WARNING- The following article deals with adult subject matter.

Gettin' edgy at Erotica L.A.
By Daniel Quinajon  
Photos by Daniel Quinajon

I, along with most people, would think that a post-9/11 environment would be very bad for business. But that doesn't seem to be the case in the porn industry. At this year's Erotica L.A., at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, porn vendors and talent alike gathered to meet and greet their fans and perspective buyers, while also proving that the adult industry is going strong despite the tragedy of last year.

 I had attended Erotica L.A. before and returned this year with the intentions of finding out what makes people want to go to an event like this. At first, my thoughts were simple: Porn convention... lots of women with costly parts = lots of guys wishing to view these costly parts. I would later find out that the event had more to offer.

The overall feel of the convention is like any other. There are a number of venues labeled by signs and separated by curtain-like barriers. But as you approach the venues, there is anything but your normal "as seen on TV" gimmick. Instead of the latest in surgical steel knives or potato peelers, vendors are peddling the latest in adult toys, lingerie, specially designed electric razors for "trimming the labia and testicles...", and let's not forget those penis enlargers.

 I wandered around the convention, talking to attendants, vendors, and of course "talent." One of the first people I spoke with was a trio from Santa Barbara who made the long road trip solely to attend Erotica LA. Of the trio, Mary was the most intriguing to me. At first glance, I wondered what would tempt a seemingly normal looking young woman to such an event-- it didn't seem like it was her thing. But as she later told me, the idea of porn doesn't bother her. In fact, she proudly admitted that she reads Playboy monthly. So what brought her here? She just wanted to see what the event was about and discovered that it was not without its oddities.
 
"It's a little bit shocking to see a girl who [is] dressed kind of like me and have her hand out a [promotional] card showing her spread eagle and rubbing her clitoris and such..."

However, the shock of the event didn't deter Mary and her friends from continuing on with their journey. One of her male companions mentioned he would like to find some Anime porn and with my newly found knowledge of the show's floor plan, I pointed them in the right direction.

 I wondered what the big attractions would be at this event. If anything, starlets steal the spotlight. One of the most notable on the long list of talent was Digital Playground's Tera Patrick. If there was long line, it was the one to meet Patrick. The line was riddled with both men and women anxious to meet her and had armed themselves with posters, magazines, sharpies, and instamatic cameras. Essentially, it's like any meet-and-greet situation. The fans hand Patrick a poster or magazine to sign, she asks how they're doing and if they're having a good time. In what seems like seconds, she shoots the awestruck fans a smile and sends them on their way only to do it all over again for the next person in line.

As for newest in adult products, the "in" item this year seemed to be glass sculptured phalluses. I wasn't purposely on the lookout for this item, but it seemed to be everywhere. There were independent artists like Adam Khan of Oceanside, who has started his company called Stiff Liquid, and prides himself on creating unique hand-molded phallic like items in the traditional and classical Italian/Phoenician style of glass forming. Khan explained that where big names like Phallix (which has appeared in the pages of Penthouse), use a Pyrex based glass, he creates something uniquely different.

"My glass is made in a furnace...I mix the sand, ash, and different minerals...cook it overnight (about 24-30 hours) at 2,400 degrees and then gather it out on the end of a large metal rod and then form by hand...it's been done like this for thousands of years."

Essentially, Khan has taken an old process and made it into a modern day commodity. So what possesses a starving artist to make such an object?

"This was a natural transition...being an artist, the female form and subject of erotica are the foundation for all of my artwork and this was easy to do...and I need to keep the gas bill paid," Khan tells me with a smile.

My continued venturing through Erotica L.A. brought me to what seemed like the ultimate venue for any human male. Besides the various starlets and sex gadgets, there was also a strong turnout by establishments like Spearmint Rhino and Deja Vu Showgirls (Yes, strippers were there too). It wouldn't seem like a big deal to have strippers at a event like this, but it is a nicely added quality of the convention.

One of the definite perks of attending Erotica L.A. is that it encourages attendants to bring their cameras. So I wasn't alone when it came to the constant snapping of my shutter whenever something good passed by. In the case of the strippers, men armed themselves with video cameras and still cameras (both digital and conventional), in an effort to capture the right shot of a curvy dancer on a miniature stage (pole included).

 I watched men gather around the temporary stripper venues, appearing hypnotized by the movements and gyrations of every dancer who took to the stage. I couldn't help but notice the intense looks on their faces as they struggled to get in focus whatever caught their eye. For a brief second, I felt as if I was observing a band of paparazzi impatiently shooting a celebrity at Cannes. All in all, this was a rare opportunity to freely shoot photos of a stripper for nothing and free from harassment (Although, there was the occasional pandering for tips from the strippers).

Erotica L.A. is definitely a nice breath of fresh air. In a time when most of us seem more uptight about whom we interact, it's nice knowing that we can go to an event where a scantily clad woman (who you've met through the courtesy of your TV and VCR) will give you a hug and say that she hopes to see you again.

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