MAD DOG: Dropped By, Tuned In, Turned On?

I've seen the future of sex and it was all I could do to stay awake. It was Erotica USA 2000, a traveling exhibition that's billed as "The World's Largest Erotic Consumer and Trade Show." It was hip. It was risque. But above all it was a reminder that if the experts think size matters enough that they brag about it then I'm in big trouble.All in all it was pretty much like any trade show except you could buy sex toys, erotic art, latex clothing, autographed photos of Hustler centerfolds, jewelry for your piercings, adult videos and XXXtreme Vacations instead of thimbles, Beanie Babies, or semi-automatic rifles. They say the show sold out in London and New York but it sure didn't in San Francisco; the crowd was so sparse you could have swung a cat o'nine-tails without hitting anyone. This says a lot about the Bay Area, since last week Ikea opened a store just outside the city and people camped out overnight to be the first ones inside. That's Ikea we're talking about, a place where the furniture comes unassembled so if there's any screwing to be seen it won't be in the store.The first thing I noticed at Erotica 2000 was that the people attending looked, well, normal. In fact, precious few of them looked sexy or erotic. It's like the first time you go to a nude beach and you're worried about becoming aroused. Once you get there you realize you have nothing to worry about since it's hard to get excited when you're surrounded by pot bellies, stretch marks, and sagging breasts. Unless, of course, you're into that sort of thing, in which case you should have been at Booth 124. On the other hand, I didn't see any raincoats draped over laps, popcorn boxes without bottoms, or unidentifiable stains on the carpet either.The second thing I noticed was that the so-called eroticism wasn't very erotic, it was actually quite sterile. Looking over an array of sex toys on a cloth-covered table doesn't feel any different than checking out Hummel figures at a flea market. Except, of course, nothing at Erotica 2000 was used. I hope.The truth is, I've gotten more aroused at a food show. Of course I didn't get to eat any samples at Erotica 2000 either. That's not to say there weren't plenty of things being handed out, mostly condoms. Everyone was giving them away. I could have picked up enough free condoms to last the rest of my life, which sounds good until you realize you'd need to load up on a lot of them to make up the $20 entry fee. And use them before they dry rot in the glove compartment.Actually, there was food at the show. It was on the stage. The one live performance I saw was Angel (www.angelsbedroom.com) rolling around the stage spraying whipped cream all over her body. Disappointingly it was the yucky kind that comes from a can. She followed that up with condensed milk, chocolate syrup, a banana, cherries, and strawberry syrup. The only thing this Angel sundae lacked was nuts, though I'm sure most of the guys in the audience would gladly have offered theirs. It was fun to watch but, honestly, she couldn't have gotten a pint of Cherry Garcia hard. Emeril has nothing to worry about. Do I sound jaded? I could be. But actually I think it has more to do with the numbing down of America than anything personal. Where kinky sex, bondage, and S&M were once whispered about -- if known at all -- now you can see it daily on the Jerry Springer Show. That's not to say the show's not educational. If not for Jerry we wouldn't know that most dominatrixes used to be guys who don't regret having slept with their husband's brother's dog one bit. You can become inured to anything. A couple of years ago I was researching sex web sites for a search engine which originally swore they wouldn't include such things. They changed their minds when it dawned on them that people searching for pony rides weren't looking to take the kids out for a Saturday afternoon jaunt. My job was to find and describe 300 sites a week that sold sex merchandise. For the first hour it was like being in Oz: "Dildos and butt plugs and vibes, oh my!", but by hour two it had turned into, "I'm going to have to buy a lot of coffee if I'm going to get through this without dozing off and spending the rest of my day with keyboard imprints on my forehead." Another example is San Francisco's Folsom Street Fair, an annual festival that attracts several hundred thousand people to celebrate, or at least ogle, fetishism. It doesn't take long before you stop noticing the naked guys being led around by a leash attached to their genitals and start focusing on whether you're more in the mood for a sausage sandwich or a taco, a decision which, contrary to what you're thinking, has nothing to do with sexual orientation.But that's not to say there weren't some interesting discoveries to be made at Erotica USA 2000. There was the remote butt plug which I assume is for people with short arms. I don't know about you, but my buns are never but so far from my hands. Then there were the soft rubber dildos from www.divine-interventions.com which are shaped like Buddha, Death, Satan, Moses (holding the Ten Commandments), Jesus, and Mary. Oh yeah, there's a baby Jesus butt plug too.Before you start thinking that butt plugs were the official theme of the show, bouncing actually was. First, there were the porn stars who made personal appearances, and I can think of few other people whose appearances are that personal. Then there was the Bungee Sexperience (www.bungeesex.com), which is a harness attached to a bungee cord. They say it lets you have "weightless sex" which should make Rosie and Louis Anderson very happy. Not that they'd ever use it together. Think of it as a baby jumper for big babies.On the other side of the hall was the JoyRider (www.thejoyrider.com), a toilet seat which is suspended from a steel pipe frame by springs. I can't exactly figure out from their brochure how you use this but I do know that it makes me a little nervous seeing the back page filled with a nine-point list labeled "Use at your own risk." Happily, none of them says not to use it while operating heavy machinery.The women working the booths weren't the only nice things to look at. There was also the Natural Contours line of beautifully designed vibrators -- I mean, massagers. They look like they were designed in Italy and would definitely make you say, "Mama mia!" Oddly, these weren't featured in Time's recent article about Americans getting into good design. Maybe next time when they write about getting good design into AmericansNot everything at the show was for sale, one booth actually promoted charity, and I don't mean the star of Saving Ryan's Privates. Good Vibrations (www.goodvibes.com) was passing out pamphlets for the Second Annual Masturbate-a-thon, which is on May 7th in honor of National Masturbation Day. This is much like a Walk-a-thon except in this case you let your fingers do the walking. People sponsor you, paying based on how many minutes you masturbate that day. And the money goes to charity. Right, as if masturbation's not normally for a good cause.Erotica 2000 may be coming to a city near you. It will be in New York City June 15-18 and Los Angeles November 9-12. You can find out more at their website www.whatissexy.com. But don't expect nasty pictures. And don't look for live chats with Mistress Kat. Whatever you do, don't be disappointed if you're not turned on. I'm referring to the exhibition and the web site. But you knew that.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card

Close

Thanks for your support!

Did you enjoy AlterNet this year? Join us! We're offering AlterNet ad-free for 15% off - just $2 per week. From now until March 15th.