Whore Next Door: Butt Plugs and Con Law

A giant penis, at least 10 feet tall, greeted me as I walked into the crisp relief of the air-conditioned hotel ballroom. It loomed like an ogre guarding a cave of treasures.

Each year, the Adult Novelty Manufacturers Expo hosts a trade show for the pleasure products industry, culminating with the StorErotica Awards, honoring excellence in the field.

Although other adult-industry award shows have categories for achievements in pleasure products, at this show, it's the business of selling dildos, vibrators, and lube that takes center stage.

For three days, dozens of companies from all over North America come together to make deals, promote their products, and network with other retailers, distributors and manufacturers. The butt plugs, Fleshlights, BDSM equipment, and personal lubricants made the drab hotel hall look like a candy store of sex.

I, on the other hand, was there to set up my booth for the Free Speech Coalition, spreading the word about the #NoProp60 campaign.

I had no nipple clamps at my table, and no fuckable silicone replicas of celebrity body parts — only pamphlets and an earnest message about a ballot initiative that will put our industry and its workers at risk. I worried that the posters and handouts — which I'd spent all week designing and printing, just like I was making my first zine — couldn't compete with the parade of innovative pleasure products that surrounded me.

I felt a little bit like it was my first day of school. I've been in the adult industry for more than six years, but my connections within the world of pleasure products have been limited. While I'm used to going to events and running into a million people I know, suddenly I was the new kid on the block again.

I put the stickers I'd made on boxes of candy, knowing that sugar was my only hope of competing with sex — and then I heard somebody was handing out ice cream with flavored lube on it, and I knew I was out of my depth.

Still, those who did stop by to talk to me were incredibly receptive, understanding immediately that although Prop 60 focuses on adult film, anyone with a financial interest in the production is also at risk — and moreover, the adult industry is a close-knit family. If one part of our industry comes under fire, we all suffer.

While the profit margins in the adult-film world have continued to sink over the years, the pleasure products industry has remained buoyant, and many adult stars make partnering with toy lines a part of their business plans.

Bonnie Rotten, the tattooed, genre-busting starlet who was named 2014's Performer of the Year, was there promoting her new Black Label line of products — which includes a vibrating butt plug and a toy called the “Bonnie Rabbit.”

As the trade show wore on, I found my footing. Though folks who work in the world of pleasure products aren't usually in front of a camera, they still can face barriers when it comes to banking, insurance, and even zoning laws that are unfriendly to or even target the adult industry.

Remember that as recently as 2008 it was illegal to sell dildos in Texas and a handful of other state — a law that former U.S. Presidential candidate Ted Cruz fought hard to uphold.

I was intimidated at first, and the 10-foot phallus didn't exactly help, but by the end of the trade show I knew I was still at home.

Whether we make or market pleasure products, perform with them on film, or enjoy them in the privacy of our own homes, we are aligned in a common cause.

As the court of appeals that struck down the Texas dildo law stated, citing the historic privacy ruling of Lawrence v. Texas: Americans have the “right to be free from governmental intrusion regarding 'the most private human contact, sexual behavior.' “

People have fought hard for the right to sell, distribute, and enjoy pleasure products, and our right to use them is protected by constitutional law. So remember, the next time you buy a blow-up doll or a dick pump, don't be ashamed or shy about it. You are simply exercising your rights as an American!

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