By Leila Samodien

Pornography and other forms of adult entertainment "should be criminalised", a Christian group said in protest against Cape Town's second annual Sexpo.

Members of the Christian Action Network gathered on the front steps of the Cape Town International Convention Centre, the Sexpo venue, on Friday, brandishing posters and engaging with expo-goers about the morality of the event.

"Pornography is as addictive and destructive as drugs, yet drugs are illegal and pornography is being freely promoted at places like the Sexpo, which is held at one of the city's premier tourist destinations," said Christian Action Network organiser Taryn Hodgson.

She believed sex exhibitions should not be held in South Africa at all because it "lured in members of the public who wouldn't normally explore pornography or strip clubs".

"It should be criminalised, as should strip clubs, because these clubs basically act as brothels."

The group of about 20 protesters, who dwindled to about 10 later in the afternoon, held posters that read: "Real Men Don't Use Porn", "Sexpo = Sexploitation", "Pernicious Porno Plague Rife at Sexpo" and "Woman are Not Objects or Commodities".

However, by late on Friday afternoon, Sexpo organisers were upbeat about the success of the four-day exhibition, which ends on Sunday.

By 3pm, more than 15 000 visitors had attended the raunchy expo - 18 percent more than the same time last year.

Last year, 35 000 people attended in total, but this year more than 40 000 people were expected to turn up.

Organisers even approved of the protest in a statement, saying they welcomed differences of opinion and freedom of expression.

"The Mother City is one of our favourite legs of the Sexpo year," said organiser Silas Howarth. "It's by far the most cosmopolitan city in the country and in our experience, the most liberally open to new experiences."

Cape Town's Sexual Health Centre director Dr Marlene Wasserman, commonly known as "Dr Eve", did not believe this was the case for the majority of Capetonians.

She said South Africans in general were clammed up about sexuality and were often reluctant to speak about it openly.

Even Capetonians, who she considered to be a very open-minded community, were "shut down" to the topic.

Wasserman said South Africans had previously not had the opportunity to talk about sexuality on a safe, comfortable platform.

Many people, especially women and couples, did not feel at ease in strip clubs or adult shops, which made up most of the country's platforms.

The Sexpo, she believed, finally offered people an alternative.

"This event has become synonymous with being given the permission to look and see and engage in a public space."

The focus, she said, was also not only on sex - there was also a strong emphasis on relationships.

Wasserman, for example, would be there offering counsel, education and advice to individuals and couples.

"The main thing is that this is getting people talking about sexuality, and that's what we want. If it gets people talking, no matter their viewpoint, we've made progress."