Close friends of mine will tell you that I have a touch of New York anxiety. The city as a whole just puts me on edge. The crowds, the bustle, the overpriced beverages–it’s all a bit much for me. But when I heard that the Brooklyn Expo center was hosting the SEX Expo (formally the Sexual Health Expo), I immediately made plans to drive into the city with my partner for the weekend to check it out.
They were giving out goodie bags to the first 1,000 people at the door on Saturday and I’m a sucker for free stuff, so my partner and I got up at 6AM and set off to New York to spend two and a half hours standing in line before doors opened to the crowd. The organizers were nearly 45 minutes late for the actual ribbon cutting, so the crowd got a bit restless waiting to get inside. Host Reid Mihalko, dressed in a tuxedo, ran up and down the line of people giving out high fives to pump up the crowd.
When registration finally opened, the crowd dispersed and gathered at the front door while Reid did a trivia session and rewarded audience members with sex toys. I was happy to hear medically-accurate sexual health questions being asked and Reid’s use of the gender-neutral term, “penis-owners” made my trans partner feel at ease.
Once the ribbon was cut and the doors officially opened, madness ensued. Hundreds of us pushed and shoved for our free goodie bags filled with advertisements of sponsored sex toy companies, a Trojan bullet-vibrator, and more lube samples most people would require in their lifetime. (My cheap ass was loving it, though.)
Although we were among the first hundred or so people inside, the sheer volume of the crowd was too much for the expo center’s size. I missed the entire front row of vendors by the door the first time around due to the giving out of goodie bags. There simply wasn’t room to maneuver around them until gift bags ran out. Instead, I started towards the back and worked my way to the front of the expo center.
The vendor selection was great! They had big-name companies like We-Vibe, NJoy, Adam & Eve, Sybian, Bad Dragon, and Satisfyer–but also featured smaller local businesses, sexual health centers, and studios featuring pole-dancing and erotic yoga classes. Almost every booth had informational handouts as well as free condoms or (even more) lube samples to add to our gift bags. Lots of companies also gave out raffle tickets when you signed up for email newsletters for a chance to win free toys.
Diamond sponsor Chaturbate (an online adult webcam show platform), had several booths as well. They were set up with beds with one or two women on each who live-chatted with online viewers over the nosy expo center. I didn’t quite understand the appeal of this, as I’m sure none of the online viewers could hear their dirty talk over the chatter of thousands of expo-goers. However, what really irked me about this was that several times throughout the expo, one of the girls would turn the cameras towards the crowd walking by and flash her breasts or shake her bare ass. I don’t know about anyone else who got caught by their webcams, but I didn’t really enjoy being featured without warning to live viewers masturbating along to the show.
The crowd grew to the point that going down any of the aisles became a stressful dance where I was being shoved (accidentally or not) by random strangers. My partner and I decided that we had seen the vendors each at least once for information, and would call it an early day and try again Sunday. As we left, we were surprised to see that a crowd of people were still flowing in, lined up far around the corner of the expo center.
The next morning, we went back to find the expo center nearly empty in comparison. There were still several hundred people inside, but lines outside were nonexistent and we were finally able to actually hear what vendors were shouting to us over the noise of the day before.
I wanted to attend at least one workshop while I was at the expo, but the timing just didn’t work out. A lot of the workshops featured were great for people who wanted to learn basics about sexual health or specific sex acts, but the ones I was interested in were much later in the day. Since workshops didn’t overlap at all, there was only one going on at a time. Waiting four or five hours to attend the workshop I was interested in just wasn’t a feasible option for me, so I skipped it entirely.
I had a conversation with a few women who attended a workshop on anal play and loved it. They said the workshop was helpful, but they had no prior knowledge about anal play. I also spoke to some friends of mine who had attended the workshops a year prior, who said there weren’t really any options for someone who was already knowledgeable about sexuality to learn more.
I was, however, really excited to overhear one of the main stage speakers, Mz. Jewcee, talking about submission and feminism early Sunday afternoon. “Let’s break you out of that sexually repressive box that someone else built for you,” she said, “There is no judgment in the world of eroticism.” I was very proud to have heard her speak before leaving the event. It made me feel a whole lot better about the experience.
As disappointed as I was in the featured workshops and timing, it was really great to see and talk to so many sex toy vendors and get to learn more about new products on the market. I went home with a few new toys, a huge bag of condoms and lube samples, and a laundry list of more expensive toys I’ll eventually invest in. Sure, my partner and I spent about half our month’s rent on one night’s stay in Brooklyn, but we’ll probably never have to buy lube again!