down south: my day at sexpo
Editor’s Note: Guest writer, Alison Butterworth, braved Tasmania’s first ever Sexpo to share her experiences with us at Lip.
Sexpo – in Hobart? You mean this Hobart? The Tasmanian Hobart? Wow. Sure, I’ll come with you – and I meant that ironically. (Insert widely-smiling winky-face here please, editor.)
If it weren’t for my friend I’d have never known that there was going to be a Sexpo here. The only advertising I could see was a fairly tame ad on the side of a bus, and a slightly rude ad on the radio. I couldn’t see any on the TV – I think I watch the wrong channel. I was shocked – We never get anything new. What a cracker to have the organisers decide that we were worth visiting – it’s like Triple J saying that a major artist is touring Australia-wide, and actually meaning Australia-wide, not just the East Coast (I also very much feel for WA and the NT – they must get just as screwed as we do).
So, I’ve been around a while. I’m an adult, I’m a Mum, I’ve seen things on the internet that can’t be unseen. But when I walked through the door at Sexpo in Hobart, I still smirked and giggled like a catholic schoolgirl going to her first mixed dance.
I was immediately hit by the sheer volume of noise, the semi-to-mostly nude people – both male and female – the seemingly never-ending displays of plastic willies (cocks, wieners, dongs, chump-change, the list goes on…) and the unbelievably anatomically incorrect silicon shapes on offer is… Wow. Just wow.
Then there were the people – so very, very many people. Yet, after a while you could tell that they were actually pretty ordinary, just like me. I’m not sure who I was expecting to see, to be honest with you – perverts, deviants, drunks. No. They were definitely different than I expected. Mothers and daughters, singles, couples of all genders and sexualities, even in wheelchairs just wheeling about, nonchalantly picking up things that twitched, wriggled and buzzed, occasionally screaming a bit then hurling them back onto a table.
I mean like I said, Hobart hasn’t ever had anything like this before. Sure, we have a few shops that cater to ‘Adult Lifestyles’, their shadowy customers with shifty eyes darting about, clutching bags to their chests and hoping furtively that the people in the passing cars don’t recognise them. (I’ve been one. No, of course I never bought anything – I was just, err, looking…) And perhaps that’s just it. The perceived safety in numbers. The knowledge that no matter what you find, prod, pick up, scream at (either in delight or disgust) – somebody else right next to you will be doing the same thing.
There’s been a fair bit in The Mercury (Tasmania’s ‘major’ newspaper) about Sexpo, with a Tasmanian church group saying it promotes promiscuity, objectification of women and will lead to a rise in sexually transmitted diseases. I don’t think so. I walked in and out of the venue a few times during the weekend and I neither feel more promiscuous, objectified, nor do I feel a deep internal itch that only injections and specialised creams can alleviate.
And as for the claim that we were basically going to die from some horrid disease, let me tell you – the wonderful folks inside at the TasCAHRD stall, TasPride, and the Sexual Support Service were willing to lend a hand in giving you information about the prevention of contracting such nasties, handing out condoms, information and lube in little kits hand-over-fist. The Salvos were there. A large booth where people with disabilities could access specialised information. The Australian Sex Party was there, too, and I’m positive that some punters thought that the stall was touting a much more risqué party than a political one. I checked. They had been asked.
There were a few local stallholders, about 10 in all, selling various things as chocolate dipped strawberries, beer and coffee to wibbly-wobbly buzzing plastic products and burlesque pole-dancing lessons, to my very favourite – two little old ladies who were selling posies of penises and little pubis and bottoms that they had made out of stocking and stuffing, and glued into the middle of plastic flowers. I asked them what made them decide to come to Sexpo to sell their wares… their reply? ‘Well, it’s a laugh, isn’t it. We just wanted to see how we’d go.’
There were chiropractors, literally ‘On-Hand’ giving relief to customers – from back pain, what did you think I was going to say? The only ‘happy ending’ the customers were after was to relax and unwind. The only muscles I was exercising with any degree of frequency was my eyebrows – they went up, a lot, on my first shift. Why wouldn’t they? Just over there was Pricasso, painting reasonably priced and surprisingly good portraits with his willy.
All in all, there were aspects that I found fairly tiring, sordid, aggressive, and sleazy about the event. But hey, that’s what you would expect from Sexpo: it’s no church meeting. But I also found it funny, inclusive, informative and basically a bit of a hoot. And I didn’t get groped once. Not bloody once.