It wasn’t good for you?

Sex sells.

Sometimes just a little less than others.

That’s the naked truth facing thousands of sex workers this year as the industry makes its annual pilgrimage to Las Vegas.

Whether it is digital video disc sales, reduced pay for movie appearances or just that customers are unwilling to pay high rates for hotel-room visits, the sagging economy has shaved billions of dollars in profits from the sex business.

“We are experiencing it like everyone else,” said Michael Perry of Access Instructional Media. He was among about 250 exhibitors at the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo in the Sands Expo and Convention Center.

Last year event organizers reported attendance of about 12,000 sex industry workers, 17,000 fans and 1,300 members of the media.

This year the number of exhibitors is down about 18 percent, expo spokesman Sean Devlin said.

But interest from fans and the media remain strong, he said.

“All things considered, we are no different than any other trade show and may be doing a little better,” Devlin said.

Nationally, the sex industry is thought to generate about $13 billion annually, though estimates vary. It’s down from $18 billion three years ago, according to top industry figures.

Perry, a doctor and sex therapist, sells videos featuring pornography actors performing sex acts with a bent toward instructing couples on the maneuvers.

“It is eye candy, but at the same time it also helps people have a better sex life,” Perry said.

The company does much of its business through DVD sales to retailers but is now plunging deeper into digital downloads direct to consumers.

The shift from tangible DVD or Blu-ray discs to downloads is another challenge to the industry, in addition to the recession.

“The industry, even Disney, is going to feel the effect of the fact less and less people are going to be buying DVDs and even Blu-ray,” said Perry, who added that his business is down about 25 percent. “I think Blu-ray is never going to take off.”

Perry said the next big injection for the industry will come from technology that allows consumers to download material directly to their televisions.

Others say business is holding firm even in the soft economy.

Linda Rankin, assistant manager of the Chicken Ranch brothel in Pahrump, said her business doesn’t appear to be suffering.

“We have our slow days, but we go by the week so our grosses are still up,” Rankin said.

The brothel, in Nye County where prostitution is legal, has a rotation of about 35 women plying the trade, said Rankin.

The women and the owners have learned to leverage the ubiquity of Internet access in their favor and use technology to drive new business to the ranch.

Women communicate with potential clients by e-mail. And men can use the brothel’s Web site to make transportation arrangements.

At a booth for Beverly Hills Plastic Surgery Physicians, Ian Urquhart displayed a selection of silicon and saline breast implants. Urquhart, technical coordinator for the company, said sex workers can deduct the cost of implants from their income for tax purposes, which helps when it comes to paying for new parts in tough times.

“For people who are in the industry, their body is their work,” he said. “It is a business expense.”

Although business is down, Urquhart said attending the show pays dividends for the surgeons.

“We sign up about 100 people and you average about $8,000 per surgery, so you do the math on that,” he said.

Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at bspillman@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3861.

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