Sex and Tech in Sin City


LAS VEGAS, Jan. 11, 2007 — -- The worlds of technology and pornography are coming together in Las Vegas, as the Adult Entertainment Expo comes to Sin City and gives the Consumer Electronics Show a gentle -- yet sexy -- nudge to the side.

This week, the Sands Expo Center is home to not only both the latest high-tech gadgets and consumer electronics on display at one of CES' many convention halls and ballrooms, but also to the roughly $12.5 billion adult entertainment industry as well.

Certainly not for the bashful, the Adult Entertainment Expo is a massive and professional trade show that features strippers and adult videos playing on giant screens around every corner -- and that's just the stuff we can tell you about.

The show is primarily a trade event, but fans also get a chance to get face to face with their favorite adult stars.

Lines wrap around the extravagant booths as industry professionals wait for a chance to get an autograph.

"I wouldn't say I'm a 'fan,' but because of work I do see a lot of these movies," said K.C., a retail manager for an adult store outside of Sacramento, Calif., after getting an autograph from the Love Twins, Linda and Lacy.

Perhaps more interesting is how many CES attendees quietly made their way over to AEE, almost sneaking from convention halls filled with productivity software and digital cameras to the pulsing music and abundant skin of the hall next door.

Whispers of adult entertainment parties are muttered by CES attendees with nervous excitement. What happens in Vegas, stays in. … Well, you know.

Despite their obvious curiosity, most dodged cameras and members of the media, preferring to preserve their anonymity and blend in with the thousands in attendance and not be identified as the vice president or a public relations rep for some technology company.

But the technology and the sex industries share a bit of a dysfunctional relationship when you consider how much the two cross over.

"I've been coming to Las Vegas for the last 10 CES conferences and I always walk over to check out the adult expo to see what's going on," said Marco Cicogna, a senior editor for Italy's AUDIO review magazine.

"It's interesting to see that they really try to do high-quality productions with good equipment," Cicogna said.

Cicogna notes that the buzz words being thrown around the Consumer Electronics Show are mirrored by its naughty neighbor.

"The technical advances from CES are here, too," he said. "I have seen many of the movies, and I see they are for sale for HDTVs in HD [DVD] format."

There are many observers who believe the sex industry is one of the key deciding factors in the HD DVD/Blu-Ray DVD battle because of the sheer size of the market.

While the industry as a whole hasn't thrown its weight behind one technology or the other, there are a number of adult video companies already leaning toward HD DVD.

"I wouldn't say we decided against Blu-Ray, but HD DVD was just easier, more accessible, and we had access to the technology," said Jackie Ramos, vice president of DVD production for Wicked Pictures, one of the adult industry's largest filmmakers.

One of the biggest reasons the industry has such sway over something like the next-generation DVD war is that its customers appreciate a certain level of anonymity.

Many experts say the adult entertainment business truly decided the victor when VHS and BetaMax squared off many years ago as customers turned away from public adult movie theaters.

That need to satisfy the public's desire for privacy, and to help combat online identity theft, has led to a variety of payment options at adult sites, from the use of ambiguous company names that appear on charge card bills, to a PayPal-like service called Pure Vanilla at

While users of Pure Vanilla aren't limited to the use of adult sites, the company's presence at the Adult Entertainment Expo is evidence of that need to avoid advertising what they're doing online.

The ability to create an anonymous account or to purchase stored-value cards that can be used to buy memberships to adult sites -- and to shop and join other subscription-based Web sites -- enables adult video enthusiasts to visit the sites they want without letting wives or girlfriends know what they're doing.

But both attendees and those displaying their wares aren't showing off their tech savvy as much as the breadth of whom the industry reaches.

From the large, loud booths and scantily clad -- if clothed at all -- women, to booths raising money for breast cancer research, there's more than you might expect displayed on the show floor.

"Fitness pole dancing is huge," said Stacey Leisure, sales manager for Vertical Leisure Ltd., a U.K. company that says it's on the cutting edge of pole dancing technology. And yes, that's her real name.

"First, we were making them for strippers and strip clubs, but now 98 percent of our sales are for the home," Leisure said.

Leisure said that in the United Kingdom, pole dancing as a form of exercise was taking off. She said that same fever had also taken hold here in the United States, with mainstream media and even Oprah Winfrey acknowledging its benefits and popularity.

"There are 185 different pole dancing moves," said Clive Coote, managing director of Ripmax. "It's just great exercise."

Despite the company's obvious connection to the gentlemen's club industry, it almost seems out of place among the moaning and groaning of the show's sexier booths.

Oddly enough, in a place where sex sells and almost nothing seems taboo, the industry's gay adult video industry booths are tucked away in the back corner of the hall. Even here, some things are not quite mainstream.

ABC News' Eric Strauss contributed to this report.

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