We all know sex sells, so it goes without saying that the adult industry in Australia is big business.
From an economic point of view, the adult industry in Australia generates revenue from sexual services and entertainment in the following areas:
- Adult shops and websites which sell products such as toys, dolls, magazines, lingerie
- Brothel and escort services
- Dancers and strippers
- X-rated DVD sales
- X-rated Internet downloads
- Sexpo, an Australian sexual entertainment exhibition which attracts paying exhibitors from countries such as Sweden, the USA and Germany.
Although it’s difficult to put exact figures on how the adult industry contributes to imports and exports, The Eros Association, which has represented the adult, only retail industry since 1992, and the five biggest adult industry importers, has some figures which give an idea of how much the industry contributes to the Australian economy.
Robbie Swan, Co-Ordinator of the Eros Association, gives these rough statistics at a glance:
- There’s roughly 25 000 people employed in the adult industry in Australia
- The industry has an annual turnover of $2.6 billion.
- There’s roughly 1000 adult shops (such as Club X) in Australia, including small little annexes out the back of newsagents.
- Australia imports a million vibrators a year. The average vibrator costs $20, so that’s a turnaround of $20 million dollars annually on just one product sold through adult shops alone.
- X-rated DVD sales are in decline, because of the advance of internet downloads, but Robbie says DVD sales still contribute to around 100 million dollars of revenue per year.
- Lingerie sales are on the uptake, indicating a shift in consumer demographics from male to female.
Robbie says that certain laws have negatively impacted on the adult industry in Australia and forced a sort of ‘grey market’ to appear. For instance, by Australian law you cannot host an adult site with x-rated content, so some businesses simply host their sites with offshore ISP addresses, shifting the money offshore too.
The other ‘grey market’ in the adult industry is through DVD sales. Robbie says although x-rated DVD’s are the “benchmark product” of the adult entertainment industry, and it’s legal to import or export them into Australia, they can only legally be sold in retail outlets in the ACT and the Northern Territory.
Of course products are just one element of the adult industry, and there’s also the sex itself.
William Albon, head of The Australian Adult Entertainment Industry (AAEI), which represents legal brothels in Victoria, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory, offers the following facts and figures:
- Victoria has around 90 legal brothels and 20 licensed operators of escort agencies, but Mr Albon estimates there are around 400 illegal operators in the state alone.
Brothels and escort agencies have been legal in Victoria since 1996, and the first Australian brothel to be listed on the New York stock exchange was Elsternwick’s The Daily Planet, which, incidentally makes a healthy side trade in keepsakes such as watches, lighters and pens for happy customers.
Hiring someone in the world’s oldest profession doesn’t come cheap: For $290 you get an hour of ‘service’ at The Daily Planet. Most brothels keep between 25-50 per cent of the fee to cover the costs of maintaining the brothel and providing a safe environment for the workers.
The Daily Planet is at the high end of the brothel scale, but if you’re looking for an escort (someone who leaves the building and comes to your hotel, for example) expect to pay anywhere from $300 an hour to $6000 for an entire evening. Male escorts, again, are on the rise, signifying a consumer shift.
And then there’s all the side elements of the adult industry such as insurance, for example. Nick Rossoukas, Director of Adult Industry Business Insurance (AIBI), writes $2 million in premiums a year, mainly for property and public liability insurance for adult shops, licensed brothels, escort agencies and adult clubs. Again, because it’s such as taboo industry, most insurance companies shun the area, which has allowed Nick to carve a niche for 20 years.
Sexpo is another element of the adult entertainment industry in Australia which is raking in big bucks and providing a boon to the economy. Rob Godwin, Sexpo’s Managing Director, says in 2010 the show generated $8 million dollars revenue for The City of Melbourne through flow-on effects such as hotel bookings, eating out and tourist activities.
More > sexpo by the numbers
Incidentally, one Sexpo show, which tours every State of Australia, and some regional centres, each year, costs $1.6 million to produce. That’s $1.6 million dollars flowing in and around the national economy through flights, hotels, employees, advertising and exhibitors.
Love it or sweep it under the carpet, the economy of sex is big business in this country.
Sex sells but how and why?