When Lwazi Gule, 30, went to the Sexpo for the first time she had no idea what to expect. It was 2012 and she assumed it would be a very white affair. She said while this was true of her first attendance, when she went the following year there were a lot more black couples there and young black women too. Gule was excited to see this, as she believes black people are closed off when it comes to sex and it is somewhat of a taboo topic to bring up.
"We don't speak about sex. There is no openness among us. They [black couples] were very comfortable," she said.
Gule felt however that there weren't enough black performers.
"It's very alienating [for a young black woman]. There were no dancers with different body types. There weren't black dancers, no ass clapping and that kind of thing," she said.
Gule's last Sexpo was in October last year and now in 2017, nothing has changed. The headline act was a group called Thunder From Down Under, an Australian striptease group similar in style to the guys on popular movie "Magic Mike"; this group has only one black performer out of six. Other main attractions included webcam star Anna Bell Peaks and porn star Jessa Rhodes, both from the US, and of course England-born Pricasso who is famous for painting portraits with his penis. While there were a few black formers on the main stage, the most noticeable space for diversity was at the Teazers and Teaze-Hers lounges, something that only those who pay extra will get to see.
Gule said however that regardless of that she felt Sexpo was liberating and helped her explore out of her comfort zone.
"There's a world outside and there are so many different ways to have sex, so many different lubricants, so many flavours whatever you want," Gule said.
The Sexpo has been held in South Africa annually for the last 10 years. Sean Newman, the managing director of Health Sensuality Lifestyle Events, is the man in charge of Sexpo and said the event is an important one for people to get off the internet and have fun with sex with other people without feeling awkward or ashamed.
"I've been intimately involved with the adult world for years now and I think people have lost touch with human interaction. You can buy everything online but you can't touch it and feel it. At Sexpo you can come and learn in a judgment-free zone," he said.
Newman takes great pride in the diversity of those who attend.
He said while they know for sure there is a 52 to 48 per cent split between men and women, all he could say about other demographics was that pretty much everyone attends Sexpo. From the able-bodied to the disabled, the 18-year-olds to the 85-year-olds and people of every race group in South Africa, they're visiting Sexpo. There were internationals there too.
Newman said a big part of Sexpo was making sure that people understood it as a fun and interactive space pushing to break down the "patriarchal view of sex and relationships" people have had for a very long time.
For people attending for the first time, Sexpo is a shock to the senses. Your eyes, ears, your nose, your hands and, if you're in the swingers' lounge, maybe even your tongue will be roused. This was Gule's description of the event.
"When I went the first time I was going for work. My friend and I had a radio show on Vow FM. We had no idea what to expect. It was the shock of our lives, a shock to our senses. Everything was just like oh my gosh," she said laughing.
The 30-year-old said she and her friend walked around about three times going "oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh" before they calmed down and actually started touching things and having fun. Gule has done it all, from watching a porn movie filmed before her eyes to touching a sex toy that felt like a real vagina.
But after going three times doesn't Sexpo get old? For Gule it did and she said she would not be going again this year but the answer depends on who you're asking.
This Sexpo was *Nishan's fourth. Sporting his VIP tag around his wrist he said he loved the experience because there was always more to learn. For him Sexpo was about finding new ways to have fun with his fiancée, who was on her way to join him there. He agreed with Newman that Sexpo was a great space to explore without feeling dirty or shameful.
Newman said he attends different Sexpos and events on adult entertainment around the world where he gets new ideas to make the event a little bit more fresh and interesting. He was very proud of nailing down Thunder From Down Under as the headline performers this year.
"At 35 I didn't think I'd be proud of a bunch of male strippers. They're bigger than the Chippendales. They've toured 15 countries and now South Africa is country 16," Newman said.
The guys from Thunder were quite a sight, getting their audience to be part of the show by bringing some women onto the stage and also jumping into the crowd from time to time.
Newman said another way they stayed abreast of what changes they should make was to take feedback from attendees seriously.
Hopefully Gule's frustration will be worked on for 2018 and going forward.
Tips for attending Sexpo
1. Make sure you've saved money for some good toys, the best ones are upwards of R700.
2. Have an open mind and take a friend -- what would be even better would be to take a partner.
3. Go to the lounges as they are a lot of fun and this is where things get real steamy.
4. Go more than once as there is no way you will finish everything in one day.
5. Do everything, even the things you don't think you'd be willing to try. You'd be surprised how differently certain things are presented compared to what you've read or seen in porn.
*not his real name