I had a feeling I could not quite place, which took me by surprise. It was somewhere in the middle of the California desert that I could finally put a name to that feeling. I felt optimism.

The Evolution in AEE 2023

The drive back to Los Angeles from Las Vegas down Interstate 15 happens just about as often as you’d think it might. Taking only fourwary hours +/- overall, a good number of LA people take advantage of the glittery proximity to refresh their brains — or whatever — with some regularity.

This particular return trip, however, has always taken on a very thoughtful tenor. I have been driving back home after an AEE convention (AEE 2023, case in point currently) for more than three decades now. You do something 30+ times and it can become rather rote, honestly. Sure in the early days they were called “AVN” conventions, but they have always featured an aspect truly unique in the adult industry, as they tailor the event pretty much exclusively to FANS of the genre.

Imitators have sprung up, come and gone, only to reemerge as some variation, but for decades everyone has been chasing the AVN prominence in its ability to speak to the fan. That part has never changed. You can set up your conventions with money as the primary factor, or you can seek to be “industry” king with your insider seminars, but both of those goals get in the way of making something truly a fan experience. Despite industry waxes and wanes, AVN has maintained its master of that last part.

So as I was making this most recent drive a month or so ago, that feeling of optimism came upon me rather suddenly. This show demonstrated continued fan commitment, sure, but it also showed up even more importantly for the future of the movie/scene industry going forward. Something in the AEE 2023 had brought back feelings I was convinced had been pretty much dying for a decade or more.

Credit where due, a brief discussion with a person much more versed in the state of the current business brought a lot of things into focus. You see, there had not been a real, in-person, fan convention for three years, so AEE 2023 had a lot to live up to, and a lot could have gone wrong. This insider told me that 40% of the people exhibiting at the show this year were there for their very first time. That represents a significant amount of new blood — pardon the expression — into an event which had been fairly locked up for a very long time.

As the Pandemic raged and shut everything down, a huge number of people of all sorts suddenly got into the “content creation” business. You don’t even have to worry about supply chain issues and quarantine rules if you carry your “product” with you into the shower every morning and you live in intimate ones and twos (mostly) anyway. This vast collection of old and new savvy descended upon the AEE 2023 and turned into … well, basically a darned good time.

Rather than being filled with angry old white men bemoaning how it used to be in the “good old days” for example, you found instead a bunch of happy young people talking about how good these days are for them. Amidst a small handful of production companies and distributors, you had the almost mind-boggling array of niche represented by the cam model companies. You even had the largest modeling agencies on hand to allow their clients a chance to interact with fans (and keep an eye out for new potential talent, let’s be honest).

Yet it was the nuance of all the smaller (so far) ventures in the “normal” booths that really worked to put a hope for the future into the psyche. Over the course of the four days, it would be safe to assume that I spoke with someone at every single booth in the place, most of them more than once. They were all happy, proud, and practically bursting with the potential they see, and this mood somehow wormed its way into my old, jaded, and having “seen it all” mentality. I learned a few things this time around, but foremost among them was that I had decidedly NOT seen it all before.

Before you become alarmed, rest assured that the AEE 2023 convention did in fact happen in full color. For some reason the Art Department thought that this artsy black and white display would be better. In fairness, one can be a bit overwhelmed with all the colors in the room, but mostly we just posted the shots this way because one does not squabble with the Penthouse Art Department without really measuring one’s commitment to the current cause. Artists can be touchy, y’know?

At any given AEE convention, you will see basically three kinds of folks seeking stardom. You’ll have your well-established stars, somewhat over the thrill, perhaps, but still generally very happy to be talking to fans — because that’s why they got into the business to begin with, after all. You’ll also have your climbing fast stars, generally noted by perhaps slightly shorter lines, but lines populated with the generally thrilled folks that feel like they’re getting in on the ground floor of something good. And then you’ll have your brand-new stars, often wandering about with a boyfriend or some such in tow, who’s filming basically everything. This last group often looks like their faces may literally split from the big smiles, but you can just feel the dreams washing off them.

The best thing about AVN conventions? You get to meet and talk to all three of these groups, and many, many people in each one. Now we still had those three groups at the AEE 2023, but they covered the substantially expanded niches in the genre — which was a wonderful surprise. It was big enough that you could spend a lot of time there (days, in our case), but small enough that you could still get to the people you really wanted to see.

Perhaps better than that, you could get to people that you didn’t know you wanted to see, until you saw them. And then you could go back and see them the next day. … If you think about it, a person would probably not have much of a cam career if they went about all surly and such, but the genuine interest in meeting all the new people wandering past those cam model booths was almost heartwarming to witness. I have no idea how the companies chose them, if the models paid their own way, or if they got some other compensation at all. I can tell you that they fit into the AVN Fan First model extremely well.

In the three years that had transpired between the “mostly production and distribution companies” — with the clear sponsorship significance of MyFreeCams on display — and this year, AVN used some magic potion and blended a new genuinely happy potion for the fans. The industry has changed, absolutely. Somehow, some way, I think the AEE 2023 changed with it.  (I personally remember a very important company owner telling people that this newfangled DVD thing was never going to replace VHS. True story.) Pretty amazing, this coming from someone not very used to being amazed anymore.

Movie production companies have been trekking their wares — and their stars — out to Vegas since the beginning. As the industry changed from retail sales of physical goods, though, it started to seem like folks were going to the Vegas show primarily to complain about how great things were before, almost like they felt like they were failing currently. This time around, people on the floor seemed genuinely happy to be there and equally happy to be chatting with whomever walked by.

The refreshing difference in the AEE 2023 really made all the, well, difference. It was back to the wild, fun, slightly hedonistic, but most definitively carpe diem vibe that made the event one we all looked forward to year after year. … Looks like we’ll be dialing up that excitement again.

We could not possibly go into detail regarding every conversation we had at this show, but we promised to link to each of the interesting people we met over the course of the AEE 2023, and in no particular order, we plan on keeping that promise. … Without further ado, then, consider this much ado about something …. Alison Rey, Anneli Adolfsson, Brenna McKenna, Drinks with Frenemies, Geeky and Kinky, Hazel Paige, Kenna James, Nyssa Nevers, Stephanie Love … (Please also consider the caveat that we could not link to a good many helpful and friendly people because of the overtly explicit nature of their landing pages at the time of this publication.)

Upon review, some of the higher-ups questioned our use of the black-and-white — not to mention blurry (Gasp!) — imagery to convey our visual interpretation of the in reality quite colorful event. Because we wish to soothe the savage beasts — and, y’know, keep getting paid — we have added a full color addendum conveying a great deal in two simple shots. In the first you will see what will be a very common view should you attend this wonderfully fun confluence of flesh in 2024. While some may see only two technologically advanced and captivated women waiting to sign autographs, you should actually see, “HEY! Look! No line!” … As for the second shot, suffice it to say that everyone knowledgeable in modern Penthouse will recognize the resident savage beast, even when not fully illuminated. As you can see regardless, it’s not like he needs to carry a big stick no matter how softly he walks.

Finally, should you wish to check out some more images in a decidedly less artsy, but equally illustrative in a different way, we’ll guide you to Buzzfeed — and then to the uniquely talented Roger Kisby who provided the insights. People really do have fun at these shows.


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