I once again attended the Sex Expo in NYC this year (rebranded from its previous title, The Sexual Health Expo), held in the Brooklyn Expo Center. I only attended one day this year, and the first thing I noticed was the expo center itself: it seems the whole building had been redone, with painted bricks and a real floor (instead of last year’s cement floor). This year was an exceptionally hot September, so it was really nice to have AC and fans going, even if they seemed quite lackluster towards the end of the day. I also upped my status with a press badge this year.
THINGS I LOVED:
The array of exhibitors on the floor was definitely different from last year. Notably, there was a large section of the floor set up for Chaturbate.There, we saw Artemis Moon and Ryan Bread (along with 2 other models) livestreaming the event for their fans. There were also booths for Jasmin and Clips 4 Sale, though these seemed uninspired compared to Chaturbate’s booth. My best friend had the opportunity to be part of a cool rope demo at the Clips 4 Sale booth, made better by a strip-tease happening on the stage we were behind.
I found out about Biem, which is a super cool new app focused around STI testing. The app itself is free and for $45, you can meet with a doctor through the app to ask questions about STIs. Then, when you’re ready to get tested, you can either have testing done in your home for $45 or at a lab which may be covered by your insurance. You can show your partner the verified results (with the date you got them). If a person you previously shared with through the app tests positive in the future, you get an anonymous notification that maybe you should get (re)tested. Through the app, doctors can also prescribe medications like PrEP and possibly birth control! Right now, Biem is only in New York State (a bummer) but hopefully it will be nationwide soon. I’m really excited about the privacy and user-friendly ease of this app, though I know the price point will make it inaccessible to folks.
My press credentials gave me access to Tenga’s press lounge, which was GREAT. I got a tour of all the sleeves/masturbators and TWO T-shirts; plus it was a quiet respite from the action of the stage on the expo floor.
Alicia Sinclair knows the way to my heart, calling me over to get a ‘le Wand’ enamel pin after seeing my Feminist Vest™ from across the hall. At this point, I’m beginning to run out of space on my vest and need to pair down. Amazing. At the end of the day, she also gave me one of the le Wand floor models, which I’m really psyched to compare and contrast with my Magic Wand Rechargeable.
Chakrubs returned this year with their beautiful crystal healing sex toys. I learned what each of the different materials does (for example, Amethyst helps soothe anxiety) and about how their crystals are sourced in Brazil and not previously owned. I’m not much of a believer in crystal healing personally, however, the work is really lovely and I would love to have a piece for my collection someday.
Ever since it was released, I’ve been fascinated with Clandestine Device’s Mimic, so I was pumped that they had their own booth this year. It genuinely has a unique shape (sort of like a sting ray) and Kimberly, their sales director, mentioned that the design was inspired by masturbating with your hands, toy free. While so many toys claim to boost orgasms, I’m really into how the Mimic does just what its name says by adding vibration into the mix. I’m not much of a non-toy masturbator, so I’m curious about how my anatomy might interact with this toy.
At this event last year, I was introduced to the Sola line, but this year I am completely enamoured with it. I’ve read mixed reviews of the Sync (their wand style vibe) but I’m swayed by the ergonomic design and how lightweight it is. Their insertable toys are mad powerful and rumbly, which makes sense since they make their own motors! A fair few of Sola’s toys have been added to my wishlist after seeing them at the Sex Expo this year.
The end of the day led me to all the new We-Vibe products I’ve yet to interact with. The last time I had played with anything new was when the Wish came out. Since then, they released/announced FIVE new toys. Jive is similar to the We-Vibe 4+/Unite/Sync but designed to be worn on its own, whereas the 4+/Unite/Sync are designed to be worn with a partner during PIV sex. Jive’s external appendage is an antenna that connects to the We-Vibe app while sitting very discreetly against the front of crotch. Bloom are vibrating kegel balls that sync with the We-Vibe app and there are 3 different weights that can be attached– 10g, 30g and 45g. Ditto is marketed as a starter vibrating butt plug, though the sales rep assured me that even advanced anal lovers would like this toy too. With one flat side and one more pronounced side, Ditto intends to provide a variety of feelings. Girly Juice recently reviewed Ditto and felt kind of meh about it. Verge and Pivot are both cock rings; Verge is designed as a perineum stimulator worn behind the scrotum, whereas Pivot is designed to be worn just around the shaft of a phallus, intended for clitoral stimulation during partnered sex. I’m not super into bulky cock rings, so I’d rather add a Tango to my clit if I want clit vibration during vaginal penetration. Of We-Vibe’s newest offerings, I want the Bloom more than anything else since I was thoroughly disappointed by the only rechargeable/app compatible kegel balls I’ve tried.
THINGS THAT DIDN’T IMPRESS ME:
Soraya Doolbaz talked about her ‘dictures’ (fancy dick pics) with advice on how to take and send a good dick pic. I strongly disagree with some of her advice (like “a flaccid dick is never sexy”)1This particularly came across as ableist to me and felt like she wasn’t the most amazing (or qualified) speaker when it comes to sending dick pics. I much prefer the work of Critique My Dick Pic for its inclusion of all types of bodies and objective advice.
There was nothing outwardly offensive about Imbesharam and, from a quick glance, there was nothing special either. My friend and I walked by a completely empty booth, where the booth rep informed us that this was the top selling adult store in India and that “besharam” meant shameless in “Indian.” Oof. I may be white but I know ‘Indian’ is not a language or dialect. When looking up the word, Google confirms that besharm does mean shameless in Hindi, so she wasn’t too far off the mark (if we’re being generous about her problematic language anxieties). We were also told questionable information about sexual wellness in India but none of it was supported by statistical evidence and it felt like she was saying “we’re gonna guilt you into shopping with us.” Thanks but I’d rather shop at stores that offer gender neutral options for my nonbinary self and donate to Planned Parenthood. After the event, I looked up their site on my own and was pleasantly surprised to see that Imbesharam sells only body safe toys. We were also informed at the Sex Expo that they donate to Gaysi but there doesn’t appear to be much more than broken links on their website concerning this.They plan to release the US version of their site in November but nothing about Imbesharam feels unique to me.
Way in the back corner, Plume showcased their toy storage solutions. It seems that everyone these days is coming up with a way to hide your sex toys (a problem I don’t have), but Plume offers nothing unique or special about their particular product. How disappointing! The bag is water resistant and microbial. . . there’s a lock. . . whatever. The boxes don’t have built in charging, aren’t big enough for a wand style toy, and are really just a “special” drawer. Not to mention that boxes add to the stigma that people should be ashamed of owning sex toys.2I know this isn’t the case for everyone, and there are folks who have kids who don’t want their kids getting into their stuff, etc. That said, so many people are ashamed of owning sex toys and Plume’s box design perpetuates that.
We also stopped by the Orgasmic Meditation (OM) booth. I heard about the concept while interning at the CSPH but it was really cool to hear about how OM brings mindfulness as a concept to pleasure. OM involves a person with a clitoris laying on their back while their partner massages the upper left quadrant of the clitoris for 15 minutes. According to OM, the upper left quadrant is the most pleasureable area of the clit3sure. and it can help ground the clitoris-ed person to the activity. Would I try it out? Yes. Am I hankering to do so? Nah.
THINGS I REALLY DIDN’T LIKE:
There were way. Too. Many. Genital. Wipes. I could only bring myself to stop at one of these booths, the ‘Funky Junk Wipes’4Their url is LITERALLY “wipeyourjunk.com,” NO THANK YOU. and only because their logo was pretty cute. These genital wipes are made with glycerin and sucralose, which both can cause yeast infections. Yikes. But most importantly, these wipes aid the idea that genitals are supposed to smell/taste like fucking strawberries and that your natural scent is somehow “funky.” Genitals are not supposed to smell like strawberries! My best friend and I discussed how yes, these might help someone feel less self conscious about themselves during sex and it might give them a better experience… Or we could stop trying to sell people on the idea that genitals smell gross? If you absolutely MUST have your genitals smell and taste different, try using a fantastic body safe flavored lube instead? Trust me, you’ll have a better experience with body safe lube than with questionably-safe wipes. 5Which will probably just dry you out
At one point, we walked by Lure Pink toys but the reps seemed positively disinterested in chatting with us (or even explaining their toys),and their table was pretty empty. I took home a mini catalogue of their offerings but there’s no way for me to decipher it with toy names like ‘026.’ Why does this toy have holes in it like an old school phone? Some extra information would help, which is why it’s disappointed that their reps were so disconnected from the interactive vibe of Sex Expo.
The Velvet Thruster is the toy no one asked for so a man decided to make it. A horrible, pastel purple thrusting toy that makes up to 140 thrusts per minute. It’s loud, the motor housing is bulky, and the designs are basic, if that. I was honestly surprised that it was made out of silicone. As of publishing this review, their website has not launched.
The floor layout sucked this year. Many of the retailers I chatted with shared in this opinion. Last year, half of the workshops were held on a stage in the back, while the other half were in a room around the corner. This year, all the workshops were held in a hot and cramped room with a skinny hallway as the shared entrance and exit.. Demos and giveaways were held (LOUDLY) on a stage in the middle of the floor. Every 15-20 minutes, something would happen on that stage that would completely block and drown out exhibitors like Bad Dragon and b-Vibe (who were near it). The only reason Motorbunny could be heard was because half the people crowding around were in line to sit on one of the products so the incredibly loud vibrations (and at times, screams) could be heard throughout the warehouse. On top of that, I heard Sunday was much less crowded than Saturday, which I can’t even imagine because Sunday got to be pretty packed. My advice to the Sex Expo is to keep the demo stage at the back of the warehouse. Putting the demos are the back of the space will draw people to vendors in the back and allow more people to stand around to enjoy the entertainment. The workshops can still be in the room off of the main hall but they would benefit from having the doors opened to them, so folks a) can find them and b) can attend as they please. Last year, I was able to easily find a seat, so I even attended workshops I might otherwise have not since I could come and go as I pleased.
Once again, I was bummed by the incredibly gendered binary of the entire event (including the bathrooms. How hard is it to have gender neutral bathrooms??) and how often I was misgendered. There was no water or water fountains available anywhere for the general public (though the press room did have water available, luckily for me) which is quite dangerous on a day as hot as this. Despite missing some of the booths last year, like UVee toy boxes and Cu In Bed Copper toys, I do think this year was an improvement. It was definitely a bigger and more polished event this year, and it’s pretty impressive that it’s only in its 2nd year! I hope to attend again next year and interact with even more cool sex positive folks. Again, for Sex Expo, here are three concrete things to do differently:
- Put the demo stage at the back of the warehouse.
- Make water available to the general public.
- Provide gender neutral bathrooms.
Hope to see you there in 2018!
Footnotes [ + ]
|1.||↑||This particularly came across as ableist to me|
|2.||↑||I know this isn’t the case for everyone, and there are folks who have kids who don’t want their kids getting into their stuff, etc. That said, so many people are ashamed of owning sex toys and Plume’s box design perpetuates that.|
|4.||↑||Their url is LITERALLY “wipeyourjunk.com,” NO THANK YOU.|
|5.||↑||Which will probably just dry you out|