Erotica 2011 stands firm against rise of the sex machines
Old-school tools hit of leather and vibes bash
NSFW It may not have been overtaken by machines just yet, but reports of the demise of Erotica may be just a bit premature.
An official spokesman for what is widely billed as the UK's premier adult event confirmed this weekend that London's Olympia had already been re-booked for next year and, despite detractors, Erotica was looking forward to many more years of "celebrating sensuality".
Still, there are questions as to the exact point of this eclectic, eccentric mix of the erotic, exotic and frankly banal – taking place towards the end of November each year – and whether the £30 admission is quite justified by what lies within.
There is also a major question mark over whether Erotica has much to say to those seeking the latest developments on the sexual technology front.
As before, the event divided into three. There was the floor show: a succession of erotic artistes gyrating in time to music that seems to grow yearly more deafening. There were seminars and demos, including instruction on how to write a successful porn novel, how to take "decent" erotic pics, ropework and becoming a dominatrix.
Being a dominatrix is, er, an acquired skill?
Image via Shutterstock
Then there was the exhibition itself: a thoroughly mixed assortment of stalls, ranging from the self-evidently sexual, such as the Screaming O (purveyors of "vibrating rings and lovely things") to the puzzlingly everyday: a "special hairclip" stall, a company specialising in eyebrow stencils, and Shawbury Vintners – "importers of fine wines". No doubt these all deliver quality product: but erotic? We think not.
Back again were old favourites Toffoc – a Welsh company making toffee-flavoured vodka – and Renapur, who supply a complete leather care cream. Though not the RSPB, whose dalliance with Erotica appears to be at an end.
Were we imagining it? Among the corset manufacturers, lube providers, electrical stimulators, porn publishers and leather bondage makers, has the proportion of stalls devoted to the wholly unerotic increased ever so slightly?
As for the "techie angle", Erotica fails to impress. This year's most pervasive bit of new kit appeared to be an all-in-one system for intimate female shaving. Useful – but not especially erotic.
There were vibrating gloves, no doubt handy for massage – intimate or otherwise. There were some impossibly pneumatic creations in latex, suggesting that one or two of those spending too much time indulging their sexual fantasies on Second Life have recently started to spend far too much time indulging ditto in the real world of fashion.
There were a couple of fucking machines, complete with "vac-u-lock" attachment (which we learned, with relief, locks to the machine and nowhere else!).
However, the only truly innovative product appeared to be the "little rooster", a new concept in early morning alarm calls – albeit mostly for the ladies. For this is an alarm-cum-vibrator, that fits neatly inside your knickers and wakes you, according to the sales blurb 'gradually, sensually'. It is ideal for heavy sleepers and perfectly safe, as the assistant explained: "I've been wearing mine all week, and it's not the least bit uncomfortable".
You're not actually supposed to wear it in your hands...
This is all very strange, since a combination of mischievous technological ingenuity and internet geekery look set to make the next decade the dawn of a great new era of techno-sex. This Christmas, fans of all things vibratory will be celebrating the launch of a new and fully legal "magic wand".
This follows the demise of the Hitachi magic wand, allegedly the world's first mains-powered vibrator, removed from sale after officials declared it unsafe. Not, we understand, for its erotic effect: but because it did not possess a CE kitemark, and therefore fell foul of EU health and safety rules.
Control comes in a variety of forms...
The wand is dead: long live the wand! A new and supposedly safer version emerges shortly from the shelves of Lovehoney - and your correspondent, aided and abetted by a number of other people who write on such matters, will be reporting back on the first UK road test of same a little later in the year.
The NEW Magic Wand. Yes, it's a handful
Still, that remains old and relatively run-of-the-mill technology. The erotic game-changers, in terms of interest and subtlety, lie in three quite distinct aspects of the techno-sex revolution: automation; control (remote, technology-specific, and increasingly sophisticated); and simulated touch.
Let's start with automation and the increasingly ubiquitous "fucking machines". There is little new about these: one of the earliest such devices, the Sybian (advertised as a system designed to bring 'the ultimate in sexual gratification' - and definitely not to be confused with the altogether different Symbian system) prototyped in 1985.
What has changed since then is the overall finish to such machines: they come in more sizes, boast greater numbers of interesting shaped attachments, and are altogether that much more sophisticated than the steam-driven monstrosities of yesteryear. Or even today!
They'll set you back the best part of a couple of thousand pounds: but in every sense, the modern machine will give you rather more bangs for your buck.
Same difference for those into electro-stimulation. The vintage "violet wand" delivered electricity in neat pre-set amounts, which is a far cry from the finely controlled digital devices on sale nowadays.
Control comes in a variety of forms. Indeed, no sooner had the mobile phone arrived, than some folk realised that the vibrate function had "other uses": and for those who didn't quite fancy shoving a mobile down their knickers, a variety of phone-driven devices soon followed.
Again, the technology has boomed in the last decade. Newest arrivals are sound interfaced vibrators, which hook up to an iPod or similar device, and react to sound.
There are still plenty of products out there that don't quite, er, satisfy – but the ingenuity of geeks knows no bounds. For those with a sense of humour, there is the Arduino dildo shield – whose circuit board comes with its own penis inscribed.
For sophistication, there are frighteningly streamlined products like The Toy (Bluetooth enabled) – though allegedly, this does not always live up to the hype.
Or if you can't be bothered with all that gadgetry, just download the latest android app: the Dildroid, for instance, which does exactly what it says.
Remember guys: just because it's a vibrator doesn't mean there aren't a variety of ingenious ways you can use them too.
The 'interactive' fleshlight
Last up, and scariest of all, are the simulated touch mechanisms. One seriously hyped – but so far quite successful – incarnation of this technology is the Real Touch, billed as "teledildonics from a former NASA engineer".
One end of this device hooks into your PC's USB port, where it syncs with your choice of videos: the other end wraps itself lovingly around your private parts and then... allows you to simulate having sex with the porn star of your choice. So long as nothing shorts out – or catches fire!
If that sounds a little direct, simulated touch technologies – from body suits to nerve implants – are emerging on an almost daily basis, allowing wearers to experience anything from a full-on sexual encounter, to a gentle touch on the forearm.
Does this need spelling out? Put it all together – automation, teledildonics, artificial touch – and some folks may never leave the house again.
Sadly, though, if you are looking for the latest developments in this area, Erotica is probably not the place for you. Instead, you might consider Arse Elektronika, an annual conference on sex and sexual technology, taking place in San Francisco. Too late for this year ... maybe next. ®