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August 1, 2015

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What’s hot, what’s not in porn

Adult Entertainment Expo seminars offer a more in-depth look at industry trends than higher-profile aspects of show.

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Leila Navidi

Adult film star Phoenix Marie poses for fan photos at the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo at the Sands Convention Center in Las Vegas Friday, January 7, 2011.

AVN Adult Entertainment Expo 2011

Adult film star Caudia Marie talks with fans at the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo at the Sands Convention Center in Las Vegas Friday, January 7, 2011. Launch slideshow »

More AVN/AEE coverage

  • Step inside the Oscars of porn with complete coverage of the annual AVN Awards at the Palms as well as stories and photo galleries from the entire Adult Entertainment Expo and a blog written by a porn star. Visit the Las Vegas Weekly.

With all that’s been written about the ridiculous products, party atmosphere and larger-than-life characters at its forefront, it’s too easy to forget that the annual Adult Entertainment Expo, running through Sunday at the Sands Expo & Convention Center, is still at its most basic a trade show.

Behind the breasts, booties and bondage is a business filled with professionals looking to sign deals, craft five-year strategies and make money. That type of action happens less on a showroom floor full of gawking fans and more in the nearby meeting rooms at the Expo’s oft-overlooked but usually well-attended seminars.

Here is where you truly feel the pulse of the industry, says Lynn Comella, a UNLV professor and sex scholar who is moderator of this year’s “In the Company of Women” seminar. Comella has been attending the convention for four years (this is her second year moderating) and tries to listen to as many speakers and attend as many panels as she can.

“Trade shows end up being a microcosm of their industries,” she says. “In the span of three or four days, you can figure out exactly what’s hot, what’s not, what the latest trends are, what innovations the industry has gotten on board with.”

The continued existence of a panel focused on women as consumers, for example, shows that the industry is embracing a formerly underrepresented demographic. A recurring legal seminar is always heavily attended. Depending on audience interest and questions, topics might include the government’s failed effort to prosecute adult video producer John Stagliano on obscenity charges or the more typical issues facing adult businesses, such as zoning and laws that require proof that performers are of age.

One new panel this year: “The China Syndrome,” discussing the pros and cons of foreign competition in the sex-toy market.

A version of this story appears in the current issue of Las Vegas Weekly, a sister publication of the Sun.

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