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El Reg does Erotica 2008

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A sign of things to come - pun not intended – are developments in male masturbatory gadgets. The adult industry has finally worked out that there is a market for assisted self-stimulation that does not involve bicycle pumps and ludicrous inflatable dummies - which were remarkable for their absence from the show. Battle has been joined between the tenga system – essentially, a solid lump of plastic with a hole down the middle – and the Fleshlight – a solid torch-shaped outer tube containing a "soft, pliable Real Feel Super Skin" moulded into the shape of your favourite orifice.

The Fleshlight stand assailed anyone brave enough to visit it with a wall of differently-shaped holes and a seriously motivated demonstrator who squirted passers by with lubricant, before inviting them to "try one". With their fingers, of course.

However, if the £40+ price tag on these systems is off-putting, then the Monkeyspanker – bastard offspring of an egg separator and a table tennis bat with a hole in the middle - was available for around a third of the price.

For those without a heart condition, and who fancy passing a mild electric current through sensitive parts of their anatomy, the joys of electro-stimulation are now on offer. A basic system will set you back around £200.

Meanwhile, body casting is definitely on the up, with various artists immortalising bits of their models in metal or plaster of Paris. More narcissistic readers might be interested in the self-casting kit, which enables anyone impressed by the size or shape of their endowment to make it more widely available to their loved one as dildo, vibrator, or simple willy-shaped chocolate or candle.

Swinging is this year’s growth industry, with swinger clubs offering a choice of locations as banal as Bromley, or as exotic as the South of France and the Bahamas to any couples adventurous enough to try.

Erotica remains an interesting, if slightly soulless event. Although attendance was down on previous years, visitors did seem to be enjoying themselves and there was a good split of age, gender and orientation. This is not the preserve of the "dirty old man", but a grown-up event without too much trace of the embarrassedly British seaside postcard humour.

A sadder note was set by a stand extolling the virtues of Instead – an alternative system for dealing with periods. Our hearts went out to the solitary male attempting to sell this product under the seriously misjudged slogan "Menstruation can be fun".

Much preferable, as slogans go, was the one proudly proclaiming "Proper British Sausage". It belonged to a stall selling hot dogs – and very good they were, too. ®

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