Shopping: Ecstatic punters lap up the business of sex

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The Independent Online
It was drizzling yesterday outside the Erotica exhibit at Olympia but it was hard to find even one man wearing a raincoat. Purple boas and codpieces, yes. Leather, yes, lots of it and a bit of silver lame too. But very few raincoats indeed. "Inevitably we will get a few sleazeballs but most of the dirty raincoats will stay at home," said Erotica organiser Brian Wiseman. "That type of man is easily frightened."

Brian was wearing a black suit and a grey shirt with a pin on his lapel that says "Head Boy". This exhibit - the first of its kind in Britain - was his idea. "This is erotic, this is not sex," he insists as women prance around the catwalk. "It is not sleazy because I'm not a sleazy person." So no nudity then? "Just tops. No naked genitals."

I'm not sure if this is going to be enough for Gavin Wager and Andrew Ferguson, who were first in line yesterday when the doors opened at 1pm. Both are 18 and knew exactly what had brought them to Olympia on this wet and rainy Friday. "We want to see lots of women dancing around with no clothes on," said Andrew, who is is a stock controller. "We want to see Shagnasty and Mutley too," said Gavin. This, as it turns out, is a video about two lecherous guys who always get their girls.

I spot them later, swigging from a bottle of Moet, and wonder how they'll be by the time the raffle is drawn at 10pm. They might like the first prize, which is a huge hamper of sex toys including a 13 inch dildo and something called a nipple super-sucker. "It's worth pounds 250 in all," said the raffle man proudly.

Six thousand people had booked tickets for yesterday's exhibit which runs until Sunday, and a further 2,000 were expected yesterday at the door. Most visitors said they had made the trip for curiosity's sake and there was much to be curious about among the 84 stalls that range from the hard-core to hot tubs to the Terrence Higgins Trust. There was also a continuous live show (with both show girls and boys), an art exhibit and an Internet city.

Not to mention the Fetish Fair. Here I find the passion bed, complete with leather pillows, fur sheets and a web-like thing hanging over it. "That is a tantric love swing," says the diminutive Kim Brown of Ero-teak who made the bed from salvaged wood. He lifts up part of the headboard. "See, stocks that work. They are completely disguised." He says the love swing has been tested up to 16 stone. "I'm looking for volunteers now. Interested?"

The woman at the dildo stall is not surprised at the lack of passion so far. No one has bought one of her wares yet either, despite an eye- catching display of a life-size John Wayne cut-out complete with brindled dildo. "Western theme," she explains and adds sotto voce, "In our experience people buy after they've had a few drinks."

The message yesterday was that sex is out of the closet to stay. David Woodhouse, 30, and Paul Stephens, 28, are neighbours and fishing buddies from St Austell. They have come up for the day to check out the scene and claim that their wives and even David's mother know their whereabouts. "We are users of pornography and so is my wife to a lesser degree. It's been tucked under the carpet for long," said David. Paul nodded and said: "I mean it is only recently that I even found out that there was a fetish club in Cornwall."

By now the catwalk show is in full swing with a bride traipsing around in white suspenders. A Page 3 model squeezes by. I spot a few from the raincoat brigade before heading outside. There I overhear a woman on her mobile. "Let me just say it's an eye-opener. Dog collars, dolls, whips. I can't really speak," she says, looking at me. "but it is a real eye opener. You'll enjoy it." And then she tucks her phone away, tightens the belt on her raincoat and walks away.

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