Securing Sexuality is the podcast and conference promoting sex positive, science based, and secure interpersonal relationships. We give people tips for safer sex in a digital age. We help sextech innovators and toy designers produce safer products. And we educate mental health and medical professionals on these topics so they can better advise their clients. Securing Sexuality provides sex therapists with continuing education (CEs) for AASECT, SSTAR, and SASH around cyber sexuality and social media, and more.
Links from this week’s episode:
Exploring the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo: Technology and Sex Toys, Gender & Sexuality Divide in Product Availability
The AVN Adult Entertainment Expo (AEE) is an annual event that brings together the world's leading adult entertainment industry professionals, manufacturers, and fans. Held in Las Vegas each year, the AVN AEE is a unique opportunity to explore the latest trends in adult entertainment technology and sex toys. At the AEE, attendees can experience a wide range of products from some of the most innovative companies in the industry.
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Hello and welcome to Securing Sexuality, the podcast where we discuss the intersection of intimacy and information security. I'm Wolfgang Goerlich.
He's a hacker, and I'm Stefani Goerlich.
She's a sex therapist, and together we're going to discuss what safe sex looks like in a digital age.
Today we are back after our December hiatus to celebrate the new year 2023 and to talk about our first trip of the new year to the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo. Wolf, what did you think?
So I think that I ended up in Las Vegas, unsure of what to expect as really many of our adventures start off. So there I was not sure what to expect.
For the listener, really for me, what is AVN and what is the AVN Adult Expo and what do we just find ourselves in?
So AVN is the largest industry group and magazine sort of trade publication for the adult industry. They are the ones that host the AVN Awards, which are considered the Academy Awards of the adult industry. The Adult Entertainment Expo is one of the larger, if not largest adult industry trade fairs in the world.
It is where erotic content creators, mainstream porn producers, sex tech and sexual novelty manufacturers and their users, fans and viewers come together to figure out what's happening in this world. What's new, what's exciting and of course, who are the award winning content creators for that year. We decided to take a trip out because we had never been before. And this was certainly a new experience.
Wolf, what were your first impressions?
And so the reason we're there, right, is obviously we've got this podcast. There's probably some great people we'd want to talk to. There's a lot of interesting technology that's being displayed out there. This one's concurrent with CES. So there's a lot of geeky overlay and overlap. One of the things that surprised me though, now I shouldn't be surprised.
We've gone to a lot of the world's largest in our day and it always sounds much bigger than it is. One of the things that AVN Expo will say and I think it's right off their Wikipedia page, obviously, is that there's like 30,000 attendees. My first thought was for the world's largest and for 30,000 attendees, it didn't feel that large. I agree.
I think, you know, having moved in and around these spaces over the course of my career, I've always heard about the AVN Expo. I've seen it featured in documentaries and I'm right there with you. I was surprised at how small it felt given the buildup within the industry around it. I was surprised by who I didn't see there as much as anything else.
It certainly didn't feel as exciting or as sort of big as I had anticipated.
Yeah, and that's not to say there wasn't a lot of excitement in the air. So this was held at Resorts World Las Vegas, which is a pretty big space. It's a pretty big space. They took over one corner, one floor, which was nice. They had good security.
You know, I'm the security guy. So they had good security and good queuing, which I always appreciate.
But yeah, once you're in the space, it had a lot of open room, which is nice. I don't like crowds. I think maybe that's part of it is a lot of us still coming out of COVID. We don't like a lot of people.
Too many people does not feel very comfortable, especially working from home and not being out for a couple of years, as many of us are, that would feel pretty crowded. So it did feel pretty open and never felt too crowded, which is nice. It was very, very warm, which probably makes sense because a lot of the people weren't necessarily all that well dressed, although everything was covered.
I mean, it was similar to being at a beach, really. Fishnet is not an insulating material. And I agree with you. I think that perhaps the temperatures were turned up to accommodate some of the more or perhaps less outfits that we saw. And you're right, nobody was walking around completely unclothed, but it definitely had a play party or nightclub sort of energy to it.
Lots of bikinis, lots of fishnets, lots of high heels. What surprised me was lots of Crocs. People always talk about how when you watch behind the scenes making of for the Marvel movies, you see the guys in the green morph suits and it kind of kills the illusion.
I've got to say for anybody out there that is a fan of porn as an art form, seeing the performers and big names, quote unquote celebrities of this world walking around in their Crocs is the green morph suit equivalent for that. I don't know that there is a less sexy item of apparel. And they were everywhere at the AVN Expo. And that might have been one of my most amusing takeaways, honestly.
Yes, the Crocs did not go well with you.
The other thing that I thought was really funny, having been to Comic-Con, and I know we've got an episode coming up on GalaxyCon, by the way, teaser, if you're listening to this going, gee, what else are they going to be talking about?
We're going to go straight from AVN to GalaxyCon. But to draw a parallel there, if you've been to a comic convention and if you've seen a cosplayer, you've got the cosplayer who gets all the attention. And behind them, they've got the person who's keeping the outfit together and the person who's got the bag of supplies.
And you've got basically the crew, the pit crew for the race car, right?
The pit crew for the cosplayer. This felt very similar. You'd have the very pretty girl and then you'd have the entourage with all her stuff and everything, keeping everything going.
Yeah, I like being anywhere where fishnet repair person and lipstick handler is a legit job and both at comic conventions or cosplay events and at AVN, we definitely saw those folks. I have to say from a therapeutic perspective, though, of all of the exhibitors, performers, cam girls, big stars and small walking around, I did not expect to see therapy gecko from Reddit at the AVN Expo.
As a mental health provider, got to say that was the big name star for me at this event. And he was there in full blown, you know, head to toe green gecko outfit and makeup. If anybody's familiar with his live show on Reddit, he is not an adult performer. So it kind of came out of left field. But that amused me to no end.
And honestly, I would say he had one of the bigger fan followings there. Every time we bumped into him, he had a crowd around him.
So, you know, that made me giggle. It was an unexpected bit of Venn diagram for my world. And it was an entertaining thing to watch and see.
Yeah, it was.
It was very funny because like a conference or like a comic con, right?
These stars that long lines, people are lining up to get autographs. People are lining up to take selfies. People are lining up for the photograph. People were lining up for the stickers that I saw and everywhere we pass these long lines, you'd be like, oh, look, there's the gecko.
And I'm like, what is this gecko?
You're like, no, there's a therapy gecko. So it was very, very fascinating. Can attest. Crocs are bad. Geckos are good. Those are the takeaways that I learned from my wife on this trip.
What else did you think was particularly good or particularly bad about this event?
What stuck out in your mind?
You know, we went to this event, our friend Ben Biller was there with us, of course, who's helping us out with securing sexuality, the conference.
And so one of the things, talk with Ben and thinking about it was one of the things that was interesting to me was the tech side, right?
How do these toys talk together?
What is the technology?
How are they manufactured?
How are they designed?
And I know I've been to enough trade shows in my life that I know you're not going to have like, oh, here's our inventor.
You will answer your questions, right?
That's not how these things work. But it did surprise me that there was a lot of different equipment and not a lot. It did not feel like a lot of knowledge about how this equipment was connected or how this equipment was secured. There's a lot of conversations and this doesn't surprise me and probably doesn't surprise anyone listening to this.
There's a lot of conversations around, oh yeah, we got a factory in China who handles all that for us. And so I was hoping for a little bit more on the expo floor about the tech side, which I did not get. And I think that was one thing that I thought was a lesson that we could take away was I knew that AVN ran alongside the CES, the Consumer Electronics Showcase.
But I always thought that it was either before or after. I thought they were aligned but not overlapping. And this year they overlapped. When I say there were people that I expected to see here that I didn't, one of those, for example, was like RealDoll and RealBotix. And I was super excited to talk to them about their robotics and they weren't there. They were at CES.
And so it was, I would love next time perhaps to do a day at one and then a day at the other because, you know, as the non-technical person between us, I am really curious about how these various companies sort themselves into which show do they feel like they fit into and which audience is their audience.
Because you're right, a lot of the people that you and Ben were having conversations with weren't necessarily the tech-minded folks. And yet a lot of the product companies that I expected to see at an event like this actually were at the mainstream electronics show. So it was really interesting for me to kind of learn by seeing the absences.
And I think it would be really cool to go back again and bounce back and forth between the two and see and ask how these companies decide which audience is their audience. That was one of the questions that I walked away with unanswered.
Yeah, I think the two overlapped for many, many years and then were separated for about five, six, maybe as much as eight years. And then this year they were back happening at the same time.
So yeah, that's a really good point.
How do you decide what goes where in the split?
The other thing that I thought was interesting in terms of tech is, well, and again, maybe this shouldn't surprise me, but if you think of the audience, the audience was like, if you had five people, there would be one girl and four guys. It was very, very heavily men.
When you looked at all the products that people were demonstrating, it was almost the exact opposite, right?
There would be four products for women and one product for a man.
There was, from a toy perspective, most of it was very, very much focused on the women.
Yeah, for sure. It was unusual to see products for guys.
And where we often did, they were geared towards the gay community, which I thought was fascinating because that's one of the conversations that often comes up in my work with male clients is this idea that toys or devices or options for male pleasure tend to be viewed as not intended for the heterosexual male, right?
Usually when I work with couples, they are all about bringing a vibrator into the bedroom. But when I suggest that that is a genderless toy that both of them can enjoy, I usually get some pushback.
And we have conversations around ways that it sounds odd to say female presenting, but when we talk about, you know, toys that are typically seen as for female pleasure, how those can also be used for male pleasure, there's usually a little bit of resistance there or a little bit of embarrassment at the thought of that. And we definitely saw that play out at the expo.
We bumped into one of my colleagues, Markie Twist, while I was there, and she had mentioned that this was the first year that they had done The Village, a dedicated room for LGBT content creators.
And it was interesting walking through that space because it was definitely not as populated as other rooms there, which made me a little sad, right?
Like there are some really great queer and LGBT content creators out there. They deserve to have their work recognized. They deserve to have their products embraced and utilized by people across the gender spectrum, the sexuality spectrum.
And it was interesting to me to watch that divide, both in terms of, you know, what you spoke to, the number of products and options available for men versus women, but also what spaces were getting traffic and which ones weren't. And that was not something I think I expected to see.
I think I had kind of anticipated a little bit more of an open-minded or fluid audience than what was actually present with us. Yes.
And, you know, I don't know that I told you this story. So you and I were separated for a while and I was talking to some of the vendors and everything.
I was like, well, what does that mean?
What does this mean?
And I was like, you know, tell me that again, because it wasn't quite clicking in my head. And the guy leaned over and looked at me. It's a long pause. He looked a little awkward. He was like, well, this is our audience is really, really gay guys. And I didn't know how to take that.
I mean, I was by myself and you weren't around. I couldn't be like, Stefani, you talk to this.
I just looked at him like, do they have different parts than me?
Which is probably not the right thing to say.
But I was like, what does that mean?
Now, I'm curious, did you ask him what he meant?
And if so, what kind of response did he give you?
I said exactly what I just said to you. I was like, did because I didn't know what to say.
I'm like, oh, did they have different parts than me?
And he just sort of looked at me very confused and I looked at him very confused. And that was pretty much it. It was a electro stimulating thing. This was the electro booth.
OK, I mean, we all have nervous systems. We all you're you're right. Your answer makes perfect sense.
I know that I've been told by other people in the past that when I'm recommending products or even manufacturers to my clients, that I should actually look for the companies that are making things for a gay male audience, so they tend to be more durable, oh, a little bit more high quality in terms of construction, a little bit more body diversity friendly.
And a lot of mass market items that are manufactured for not just straight couples, but, you know, to your earlier point, to the female user or buyer tend to be a little bit, I'm going to say chintzier, maybe they're focused on being pretty and not necessarily being durable.
So I wonder if that isn't a good takeaway for us to share with the with the folks listening today that, you know, not only do we all have the same parts, but that sometimes if we if we go beyond the mass market companies, we find things that might be better suited to our specific needs in terms of body size or function.
And it's just a matter of going into those other rooms or having those other conversations and looking for things beyond the really pretty purple fuzzy handcuffs. There you go. That is a good takeaway.
Speaking of pretty purple things, was there any tack or toys or vendors that caught your attention that you thought were unique or intriguing?
Yeah. So I found a company that I had not heard of before that made a couple of things I really liked. There was a company called Honey, again, sort of, you know, intended for a female user or at least a female purchaser, very pretty, very aesthetically well designed and also a good price point and a lot of power behind the vibes of the other toys that I experimented with.
So that was one that just for sort of my everyday client, my everyday user, I took their product guide. But then the other one that really got me super curious and I can't wait to play around with what I left with from there was a company called and I'm probably going to mispronounce it, Svakom S V A K O M.
And, you know, you and I have been talking a lot about the ways in which technology overlaps with other areas, whether it's Bluetooth enabled sex toys or sexual health apps. And they had a toy that can sync to videos and can sync to porn that's being watched to replicate the sensations that are being shown on the screen.
A, that blows my mind. I can't wait to open the box and like play around and see does this work universally or there are only specific videos that are like toy enabled.
Like how does this work?
And also what does that experience look like for the user?
This is not me telling our audience, I can't wait to play with sex toys. That is inappropriate.
You all know where I fall on the self-disclosure scale, but from being able to talk to my clients about this and what does this look like and how does this work?
I can't wait to pull it out of the box and, you know, play around with the tech. And that was fascinating to me.
And we saw a number of things like that, a number of ways in which people are taking what might otherwise be a fairly run of the mill sex toy or device that looks like a lot of other devices on the market, but it's not a very common device that looks like a lot of other devices on the market and adding this cool sort of integration function that might not be there in other toys that kind of elevate it and make it more fun and definitely make me more curious about it from a recommendations perspective.
And I know always piques your interest from a pull apart tech perspective. So those were, those were the two that really stood out in my mind. I know that Motor Bunny was cool because they had created a flappy bird style game that you could play by writing the Motor Bunny device. So that made me giggle a lot.
I'm now having visions of somehow linking these and having Motor Bunny races.
That's my latest sort of crazy idea, but really what was fascinating to me was the people that were taking objects that the consumer, that the sex therapist look at and go, Oh yeah, I've seen that before. And then going, but wait, you haven't seen this.
This does something a little bit different or this connects in a new and playful way, and those were the things that really were blowing my mind. Love it. Love it. Love it. I saw a couple of things that I thought were intriguing.
One is the, the Silicon snake oil, um, that rears its ugly head in my day to day work quite a bit was also, was also present here, right?
And the one that I think about, and I'm not going to name and shame, but the one that I think about was blockchain. People were like, Oh, put yourself on the blockchain or leverage blockchain or build your career with blockchain.
I'm like, Oh my goodness, please know.
And, uh, and talking to them, it was, you know, like every other NFT or every other crypto scam out there. And I thought maybe I was wrong.
Like who's your technologist?
Who's your tech person?
And, uh, and we found that person out and, and, uh, you know, later conversations were having like, Oh yeah, yeah, no, no, this, these really are scams and so there's, there was that. I guess it's, uh, reassuring that scammers will scam everywhere.
Maybe, maybe, no, I'm not gonna find reassurance. I'm like everybody else. I know the word blockchain now blockchain floats around and it sounds fancy and cool and that's the extent of my knowledge.
So how were they trying to connect that to the adult industry?
It was basically like the NFTs, your image or your video now becomes an NFT. That was one way. Another way was payments over Ethereum. Okay. But really in both regards, I mean, at the end of the day, they were just using that term to get attention.
Um, there wasn't much technology or science behind it. One thing that did find interesting and in terms of privacy was how many platforms that were out there saying, Hey, take back your information, take back your videos, own your audience. There was a number of platforms out there that were really positioned around.
Um, having less reliance on other platforms. And as we've all seen in recent years with social media platforms falling apart, you want to own your own audience. So I took heart in some of the movement I saw in various displays around better privacy and better ownership of data and better control. And better control of your data. I liked that, that, that I liked quite a bit.
Did you see anything that made you excited from a security perspective or anything that made you wince a little bit from a security perspective?
Oh, lots of things that made me wince.
Uh, like I said, though, they had a really lovely queuing. They had really good security guards at the door.
Uh, there, there's, uh, a lot of concerns with many of these platforms and again, part of this is, I mean, you've, you've got to, uh, understand the sea in which you swim.
Part of this is you're not going to be talking to a security professional or someone who understands and, uh, advocates for privacy and cybersecurity at an expo floor, no matter what the expo is, even if it's like an RSA, right?
It's very rare to, uh, to get the people at even a security conference expo floor who are talking and really understand those issues. So you got to understand the sea in which you swim.
Uh, but certainly I left, uh, with a sense that there's a lot of work to do.
What from a non-sexual health perspective did you find either most exciting or most confusing?
Does it have to be a non-sexual health perspective?
What about from a wolf perspective?
So, you know, I love fitness trackers, right?
I don't oftentimes use them because I love the idea of them. And then I'm like, it queached out by the privacy side of it.
But there, there was that company that had a fitness tracker for men. Right. And I'm not going to say too much because I'm hoping they'll come on to the podcast and explain it, but I was fascinating to see some of that technology applied to health issues that, uh, I think, you know, issues that perhaps I would ordinarily think about when I'm at a gym. I agree with you.
That was a really cool bit of tech. And I am hoping we can, we can lure them on to tell people about it in greater detail, because I mean, obviously they're going to do a better job than we can. I think you and I each spent about five, 10 minutes with them and I would love to have the experts on, but you're right. It is interesting to me.
I mean, we've done episodes in the past on, especially for women, reproductive health trackers, menstruation trackers, and the concerns that that brings up after, you know, the dobs ruling and guys don't necessarily have those same concerns, but we also don't see the same sort of tech coming out for guys. So that I thought was a really cool way to bring sexual health and just men's health in general together.
So that was very exciting to see.
Yeah, I, that was the one that I came away with thinking, you know what?
A, I'd like them on the show and B, I would, I would try that out. Was there anything else that you walked away going, I'd try that out. I think that might've been it. Cause I like my stats and I want to know the stats behind things and science behind things. It amused me and made me appreciate again, just how much like a Comic Con it was. Right.
Everyone's like, can we get your autograph and all these long lines and everyone getting the selfies with everyone that just, it doesn't, you know, I don't want to say the AVN adult expo seemed wholesome, but that seemed very wholesome to me. I like wholesome.
I like the fact that the people there genuinely seemed like they wanted to connect with each other and that they wanted to help the non-industry folks connect with themselves and with their partners too. I go to a lot of events that feel very mercenary.
Everybody has been in settings or even just stores that feel like I am here to empty your pockets and I will say and do what I need to do to get you closer to handing me your wallet.
And there's a lot of shade that gets thrown at the adult world for being kind of capitalistically seductive, right?
Oh, they'll say and do whatever in order to get you to give them money. And I didn't see that at all this weekend. I saw a lot of people that were genuinely enthusiastic about what they were putting out into the world and really excited to interact with the people that enjoy what they put out in the world. And it was, I think wholesome is a great word for it.
I loved the conversations that I got to have with people. Shout out to the gentleman that introduced himself as the aspiring future Brazzers content creator. And you know, it was, it was a chance for people to celebrate the way that sexuality can bring people together in so many different ways. It wasn't necessarily all about porn per se. We saw so many different permutations of sexual intercourse.
This is what can help you and your husband be closer, more connected. This is something you can do that will help your wife have maybe the first orgasm she's ever had. This is somebody whose videos made you feel less lonely in the middle of the last three years of lockdown. And now you get to give that person a hug and tell them how you're feeling.
And all of those things really do strike me as just delightfully wholesome in their own sort of, you know, pasties and G-strings kind of way. And I loved it. Fantastic. I don't think I could add anything in terms of a conclusion to what you just said. I think you just nailed our conclusion before we got to our conclusion.
Well, let me ask this.
Would you recommend that our listeners check out the 2024 AVNX?
Yes. If only we can get more people in the door. It was a little bit empty.
It was an interesting experience.
It was a good, good little trip.
You know, definitely. Absolutely. Totally agree. I have worked in and around sexual health, sex and sex and sex and sex and sex and sex and sex and sex and sex and sex and sex and sex and sex and sex and sex for close to 20 years in one capacity or another. And I've always wanted to go to this event. Now I can say I have been, and it was delightful. There you go.
You heard it here first folks.
Well, with that, I think we'll conclude. Thank you so much for tuning in to Securing Sexuality, your source. For information, you need to protect yourself and your relationships. Securing Sexuality is brought to you by the Bound Together Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit. From the bedroom to the cloud, we're here to help you navigate safe sex in a digital age.
Be sure to check out our website, Securing Sexuality, for links to more information about the topics we discussed.
Oh, and also check it out for our upcoming 2023, yes it's 2023 folks, this October, our live conference in Detroit. And join us again for more fascinating conversations about the intersection of sexuality and technology. Have a great week!