I write this with love – truly – because what I saw this year was a show in trouble, and as one of Canada’s few sex shows, this concerns me. Fewer exhibitors, fewer relevant features, and worst of all, fewer people. All hope is not lost, but I’m sure your accountants agree – something needs to change. In fact, looking at photos from past years, it looks like you already know what I’m talking about, simply with the downgrade of leaving Metro Toronto Convention Centre. I’m presumptively taking it upon myself to draw attention to the bad omens, the aspects of the show that need changing, and what can be done to make it better.
It’s not all bad news though – you can also read my Highlights Of The Everything To Do With Sex Show 2016!
The Omens (AKA Just A Few Of The Things Missing From Last Year)
The floor just seemed emptier. Just a look at the Chaturbate video clip from 2015 (I’m even in it!) shows a decent concentration of sexy exhibitors and obviously, more people. This is only an example, but there were probably over a dozen noticed absentees from the talent & exhibitor list this year.
- The Cuddlery: Yes, the Cuddle Zone is still in effect, as noted last year. But the natural sponsor to this area of cuddle-friendly beanbags isn’t the one presenting it.
- Lustco: One of my highlights from last year, and mentioned in several early reviews, I was rooting for this Canadian sex toy subscription box. I’m not sure if they’re still around or not (at the time of writing this, the website is having problems), but they definitely weren’t around for the expo.
- Glass Toys: At the past two shows, there have been at least two booths selling exclusively glass toys, and I always enjoyed browsing their styles and feeling it in person. This year, not even one.
- Playroom Attendants: Last year I mentioned that The Playroom was one of my favourite attractions, but it was more specifically the people who occupied this area. They had lessons, education, and generally taught my partner and myself a lot of about kink. This year? Empty playroom with a couple spanking benches.
- The Ritual Chamber: It seemed too small to mention last year, but this amazing little dominatrix outfit really caught my eye, and we had a lovely time chatting with the owner (and fantasizing about one day going there). Sadly, one of the first things we noticed missing this year (in fact most forms of kink beyond basic restraints were absent)
- Big Burlesque: Despite being featured as the website header for the Toronto Everything To Do With Sex Show site, Roxi D’lite was nowhere to be seen this weekend. There have typically been one or two major burlesque names that grace the main stage to provide some variety, but the only burlesque to be found was on the inappropriately small stage hidden among the exhibitors (more on that later)
- HIM: They’re so awful, but Handsome International Men must have had better plans this weekend. Maybe it’s because BlogTO just caught on to them (and no, BlogTO, they are not Toronto’s Chippendales), but these mannequins that were brought to life and given a disappointing dance lesson are typically a staple of the show.
- Cock Dogs: Corn dogs shaped like dicks. Really nowhere else this belongs, and yet the first year I was actually willing to buy food at the expo, they were nowhere to be seen.
- Anything That Pushed Boundaries: My first year I learned about sounding. Last year I learned about electrostim. This year it was just like shopping in your standard local sex shop; a sea of vibrators, adorned with only a hint of vanilla kink.
So, What To Do?
Lose the MC
I’m sorry dude, but you’re the worst. A middle-aged, straight, white guy in an oversized sports jersey is not a great representative of the sexually inclusive community that I hope you’re trying to create. I’m not saying this just as a woman – my (straight, male) partner also finds him just plain off-putting. Heternormative comments like “now for the ladies, let’s bring out the sexy Men Of Steele” don’t have a place in a community that should be welcoming sexual minorities. In general, he just has a sleazy demenour that keeps me avoiding the main stage as he eyes up the scantily clad women who “assist” him.
How about a woman of colour, or a trans figure? Carey Gray – the trans man who owns ASLAN Leather and makes damn fine sex aids – is one of our favourite people to grace a stage at the sex show. Or if you want to keep it light, Daytona Bitch is the hilarious drag queen MC that Toronto deserves.
Lose The Irrelevant Exhibitors
I get that sex covers a broad area, but I come to a sex show because it is everything that I can’t get at other conventions. I want to browse dildos, test out paddles, learn about kink, and meet sexual figures that are creating a positive image around sex. Instead I’m accosted by people shilling marijuana paraphernalia, TV boxes, bed sheets, pillows, honey, vaping, warming packs, psychic readings, and art*. None of this has a sexual component, and I can buy this stuff anywhere. I get that it may be desperate times, but I don’t come here to buy this stuff, or to be accosted by the people OBSESSED with those warming packs.
They’re great, really, but they’ve been shilling the same stuff for years now; at this point, I get the gist of anal sex, oral sex, and female ejaculation. Time to spice it up. How about intro to bondage** or communicating fantasies to your partner? At the very least, have more than the same 5 seminars rotating every couple hours for 3 days.
Give Burlesque Its Own Stage
And I don’t mean that rickety little soapbox that’s thrown in next to a few chairs. I mean like a real stage, one that maybe sits across from the main stage. I know this little stage may be technically owned by Monde Osé, so maybe that’s not a possibility, but at least position it with a larger audience area, and give those girls more than 10 feet to strut their stuff!
From what I could tell, this stage was drawing as much of a crowd as the main stage, but with 10% of the standing room and no place for the music to go. Consider doing it festival-style, with side-by-side main stages alternating acts, because burlesque is back in a very big way, so this really only benefits you.
Have Industry-Focused Aspects
This is where I think real change could stem from.
So I realized this year, that I don’t think there are ANY major Canadian conventions for sex industry professionals (please correct me if I’m wrong). The US has Sex Down South, Woodhull, and SHE, just to name a few, but Canada is sort of left out in the cold (har har) when it comes to accessing big connections for sexual health, wellness, and professionals. Sure, I went to Smut In The 6ix this year, but that was a very porn-focused dwarf compared to what our neighbours are offered.
Host seminars on sexual health, or explore the obstacles of having sex when you’re HIV positive. Hold short networking events specifically for industry professionals, and have exhibitors that pass out free condoms, and want to educate rather than sell. It’s doesn’t all have to be boring to the average attendee, either. Typical sexual conferences have sex toy manufacturers with their newest, innovative toys and chances to get an inside look into this exciting industry! Even big-name sexual figures will come and host seminars on the best ways they have sex. It really is fun for all, and it’ll be a great chance to open up your demographic and draw in people who may not have this chance elsewhere in the Great White North.
So this year marked the 17th year of the Toronto Everything To Do With Sex Show, but a lot has changed in 17 years; 17 years ago, same-sex marriage wasn’t even legal in Canada! So it’s safe to say that the times, they are a-changin’.
But this show still caters very specifically to the cis & heterosexual community, and while that IS the majority, that community is shrinking every day with even the simple realization that more and more people aren’t 100% straight.
I can’t recall any trans- or queer-centric booths at this show. Ever. Not that the show or its exhibitors are homophobic, but it’s simply something missing. A booth for the local gay bar or featuring sex toys made for trans people (like the newly released Buck-Off) would certainly mix up the usual clientele, and create a sex-positive show that we can all enjoy.
Again, ETDWSS, I mean this all with love. I loved the Everything To Do With Sex Show last year, and I simply want to bring back the former glory of when the show was an innovative concept, by making it innovative yet again.
*I love some of the art, and a few of the artists here DO cater to the sex crowd. However even the few art features that I liked last year didn’t bring their sexually–oriented pieces this year. I should also note that the artist’s area was way under what it was last year.
** Yes, there is the Kink Stage. But those demos and lessons are very specific to certain aspects of kink, and not necessarily about delving into the big and scary world of bondage for the average vanilla attendee.