Who is the Adult Industry?

Allison Vivas

We see references to the “Adult Industry” and “Sex Industry” thrown around all the time in both adult and mainstream articles, but there never seems to be a clear definition of what companies comprise our industry. 

The FSC is the trade organization for the “Adult Entertainment Industry,” which according to their website consists “of a broad range of adult business from producers and webmasters to manufacturers, retailers and many, many more.” I think that is the clearest written definition of our industry, but even that description seems overly broad.

Through the years, I’ve never really seen our industry move to more clearly define ourselves; rather, we are always struggling to distinguish ourselves as who we are not.  Maybe through an analysis of whom we have said we are not through the years we can figure out who we really are?

  • When Morality in Media takes their stab at the adult industry claiming that all pornography is illegal and obscene, we take the clear stance that our productions are legal, covered by the First Amendment, and not obscene.
  • When anti-porn activists make the false claim that the largest consumer demographic for internet pornography is children, we clearly take the position that our content is intended only for and primarily consumed by adults and mature audiences. 
  • When anti-sex industry ” press lumps “sex trafficking” into industry statistics, we clearly affirm that true adult business have employees and contractors who all willingly and knowingly choose to participate in the industry and equate our structure to that of mainstream photography.
  • When one of our own is fired from their mainstream job or told that they cannot work around children, we come to their defense and make the obvious logical connection that our work is not any different than what most adult men and women do routinely.
  • And, finally, when the purveyors of misinformation like to slip child pornography statistics in with the adult industry, we take the clear stance that we are an industry who feature products made for adults by adults.

When you put this all together, we would define the “Adult Industry” as businesses that provide legal content protected by the First Amendment, for voluntary adult consumption, that features only performers over the age of 18 who are willingly choosing to participate in adult fantasy depictions or services.   That definition seems pretty solid and to accept anything outside of that criteria would seem somewhat dubious to me.   Any business that is unsure of its ability to meet this definition would not be classified as a member of the “Adult Industry,” in my opinion. 

  • Businesses that specifically target underage consumers or force exposure to their content through unwanted advertising such as unsolicited emails or malware or adware would not meet our definition.
  • Businesses that force or falsely trick people into performing sex acts would definitely not meet our definition, and definitely would much more appropriately be defined as a criminal enterprise.
  • Businesses that do not verify the age of individuals who are engaging in sexual conduct, or are unable to meet the spirit of age verification requirements through responsible actions in order to ensure that all performers are truly adults, also would not meet our definition.

I can think of the many businesses that easily meet our definition of “Adult Industry” many of them are the industry’s mature businesses and brands who have probably had much experience on how responsibility pays off.  On the other hand, I can think of several companies that consistently do not meet this definition, yet they are often associated with the industry by both consumers and adult businesses.  I just have to wonder; do we really want to stray from our own definition at all? Doesn’t this definition provide us with more stable opportunity and minimize our governmental fears? And will corporate responsibility (the act of self regulating in active compliance with the spirit of the law, and voluntarily eliminating practices that harm the public sphere, regardless of their legality) grow stronger, or weaker, in the “Adult Industry?” 

In my opinion, there is only one answer to that last question which will permit the industry to grow and thrive, and it isn’t the latter one.