Porn News

Sex trade is no longer a man’s world

Miami- Toys like the Silver Bullet or feather snappers or pleasure pearls demand a sales professional who knows her market, knows her product and knows that one of the best ways to sell such delights for the bedroom is to start . . . in the living room.

The roomful of women at a weekly training session for the company Passion Parties — a top-seller of sexual enhancement products that has seen its Tupperware-style approach to sales explode in South Florida in the past few years — know this all too well.

They sit upright, then lean in closer as consultant Lisa Mikels reveals some of the latest company slogans they must all learn, part of the sales pitch they’ll deliver at small gatherings in living rooms across the region:

“Good girls are allowed to have great sex.”

“There is no substitute for sensuality.”

“You can’t put a price on sexual happiness.”

”That’s profound, ladies, write it down,” says Ann Marie Fino, who leads a million-dollar sales team of Passion Parties consultants. Three years ago, Fino was the company’s only sales consultant in South Florida. Today, there are more than 100 — and Fino is helping the newer arrivals learn the business.

It’s a business — marketing adult material to women via what might be called ”non-seedy” tactics — that appears to be growing rapidly across the country.

Nationwide, Las Vegas-based Passion Parties claims over 28,000 consultants and annual sales of $47 million.

At Athena Home Novelties, which has a similar sales approach, sales have recently grown at $1 million each year, says company president Jennifer Jolicoeur. The 8-year-old company had sales of $7 million in 2005.

It’s not clear how the $1.5 billion in annual sales of adult novelty items breaks down among the genders — but nearly every knowledgeable source says women are buying more than ever.

Local hotels like the Delano and The Standard Hotel on Miami Beach are keeping pace with the trend. The Delano’s gift shop sells a 24-karat gold-plated vibrator (The Jimmy Jane) that retails for $275. Last month, The Standard set up a kiosk in its gift shop stocked with lubricants and creams and high-end toys from the adult toy retailer, Toys In Babeland.

”The stereotype that women who enjoy sex are hookers, strippers and porn stars is finally going away,” says Jolicoeur, of Athena’s Home Novelties.

“Bus drivers, bank tellers, moms and nurses are having great sex and it has a lot to do with companies like mine.”

Another indication of interest: Thirty percent of all visitors to adult websites, or nearly 12.6 million visitors, were women, according to a September 2006 survey by Nielsen/NetRatings, which measures online audiences.

For years the adult sex and toy industry had marketed products to men. Cavernous sex shops and strip clubs were seen mostly as a man’s world that only very brave women would enter, say industry experts.

”The packaging was horrible,” says Shea Martin of Vibratex, a California-based company that supplies sex products to retailers. The company’s pearl vibrator was featured on HBO’s Sex in the City.

”A lot of women don’t want to buy a video with a major porn star on it,” says Martin.

Women, says Patricia Davis, president of Passion Parties, prefer to purchase toys in a setting where they feel comfortable.

‘A toy store is so overwhelming. A woman wouldn’t even know where to begin and, even worse, she has to walk up to a guy or teenager at the counter and ask a stranger `What do you have for a G-spot?’ ” said Davis.

Stores like Toys in Babeland, where sales have grown steadily by 35 percent each year, help take away the embarrassment by selling toys in a space that has all the trappings of a boutique, says Rebecca Suzanne, the company’s director of marketing: bright colors, sample toys on display and a sales team dubbed ”sex educators” who go through extensive training on human sexuality.

”We’ve made it a comfortable place for women and couples to shop,” says Suzanne.

Martin, of Vibratex, says she has seen a major change in attitude since getting into the business in 1983.

”There were no toy conventions back then and, then, when there were, there were no women,” said Martin. “Now there are just as many men as women.”

Joan Muir, a Broward-based clinical psychologist, says the female market for adult material is growing “because women now have a comfort level with themselves because of their sense of independence professionally and financially.”

The growth in sales has also helped to spawn a new career choice for many women.

More women now direct porn films, are publishing adult magazines or serve as president of companies within the industry — among them Davis, Jolicoeur and Susan Colvin, president of California Exotic Novelties, among the largest manufacturers in the industry.

Many more are turning their backs on traditional careers to sign up as the consultants who sell the products.

The perks, they say, are too hard to resist — no traffic, a work week of just a few hours and a paycheck that grows the more toys they sell. For example, a $4,000 party can generate a $1,600 paycheck.

Passion Parties has also teamed up with a healthcare provider to provide discounted health benefits to its consultants

”I quit my job today,” screamed Denise Owens, a consultant at the recent Passion Parties training session. Owens quit her job as a meeting planner after just three months as a consultant.

Many of the women at the training session had done the same.

Brooke Davidson, 26, has a degree in natural sciences from the University of South Florida and had worked as an invasive plant species technician, preserving native Florida plants.

Allergies did her in.

In search of a new career, Davidson said she attended a Passion Party hosted by Fino and found her calling.

”I enjoy what I do. It’s an amazing thing to be able to help women have better sex,” Davidson says.

She admits to being nervous at her first party.

”I blushed. I absolutely blushed,” she says. “But then you work through it. It is what it is. There’s no way to dance around the subject, of what it is you’re selling.”

Still, there are some tricks.

“Now I pile on the deodorant and I put my hair up in a ponytail, anything to keep me from sweating because that will make the customers nervous.”

”We have an amazing job,” Davidson says. “We give them the tools — literally — to facilitate a better sex life.”


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