Arts & Culture News

The eXXXotica Expo Was Sexy, Vanilla

For all the pearl-clutching and handwringing from conservatives and supposed feminists alike, the eXXXotica Expo came to Dallas this weekend without much incident. As far as we know, there was no flood of trafficked prostitutes in the streets of the suburbs or children whose eyes were burned out at the sight of naked flesh. If anything, when the eXXXotica Expo was first announced in Dallas, we were expecting something a little less vanilla than what actually went down in the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center this weekend.

In fact, the most offensive thing at eXXXotica happened before I even went through those double-doors that promised to be the gates of hell, at least according to the throng of protesters that had gathered. As I came up the escalator from the ground floor of the Convention Center up to the expo hall where eXXXotica was taking place, I was greeted with audible shouts from the small, almost pitiful crowd of protesters, offended by the idea of people having, and God forbid enjoying, sex. Imagine the Westboro Baptist Church, only more straggly and less-organized. “Got Aids Yet?,” asked one sign, and another read “Jesus Christ Has A Pressure Cooker For Every Dead Muslim.” Disgusting, indeed. 

The throng of protesters really didn’t seem to be together, just a bunch of disorganized wingnuts shouting at people as they walked by. One had brought a young boy, maybe 11 or 12, to join in the shouting. He prayed quietly and looked sheepish while his father read passages from the Bible and called people “cocksuckers” and “whores.” “You’re a whore too, purple hair,” a middle-aged man with a chili-bowl hair cut yelled out to me in the middle of insulting another woman who was walking into the expo hall. I was thoroughly jarred — I hadn’t even done anything slutty yet!

I shot the protester a quick bird, and opened the door to the expo. Immediately upon walking in, I was greeted by three cage dancers — one male, two female — and was thoroughly pissed that I hadn’t brought any cash. If those dancers had to encounter those pricks outside as partof their job, they should be compensated handsomely for it. I vowed to look for an ATM and continued walking around the Expo, a sort of Comic Con for people who like to fuck.

The wonders of eXXXotica really never ceased. After walking past the cage dancers, I stumbled almost directly into a booth that was decorated with a huge backdrop emblazoned with “Jesus Loves Porn Stars.” The booth was silk-screening free t-shirts if you snapped a selfie with the photo. A woman from Hope Fellowship Church in Frisco was handing out materials with the XXX Church, an organization that seeks to fight “porn addiction” and help adult stars get out of the industry, and I asked her why she was inside the doors of the Expo instead of standing outside with the protesters.

“I’m here because when I was nine years old, an old lady shook her bony finger in my face and told me that I was the devil’s child, and that I was going to hell” she says. “There was nothing loving or kind about her, and if she was a Christian, I didn’t want any part of that. Since then, I’ve come to know the real Jesus, and he is a loving God. He loves all.” People all around the expo, men and women, porn stars and attendees, wore a bright pink “Jesus Loves Porn Stars” sticker on their shirts, all thoroughly reassured by the message that Jesus Christ himself would be cool with what was going on at eXXXotica.

Directly behind the XXX Church booth was the autograph area, full of some of porn’s biggest stars. Some top-tier actresses were able to command upwards of $50 for a quick selfie shot from fans, while others sold panties ($50) and the opportunity to spank them ($20). Men and women alike lined up to see their favorite stars, with Ron Jeremy’s line snaking around the building, and Jesse Jane’s equally as long. A dozen or so girls were doing live shows from the MyFreeCams booth, while others sat around patiently and waited for their doting fans to drop by. Some looked positively bored as they shook hands and gave hugs, while others were enthusiastic about meeting every person that they encountered. 
The atmosphere inside the walls of eXXXotica was free and accepting. Men and women alike walked around in various stages of undress — only nipples and genitals were required to be covered — and couples openly discussed which sex toys they would buy. In “The Stockroom,” the BDSM-themed corner, people signed consent forms for intense spankings and lessons on caning, while others perused expensive tooled-leather whips and tried on collars.

Two small seminar stages were set off to the side of the expo, where people sat in on lectures and talks and demonstrations on topics from open marriage to bondage techniques. UK native Tanya Tate and US porn star Jillian Jansen discussed the differences in British and American porn, while Dallas’ Jenny Block spoke on the ultimate female orgasm and sex-positivity. In one seminar, porn stars Stormy Daniels and Evan Stone discussed their on-screen sex scenes with refreshing candidness and plenty of humor. For everyone at the Convention Center, with the exception of those protesters outside, sex just wasn’t a big deal.

Like most of the couples at eXXXotica, Brandon and Jennifer (names changed to protect the kinky) were there just to feel everything out — they hadn’t invested yet in the $1,000 “fuck bench” sold at the booth. Jennifer, a nurse, had the original idea to come to the Expo, enticed by one of those controversial billboards out on the highway. The couple is monogamous, but they wanted to see the “eye candy” walking around on the Expo floor. “We’re monogamous, but we play in our relationship,” says Jennifer. “We do everything together, but we invite other people into it sometimes.” The couple looked like any other regular couple you’d see at Target or at the P.T.A., and they certainly weren’t the exception.

In fact, there wasn’t much erotic cosplay at all. Spiderman and Batman were there, but there were no assless chaps in sight. Sheridan Love, a porn star, was wearing an outfit that looked like a sexy Princess Jasmine, and another exhibitor wore a rainbow bikini and elf ears, but most of the attendees weren’t really getting too wild — perhaps they were heading back to work or couldn’t pick up their kids from the babysitter in a mesh bodysuit.

When I stepped out to have a smoke and process everything that my brain had just encountered, I happened to see Evan Stone. If you’ve ever watched any late-night HBO programming, you know who Evan Stone is. He’s been in the porn business forever, and he’s from Carrollton. Stone was outside telling the protesters to lay off before chatting up a group of attendees. If you didn’t know otherwise (or haven’t seen his penis on-screen), you’d think he was just another regular guy.

“This is America. This is free speech, and I love that they’re here. I’m kind of surprised they don’t want to have any kind of dialogue, so there’s no reason to actually talk to them,” said Stone. “This is the best press for eXXXotica that we could ever hope for. If I stood outside with a bullhorn asking people to come in, they’d throw me in jail. These guys are doing the press all for us.” In fact, Stone expected more protesters. Still, despite their presence, eXXXotica recorded record sales on Friday night, even if the crowd was a little more thin on Saturday.

In the back of the expo hall was the entertainment stage. In the afternoon, it was home to a surprisingly not-boring version of The Newlywed Game and a very mediocre twerking competition. Attendees practically barreled one another over trying to win a vacation to Hedonism, the swingers resort in Jamaica. On Saturday night, kink queen Rubberdoll drew a huge crowd to her erotic routine, enhanced with flying showers of sparks from power tools that went all over the Expo’s entertainment stage.

After that display of femininity and power in one place, I decided that I’d had enough and should probably head home. As I walked out at about 9 p.m.,  a few stragglers still protested, one holding a sign that read “God Laughs At Your Rape.” As I told him, I wasn’t aware that a piece of shit was capable of holding a sign. When I finally made it downstairs, Watermark Church was outside praying and clapping and singing songs. As I arranged for a ride home, no less than three church members approached me and asked me to join their worship. Others were handing out bottled water as people walked to their cars, and I couldn’t help but wonder if that wouldn’t be better used on the homeless people up the street at the Greyhound station, not the people who had just spent $500 on sex toys and lingerie.

With the protests and the hype and the controversy, you’d think that eXXXotica was peddling some serious smut. In reality, it was mostly just couples and people who like sex and porn and all of the things in that world, while also leading completely normal lives. If that shocks you, then you really have no idea what is going on in your neighbors homes. People in Dallas like sex,  and the eXXXotica Expo is proof.

If there has ever been an atmosphere that is more accepting and loving and sex-positive than eXXXotica was able to create this weekend, I’m not sure what that would be. If anything, eXXXotica was downright vanilla compared with the horror show that Mayor Mike Rawlings and the Dallas Women’s Foundation seemed to be expecting. When they come back next year, and it looks as if they will, here’s hoping they’ve got something to really piss off those protesters. Might we suggest forced gay marriages at the door or public (erotic, of course!) whipping of bigots? 
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Amy McCarthy