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Don’t judge this book by its cover (Picture: Violet Fenn)
As someone who writes a lot about sexual wellbeing I often get invited to what can only be described as unusual events.
One of the most fun is ETO, which is an annual trade show for the adult industry held at Birmingham’s NEC arena. It’s always good for a giggle and a catch up with old friends, not to mention a bit of eyebrow-raising at the new products on the market.
Here are some of the things that I found on my recent visit. Prepare to be amazed (and possibly to have your eyes water a bit)…
1. ‘Pleasure for the Seated Lady’
The Ruby Glow ‘dual-action vibrator and intimate massager’ (with its frankly amazeballs tagline, above) is the genius sexy brainchild of erotic writer Tabitha Rayne and came second in Good Housekeeping’s recent ‘best sex toy’ round up.
What is truly special about the Ruby is that all you have to do is sit on it!
The Ruby is designed to sit firmly against the clitoris, pubic bone and vagina at the same time, which can provide mesmerizing stimulation. As well as being ideal for those with mobility issues, it’s already popular with women who work from home and want to keep themselves entertained whilst sitting at their desk. And at less than £40 from its brilliantly-named producers, ‘Rocks Off’, it’s a super-sexy bargain!
Tabitha herself is surely Queen of SexyTown, as she also bagged ‘best erotic writer’ at the annual ETO Awards, a super-glam event which takes place on the same weekend as the trade show.
2. If you build it (well), they will come
Sometimes the simplest ideas really are the best. Doxy are famous for one thing and they make that one thing really well. Based on the personal massagers that gained popularity in the 1970s (mostly down to people realising just how ‘personal’ a massager could actually be), the classic Doxy Wand – which the company claims is the most powerful hand held vibrating sex toy in the world – is an externally applied intimate massager which delivers powerful rumbling vibrations deep into the body.
I love catching up with Doxy – their director, Will Garland, is funny and sweet and really knows his stuff. The company’s products are made in the UK and appear to be damn near unbreakable – if more companies kept to this level of quality then there’d be a lot less battery-powered landfill cluttering up the place.
They do have other models in their range and the Doxy Die Cast won ‘Best New Female Product’ at this weekend’s awards. The Die Cast is made from a polished aluminium/titanium alloy manufactured at Doxy’s small Cornwall foundry using a high pressure, cold chamber die casting machine. After casting, the body goes through a five stage polishing process that brings up the high lustre finish and then it’s finished off with blue LED controls so you don’t lose track of what you’re doing in the dark!
I was also lucky enough to get an early look at their upcoming collaboration with Godemiche (another British company with brilliant ideas) and as you can see, it got me rather excited:
3. Crafting can be kinky fun
KinkCraft specialise in kits to make your own sexy accessories. Creative Director Pixie Byrne took time out to show my friend Lisa and I how to make our own mini floggers our of paracord, and it was honestly the most fun I’ve had in ages as we sat in our pervy little knitting circle. Lisa was very proud of her work!
KinkCraft have a running joke that no one actually expects you to be making bondage gear in public, so you can get away with crafting in company. I’ve seen photos of people making handcuffs on train journeys, fellow passengers utterly oblivious and presumably thinking it’s some kind of hipster crochet.
4. If you can think of it, it can be electrified
E-stim specialise in making relatively normal-looking sex toys that bit more interesting by electrifying them. Obviously it’s more technical than that, but basically imagine a TENS machine that works from the inside. There’s a huge market for this stuff, and the company won the ETO award for ‘Best Specialist Product Distributor’ at this weekend’s awards.
They also have the best freebie pens that I’ve ever used – I’ve stocked up on my desk stationery for the next year. And in a stroke of marketing genius/sheer bribery they also have a pic’n’mix stand. Sexiness, stationery and sweets – the perfect combination!
5. There’s always a new take on an old product
I quite often review sex toys and it’s amazing how quickly they can become, well, a bit boring. There’s only so many shapes they can be and a certain number of places you can put them. So when a company comes up with a product that brings a genuinely new angle to an old idea, it’s time to hang out the latex bunting.
Bathmate make penis pumps. Remember those very unsexy vacuum contraptions that used to be sold in the back of dodgy magazines to convince gullible blokes that they could ‘get bigger in one week’?
What Bathmate realised though was that a vacuum is an unstable thing. If you weren’t careful you could end up with a wonky old chap because skin had stuck to the inside of the tube and one side had expanded more than the other. Ouchy!
But if you use water and basic hydraulics rather than air, things are, shall we say, more soothing.
And it’s always funny to make the staff demonstrate their own products.
6. Things aren’t always what they seem
This might look like a box of eggs, but it is actually a collection of male masturbators. There is even a Keith Haring edition
7. You get the best ever goody bags
This is what we were given to take home. Endless lubes, toys, sweeties and a brilliant T-shirt that I am threatening to wear down the gym just to see if anyone dares say anything.
The best things about events like ETO (which is trade only, but there are other events such as Sexhibition which are open to the general public) is the freedom to discuss endless personal and often slightly taboo subjects in a secure and supportive environment.
What you come away with – apart from enough free condoms to last a teenager at least six months – is the sense that sex really should be healthy, utterly consensual and above all, fun.