Contrary to popular opinion, I don't particularly enjoy arguing on the internet. Sure, sometimes I'll send hostile tweets to Mark Driscoll when I'm in a bad mood, but on the whole I find arguing tiring and stressful and I like to leave it to people who can argue much more competently than I can, and there are lots of those.
But on Friday I found myself embroiled in several online arguments about something that seemed pretty obvious and straightforward to me: Sexpo's straight white people problem. Are there bigger problems in the world? Sure. Does this mean that we should just shut up about representation until we've solved poverty, violence and war? No.
Obligatory disclaimer: I am a white, basically straight person. This is not a problem that affects me directly, and I don't want to white knight about it. I also think that's kind of what I'm doing here, and so I'm in two minds about posting this. I don't claim to speak for the people who've actually been excluded here. I wanted to raise this problem for discussion, but I'm very open to correction.
Sexpo claims to be
the world’s largest event of its kind focusing on a broad spectrum of adult related topics and spectacular stage performances by local and international adult entertainers. The aim of the exhibition is to educate, inform, entertain and celebrate our sexuality in a fun, exciting and safe atmosphere.
What it doesn't mention on the website is that it mostly wants to offer all these things to white heterosexuals - or at least, so I infer from their advertising. Every single poster/billboard I've seen features white, hetero couples. Their website also gives a pretty good indication of who they think worth representing (only here without any thin white men to get in the way of gazing at thin white women).*
|Here, have some thin white ladies for your male gaze.|
I'm also not the first person to think so, based on this very interesting post about Sexpo Australia:
This experience has opened me up more than ever to the normative and heterosexual-oriented nature of the exhibition. Although it markets itself as a show about ‘lifestyle’ and ‘sexuality’, I found anything but this in my searches of their and from the organisers themselves. Their desire to represent ‘sexuality’ (other than heterosexuality) seemed confined to throwing together a couple of gay back-up dancers to perform and have a handful of half-stalls selling sex toys for men.So I wrote to them.
Why do all your posters feature white hetero couples? It's exclusionary and in no way reflects the reality of sexual relationships in South Africa or elsewhere. I'm very disappointed and will not be attending Sexpo.
To their credit, I received a response quite promptly. To their credit, it was an apology. Less to their credit, it wasn't a very good one. I'm going to break it down here and talk about why. As it presumably represents Sexpo's official response (a friend who sent a similar complaint got the same email), I don't have qualms about reproducing it here.