Not every weekend excursion lets you see everything from sex dolls to bondage to genital tattooing, but Sexpo has it all and more.
I’ve spent plenty of time in the sex industry and the kink community, and honestly, not much can shock me. Even so, a few things took my interest, proving that even a jaded old whore can have fun at the annual adult event.
I arrived at Melbourne’s convention centre mid-afternoon on the Saturday of Sexpo weekend. People were leaving the venue wearing cheeky novelty t-shirts and smirks; heading in were heavily made-up women in civilian clothes who I imagined were about to be staffing booths while wearing much less.
After I’d worried that I would be too late in the day to catch the action, so much was going on at once when I entered that all the various overlapping noises were almost disorienting.
I first ducked into a marquee where high-profile escort Vivienne Black was talking about ‘coming out’ as a sex worker and the choice to show one’s face in advertising. Pacing the stage in a corset, stockings, and not much else, she discussed the pros (more business volume, better brand awareness, and increased confidence) and cons (having been stalked after appearing in Penthouse, and the risk of feeling “remorse” for being so visible). Her main message was one of making your own decision – “You don’t need to justify yourself or anything you’re doing”.
I wandered off to check out a booth demonstrating virtual reality headsets, thinking it was a teledildonics setup, and was more than a bit disappointed that they were offering everything but sex apps. I kept my ten dollars. Other non-explicit booths were selling party games like Cards Against Humanity, wine glasses, and those long liquorice string things that I can never resist. I think the same elderly couple go around with Sexpo every year selling that liquorice. Another stall was selling ‘collectable glass artwork’ that could definitely not be used for anything illicit.
Australian porn star Kiki Vidis had a booth promoting a new sex doll in her likeness. As I walked by, she was posing nude between a doll and a fan, legs at 10 and 2 in a way my yoga teacher would envy. A gaggle of bogans in hoodies and snapbacks hollered their approval and snapped photos. (I got the distinct feeling they had been under the impression there would actually be sex at the event, a misperception likely not discouraged by the cheeky signage saying ‘sex sessions’ and ‘hook up at Sexpo’.)
A stall selling dildos had a sign boasting ‘orgasm guaranteed’, which seemed quite the promise. Several merchants offered lingerie, latex and leather fetish wear, and basic BDSM gear like rope and paddles. Around the corner was trans porn legend Buck Angel, who was promoting some of his branded sex toys and lube products and posing for photos with fans. I grabbed a selfie as we set up a time for an interview later.
After much extremely loud ado, Miss Nude Australia appeared on the main stage, performing a calisthenic and pole set that was probably much harder than it looked – it certainly seemed to require a lot of core strength. The crowd, surrounded all day by scantily clad and nude women, nonetheless lost their shit as she removed her bra during the performance. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes a bit at the performative faux-lesbian kiss with a female audience member, and eventually wandered away again to see what else was on offer.
In the whole venue I didn’t see anything explicitly LGBTIQ – not a rainbow in sight, and no visibly queer couples. Though I did spot one guy walking around in a jock who I’d wager wasn’t there with his girlfriend.
I didn’t check out the ‘party zone’, which didn’t particularly seem like my scene, but it purportedly offered strip poker, a bar, and mechanical bull riding. Instead I spent some time at a (tasteful) massage booth, where a little Chinese lady with very strong hands worked my traps and fixed my headache, bless her. The massage was criminally expensive but just about worth it.
On display elsewhere was a small range of rather imposing ‘kink furniture’ (think cage under the bed) with a sign suggesting it was, somehow, suitable for family homes. I saw a booth for what looked suspiciously like a multi-level marketing scheme, and a gentlemen’s club advertising for dancers, which struck me as a bit suss until I remembered I wasn’t at home in Queensland, with its rather stricter laws around many parts of sex work.
I leaped about a foot in the air as a sex toy vendor decided the best way to introduce me to their product was to vibrate it on my back as I walked by their stall. Frowning may have ensued. I mused for not the first time that Spider is an unpleasant name for a product you’re meant to put your dick in… we are, after all, not here to fuck spiders. Another stall was selling ‘before and after sex wipes’, which – really– just have a shower, folks, gross.
A contest to guess how many (surely hundreds of thousands of) condoms were in a jeep was complicated by countless people mistaking it for a condom giveaway. Nearby, a number of My Free Cams models were broadcasting live from the event, and opposite, the sad little Sea Shepherd booth didn’t seem to be getting much love.
‘I might regret a dick tattoo’
I returned to Sexpo on Sunday and spent a little time meeting a few more people. A guy in perhaps his twenties, a new kid in porn, lifted his balls to show me the vulva he’d just had tattooed on his perineum for some reason, and turned to reveal a huge Sexpo tattoo across one ass cheek. A tattoo parlour was offering themed ink at the event, and while I’m not usually averse to an impulse tattoo, I felt I might regret a dick tattoo (either on or of).
The afterparty at an inner-city nightclub was fun enough. Drinking, dancing. I spotted a guy dressed like a cartoonish 70s pimp, and a couple of women in latex dresses and metal collars (lifestylers or just playing dressup, we will never know). I’m not usually a dancer unless my blood alcohol is far too high, but I managed a bit of a boogie with a shirtless Buck and his younger companion, who was wearing a jock and spangly red lamé pants. In the VIP section (behind a velvet rope, which felt a bit special) I got to hang out with more porn actors and indulge in the free-flowing booze, but called it a night fairly early and headed back to my hotel.
It’s close to decade since I went to my first Sexpo, and not too much has changed. The event is a bit like a large sex shop, strip club, and bar all in one – which sounds pretty good, put like that. It is an overwhelmingly heterosexual and arguably somewhat vanilla affair, but it’s still a hell of a fun place to spend an afternoon or two.
Jesse was a guest of Sexpo Melbourne.