A convention billing itself as "the largest event in the U.S. devoted to love and sex” opened Friday at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas. Before the end of the weekend, more than 15,000 people are expected to turn up at EXXXOTICA.
Some North Texas nonprofits wanted to shut it down.
Vickie Bulleit and her husband have a booth at EXXXOTICA. They sell everything from lingerie and sex toys to candy perfect for a bachelorette party.
“We cater to couples, We have our love wall, we have some fetish stuff. And it’s more for couples to explore their wild side,” she says.
The Bulleits are from California and run a store called Twisted Cherry. Vickie says their friends and neighbors are supportive.
“Never give us a hard time,” she says. “They more or less are curious and interested and we’re very professional and we’re knowledgeable about all of our products.”
EXXXOTICA promises more than just shopping. Dozens of popular adult film stars will appear, burlesque shows are on the agenda, giveaways are scheduled; the list goes on. EXXXOTICA spokesperson Dan Adams says the event is harmless fun for consenting adults.
“Come see it first and then form your opinion on it,” he says.
A few Dallas nonprofits were hoping that wouldn’t be possible. Katie Pedigo is executive director of New Friends New Life, an organization that works with victims of sex trafficking and exploitation.
“It’s almost a slap in the face to the work that we’re doing to bring in something on city property on public property that is really the gateway to human trafficking,” says Pedigo.
She says many girls who are sold for sex are forced to watch pornography. She also worries that traffickers might target conference attendees as potential customers. New Friends New Life took their fight to the internet.
“We’ve had almost 7,000 people sign a petition at New Friends, New Life to say not our city, not our convention center.”
The petition is still getting signatures. Pedigo says they knew it would be tough to actually shut EXXXOTICA down, but wanted to get their voices out there anyway. She says pornography and trafficking are just too closely linked.
“One in five pornographic images are of children, so that is human trafficking in and of itself,” she says.
Event spokesperson Dan Adams says nothing like that will happen at the convention center.
“We’re against the same things they are, everything that’s here from the adult industry itself is from the professional adult industry which has strict guidelines, checks everybody’s IDs, they sign model releases when they perform,” says Adams.
IDs will also be strictly checked at EXXOTICA. Nobody under 18 will be admitted. There’s definitely a racy component to the event, an area dedicated to bondage, information on private clubs.
There are three ministries exhibiting too, including a group called XXX Church. It’s slogan is “Jesus Loves Porn Stars.” It’s a website for people struggling with porn addiction and those who want to leave the porn industry.