SEX AND THE INTERNET
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