Meet Andy the erotic android, Germany's new hi-tech triumph

A breathing silicone sex doll is the star of the Venus trade fair
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The Independent Online

Michael Perry was two months away from taking his final vows as a Catholic priest when he decided to become a sex therapist instead. Now he is at the world's largest trade fair for erotica, selling the rights to his educational videos, which have titles such as The Fine Art of Cunnilingus and The Ultimate Dildo and Vibrator Guide.

Why did Mr Perry decide on such a drastic change of career? "I just felt that the Vatican was far too repressive and authoritarian," he says. In the industry in which he now finds himself, that sounds like a business opportunity.

The rebel priest is one of more than 300 exhibitors from 20 countries filling the football pitch-sized International Conference Centre in Berlin. Coupled with the Venus awards, the porn industry's Oscars, the four-day Venus International Erotic Trade Fair, now in its seventh year, has become to the $10bn international sex industry what Frankfurt is to books.

Unlike London's "Erotica", which takes place next month and is geared solely towards consumers, most of what takes place in Berlin's slightly seedy halls is hard-core business, although curious members of the public are let in on some days. According to the organisers, traders "come to check out the latest innovations in the erotica industry and buy their stock for next year."

Among the S&M gear and the vibrating rubber ducks (to put the fun back into bathtime), the technological innovation that really had the trade talking came from a company called "First Androids", which has developed Andy, a silicone sex doll with a fully articulated skeleton. The dolls cost as much as a second-hand car; more if you want a simulated heartbeat and the ability to breathe.

"I've never seen anything like this in my life," gasped Bettina Lutz, 25, who recently moved to the German capital from a small village in famously conservative Bavaria, as she took in the fair's highlights, including non-stop strip shows, naked pole dancing, topless car washing and the opportunity to "meet your favourite porn star".

Others weren't so shocked, however. "It's nothing special," said Sven, who wouldn't give his age or last name.

But if the Germans were divided over the Venus trade fair, some felt they could guess exactly how any visiting Briton would react.

"I think British people are a lot more randy than the Germans, but more hypocritical when it comes to sex," said Assia Tschernookoff, public relations manager at Beate Uhse, Europe's largest erotic concern.

Beate Uhse is Germany's far raunchier equivalent of Britain's Ann Summers chain, with international sales totalling more than €244m (£178m) last year. It is famous for its openness about explicit products.

"The British tabloid newspapers are obsessed with sex, but you'll rarely see a British person admitting they've seen the inside of a sex shop, even if they have, whereas the Germans don't have a problem with it," Ms Tschernookoff said.

And with the Venus trade fair generating 10,000 hotel stays and 200,000 visitors a year for Berlin, the capital sees economic benefits to be reaped from Germany's relaxed approach to all things erotic.