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Minneapolis- 1st Stop On Sex Convention Tour

Minneapolis- Jane Brenny isn’t just appalled that something called the “Sex and So Much More Show” is promoting itself on a billboard two blocks from an elementary school. She’s appalled that it has come to Minneapolis at all.

Brenny, who lives in Edina, was heading to church recently when she stopped at a red light and looked up. She said, “Ye gods,” jotted down the event’s website and went home to check it out. “That website is erotic and disgusting,” she said.

Eli Coleman, on the other hand, is intrigued. The director of the Program in Human Sexuality at the University of Minnesota said he’s “just as curious” as others and plans to attend. “There is an interest among average people looking for ways of enhancing and preserving their sexual relationships,” he said.

Darren Sander sure hopes so. The head of Canadian-based Showcase Productions chose Minneapolis as the first U.S. stop on a multicity tour, due to proximity, population and a hunch that Minnesota isn’t as cold as some might suspect. The show begins today at the Minneapolis Convention Center, and fully 85 percent of the vendors, Sander said, are Minnesota-based sellers of lingerie, DVDs, costumes, cosmetics and adult games and toys. Many say business is booming.

“I can’t even fit in all the requests,” said 26-year-old Cheresa Karger of New Brighton, who will have a booth at the convention. She’s a consultant for “Passion Parties,” a Las Vegas-based company modeled after in-home Tupperware parties, with vastly different uses for rubber.

Karger books three parties every weekend around the Twin Cities, introducing women to mint-flavored body oils, Brown Sugar body scrub, lacy lingerie and sex toys. A party for 10 boisterous nurses last Saturday in Bloomington brought the company more than $1,200. “Women tell me, ‘My husband sent me with the Platinum card! He said he’d take the kids to Chuck E. Cheese’s!’ ”

Sander predicts similar acts of largesse today through Sunday. Similar shows in Mexico City, Toronto and New York City, Sander said, have drawn tens of thousands of visitors “looking for new ideas on how to keep things exciting.” He expects 40,000 to 60,000 couples and singles, straight and gay, to shell out $20 to enter.

Sander denies that the convention is a dressed-up “porn show,” saying that, while famed porn star Ron Jeremy and 2004 Playboy Playmate of the Year Carmella DeCesare will be on hand, the focus is products and seminars for married and otherwise committed couples who do not know where to turn for information and fresh ideas.

Ads promoting the show use words such as “clean” and “inspiring” adult entertainment. Representatives of the Red Door Clinic, run by Hennepin County Health Services, will be there to educate about safe sex. Seminar titles sound like they’ve been pulled from a continuing education catalog: “A Positive Approach to Sex,” and “He Said/She Said,” among them.

Brenny of Edina isn’t buying it. “Baloney, baloney,” she said. “I may be old, but I’m no dummy.”

Tom Prichard isn’t buying it either. His organization, the Minnesota Family Council, is calling upon the city “to closely monitor the event to ensure it’s not an expanded version of the Vikings boat party orgy,” he said.

The city will have to monitor more than just the convention. It’s easy to find examples of our post-“Sex in the City” world in many places. Walk down the personal products aisle of Walgreen’s, CVS or K-Mart and you’ll likely find an expanding row of products that were once sold only through the mail in a brown bag.

Sexually-oriented conventions used to be limited to Las Vegas and Los Angeles and sponsored by groups like Adult Video News, which covers the porn industry, and Lifestyles, a California-based company that caters primarily to sexually open couples.

But this past May, New York hosted its first Erotic Expo. Mexico City hosted the first worldwide Sex Expo two years ago, with attendance as high as 200,000. Sex and So Much More travels to Denver in February.

It’s hard to pinpoint just how much sex-oriented business is generated out of the Twin Cities — or anywhere else.

“Frankly, some of the retailers don’t like publicity, especially in the mainstream press,” said Dan Miller, editor-in-chief of avn.com, the Adult Video News website. “In many areas, it’s still not widely accepted.”

Still, the U’s Coleman predicts conventions like this one will grow in number due to serious interest among couples committed to keeping their relationship interesting. “Variety, communication and exploration are key ingredients in fanning the flames,” he said.

Karger, married with a 2½-year-old daughter, is all for it. She loves the “Passion Parties” perks, the bonuses and the opportunity for some grown-up fun. But the biggest payoff comes from her belief that she’s making a difference for women, whether they’re 20 or 70.

“I’m out there educating women on the most intimate areas of their life,” she said. “I’m giving them reasons to open up and find themselves. As much as everybody doesn’t want to think that a relationship revolves around sex, it does. If you have a healthy sex life and trust your partner in bed, you’re going to be able to trust them in all aspects of your life, and you’re going to have a better marriage.”

 

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