Capetonian couple Nicholas Sales and Tracey Wild went on assignment to the opening of Sexpo 2009 as “citizen journalists” for Health24. These are their impressions.
Health24: Overall, how was the Sexpo experience?
Tracey: I admit that when we entered the Sexpo I did feel uncomfortable being greeted by a girl wearing a T-shirt with holes cut out to show her boobs, and guys wearing very little! But once we walked around and saw all the stalls it was overall a fun, unusual, but tasteful experience.
The show gives people too shy or uncomfortable to go into a sex shop a chance to experience all the gadgets and gizmos and to ask questions without feeling embarrassed. The atmosphere is that “everyone else is here and doing it”, so it sort of empowers a person to explore things they might never get a chance to do or see. It provides an easy-access platform for unusual experiences.
Nick: I went to the last Sexpo so I had an idea of what to expect. Nothing changed from the last one, just more interesting stuff, and going with my partner this time was different – makes it a bit more interesting, watching her and seeing how she reacts to things, toys etc. It was a fun experience and it’s not sleazy – unless you make it sleazy. It depends on your attitude – you could walk up to a porn star and ask her how she likes it or you can ask her something nice – it’s what you make of it. Ultimately, I think it’s a good idea. It’s fun for guy friends or girl friends to do and enjoyable for couples.
Health24: What were the highlights for you?
Tracey: The overall impression is effective and surprising. Around every corner are people dressed up differently (or in some cases not!). For me the most unbelievable exhibit was the artist that paints with his penis.
The shows were quite entertaining. We watched the “Odyssey Male Revu” (male dancers) and “How to Fake an Orgasm”. Everything was done in a tasteful manner, even though we were in the company of real live porn stars.
Q: Is it just a few hours' diversion, or is there lasting value to the experience? Do people get something out of it they can use to have healthier relationships and sex lives?
Tracey: In my opinion what you get out of the Sexpo depends on how much you participate and what you participate in.
There were many organisations and companies promoting safe and healthy sex, and some of them had brochures on the tables. There were many opportunities to go and ask questions, but the information was there only if you wanted it – not thrown in your face. For me these exhibits did create an awareness of safe sex just by their presence.
Many people seem to just go for fun and to perhaps learn something (or buy something) to take home to improve or liven up their own sexual relationships.
Nick: Honestly, I think it’s a few hours’ diversion: you can only walk around and look at things for a certain length of time before you get bored. Going with guy friends can be fun, or going with your partner – but the dynamics change. You can’t just go up to a naked woman and ask her what you would normally ask around your partner – going with a partner, you can stop and ask questions, chat and learn things so yes, it can help but it’s what you make of it.
The problem is, many people are shy about sex and walk past and snicker and giggle – I think most people go there just for the experience and laughs and that’s it, they don’t do more than that.
There are stalls promoting safe sex, but people just walk past them – they don’t care about how to be safe just how to be as sexual as possible, but at least the stalls are there.
Health24: Is it a good option for couples to attend, or could it possibly cause problems in a relationship? Would you have been more comfortable going on your own/ with a group of friends?
Tracey: I think that it depends on the couple. I don’t think it would be a great outing for new couples. There were mainly couples (straight and gay), but there were also groups of friends who seemed to be having a lot of fun.
Personally I don’t think it would have made a difference who I attended with, but it was better for me to share it with my partner (Nick) as we could relate to the expo and talk and joke about some of the exhibits.
Nick: It all depends on the couples I think. If the couple is open-minded about their sexuality then the Sexpo could be a good thing – they can see and buy different stuff and play, but if the couple in question is very private and not so open to the ideas that are on offer at the Sexpo, then maybe not.
Q: Did you experience it differently as a guy and a girl? The porn/sex industry caters mainly for males – was it similar at Sexpo? Is it degrading to women?
Tracey: I felt more comfortable seeing the guys than the girls. The Sexpo seemed to cater equally for men and women, in fact a lot of the displays were aimed more at women than men. Even the exhibits aimed more at men were being looked at by women (such as the porn dvd exhibit).
I don’t think the show is degrading to women as everyone knows that’s not what the show is promoting; anyone who does think so has missed the point of Sexpo.
Nick: I saw a lot of pretty much naked women and if you’re okay with it, then there’s no problem. I wouldn’t think it’s degrading, but it could be…what guys do to women in their minds would really freak some women out.
Health24: Is the emphasis on heterosexuality, or are homosexuality and bisexuality also represented?
Nick and Tracey: All orientations were represented, there was no prejudice.
Q: Who visits Sexpo?
Tracey: Pretty much every age group and type of person was there. Mostly it was young professional and semi-professional people in their 20s, but there were many older people and even some elderly people. The crowd was very mixed and everyone was enjoying the exhibits and products on display.
Nick: I saw a lot of young people there mainly laughing and giggling; the older people were looking and absorbing it.
(Health24, May 2009)