"I personally think it sheds a brighter light on the adult industry as a whole when you have Larry Flynt or Steve Hirsch speaking on a college campus," Michael Atkins, marketing director for NorthStar Associates, said. "I think it educates people; it demonstrates that they are operating legitimate businesses. Adult entrepreneurs are successful businessmen — that's the bottom line — and whether you are selling stocks and bonds or selling washing machines, business students want to know what made you successful. It just so happens that Larry Flynt and Steve Hirsch are in the sex business."
Joshua M. Kleinman, an accountant for the Los Angeles-based firm of Solomon, Winnett & Co. who has had both mainstream and adult clients, noted that Flynt has been in heavy demand as a speaker on college campuses because of his expertise on both business matters and 1st Amendment issues. Flynt has addressed everyone from future MBAs to law students to communications majors. One of his recent speaking engagements was at Penn State University in State College, Penn.
Hirsch has addressed the film schools at UC Santa Barbara and the University of Southern California and Kleinman was present when veteran adult film star Ron Jeremy spoke to a large criminal justice class at Cal State Fullerton.
Giving the Lowdown
"The day Ron Jeremy spoke to that class, you could hear a pin drop because everyone was listening so intently to his speech," Kleinman recalled. "Ron discussed sex and the criminal justice system. He explained how porn was dealt with in California compared to some of the conservative Bible Belt states."
Kleinman went on to say that business schools are an excellent place for adult entertainment companies to be on the lookout for smart employees of the future.
"I would think that business schools would be a great place for adult entrepreneurs to speak because it could be a recruitment tool, especially if you're as big as LFP, Vivid or Wicked," Kleinman said. "They have the money to afford top-notch brains and talent, and if they're looking to groom potential business managers or marketing managers, why not go to a major business school, give a speech and meet some good, smart business students who will be graduating soon and looking for jobs? As these adult companies get broader and bigger, there is even more of a need for them to get out onto college campuses and recruit the best young minds from reputable business schools."
Glenn King, president of MeanBitch Productions/MeanBitches.com, told XBIZ that business students can learn a lot from adult-oriented entrepreneurs even if they don't plan to pursue careers in the adult industry.
"One of the things that business students can learn from the porn industry is that you cannot be all things to all people," said King, whose company specializes in softcore female domination films. "The companies that have succeeded in porn have succeeded by being specific; we in the porn industry are very good at niche marketing. And another thing that business students can learn from the porn industry is staying focused on an objective. A variety of issues can come up when you're trying to expand a business — tax issues, interpersonal issues in the office, accounting issues and so on. But successful companies stay focused instead of letting things distract them, and that applies to mainstream companies as well as adult companies."
King added: "Any time people in the porn industry can get on college campuses and show that we're just normal businessmen, it is a big help to the industry. Most porn people are not sleazy people."
Just Normal Business
Another well-known figure who has often spoken on college campuses is adult film actress Nina Hartley, who is known for addressing sexual education matters and has been a strong advocate for the industry. Even Sydnee Steele, who addressed Yale's Porn 'n' Chicken Society in 2001, drew a crowd of at least 100 students eager to hear her insights into the world of erotica.
"At Yale, I discussed the psychology of porn, like how you prepare yourself mentally for a scene," said Steele, who appeared in almost 300 adult productions before retiring in 2004. "It was very intriguing for the students to hear about how I would get myself into a scene and how other people might do it differently. We went into how I would mentally get into character; I believe that in order to be believable as a character, you have to really get your mind into it."
The Yale students Steele addressed also learned some things about the marketing of adult films and how nichedriven the adult industry can be.
"The students were kind of aware of the fact that there were different genres in porn," Steele recalled, "but I don't think they realized that there were such big differences between the way those genres are marketed. I think the students learned that you market gonzo a certain way, you market an adult feature a certain way, and you market fetish a certain way."
Like Steele, NorthStar's Atkins has found that there is no shortage of college students who are curious about the business and marketing side of adult entertainment.
"At trade shows, film students will come up to us, and they want to know all about the adult business," he said. "They want to know, 'What do I need to get into this business? What does it take? And if I start my own adult business, how much money will it take? How profitable is it?' The college students who approach us at trade shows really want to know everything they can about the adult business."
In the meantime, Kleinman hopes that the number of adult-oriented entrepreneurs and performers appearing on college campuses will continue to increase in the future. Regardless of whether a college student watches adult entertainment, entrepreneurs like Hirsch and Flynt are accomplished people who bring considerable business savvy and insight to the table, and their college appearances can only benefit others.
"Huge and dynamic companies like Vivid and LFP have so many different facets of operation," Kleinman said. "There are so many things that students can learn from Steve and Larry and other people who have spoken at universities. I think that when intelligent and articulate people in the adult industry speak on college campuses, it is great for the students and great for the industry."