On April 22nd and 23rd, I made the trek out to Rosemont, IL., to attend my very first EXXXOTICA ADULT ENTERTAINMENT EXPO. Anxious and excited, the experience would prove to be one of the best conventions I have had the pleasure of attending. The only downside is that I’ll never be able to have another first-time experience again. So come along as I share some of the weekend’s highlights, won’t you?
Unable to attend Friday due to a scheduling conflict, I arrived at the Donald E. Stevenson Convention Center as doors were about to open on Saturday. I procured my pass and immediately hit the floor. Anyone that has ever attended a convention knows the thrill of setting foot inside; you are instantly filled with a rush of oohs and aaas. At the end of the day, a convention is a convention — Horror, Comic Book, Firearms, Farm Equipment. A vendor or guest has a booth and will pitch you their offerings.
What sets EXXXOTICA apart from the others is the showmanship. The dancers immediately capture your attention by welcoming you poles throughout the show floor. Chaturbate models greet their live stream fans and show attendees alike. As you maneuver through the spacious walkways, models, and vendors greet you with a warm smile, but remain respectful to the casual looker. Not a single moment did someone bark out from behind their table to come to see what they had to sell.
The attitude of the professionals comes across as positive: come in and browse if you like what you see. If you don’t, we understand it isn’t for you. But, on the other hand, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been to a show in the horror community where the salesman is so aggressively pitching their product it turns you off to them and their product altogether.
At the end of the booths, you’ll find the VIP LOUNGE AREA adjacent to Main Stage. There you will find live acts and attendee contests. Two highlights included “best pole dancing” and “best orgasm.” To the left of the stage was the Dungeon Experience. This was a sight to be seen! In the dungeon, you can see demos of various kinks and pleasures: rope suspensions, fire massage, flogging.
At any given time, a crowd would be gathered to observe what was in store next. I spoke to Thomas Foster of TIE ME UP TIE ME DOWN (tiemeuptiemedown.com), stationed next to the dungeon, and he explained if you kept your eye on the area long enough, you’ll find someone walking by with a casual glance. On the next trip, they would stop and observe for a moment or two. Upon the next visit, they would walk around inside the dungeon for a bit. Then, once the courage has built up and they’ve witnessed other attendees enjoying the experience, they would be tied up and hoisted into the air, tied to the cross, or bent over a bench for a flogging session of their own.
As a socially anxious introvert, I worried the experience of my very first Adult Entertainment Expo would be too overwhelming. I was concerned I would be totally out of my element. But, to the contrary, I was so relaxed. The atmosphere is loose, and the performers dancing on poles, posing on beds, and flirting about in cages help ease one’s mind. No different than any other gathering, everyone there agreed: sex and eroticism should be celebrated. There is something for the most hardcore of aficionados and casual voyeurs alike—multiple stables of sexual aides and clothing mixed in amongst sex workers from all walks of life.
Let’s talk about Sex Workers. This is new to me but apparently has become the norm in the adult entertainment nomenclature. I’ve always associated (not personally, but by societal norms and disparaging remarks made by friends and family in my formative years) a negative connotation to the title of Sex Worker. However, I’m told the term is an all-encompassing title that industry professionals prefer to its counterparts. Essentially, if you work in the practice of sex by choice, mind you, you are a sex worker. Easy enough.
I had the chance to meet several established and rising industry stars at the show, with over 200 guests announced for the weekend. That got me thinking. Two hundred guests at any other event would be massive. How many stars of yesteryear show up to a horror or sci-if convention regularly? Most of whom you’ll see making the trip from city to city every month. Two hundred hundred guests is a lot of folks. But isn’t that just the tip of the iceberg? For every cam model, how many stayed home?
The Adult industry truly is a massive industry that continually churns out fresh faces. The days of the casting couch are all but gone these days. Social Media Influencers with a massive OnlyFans following (or equivalent) crop up daily. Finding your voice on the internet has never been easier, yet never harder to find an audience to listen.
I had an opportunity to chat with an industry veteran, award-winning ‘best cam model’, Xbiz Award Winner, multi-time AVN award nominee, and creator of PANTEASE (buypantease.com) Underwear for the Adult Industry, Briana Lee. And that’s not even what I found most intriguing about her. Bri knocked me for a loop by guessing not only my age but my zodiac sign and how many syllables my name contains and likened me to Forrest Gump due to my attire and oh-so-comfy shoes. Here is what we discussed:
JEREMY MORRISON: In a world full of content creators, what are some ways you find that helps distinguish yourself from the rest?
BRIANA LEE: From not getting lost in the sauce? The longevity that I’ve put into this career. A lot of consistency and repetition. They know where to find me, how to see me, and how to reach me—maintaining a strong image on socials. Not taking too much time off, like “Where’d she go? Okay, on to the next.” But also, I don’t have to try too hard because one of my best attributes comes naturally: being quite personal and personable with my fans. I really enjoy chatting with them. So, that comes easy.
If you had any advice to give to somebody that is up-and-coming, what would you tell them?
BRIANA LEE: It is overwhelming for someone with no idea where to start. There are so many websites. I would narrow it down to the top three things the performer would offer. For example — they love cosplay, Boy/Girl, or Bondage. So the top three things their content consists of. And then, I would help them find what site would work for them, where to host that content, where to cam. There are so many outlets and avenues within the industry to pursue. You can dance, you can work in a brothel, sell panties. My advice would be to go with what you are most comfortable in creating and find your kind.
With finding an audience in a market that is so saturated, or overrun, maybe—
BRIANA LEE: It is. It is quite over-saturated. You’re right. It really is because for as long as I’ve been doing it, I’ve seen copious amounts of newcomers, and it’s like, “Good god, I’m old news now!”
I wouldn’t say that.
BRIANA LEE: I am established news.
There you go.
BRIANA LEE: You can count on my paper every morning.
That being said, how have you kept it on the rails for so long?
BRIANA LEE: The consistency aspect is huge. I’ve been doing this for so long; it will be 16 years in July since I had my first website. I’ve never taken more than enough time off for being sick or what have you. I even travel and work on the road — consistency and repetition. Make sure to keep up on your socials. Just don’t drop off the face of the earth. Your fans will find you and be there for you.
How did you conceive the product line PANTEASE?
BRIANA LEE: It was during the pandemic. Kind of like, “Shit! What do we do now with our time? We’re all locked up inside.” Creatively, the bug bit me. I thought, “Let’s do something different, something fun.” The first thing a cam girl thinks of in this industry is, “What do I wear today? What do I wear for this shoot? What do I wear for cam?” Problem solved! But honestly, I wanted to be the first Sex Worker to design underwear or ‘PANTEASE’ for Sex Workers. It’s a simple concept, designed to show love back to me people, my kind.
Any parting words you’d like to bestow upon your fans or anyone just now being introduced to you?
Some great advice from someone that has stood the test of time in this industry. What impressed me most about Bri’s advice is her openness to welcome any and all to the industry. Her words, “find your kind” really hit home with me. At EXXXOTICA, I found my kind. I may not perform in the industry, though I have been nekkid on the boob tube and voiced a live-action amphibian for Rolfe Kanefsky’s ADVENTURES INTO THE WOODS: A SEXY MUSICAL, aka EMMANUELLE IN WONDERLAND, but, I found likeminded individuals and couples that believe in the celebration of love and sex.
I met so many wonderful people who, like Bri, present themselves in a wonderfully professional light. People like Taylor Gunner (ImTaylorGunner.com), whom I had the utter pleasure to sit down with, as well (Read the interview here!) Joanna Angel (myjoanna.com) and Ginger Lynn (gingerlynnart.com) reassured me that it is still okay to meet your heroes because not all of them will disappoint you. Katie Morgan (loyalfans.com/katiemorgan) provided her own lighting for our impromptu photo shoot and didn’t mind talking about ZACK & MIRI MAKE A PORNO for the millionth time. The FANGtastic group at CUSTOMIZED FANGS ensured I did not come home empty-handed to the li’l guys patiently waiting at home with Mom. And last but not at all least, Celia Steele (https://beacons.ai/c_thicc) and Tati Evans (https://beacons.ai/xomisstati), without whom I would not have nearly as many fantastic “water cooler” stories and explicit content on my camera roll.
To say I enjoyed EXXXOTICA would be an understatement. I can’t wait for the show to roll through Chicago again. And again. And again…and again. Hopefully, next time I can attend some of the seminars and VIP After Parties. The best advice I can give you for your first time is: Wear comfortable shoes, get a Polaroid with Briana Lee, upgrade to the VIP Experience, and book a hotel room. You can thank me later over an ice-cold glass of Pabst Blue Ribbon, folks. — Jeremy L. Morrison
Check out a few glimpses of Jeremy’s EXXXOTICA encounters in the gallery below:
Born and raised in Rockford, IL., Jeremy spent his formative years in the dusty isles of local video stores. Eventually his “5 for $5 for 5 days” video rentals would lead to an underwhelming and short lived career in film and television production. His childhood fascination with the naked breasts featured in the “Friday the 13th” franchise prepared him for absolutely nothing in life. He currently resides in Southwestern Michigan living his best life as an introverted extrovert.
Check out some of JMO’s other legendary think pieces: