WIA Profile: Fiona Patten

Women In Adult

Each month, industry news media organization XBIZ spotlights the career accomplishments and outstanding contributions of Women in Adult. WIA profiles offer an intimate look at the professional lives of the industry's most influential female executives.

In this special edition of Woman of the Month, Patten talks about her some of the unique challenges she faces as a high-profile lobbyist.

How did you get into this business?

I have been involved with the adult industry for 20 years now. Initially I had a fashion business and a lot of my customers were gay men and sex workers. This got me involved in campaigning for better HIV/AIDS services and prostitution law reform. This involved running 3 a.m. champagne fashion events after the brothels shut for the night. In 1992 I founded the Eros Association with Robbie Swan to provide a consolidated voice for the adult industry as a whole in Australia. Our initial members came from all corners of the industry including brothels, adult wholesalers, adult retailers, magazines, condom producers and swingers clubs. I am still the CEO.

What in your background prepared you for what you are doing now?

I am not sure. It is not the career I planned. I wanted to be an architect. But my family traveled extensively when I was young. I lived in the UK, the U.S. and all over Australia. Every one to two years I was starting at a new school which probably gave me some skills in getting on with people. My parents were very traditional but quite open about sex and I grew up knowing that it was a good thing.

What do you see as the challenges of working in online adult? How do you overcome them?

There is a general perception that anyone who works in adult is somehow seedy and morally dubious. As a lobbyist I have met with hundreds of politicians and it is so common for them to say after meeting ‘but you seem so nice/normal!’ Certainly challenging this stereotype is a constant in my life and work. In Australia we do not have a First Amendment so when our government speaks about online law and order it is always the adult industry in the firing line. It is very important to get the message out to the community that any government censorship of legal adult activity is a dangerous precedent even if it is ‘just porn.’ To try and overcome this we established a political party!

There is also a challenge for younger geeks and tech heads who come into the online adult industry more through the technology side of it than through the traditional adult industry side of things. A lot of these younger people don’t understand how hard the older members of the industry fought for freedom of speech and to get the industry to the position that it is now in. Many of these Gen Y people just assume that there’s always been an adult industry and that it grew to where they can just enter it and make big bucks. But it hasn’t always been that way and it could just as easily revert to like living in Iran if the political side of the industry is not funded and not looked after.

Does your work life affect your personal life?

I am terrible at work/life boundaries. The head office of Eros and the Australian Sex Party is based in offices in my home in Canberra. The co-founder of Eros and the Sex Party is my partner Robbie Swan. We have lived and breathed the industry for nearly 20 years. But I would not change a second of that. Although sometimes at dinner parties and functions it is a bore to tell people what you do. Only because you can often spend the rest of the night talking about your work. I remember Candida Royalle once telling me that she told people that she was a [caregiver] for cats which generally turned the conversation away from her! I have yet to find the right line to use to move the conversation away from sex.

Do you have a personal motto or slogan that you live by?

Just say ‘yes’ is a good one although my partner constantly tells me to live by the Maharishi’s old epithet, ‘see the job, do the job — stay out of misery’... Although I have amended the last bit to read ‘mischief’ instead of ‘misery!’ I also try and be as truthful as I can in my dealings with people although my partner says I’ll never make a good politician with that philosophy. A lack of truth about the real nature of the adult industry is what causes us so many political problems.