One of these Things is Not Like The Others

So today I'm catching up on everything I missed while I was away - which has included getting ready for the Taboo Sex Shows in Calgary and Edmonton coming up in November. I was reading through my exhibitor package and noted the very clear direction that nudity is strictly prohibited at the show. 'All models must be covered (ie. g-strings and pasties etc.).' This makes me reflect on my experience at the Venus Show in Berlin. Venus is Berlin's equivalent of Taboo - well sort of. It's much more focussed on video and on-line porn and less on toys than is Taboo. But it is mainly a direct to consumer sex show. Things are just a little different there. Trying to describe it is almost impossible.

When you walk into Venus, the first thing you notice is that there are probably 25 men for every woman walking the show. The next thing you notice is the throngs of men gawking and taking pictures and when you get closer to those clusters of men, you see that they are gathered around a woman or women doing a show. In Edmonton, the shows are mostly burlesque troops or fully-clothed pole dancers, or drag queens. At Venus, the shows are women doing full nudity strip shows, often with other women, often playing with a variety of toys and/or masturbating to orgasm. The women on the main stage often bring volunteers onto the stage with them and dance around them, blindfold them, grind on them etc. It's just a little different than back at home.

I have to admit, I did find it a bit shocking. The activity wasn't shocking to me as these things are a part of my life. But that you can do those things at a public trade show was the shocking part for me. One of our hosts from FunFactory said, quite succintly 'I don't think you could get away with those kinds of things in America' - or in Canada. The two things I was amazed by was the amount of picture taking - at every show almost every single man had a camera, or even video camera, and was busy snapping away. At one spot a woman was lieing back against a lounge chair with her legs spread open and several men held cameras no more than two inches from her naked crotch. It was full-on. The closest equivalent to Venus in the U.S.A. is the Vegas Show that accompanies the AVN porn awards. There, photography is strictly forbidden unless you've paid for a pass to take pictures. It does, after all, all come down to money.

The second thing that baffled me was the contact with consumers. As I said, men were often brought up on stage or approached in the crowd by the performers. You would never ever ever do this in North America. I was thinking about why that is and realized that it's not because this represents a line of safety and appropriate behavior that should not be crossed but rather because over here, we are deathly scared of a lawsuit. We are so afraid of liability issues - of the potential for someone to go over the line or to claim that they did not want to participate or that they got hurt - that we would just prefer that no one touch anyone ever. They don't seem to really care there. Now I noticed, of course, even though it wasn't really obvious, that there was a strong security presence there. If anyone got out of line, I'm sure they would be yanked out of there in a matter of seconds. In fact, I saw a guy try to reach over into a performance area to touch a woman who was performing - the guy running the tech equipment was close by and put a quick stop to that. It seems the performers say what goes. They do the touching. Everyone else has to abide by their wishes.

And that's just the point to me. We have so many rules about what you can and cannot do in public and seven ways until Sunday to stop people from getting out of control but is it necessary? The performers seemed pretty capable of taking care of themselves and the audiences seemed to be pretty clear on the rules although they weren't written or stated anywhere. This was, at least on the surface of it, a free-for-all. Yeah, it was pretty wild by our standards but did I see anyone who looked like they were out of control - hurting anyone else in any way? No. Not once. So do we need all these rules? Will we get out of control if we don't have them? I don't think so. I think we do have self- control. I actually think it's the rules that make us want to get out of control.

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