Finweek English Edition - - COVER STORY -

The money men in San Fer­nando Val­ley – where most porn is pro­duced – ex­pected the up­ward cy­cle to con­tinue, but the In­ter­net came along and non-com­mer­cial pornog­ra­phy and piracy dis­rupted the busi­ness. The In­ter­net also lib­er­ated the porn in­dus­try and for the first time any­one could be a pub­lisher, which meant that porn stars could cut out the mid­dle men and cre­ate their own di­rect chan­nels to mar­ket.

But the sex in­dus­try is no guar­an­tee of easy money. It is dis­cre­tionary spend­ing and the re­ces­sion has been chal­leng­ing. Lola Mon­tez’s Gor­don says: “The last two years have been aw­ful, just in terms of the econ­omy. Be­fore that we were dou­bling our turnover an­nu­ally, but then the down­turn kicked in. For­tu­nately, 50 Shades has kicked the busi­ness back into a dif­fer­ent gear once again, and we find that we’re now back where we were two years ago.”

Like t he Lol­lipop Lounge, Lola Mon­tez lives by word of mouth and free so­cial me­dia like Face­book and Twit­ter. “Ad­ver­tis­ing is just so ex­pen­sive – if I’ve got R50 000 to spend, I’d rather im­port a brand new beau­ti­ful toy,” says Gor­don, who ad­mits the busi­ness is “bloody hard” be­cause of the stigma that’s still at­tached to the in­dus­try. “Some par­ents will still not sit with me at a rugby game be­cause I’m some­how seen to be less than,” – this this de­spite the fact that Gor­don has three de­grees.

“De­spite all this, it is a fan­tas­tic busi­ness to be in be­cause the world is chang­ing and open­ing up. The Lola Mon­tez brand is now so strong, it is a pre­mier brands, and peo­ple are no longer con­fused about what we do. In the old days I used to get calls at force (SWEAT) who said it is dif­fi­cult, if not im­pos­si­ble, to as­sess how big this mar­ket is. “Sex work is so di­verse, there are in­door sex work­ers who work in a venue, there are out­door sex work­ers, and there is con­tes­ta­tion as to ex­actly what sex work is. Some peo­ple might con­sider strip­pers or ac­tors in pornog­ra­phy sex work­ers,” Shack­le­ton says.

SWEAT reck­ons there’s a sex worker in ev­ery city, town and vil­lage in SA, and the task­force es­ti­mates the num­ber to be around 500 000. What sex work­ers earn is dif­fi­cult to as­sess be­cause this de­pends on the ge­og­ra­phy and whether the per­son is placed in­doors, out­doors, placed with an agency and the like. “Crim­i­nal­is­ing the in­dus­try cer­tainly makes it much harder for sex work­ers to save the money they earn, to open bank ac­counts, and to have their in­come recog­nised and le­git­imised, which makes them more open to ex­ploita­tion,” Shack­le­ton ex­plains, and adds: “For in­stance there are brothel own­ers who

There are around half a mil­lion sex work­ers in SA

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