The first thing you need to know is this: They do it with their clothes on.
The clothes don’t mean there’s a lack of fornication-adjacent action happening at the Air Sex Championships. The Air Sex Championships are all about fornication-adjacent action. But the competition is performed solo, fully (or mostly) clothed, with nothing but an insanely confident performer, an appropriate song and tremendous amounts of courage, humor and erotic imagination.
The Air Sex Championships are coming to Fantasy Fest in Key West for the first time this year, as the annual festival celebrates its 40th anniversary. While some of the events are family friendly - the 5K run, the Bahama Village Goombay Festival, the zombie bike ride - there’s also a “Black Book” roster of activities for adults only. Think naughty bike rides, tighty whitey parties, sexy bull riding, dungeons and kinky couples gatherings.
Also, air sex.
“There couldn’t be a better fit,” says Julia DeLois, one of the event’s hosts.
What exactly is air sex? Think of air guitar. You whip your head back. You throw it forward. You run your hands up and down the neck of your instrument with your left hand while you hammer its strings with your right.
Air sex is almost exactly like that, except instead of playing an invisible guitar, you play an invisible partner.
The Air Sex Championships have been going on for 11 years at bars and music, comedy and entertainment festivals around the country, says Chris Trew, who hosts the show with DeLois. The contest has been featured on MTV, HBO, “Bad Girls Club” and, inexplicably, “America’s Got Talent.” There’s a documentary entitled “Air Sex: The Movie,” which you’ll need to watch if you want to see some examples, because our editors will stroke out if we include a video clip.
Trew likens the spectacle to porny karaoke. Contestants choose a stage name and song and perform for a panel of celebrity judges (DeLois is one of them). The judges whittle the finalists down to three; the contestants perform again, and the audience chooses a winner, who usually takes home a gift from a local adult store but will win a cash prize at Fantasy Fest.
You can plan your performance, but sometimes last-minute contestants summon up the lascivious goods to win, Trew says.
“It’s all about the vibe and energy,” he says. “Someone could come up in street clothes and really steal the show. It’s the equivalent of when you’re going out and trying to hook up with someone, and trying your hardest, but you still end up having the same luck as someone who just lets things happen organically.”
And yes - you can bump, grind and writhe to Ginuwine’s “Pony,” even though it is by far the most used air sex anthem, Trew says.
“The crowd loves it every single time,” he says, adding that he expects to hear “Pony” at the Fantasy Fest event, along with other favorites like “Let’s Get It On” and “Making Love Out of Nothing at All.” “It feels bad to say ‘Pony’ is overused. I encourage it. You gotta give the air sex crowd what it wants.”
As a judge, DeLois looks for contestants who think outside the box, as it were.
She likes “the boldest, the funniest, the most committed, the most playful routines where they celebrate themselves but still make me feel jealous of their partner,” she says. “Or someone who mimes getting a hair in his or her mouth, the super hyperrealistic things that happen during sex.”
Because for all its celebration of sex, the Air Sex Championships aren’t about perfection. They’re not about hot people and artful cinematic coupling: “It’s about real people and real bodies and all the weird, awkward parts of sex that we all know,” DeLois says.
It’s also about honoring diversity in the judges, the contestants and sexual interests.
“It’s such a sex-positive world,” DeLois says. “The sky is the limit. The routines are really creative. You might see someone being a seahorse and having sex with a coral reef. If we’re in that world, then people are not blinking an eye at anything.”
Air Sex Championships
When: 9 p.m. Oct. 23
Where: First Flight Island Restaurant & Brewery, 301 Whitehead St., Key West
Tickets: $12 at eventbrite.com
Fantasy Fest information: Oct. 18-27; fantasyfest.com