Owning Your Craft: Working in the Pleasure Products Biz

Kim Airs

If you have this issue of XBIZ in your hot little hands while you’re reading this, chances are good that you’re in the adult industry. Yes, the adult industry. I like using that term because it covers so many aspects of our huge business and it’s a little tamer than saying “The Sex Business” although I like using those words to describe what trade I’m in as well.

But what does this exactly mean? All of us seem to have stumbled into this industry through other channels unless, of course, your name is Flynt or Hefner, then it’s in your genes. But what are we doing here and how are we all in this crazy, happy family?

There is something about the adult industry that creates an unspoken comfort and honesty that is not present in the typical corporate world and I found that I was miserable for most of my years in that employment hell.

There are thousands of people that work in the sex industry and the different jobs we do in the adult business are as varied as the people in it. Web developer. Actress. Sex toy designer. Sex toy manufacturer. Sex blogger. Video shooter. Editor. Writer. Make up artist (including for those all important ECUs). CFO. CEO. Producer. Photographer. Lighting designer. Graphic artist. Script supervisor. Product trainer. DVD duplicator. Retailer. Cam operator. Retail store clerk. Website operator. Packaging designer. Warehouse supervisor. IT manager. And yes, even columnist for an adult industry trade publication.

How did we wind up in this business that few people talk about yet once they learn what we do everyone wants to lean in? I mean, I didn’t get voted “Most Likely to Succeed” in high school although I’m the only one from Central Regional High School in Bayville, N.J., to have a one-hour HBO “Real Sex” feature. To me, that’s success, no matter how you slice it.

I wound up in this crazy business starting out as a consumer decades ago with a horny boyfriend stoking my fires for me wanting to learn more about all aspects of sex. I was employed at Harvard University at the time and ended up leaving my high-ranking job to open a Boston area’s women friendly sex toy store. That was in 1993 and there’s been no looking back.

There was one year that I was not employed in the adult industry that I sarcastically call “my one year in purgatory.” There is something about the adult industry that creates an unspoken comfort and honesty that is not present in the typical corporate world and I found that I was miserable for most of my year in that employment hell. I yearned to go back to my friends and comfort level that was not present during the stuffy corporate meetings I had to endure. Then the day came when the corporate company fired my ass which turned out to be one of the happiest days in my life because then I could go back to the industry I love.

How many times have we told someone what we do for a living? When someone sitting next to us on the plane asks, what do we respond? I tend to feel them out (figuratively, of course!) and then usually state “You’ll never guess.” They then think of the most far left field guess they can come up with, thinking I’ll be insulted by their suggestion, and say “the sex business,” to which I say, “Yes, you’re absolutely right.” By picking up on their subtle, physical reaction to my response, I can figure out whether or not they want to hear more and go from there. Otherwise, I usually plug in my headphones and let them fantasize about what I just said.

How proudly do we stand up for our industry in the vanilla/non-corporate world? When I opened my aforementioned sex toy store, Grand Opening!, I did so quietly as to not ruffle any business feathers but soon found out that the Chamber of Commerce let people know of my presence through a blurb in their monthly newsletter. Much to my surprise, it was positive and supportive so I decided to join the Chamber and wound up as the vice president for five years, representing my retail area. I also won “Website of the Year” for two years. Imagine that.

So when I get asked “What do you do for a living?” I proudly respond with confidence and grace, what I do now, what I’ve done in my 20-plus year career choice, and why I love it. It is always so much more interesting than selling stocks and bonds, working at a boring desk job, waiting for the time to click down on the clock.

Besides which, this is the only industry I know that when if you’re caught looking at a Disney website during working hours, it means you’re really screwing around. I love my job.

Kim Airs is the founder of sexuality boutique GrandOpening.com, and currently works as the on-the-road sales representative for adult novelty manufacturer Topco Sales. She is also a consultant for all aspects of the adult industry, including training, sales and marketing.