Bringing sex out of the shadows

Israel's first erotica expo "Sextival" aims to decrease uneasiness surrounding physical intimacy.

intimacy 88 (photo credit: )
intimacy 88
(photo credit: )
Don't try comparing Nitzan Kirshenbaum with America's famous sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer. Kirshenbaum is a vivacious Tel Aviv-area former model and mother of two, and Dr. Ruth is, well, Dr. Ruth. But while Kirshenbaum may not be able to offer couples any advice on their sex lives, she and Dr. Ruth do share a common goal of attempting to take the smirks, shadows and mystery out of sex. Kirshenbaum's avenue toward achieving that aim is just a little different than Dr. Ruth's; she's promoting the "Sextival," touted as Israel's first sex and erotica expo, which is slated to take place February 5-7 at Hangar 11 in Tel Aviv. "We've been thinking about the idea for a Sextival for a long time, ever since we saw a sex fair in Berlin," said Kirshenbaum, who for the last seven years has run her company, NKP Innovative Productions, together with her husband. "The idea is to get the issue of sex out in the open. It's out there in the world, it's big and beautiful and everyone does it. Why not take it out from behind closed doors, enable people to ask questions, and decrease the fear and darkness surrounding it?" "We see the Sextival as not only a venue for entertainment and pleasure, but also as educational. People are interested in learning more about sex, how to improve and make things interesting. Erotica is an integral part of the life of an adult. It's nothing to be embarrassed about. We want to present the issue to people in a way that they won't be ashamed, and they'll be able to freely check out what fits them best." THE SEXTIVAL - which will have a live feed to the Ego channel on HOT - will be something like a sex supermarket. Among items on display and for sale will be sexual aids and accessories like lingerie, candles and oils: "Items that help create an atmosphere," explains Kirshenbaum. Vendors will also be selling adult DVDs, there will be displays of erotic photographs and drawings and workshops focusing on improving sex life will be conducted. In addition, Kirshenbaum promises that Playboy bunnies from the Playboy Mansion will be making appearances, and an amateur "erotic dancing" contest for both male and female participants will take place, with the participants entering a lottery. The prize? A trip for two to the US to visit the Playboy Mansion in California and a personal meeting with the 20th century sex industry pioneer Hugh Hefner. Kirshenbaum should know how to put on a successful fair; she's produced dozens over the years. "Our expertise is brand-name discount expos that are displayed at the beginning of each fashion season. We also produced a big automotive show in Ramat Gan stadium with monster trucks from the US called the Moto-Extreme," she said while taking a break from a day of studies in tax consultation. No stereotypical "dumb model," she was drawn into the production world while she was still behind the cameras wearing the latest fashion. "My husband and I did the first brand fashion expo, and I decided to go with it - it's my baby," said Kirshenbaum. WHILE SHE promises that the Sextival will provide an "electric atmosphere," she's hoping that more modest elements of Israeli society don't attempt to pull the plug on the event. "Our goal is not to antagonize or shock people who may not agree with our direction. As a woman, I see the Sextival, a cultural event in every way, as a way to lead a revolution in Israel in turning the issue of sex into a legitimate concept that's healthy, creative and relevant, as long as it's conducted between two consenting adults," she said. "I don't think there will be any protests; someone that doesn't want to see this kind of thing doesn't have to go. We're certainly not trying to rub it in anyone's face." Kirshenbaum places Israel's sexual mores as falling somewhere between those of European countries and those of the United States. "In comparison to Europeans, I think that Israeli society is relatively closed when it comes to sex. In Europe, the issue is out in the open, there are expos like this all the time, and sex isn't hidden behind unmarked doors," she said. "In the US, it seems like there's a double standard. Adult material is available everywhere, but you would hardly ever see a women go topless on the beach. But as a whole, sex is more hinted at in the US than in Europe." "In Israel, it's sort of divided. In Gush Dan, there's a feeling of more openness regarding sex than in the periphery. I suppose that is mostly due to the religious modesty that's more prevalent in the rest of the country." Kirshenbaum said she'd be delighted to see religiously observant patrons at the Sextival, and promised that the setting would be tasteful. As an additional nod to social responsibility, a shekel from the cost of every ticket sold will be donated to an organization working with AIDS patients and educating about safe sex. Dr. Ruth would be proud.