Exxxotica Chicago, the ‘comic con of porn,’ is secretly more conservative than a Trump rally

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Many of the dancers at Exxxotica were dressed up as comic-book or anime characters. - SUNSHINE TUCKER
  • Sunshine Tucker
  • Many of the dancers at Exxxotica were dressed up as comic-book or anime characters.

A slender woman in a leather catsuit posed gracefully on a crowded convention show floor—her whip gripped in an outstretched hand as if ready to strike. She smirked as a trio of men holding smartphones snapped a quick photo of her.

Was she promoting a BDSM kink show or simply cosplaying as Catwoman? Did it even matter? "All anime is really softcore porn in disguise—we're all perverts," the woman told me. But after spending most of last weekend at the sex-industry convention Exxxotica, I'm not sure that's true.


The annual event returned to suburban Rosemont with a cartoonish plot twist—it shared the cavernous Donald E. Stephens Convention Center with the three-day anime and manga convention Anime Central Midwest. The two groups mingled all weekend, leading to a dizzying number of absurd incongruities: a scruffy man in a plastic Thor outfit riding an adult-size seesaw while holding the handle, which happened to be a big black dildo. A woman dressed as undersea villainess Ursula tied the Little Mermaid to a bondage rack in an area marked "Dungeon Experience." By the time my view of a dancer in Wonder Woman-themed body paint was obscured by a person in a seven-foot inflatable Tyrannosaurus rex costume, I began to wonder if I was trapped in a carnivalesque drug trip imagined by Ron Jeremy and Stan Lee.

Cosplaying anime fans were everywhere at Exxxotica on Friday—even on BDSM furniture. - SUNSHINE TUCKER
  • Sunshine Tucker
  • Cosplaying anime fans were everywhere at Exxxotica on Friday—even on BDSM furniture.

Here's the unexpected part about the pairing of sex and nerd culture: weirdly, it worked. Hipster adult-film icon Stoya wasn't far off when she deemed Exxxotica "the comic con of porn." Exxxotica and comic cons are both safe spaces for enthusiasts of a consumer-friendly, not-quite-mainstream subculture to come together and mingle at panels and parties, purchase swag at booths, and pay for a brief, often awkward encounter with a celebrity of debatable notoriety. They're also rife with enough fantastical form-revealing leather and spandex costumes that it wasn't all that thematically jarring when the exotic dancers competing on Friday night in the Miss Exxxotica pageant wore superhero costumes. (Seeing a porn star dressed as Leeloo from The Fifth Element cavorting on a pole with the Predator was still pretty damned weird.) 

Granted, porn stars autographing photos of their own bare breasts for eager middle-aged couples or vendors hawking bath soap in the shape of dicks and vaginas is bit more risque than, say, superheroes clad in snug spandex at Wizard World—but the difference is fewer than 50 shades of grey. Full nudity and real sex acts aren't allowed, and in a world where we have an encyclopedic access to depictions of every profane act imaginable in the palm of our hands, it's possible to witness more explicit carnality in the bathroom of Exxxotica via our smartphones than on the show floor. A woman at the anime convention dressed as "slave Leia" was separated by only a few square inches of fabric from the skimpiest outfit I observed at Exxxotica.

That's why it's surprising that the city of Dallas went all Footloose on Exxxotica and spent hundreds of thousands of tax dollars to ban it from making its scheduled stop in May. There's something old-fashioned and ultimately unsexy about the whole affair, and if you don't believe me, ask one of the event's sponsors—XXXchurch. The group of Christian missionaries annually pay for a booth at Exxxotica, where they hand out jesus loves porn stars T-shirts and scripture-heavy booklets.

"It's definitely not very sexy here," noted Rachel Ceballos, a pastor from the Los Angeles area who has come to so many sex-industry conventions that she's become close to many of the industry veterans. "Ron Jeremy came to my wedding," she told me.

The XXXchurch wasn't there to condemn sex-industry workers or attendees, according to Ceballos, but to provide nonjudgmental love and resources to those who were addicted to porn or who were caught "in some rough stuff." "We're just here to do what Jesus would do and love and care for these people; we're not here to rescue anyone," she said.

And why rescue anyone when they're marrying each other? Or at least that's what happened on Saturday night, as adult film star Tita Cupcake DuJour opted to have her nuptials with a real fireman named Bryce during Exxxotica. The bride rode up to the makeshift altar on a white horse that was turned into a unicorn with the help of a large pink dildo attached to its forehead. There were little people ring bearers. Presiding over the ceremony was an aging male porn star wearing a priest's robe. It was certainly a spectacle, and ultimately an act of conservatism. 

Adult film star Tita Cupcake DuJour on her penis unicorn as part of her wedding ceremony at Exxxotica - RYAN SMITH
  • Ryan Smith
  • Adult film star Tita Cupcake DuJour on her penis unicorn as part of her wedding ceremony at Exxxotica

And what's more Republican friendly than a second-generation business owner from a small town? Bunny Lampert of downstate Champaign was busy spreading the gospel of her father's sex machine from a booth near Exxxotica's entrance. The Sybian, which she calls "the Lamborghini of sex toys," resembles a stool with various penis-shaped attachments that can be vibrated at various speeds and settings for a woman's pleasure. The female orgasm machine was created by Dave Lampert way back in the 80s, at a time when the sex industry still was almost exclusively obsessed with the male libido.

Bunny considers her dad a feminist, which she says is how he was honored at this year's Adult Video News Awards, where he was presented with a lifetime achievement honor in January. "It became pretty clear that women were getting the short end of the stick, so to speak, when it came to sexual gratification," the 85-year old told AVN.

Even the so-called dungeon area at Exxxotica didn't feel all that threatening. There was something ostensibly sinister about the "Kinky Kollege," which looked like a BDSM version of a gym with its version of personal trainers in skull-covered leather jackets. But once inside it was way less intimidating than a typical XSport Fitness outpost. Mostly it was a lot of people engaged in giving or receiving therapeutic pleasure. That's the vibe I got from Michelle, a flirty woman dressed in pink fishnet stockings, a matching wig, and steampunk goggles, who volunteered at the convention as a "service top," a dominant who takes orders from a "bottom" submissive. 

"I'm here because I love people and I want to educate them and show that the stereotype of this kind of fetish scene is just a stereotype," Michelle told me while gently whipping me with a riding crop while I held onto chains fashioned into a spider's web. "This is my way of making the world a better place."

Trump impersonator Donald Rump delivered the Porn State of the Union address on Friday - SUNSHINE TUCKER
  • Sunshine Tucker
  • Trump impersonator Donald Rump delivered the Porn State of the Union address on Friday

All of this love and positivity was in sharp contrast to the "Porn State of the Union address" delivered by Trump impersonator Donald Rump, played by the same guy who served as the priest at the wedding earlier on Friday. Rump claimed that Hillary Clinton is having an affair with the director of the FBI and that he'd outdo Bill Clinton by fucking in the White House because, well, "blowjobs are weak!" The shtick fell flat because Rump's "jokes" are indistinguishable from the things Trump actually says.

I left Exxxotica thinking that if Dallas wants to preserve conservative values, it shouldn't ban this relatively tame and life-affirming sex convention. It should ban Republican political rallies instead.

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