Pornonormal Event: An Exhibition of the Latest Achievements in the Sex Industry
"Is this seat taken?"- I heard behind my back while in the midst of making a dent in my losses at a blackjack table at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, a Vegas hotel known for its rock 'n' roll vibe and room service that delivers vibrating panties and fur handcuffs. I was doing quite well when a man with greasy hair and a beer belly flopped down next to me. I caught a whiff of his moderately offensive body odor accompanied by the confident smile of an aging womanizer. The distinctive profile with receding hairline looked way too familiar… And yes, it was Ron Jeremy, nicknamed "The Hedgehog". Number one on "The Top 50 Porn Stars of All Time" list. Damn, I felt lucky! But not for long. The nasty Hedgehog broke every single rule in the book of blackjack crushing my last hope to win. The encounter wasn't cheap. I would be better off with a $7.95 pay-per-view where he does his thing in one of his videos.
If you watch porn, you've heard of Ron Jeremy. And I know that you do, along with thirty thousand internet users per second who stream sexually explicit material around the world, twenty eight percent are women. There are 4.2 million websites — twelve percent of the entire Internet — dedicated to the multi-billion dollar industry. The culture of porn, as oxymoronic as it might seem, is so large and encompassing that not only does it fuel a third of all Internet downloads, it also has numerous conventions and even its own "Oscars".
What more appropriate location to host the award ceremony than Las Vegas — the place that easily lives up to its moniker, Sin City.
The four-day event of the Adult Entertainment Expo & the AVN Adult Movie Awards (founded by Adult Video News magazine — Ed.) is America’s largest gathering of porn stars and their fans that takes place each January, at the Hard Rock Hotel. It always collides with the Consumer Electronics Show, which brings a hundred thousand geeks into town, so you can easily camouflage your intentions.
Over 500 porn stars fly in to participate. You can get very close and personal with the friendly actresses and webcam queens at the Expo.
They gladly hop into your lap to pose for a photo (for a fee) and talk dirty to you as a bonus.
The men you get to rub shoulders with fall into three most apparent categories – the socially awkward, sweaty type; the touchy-feely “douchebags” who think they could be porn stars themselves; and the “hipsters” who are attracted to the aesthetics but never pay and consider themselves above all of it.
The dynamics between the fans and the stars have changed, the lines have been blurred. If twenty years ago the only men who openly admitted to watching porn were considered almost pseudo-serial killers, now, one of the actresses says, even teen boys ask her for autographs. Young, hot guys are not embarrassed to admit that they watch porn or have a go-to CamGirl sweetheart.
Many porn actresses are savvy entrepreneurs. While girls get paid significantly more per scene than men, there’s not much money for them just in acting. To hit it big, they have to turn their screen names into a brand. The porn business is like every aspect of show business: 10% show, 90% business. While the industry itself generates more income than the NFL, NBA and Major Baseball League combined, and some of the best-known corporations like General Motors, AOL Time Warner and Marriott are quietly sharing the huge profits from porn that they don’t report, the actors are relatively underpaid and treated like “disposable” employees.
There’s no health insurance and no regulations in place to mandate health tests across the industry. The actors get tested twice a month on a voluntary basis.
A few years ago, performer Derrick Burts told the public how he worked in porn for only four months and still managed to contract chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, and finally HIV. The consumers just don’t want to see condoms in the final product, as a result it has become a high-risk profession.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, the occupational hazards also include having to starve for prolonged periods of time (to avoid bloating/brown showers) and tolerate bad smells on set, especially when shooting fetish scenes. One of the actresses confessed on Reddit that it always “smells like sweat, piss and pussy”.
Performers do their best to explore other lucrative income-earning avenues, social networking, personal appearances, and branding their name. Before getting back into porn to “feed her kids”, Jenna Jameson used to be a fine example of a brilliant businesswoman who made 30 million from selling her own brand of sex toys.
The Expo is definitely a sex toy playground. Manufacturers from across the globe come to Vegas to promote their products and to debut the latest in sex technology.
When going from booth to booth set up by various porn production and sex toy companies to test their newest inventions, you realize that what preoccupies you the most is hand sanitizer. Going through the piles of various plastic body parts of all shapes and sizes, toys, lingerie, lotions, supplements, games, sex furniture, cosmetics and aphrodisiacs at this weird bazaar is definitely a hands-on experience.
The techies who "accidentally" wander in from the Consumer Electronics Show next door can size up the multi-user virtual reality porn demos like Oculus Rift (pre-order for $599, available in both heterosexual and same-sex scenarios), or teledildonics — remote-controlled sex toys, and haptic — touch-based technology (touch something that isn't there). Some manufacturers focus on the interactive sex toy experiences over Wi-Fi through the means of apps and joysticks that they pitch to the long-distance and military couples as a way to "keep that intimate contact while on opposite sides of the world".
Whether you are a sex sommelier or a novice, you'll find plenty to ignite your interest. There are numerous products that appeal to health-conscious individuals — like the Pink Diamond69 sexercize device (as expected, $69 on Amazon) from the makers of the Magic Ball Dildo which incorporates yoga balls into a somewhat conventional sex toy experience. Or LELO's LOKI Wave prostate massager ($150) featuring two perfectly positioned motors for simultaneous prostate and perineum massage (equally popular in the U.S. and Russia, and almost a household item in the U.K. with twice the sales). Or Fuzu Glove ($18) with nine vibrating rolling balls to soothe your aching muscles and everything else that needs nurturing. Another memorable product I came across is Heeldo ($25) — a foot harness that fits any harness compatible toy so you can give yourself a helping...foot. Fortunately, there is also a model at the booth who happily demonstrates the proper usage for the clueless like myself.
If you need to hide your sex toys from someone, you can benefit from products such as:
- Fleshlight ($80, disguised as a flashlight) available in the Euphoria and Utopia options — in the exact shape of Riley Reid’s butt or vagina, respectively;
- Fun Rocker — a bouncy inflatable air-filled mattress equipped with four restraint cuffs that quickly deflates and folds for “discreet storage”;
- Privacy Pillow ($29.99) — a pillow where you can hide your sex toys.
Also, check out the Hydromax water vacuum pump ($149). You can use the pump in the shower daily to create a vacuum that expands your manhood to the size of a full erection. It comes in the Hercules and Goliath options. No male model is there to demonstrate, but it has a ton of rave reviews and the before-and-after pictures are quite impressive.
RealDolls are life-size sex mannequins with fully poseable skeletons and silicone skin, the doppelgängers of your favorite porn stars. I was also told that I can have one of me made for only $10,000. I politely declined under the excuse that I’m saving for a boob job before I pose for a duplicate. The company is now developing a robotic, artificially intelligent head that can be switched into the existing Doll’s body.
The competition is already stiff in my age group, now I have to worry about the sexbots with impeccable pedicures.
In 2015, AVN amped up its seminar series by inviting sex therapists and doctors alongside the usual lineup of porn star panelists.
If your game is not up to par, you could use a class on the art of dating, social skills and how to be more successful and confident with a woman. Those with ambitions to become the Zuckerberg of porn might be interested in learning about the business of porn and attend workshops on how to produce videos, get paid for it, protect identities, comply with laws, recruit models, etc. — each day of the Expo is loaded with all kinds of classes.
And if you’re not into anything serious — swiftly move on to the rest of the Fan Fest with burlesque and aerial performances, screening of adult films, and the porn star karaoke where you can watch them get drunk and sing Berlin's "Take My Breath Away" and AC/DC's "I've Got Big Balls". But if you're feeling particularly adventurous, I would just head straight for The Lair.
Labeled as an interactive rope, flogging and suspension playground, it’s a fetish party you absolutely can’t afford to miss. You’ll get to meet Mistress Cyan, an expert with a whip. She is a reputable transgender dominatrix with over 20 years of experience and the current Pantheon of Leather Woman of the Year, as well as a regular guest speaker at UCLA. Her self-professed number one core value has always, even when she was still a married man with kids, been to treat everyone with respect. So you’ll get a chance to endure a few respectfully delivered whips, if the Mistress so wishes.
However, if you are not familiar with BDSM culture, no one forces you to jump right into the rabbit hole and go straight for getting inverted while having hot wax poured between your legs.
The Lair is more of a fun introduction into the fetish world while meeting those who want to share who they are as kinksters in a safe public format. If nothing else, at least check out the specialty spaces like the Medical Room and Spanking Room.
Whatever you decide to do, take it easy on the liquor. You’ll be tempted to get wasted as you go through the sensory overload. And try not to drink from the pretty fountains at the Expo – it’s lube, not Cosmopolitans.
"The Oscars Of Porn"
I personally never made it to the 3-hour long AVN Awards, the recognition ceremony of the greatest moments in "the business of pleasure", for the sheer reason of not being interested in witnessing overdressed porn stars thank their moms, dads, and agents for their tremendous success in the industry.
The Awards now also feature many mainstream comedians and musicians like Flo-rida and T-Pain, who at times get into drunken brawls. The nominations in 100 categories include the most outrageous sex scene, best supporting actress, best male newcomer, etc. Last year Riley Steele won the Favorite Female Star Award, and "12 Inches a Slave" beat "Sexy, Horny and Homeless" and "The Little Spermaid" to the Most Clever Title of the Year Award.
The Pros and the Cons
There is a set of moral Nazis who like to park themselves outside the Expo and tell you what they think God thinks of you. I briefly stopped to offer them my modest speech that conceptual pornography goes back to the Paleolithic fertility figurines, the sex manual of Kama Sutra, and the Pompeii with its largest collection of antique erotica including a sculpture of Pan having intercourse with a goat. But after I heard their stoic “Contraception is the foundation of porn!” in response I decided to stop waving my arms and left since my pockets were stuffed with cock-shaped chocolate lollipops and some free novelty condoms I grabbed at the booths: this low-key cult-urologist would get lynched if any of them accidentally fell out.
Our society doesn’t teach us how to identify and process our sexual desires and needs. We treat sex like a dirty little secret, like it’s a problem, which feeds into a dirty secret mentality. Yet a high libido is not a bad thing. It’s true though, the porn industry has gone gonzo. Its sexual extremism keeps pushing boundaries.
Videos become increasingly cruel and degrading with most featuring gang rape, double penetration, ATM, “facial abuse”, taking a psychological toll on the viewer.
But that’s what porn is — a transgression, a calculated violation of the social codes and taboos.
At the same time, according to statistics, sexually explicit materials prevent, not encourage, sexual aggression. Data gathered after the liberalization of anti-pornography laws in the U.S., Denmark and Sweden shows that the rates of rape and sexual assault either shrunk or remained stable.
Pornography has become normalized, mainstreamed. It is omnipresent and we have to reconcile with it. A new adult video is made every 39 minutes. The poorly written Fifty Shades of Gray has sold 152 million copies. Pornhub put up the “All You Need Is Hand” billboard in NYC’s Time Square.
So if you are in Vegas in late January, stop by the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on Paradise Street, visit the Adult Entertainment Expo or just hang out and people watch. Vegas looks like a porn convention pretty much every night, but this time you might actually meet some ladies whose names you’ll never admit you know. And don’t play cards with Ron Jeremy, he’ll screw you whether you like it or not.