Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/11/25/erotica_2008/

A sex show of truly Olympian proportions?

El Reg does Erotica 2008

By Jane Fae Ozimek

Posted in Bootnotes, 25th November 2008 12:37 GMT

NSFW Dayglo and faintly squidgy – or looking as though it might turn up as weaponry in the hands of a hostile alien: the future of stimulation is techno-sexual, and it was on display this weekend at Erotica 2008.

This was the third such event to be hosted at Kensington Olympia, opening its doors to punters with the plea that they "forget doom and gloom and credit crunch" and immerse themselves in "one full day and night of fabulous naughtiness". However, finger-wagging signs at the entrance warning visitors to behave and reminding them that nudity was forbidden may have set a limit to just how naughty they were expected to be.

A hint of politically correct sexism, too, as a fetish enthusiast claims that he was asked to desist from taking his female "puppy" for a walk on a leash around the show because it was "abusive" - while being informed that the same scene with gender reversed would be perfectly OK.

So what was there to see? And is £22 a head really justified for a day spent wandering aisles packed with artificial genitalia and interestingly-flavoured lubricant?

El Reg went and looked, and our answer is a not terribly enthusiastic yes. Erotica is about more than sex – intimacy, perhaps – and for those looking for a different experience on a wet Sunday afternoon in autumn, it provides it. Stands include not just the obligatory travelling sex shops, but much more besides: corsetry and underwear, models, film-makers, swingers, jewellers, chocolatiers. There was even an outpost selling dairy products, whose sole connection to eroticism appeared to be the proposition that they could sell you cream and, well, cream could play a part in love-making.

Those with a spare £10,000 could pick up a discount six-seater jacuzzi and whirlpool bath. The less ambitious could purchase hand-crafted metal beds – a snip at £4,000.

Meanwhile, for the truly perverted, two Welshmen ran a stand selling toffee-flavoured Welsh vodka.

Every half hour or so, a different act took to the stage to bump, grind and gyrate in a fervently erotic fashion.

On the sexual front, the motto seemed to be "if we can make it vibrate, we will". Gone are the days of harsh plastic vibrators, replaced now by cute vibrating rubber ducks, pink buzzing bunny rabbits and vibrating things that look like a Bird of Prey crossed with something out of Alien.

Then there is the we-vibe, voted Best Sex Toy 2008, which can apparently stimulate clit and g-spot simultaneously, setting up “an erotic carrier wave” between the two. One should expect nothing less from a product designed and beta-tested by a former senior engineer from Nortel.

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. ®