“We are going to move you to a bigger booth.”
It was the head of SEXPO and he was ringing me on the morning of Sydney SEXPO to tell me that where they planned to have my booth wasn’t going to work because it was blocking the fire escape. It would be my second time exhibiting as part of SEXPO, showcasing my books – the Greek and English editions of Love and F**k Poems – by selling signed copies to interested people who attend, but it would be my first time giving talks in their seminar room.
“That’s okay,” I said, but when I got there I was sort of not okay with it: they had put me opposite ‘Body Beautiful’, an entire wall of photographs of male and female genitals. I had avoided this wall at my first SEXPO in Melbourne in November last year by quickly walking past it and averting my gaze, but this time it was directly in front of me: there was no escape.
The truth is that many people think that because I wrote Love and F**k Poems, that I am completely fine with sex and all my problems have been solved. But I am no different to many other men and women who have had a repressive upbringing when it comes to sex. Yes, I have done so much work on embracing my body and sex, but not to the point where I can sit opposite the wall and not feel cringe. But it was destiny that had brought me face-to-face with the photographs, and I would just have to conquer it.
It’s all natural, I tell myself. I try and push through the shame. I tell myself that I don’t need to feel embarrassed and I’m not being bad for being at SEXPO. My body is my body, bodies are natural and it is natural to have sex, I tell myself, but it’s still there, that niggling thought, the words ‘sin’ and ‘amartia’ are still there.
But that’s why I exhibit at SEXPO, to connect with people who have experienced a sexually repressive upbringing, whether that’s because of culture or religion. And there are plenty of people who attend who fit into this basket. I was one of those people almost 15 years ago. SEXPO was my first introduction to sex that wasn’t all about ‘sin until marriage’. It was just all out there. This is my way of giving back at a grassroots level, by attending SEXPO.
For my first SEXPO in Melbourne, I didn’t give a talk in the seminar room, but I did in Sydney, and I will for Adelaide. My talks are on healing from cultural and religious sexual repression and the talk includes some of my poetry. It is a story of a Greek woman fleeing her marriage to find her sexual identity. A few people came up to me before the talks to tell me they came specifically to hear me speak. They were people who know nothing of my work. They were people who are hurting and confused. These people sat wide-eyed through all of my talk, like they couldn’t believe I had the courage to get up on stage and say what I was saying. I could see that they were comforted by my bravery, by my story, and that makes it all worth it.
People from all sorts of different cultures and backgrounds talk to me about sexual repression at SEXPO. Just as many women as there are men. There are people who have escaped religion in search for a better relationship with themselves and their bodies. There are people who have divorced, and people who just need someone to talk to because they are so confused. I talk non-stop at SEXPO. I try to help where I can.
I like discussing religion and the effects it has on sex with the Greeks at SEXPO. I love it when Greeks approach me. ‘You’re Greek, oh my God! Do your parents know you’re here?’ That’s what I always get from the Greeks. As if they wouldn’t know! But I think they just like to say it.
This time in Adelaide I think I’m going to say ‘do your parents know that you’re here?’ Speaking of parents, one Greek man who is a fan of my work actually brought his elderly parents to SEXPO! They looked like they were in their 70s, and oh my, they looked like two wide-eyed, naive children. Like they had never seen anything like it before in their lives! There are also what I like to term ‘the sneaky Greeks’. These are the Greeks that would never tell anyone they went to SEXPO. I spoke to one couple who said they couldn’t buy my book even though they wanted to because they wanted no evidence in their home that they went to SEXPO for their children to find.
So how did I go with the wall? I forced myself to examine the pictures and to look at them whenever I got the chance. Over the four days they got less and less scary, and I felt good about that. Who knows what Adelaide will bring? Yes there are things that really confront me about SEXPO, especially the porn industry, but one has to wonder would porn even exist if we had a more sexually open and sex-positive society?
* Koraly Dimitriadis will be exhibiting at Adelaide SEXPO from 10–12 August and giving talks on healing from cultural and religious sexual repression, and how to get started as a writer. She will also be doing a sideshow performance at Broadcast Bar on 9 August.Visit koralydimitriadis.com for details.
Koraly will also be launching her next poetry book ‘Just Give Me The Pills’ at the end of 2018.