Elena Scotti/FUSION

A big sex convention is making a stop in Texas, and people are upset about it. Exxxotica, which bills itself as "the largest adult event in the USA dedicated to love and sex," will take over Dallas' Kay Bailey Hutchison convention center for three days this weekend. Aside from a much smaller porn convention held in Houston back in 2006, it marks the first time a sex trade show has set up shop in the state.

The city of Dallas is in a (somewhat expected) state of alarm. Everyone from impassioned residents to local women's groups to the mayor are up in arms over the "smut" conference's arrival. As Exxxotica's director, J. Handy (his real name), told me, the event has experienced backlash before, though maybe not quite to the extent that it has in Dallas. "We are in the Bible Belt, and recognize that the chances of it being a bigger deal here were a bit higher," he told me.

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What's happening in Dallas, thanks to Exxxotica, is as close to an honest-to-God culture war between religion and sex as we can get in 2015. The conference, with its roster of adult stars and provocative seminars, would raise eyebrows in most towns, but it's practically causing people to faint in Dallas—a city that's home to the largest Evangelical population in the country, making it the Bible Belt's unofficial headquarters.

Why bring a sex convention to a state that only recently allowed for the sale of sex toys? Handy told me the Dallas convention had been in the works for awhile—Exxxotica is always looking for new audiences willing to shell out money for tickets. The point wasn't necessarily to stir Texans into a frenzy, though he said the conversation is a good thing.

"This event is really about a dialogue that people don't have enough in the world—of talking about sex," Handy said. "If that’s what it takes, then that’s what it takes!"

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If there wasn't a dialogue about porn and sex before, there is now. Indeed, the myriad of damning op-eds, online petitions, and arguments against increased sex trafficking aimed at the convention appear to have (unintentionally) served as good publicity for Handy and the conference crew. "It’s increased our ticket sales," Handy told me. "We have more stars coming in because of the increased exposure—it’s not at all the impact that I think people would've wanted."

Both sides in this culture war can stand to gain something from the opportunity that hosting a porn convention in the Bible Belt provides. Exxxotica, of course, wants money. Religious groups, like Watermark Community Church, want to help people who have been swept up in the tides of promiscuity, premarital sex, infidelity, lust, and everything else the event represents. They want to help by praying over people who attend the convention—by attempting to save their souls.

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"We just want to be present in and around the Convention Center, just talking to folks," Jeff Ward, the director of external focus at Watermark, told me. "We do a lot of recovery ministry here at Watermark, so we know a lot of folks who have been impacted by porn, and how devastating that is for people and marriages and relationships."

Ward added that porn is "one of those silent epidemics that you don't really hear people talking about," and that while he and his ministry are saddened by Exxxotica's presence in Dallas, they're glad it provides an opportunity to "really engage with folks" who are coming to town for the convention. He said their fellowship has plans to help through prayer and passing out resources, for anyone who wants them.

Handy and Ward, two people hawking very different messages, will navigate the Convention Center in Dallas this weekend selling very different lessons about sex. Handy will educate upward of 15,000 Exxxotica guests through entertaining seminars about things like discovering your ultimate orgasm and breaking into the adult industry. One panel will "spread the good word" of sex positivity. Ward and his group will also spread the Good Word—a different Good Word—through prayer and evangelism.

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Historically, Texas has a repressive dialogue when it comes to sexual discussion. The thinking has been that if porn and illicit sex acts are going to happen, they better not be happening in their state, in their convention center, near their children, near their homes. It's a common method of proper Southern thinking—anything kept at arm's length, as if it couldn't possibly happen to you, can be rightfully ignored. Out of sight, out of mind.

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But that creates serious problems—just look at all the legislation that's chipped away at women's health rights, or the problems caused by Texas's abstinence-based sex education. It's impossible to deal with something that's never addressed. When there isn't space to address and discuss these "private" matters in public spaces, they go unnoticed and ignored. People don't speak up because there isn't a place for those voices.

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So what Handy has done, intentionally or not, is bring a serious dialogue about sex, sexuality, and how those topics intersect with deep-seated religious beliefs to the Dallas area.

Is Exxxotica—a business whose main goal will always be to make money, regardless of progressive-seeming intent—the solution to Texas's issues surrounding sex? Of course not. But it isn't a bad thing for Dallas to be thrown into a tizzy if it means people are talking about sex more openly as a result. Sure, the dialogue is far from progressive, but at least it's happening.

Hannah Smothers is a reporter for Fusion's Sex & Life section, a Texpat, and a former homecoming princess.