hear the competing sounds of pounding ‘classic rock’, shuffling crowds and loudspeaker announcements inside. Ejected out of the passageway into the low-lit maze of stalls, just about the first thing I saw were the ripped abdominals of three exceedingly attractive and obviously shirtless men – ‘Hunkmania‘ strippers. I broke out into an enormous grin and started walking in their general direction, but found myself too embarrassed and shy to approach them, or even to look at them. So I walked right on past, stopping only when I reached the considerably-less-arousing stall of a man who paints portraits with his dick and calls himself ‘Pricasso.’
I accidentally the whole fleshlight
Without approaching the ubiquity of vibrators, fleshlights were certainly abundant at Sexpo, which had a dedicated fleshlight stall and a special fleshlight corner inside Sexpo’s beating heart and the only shop with a ceiling – the central Club X World store. The fleshlight corner was manned by an ever-so-slightly weedy man who looked to be in his early twenties, and who answered my questions knowledgably and with a distinct and admirable lack of self-consciousness.
From Fleshlight Boy I learned that:
- the celebrity-endorsed fleshlights, moulded from the pussies and assholes of porn stars, are the most expensive;
- one can purchase various interchangable fleshlight ‘sleeves’ in a range of textures;
- the blue fleshlights are because some men would like to fuck a Na’vi; and
- women whose partners go away to work in mining towns often buy them fleshlights as a kind of consolation and a precaution against infidelity.
I was also treated to a demonstration of how easy it is to clean one’s fleshlight: simply rinse with tap water and, if you like, (this is when I really felt vulnerable in my pants) flip the vaginal sleeve “inside-out like so” and sprinkle with a little corn starch to keep the fleshy material in tip-top condition. Hiding my disembodied-vulva-discomfort and focusing on the positives, I told Fleshlight Boy, honestly, that it was good to see some quality sex toys being made for men.
The Five Languages of Love
It was just around the corner from the Melbourne BDSM Community space that I met Stella, an old woman with short white hair who was tending a small stall of books with titles like “Staying Pure,” “Becoming a Man of Integrity” and “No Sex in the City.” She also had pamphlets for an Australian branch of the Pink Cross, a controversial Christian organisation in the USA that ‘rescues’ women from the sex industry.
Stella was, frankly, lovely, and many of the things she said (in contrast to some of the batshit-crazy looking books she had) to me sounded eminently reasonable: some women in the industry hate it and want to leave, and her group was there to offer non-judgemental support to those women. She also talked to me at great, great length about The Five Languages of Love, a series of self-help books she was selling.
I had not been expecting to see a stall of this kind at Sexpo, and said as much to Stella. What she told me was pretty surprising: she’s being coming to Sexpo for years and the organisers love her. They ring her every year to see whether she’ll be coming and this year they helped her to move all her things. As I left she pressed into my hand a heart-shaped chocolate and a tiny coloured pamphlet about god loving me.
As well as all the stores, Sexpo has rides and games which give it a vaguely incongruent carnivalesque vibe. One middle-aged spruiker in camo get-up didn’t seem to be attracting any customers to his Throbbin’ Hood game, although he was really trying, yelling “Whooooooo’s gonna be our next lucky winner?! Gotta be in it to win it! Don’t walk on by, walk on in!! Whoooooo’s gonna be our next…” over and over in an endless loop.
I didn’t play any games, but I did partake of both the Sex Train (WARNING! “sexually explicit themes,” “may not be suitable for pregnant women”) and the Sex Maze. The curious thing was, the ride operators just obviously wished they were dead. The rather hot train guy asked me how my day had been as he took my ticket. “Fascinating!” I said flirtatiously, “How about yours?” It must have sounded like a genuine question because his initial cheer gave way and he responded emphatically: “Terrible!”
Similarly, the (less hot) ticket-taker at the Sex Maze was so bored and/or embarrassed that he took my tickets and then handed them straight back to me, saying “That’ll be two tickets thanks you can keep ’em.” I’d been inside the maze scarcely a minute when an arm appeared amid the be-dildoed mirrors, shining a torch in my face. A young male voice said over the maze’s soundtrack of sexual moaning, “this is the exit here if you’re lost.” Uh, I thought that was the point?
One of the last stalls I visited was that of condom seller Big Richard.
I had assumed, some might say logically, that Big Richard condoms were manufactured specifically for the well-endowed. I asked the facially-pierced woman at the counter if this was the case, but she surprised me by saying no. Moreover, although they’d had some larger ones earlier in the week, they’d sold out and now only had condoms for Regular 5 to 6″ Richards. Why then, I asked, are they called Big Richard condoms? Piercing Lady told me it was “just marketing” and that she supposed a lot of guys just liked to think of themselves that way. But I honestly don’t think I know any men who’d be swayed by such transparently groundless flattery.
Sex trains ridden, mazes navigated, condom-sellers interviewed… there was just one thing that I had to do before re-emerging into the workaday world. I felt intimidated and ugly and awkward, but those hard, tan abs were calling to me. I marched determinedly back to where I had began, and I procured for myself a Hunkmania “poster and photo – $15.”
The hunks sprung into action, assembling on their blocks and directing me to take a seat in the middle. To my indescribable delight, Eye-level Navel Hunk and Vaguely Exotic Hunk each took one of my hands and placed it firmly on his snug, soft penis, while Friendly Hunk postioned his knees at my shoulders and offered two thumbs up. I tilted my head and smiled, the camera flashed, and this photo I shall forever cherish – radioactively pale and with-child though I may look.
I left on a post-hunk high.
I hope none of this sounded too sneering because while the whole thing was a little tacky and confused, I had a pretty good time at Sexpo, and I don’t think there’s anything intrinsically bad about enormous stacks of fluffy handcuffs or adults dressed in giant wobbling genital-dinosaur mascot costumes. The stallholders were friendly, the crowds seemed happy to be there, and overall the vibe was lighthearted and open. It wasn’t a space that showcased the incredible diversity of human sexuality, but then again, I’m just a straight girl with for-the-most-part vanilla tastes and a weakness for conventionally hot men. I felt pretty damn comfortable there in the commercial mainstream, perhaps even more comfortable than I feel at alternative and self-consciously ‘inclusive’ sex-related events. But that’s a post for another day!