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My 5 Favourite Things From eroFame 2023

True to form, I was late.

By the time I got to eroFame in Hannover, at the end of the first day of the show, everyone was already drunk.

A handful of sweaty figures stood around the entrance to the conference hall smoking, talking loudly like they’d just left a nightclub, and swaying slightly like they’d just got off a boat.

I walked in, past some responsible adults like Venus O’Hara still committed to trying to get some professional value out of the evening, and into the eeriness of a deserted trade show.

I looked to my right: a long corridor of colourful sex toys in abandoned booths, the stallholders either at the Satisfyer party already or, more wisely, eating somewhere in one of dreary Hannover’s restaurants. I looked to my left: a group of young eastern European women on the Svakom stand were slicing thick chunks of meat off a full pork leg surrounded by wobbling silicone dildos.

“Standard,” was the only thought I could muster in response.

I quickly found my tribe, Kat and Molly of Little Leaf Agency, and Chris of, and through the next couple of hours various familiar faces emerged from the overwhelming noise of Satisfyer’s party and faded into the night.

I didn’t stay at the party for long. I’m middle-aged, sober, and an ancient mariner of the adult industry, so noisy music, free booze, and stripshows hold little appeal. In fact, I fount it a little grim: I didn’t give much mind to the beautiful muscular semi-naked women writhing on plinths, but I definitely noticed the amount of mediocre men filming them on their phones from unflattering angles.

You gonna watch that video later bro? You gonna show it to your wife when you get back home? I suspect not. Why are you filming it. Why.

But to the heaving mass of young people in attendance, I’m sure it was an excellent party. And they were young. Sex toy professionals seem to be aging in reverse: every year, the convention attendees get younger, because a) the sextech industry is finally a viable career path, and b) because sex toy brands only send their youngest and hottest employees to trade shows.

The show itself was excellent. There wasn’t much gimmickry this year, and the general sense I got was that the industry has gone back to its fundamentals, at least in Europe. That means pointless sex toy apps and unimpressive VR experiences are not given the superficial clamour they’re given at, say, the annual Sex Expo in Shanghai, which generally drips with AI sex dolls of suspiciously juvenile proportions and apps that do everything except have any identifiable purpose.

No, in Hannover I was delighted to see manufacturers big and small alike focusing on better materials, better designs, better sensations. There were a lot of USB-C charging ports for example, and it’s these little, incremental, quality-of-life improvements that were most exciting to me. In general, branded sex toys are already pretty good now. The end user doesn’t always need us to be adding bells and whistles where only minor improvements are required.

Talk was of investment being directed to R&D instead of marketing – which, as a person who tries to operate a marketing agency in the sextech industry, is terrible news, but for the customer it’s a huge victory, and it’s the customer to whom I am most loyal.

What struck me was a sense of professionalism. Everybody really knowing their stuff. Knowing what’s important, and knowing it so well that it’s like intuition. Despite the fog of travel and hangovers, people were excited about their products, and were willing to chew your ear off if you gave them the opportunity and even if you had nothing particularly valuable to offer in return, like me.

Here are my Five Favourite Things from Erofame 2023:

5. This Tiny Vibrating Ice Cream

For a long time I was stuck in a ‘sexy things should be sexy’ mindset. I’m happy to have grown out of that kind of gatekeepy-ness, because I’ve started to really love stuff like this. This example was on the S-Hande booth, a Shenzhen manufacturer who sent a really great and enthusiastic team to Germany for the event. I enjoyed my time with them.

4. Americans Complaining About Europeans

There were a couple of booths operated by American teams who had never been to eroFame before, or to Europe for that matter, and more than one of them called event "EuroFame", which, and I cannot stress this enough, is not the name.

They complained to me, independently of each other, about how no one was buying anything at the show. But also about the food. And about the weather. And about what they believed was European hostility to American-based pleasure brands. The guy who made that particular point to me said that Europeans were snobs, and he did it while he was holding a decapitated TPE torso with no limbs but with huge boobs with a masturbator in the middle as well as a vagina and an alien penis. Maybe he was right, Europeans are snobby. But maybe Europeans are also right to be snobby about such abominations.

3. Business Cards Are Still A Thing

I really love it when someone has put effort into a business card. With whatsapp, telegram, signal, and so on, business cards should have been obsolete by now. But they’re not, and you can tell a lot about a brand from its rep’s business cards.

Here’s mine.

2. The UPKO Booth

I was impressed by a lot of brands with which I was unfamiliar. Several stood out, including Nu Sensuelle. I’ve never had a personal or professional interaction with them, but quickly fell in love with their products.

But the brand that made me swooned the hardest was UPKO, who’s gorgeous BDSM range featured a chess-inspired hard kink line, including a gold plated urethral sound with a King chess piece on top. I really like it when I see something entirely new to me, jaded as I am, and I loved their booth and their team, who teased me about my Shanghai accent when I spoke some Chinese.

1. The Journey Home

It seems rude to say that my favourite thing about an event was leaving, but this time, it’s true. On a whim, I decided to take the Friday after the show off work and cycle back to my home in Berlin from Hannover. 300kms of mostly countryside, completely alone for long, long stretches, with no sound but the wind and the company only of the driving rain. I loved it. It’s been a while since I covered some proper distance on a bike.

EroFame 2023 was energising personally and professionally. But it was also a wake up call.

After the show, for a contrast, I decided to pay a visit to the sole sex shop in Hannover, which happened to be walking distance from my hotel. I rather wish I hadn’t.

I stepped in through the frosted glass doors and the mean-looking old proprietor, wearing a yellowed wifebeater and smoking a cigarette, looked up with a startle, as though every time his door creaked opened he half-expected it to be the Polizei. He glanced back down, his heavy frame and hairy shoulders backlit by two CRT TVs playing politically problematic hardcore porn behind him.

Browsing through a tray of cheap DVDs was the shop’s only other customer, a man who was somewhere between 80 and 120 years old and looked terrible for it, wearing only Y-fronts under an open raincoat, faded grey by time and exposure.

The shop smelled like diesel and the translucent pink dildos on the shelf had begun to melt, darkening the plywood beneath them. It was only 10kms away from the glamour and vitality of EroFame but 30 years behind it, and I had to reconcile the fresh, enthusiastic faces I had left at the show with the fact that this shop, too, was part of what I do for a living.

EroFame is not a complete representation of our industry, in the way that London isn’t really England, and New York isn’t really America, and Shanghai isn’t really China. EroFame is the shining city on the hill, something for the industry to aspire to.

But much of the industry still remains in the dim, gloomy trenches below.



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