<B>War and the 'Net</B>

Members of the global adult Internet industry took part in an AVN Online poll at the onset of the U.S./Iraqi armed conflict. Prior to that, respondents had been asked if they expected any positive or negative effects on their economic bottom lines.

Once the United States-led military intervention to unseat Iraqi President Saddam Hussein began, responses ranged from uncertainty and ambivalence to clear-cut apprehension as people came to realize that conflict was inevitable.

Aside from pinpointing specific examples of member retention spikes/drop-offs, chargebacks, etc., the query also sought to gauge effects of a global conflict and their repercussions closer to home.

Some respondents, like an upper-level executive for an international dialer company, citing the gravity of the situation, respectfully refused to comment.

Before the conflict began, IVOLT Network’s Greg Salsburg cautioned those who’d been quick to add their voices to the pundit chorus, noting that early appearances won’t always be what they seem. "Sometimes what we anticipate or perceive is in complete contrast to the final outcome. Our intolerance for Saddam's [dictatorial regime] will lead to war and how it will effect business is still uncertain," he said.

"However," Salsburg added, "I suspect it will not have a large negative effect since the sentence 'This war has me not wanting to look at naked women’ has never been uttered." Some three weeks into the action, his views remain unchanged.

New Englander Kevin Driscoll of 1stWorks Corp. asserted that first quarter sales figures of his hotComm flagship service reflected a 24 percent increase as a result of the war. hotComm provides serverless and private interactive secure messaging, voice, video, and file management for registered Windows users.

Driscoll, the director of the software technology company, also attributed the rise in his weekly sales figures to exposure from a February AVN Online magazine review.

As a parent, Driscoll echoed the sentiment of many others whose friends, spouses, and siblings have enlisted in the armed forces. "I have two sons. One’s in college and I'm not eager to see him drafted. My other son is in grade school and he doesn't like to have his TV cartoons interrupted by news of the war," Driscoll said.

A California-based Website designer, known by the moniker ::MX::, offered a more sobering view of the financial landscape for his Website design business, Dreamrock Digital: "Bottom line, business sucks!"

Since relocating his offices to be in closer proximity to Porn Valley, the apex of the U.S. adult entertainment industry situated in northern Los Angeles County, the designer has seen his fortunes take a veritable nosedive. "The upcoming liberation of the people of Iraq has definitely put a dent in our business; unemployment is up, gas prices are shooting through the roof, and the stock market's still tanking," he said.

Respondents were also asked if their overall opinions of the conflict had changed since military action got under way.

A denizen of the 'Net’s ever-changing niche markets, Lord Austin created ArmedConflict.com in early-February. "I like to think of the site as Asian hardcore with an attitude," he said.

Since the site’s inception, the El Paso, Texas-based Web designer admits he hadn’t expected ArmedConflict to do as well as it has. Indeed, Austin’s combustible marriage of gunpowder and poontang helped stoke his first quarter traffic from about 100 hits a day to over 100,000 during one week.

"As far as my signups go, they seem to be down a little, maybe 10 to 15 percent. Rebills are steady, traffic has seen a slight overall increase, and chargebacks have, thankfully, stayed below one percent. Bookmarks are up 10 percent," Austin said. Though the bookmarks comprise a relatively meager figure, he expects to eventually convert them into sales.

The seeds for the ArmedConflict’s creation likely sprung from El Paso’s proximity to Fort Bliss, which houses the U.S. Army Air Defense Artillery Center and the Army’s center for the education and training of Air Defense Artillery soldiers and units. Many of the Army’s first respondent soldiers originate from here and from the Marine Corps’ base at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

"Since this is mostly a military town, you can imagine that we are very much in favor of the war, and support our troops. If any anti-war protestors decide to lie down in the streets down here, they better bring some maple syrup, because they’re going to end up pancakes," Austin said.

Like Salsburg above, three weeks of military action hasn’t changed Austin’s opinion. "The media seems to have a cow whenever anyone gets killed. There are more deaths every day in Los Angeles due to gang activity, so I don’t see what the big deal is. We should continue with our 'hey diddle diddle, right up the middle’ battle plan and capture Baghdad," he said.

If Austin were in command of the ground troops, he’d bark the following orders at them: "Shoot first and ask questions later, level every building, take no prisoners, and take all the oil for Texaco!" He’ll stick to running adult sites for the time being.

In Portland, Ore., freelance sex writer Darklady is taking a wait-and-see attitude.

"I think it's too early yet to know how this [conflict] will play out for me professionally in the long run. In the short run, I've picked up a small amount of work writing about local peace protests and police responses to them. Because of my involvement in politics and my recent public relations work for Portland's Nude for Peace group, I've also seen new members join my Yahoo! Group to discuss sex as well as the war and its effects upon our domestic freedoms," she said.

Though primarily an erotic essayist, because of a change in worldview brought by the Iraqi conflict, Darklady plans to expand her medium of expression into photojournalism as well.

"I'm giving serious thought to carrying a camera with me at all times in order to capture any interesting pro or anti war-related activity I come across. For instance, after a recent dinner with my boyfriend, as we paused to cross a bridge from downtown to the southeast side of Portland, three young men ran in front of our car - one of them carrying an American flag. It was quite an image. I was reminded of many of the spontaneous demonstrations of patriotism that I saw as I drove a rental car on my way home from New York City after 9/11.

"If nothing else, the war has got my creative juices flowing in a number of new directions," she said.

Asked if the war will impact Teleteria.net’s bottom line, company president Jay Servidio’s short answer is no.

"Teleteria.net is the world’s largest provider of custom turnkey adult sites and our business continues to grow. As a matter of fact, I have noticed that the customers and new prospects calling us every day aren’t even commenting on the war. Their main priority is making new revenue streams and providing for themselves and their families. I guess they feel that they don’t have the luxury of debating that which they have no control over," he said.

Servidio stays tuned to all the major news networks day and night to keep abreast of the latest developments, all the while hoping "it doesn’t turn out to be Vietnam II."

"The community I live in is Connecticut and I work in New York City. The majority of people in Connecticut are resigned to supporting the troops and the outcome of liberating Iraq; especially in the town where I live, where two of the NBC correspondents are reporting from Iraq live," he said.

Enmity toward anti-war protestors can be a high voltage issue, especially in the Tri-state area where participation in civil disobedience near the former site of the World Trade Center’s towers has drawn the ideological ire of many. "[The protestors’] general attitude is that the government is not telling the whole truth about the Iraqi conflict. They are, for the most part, ill informed," said Servidio. "Unfortunately, New York city is a host to many left-wing propaganda machines that spew out a variety of stories that are not based on facts. These are the ones who forgot 9/11 and can not speak cogently on affairs outside their own neighborhoods."

"As for my overall opinion, it is the same as before [the war]: I think we should win. Saddam Hussein needs to go, and go now. He is a murderous dictator and has demonstrated a will to kill his own people and reward terrorism. Saddam is personally worth over $3 billion that he has stolen from the Iraqi people. He allows his people to starve to death everyday. The list of atrocities he has committed on his own people is far too numerous to list here."

Servidio also advocates pre-emptive strikes on rogue nations who’d look to cripple or curtail the American economy.

"The United States changed drastically on 9/11. We can no longer sit back and bring to trial those who oppose us to the degree of causing death to our citizens. We need to take the fight to them. Our very existence depends on it. Our way of life is threatened and we must protect it," he said.

Far short of lying down in the midst of crowded metropolitan intersections like some New York protesters did in late March, Servidio has an alternative suggestion. "If you feel for the Iraqis, it would be more prudent to send food and clothing to them rather than march against our brave men and women who are fighting and dying to protect our freedom."

While his so-called 'regular’ sales are down, Clint Arthur, a self-described "lifestyle guru" and presidential hopeful, noted that "war-related" porn revenues are up for his series of books, instructional media, and lifestyle improvement seminars. "As always, you've got to supply products that meet the needs of the marketplace," he said. To this end, he’s created a 50-page e-book treatise entitled Sex & War, that’s available via his Website.

"This war is very interesting. It seems to be intensifying the experience of being alive. And there seems to be much more sexual energy in the world," Arthur said.

At MrSkin.com, the bottom line doesn’t seem to be suffering any ill effects of the war. In fact, it would seem that nude celebs are somewhat recession-proof.

"We remain vigilant and ever wary that the tide could turn," said Mr. Skin V.P. of marketing, Jim Lillig. He maintains that after the terrorist attacks on New York’s World Trade Center, signup numbers increased, apparently as a result of more consumers spending increased time at home. "[That’s] just a theory... can’t prove it though," he said.

"On the same day as the initial air strikes on Baghdad [March 20], we revealed the Fourth Annual 2003 Anatomy Awards on Howard Stern, which we have done every year since we started releasing the Anatomies. We, of course, saw a large spike in traffic, as we normally do when we’re on Howard Stern, but looking at the numbers overall in comparison with the same time frame as last year, we’re seeing less total unique hits coming to the site from the promotion," Lillig said.

A likely contributor to the drop-off in responses could be attributed to the inevitable siphoning of Stern’s nationally syndicated audience share tuning in to rival news outlets during the conflict.

"We’ve had less signups overall from the appearance in comparison to years past, but still we are selling 30 percent more subscriptions versus last year at this time, notwithstanding the Stern appearance," Lillig said.

Especially unforeseen were the signups to Mr. Skin from various Middle Eastern and nearby countries like Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, India, Cypress, and Egypt, among others.

"Maybe Mr. Skin and the adult Internet can lead the revolution to banish the burqa," he said.