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Sex sells? 

In a slow economy, maybe not so much

No one wants to admit it, but we're in a recession. Just ask the adult industry.

Porn, the $14 billion industry of sex and -- at least in this city -- protests, is reporting losses.

At the 969 Exchange on South Boulevard, one manager last week said he's seen a drop in business within the past three months.

"It's obvious that we're in a recession," said manager James, who wouldn't give his last name. "Even our regulars are having to squeeze their pocketbooks."

The adult novelty store was expected to see a benefit from being adjacent to the LYNX blue line. But while light rail has benefitted from higher gas prices, 969 Exchange -- and other businesses in the area -- haven't reaped the rewards, James said. The store has lost about $1,000 a month for the past three months.

Adult DVD sales -- the 969 Exchange's bread-and-butter -- fell 30 percent in the United States this year, according to Adult Video News, an industry trade publication.

"If you think about our industry, inflation affects us just like it affects everybody else," said Diane Duke, executive director for the Free Speech Coalition, an adult industry trade association. "That, coupled with what you see in mainstream entertainment, with pirated content, it's been a tight year for the industry."

Duke said that people are spending their money in discount stores like Costco and Sam's Club, where porn can't be found. "People are having to get more for their buck," she said.

Even with porn, people are looking to get more bang for their buck. People can get their virtual sex for free, with help of sites like YouPorn, an XXX version of YouTube in which anything -- and everything -- goes. "For some consumers, they're having to choose poorer quality at lesser cost," Duke said.

Not all adult-oriented businesses said they are feeling the pinch. The Red Door, which has stores on Woodlawn Road, Independence Boulevard and near Lake Norman, reports steady business. "What we sell is basically recession-proof," said general manager Tabb Joffe. "Our business is pretty much steady. I don't know if the gas prices are affecting us. People still drive here from miles away."

Other adult-oriented stores and distributors, such as Priscilla's on South Boulevard and AEBN on Old Pineville Road, declined Creative Loafing's requests for interviews.

The porn slump isn't just local: According to WFOR-TV in Miami, the industry is facing a double-digit slump in sales for the first time in 40 years. But WFOR reports that Hustler, like the Red Door, isn't doing too bad. President Michael Klein tells the TV station that DVD sales may be down, but sales of Hustler magazines and other company brands, like the casino and the stores, are doing well.

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