FARRIN FOSTER Goes on the trail of the elusive Adelaide porno scene.
Rumours abound. Words and half-truths land on my desk, occasionally pop up in my inbox and make my phone sound out shrilly.
Someone in Adelaide says there's a pornography industry here.
The 'someone' is always a friend of a friend; a guy you met down the pub; a conversation overheard the other day. As quickly as information is offered it disappears. But it's too enticing, as far as stories go there's nothing sexier than porn. If there's a scene here, I want to find it.
I start with the people I know. A friend's friend has this girlfriend that no-one really likes. And she used to date this guy who had these parties where everyone got high and had sex. Yes, in 2009. Not 1969.
The girlfriend that no-one really likes recently attended one of her ex-boyfriend's sex parties (we like her even less now). Whilst there, in between other activities, the ex-boyfriend told her about the time he made some professional porn. Yes, in Adelaide. Not in Los Angeles.
I call my friends' friends' girlfriend's ex-boyfriend. That was a long phone message I left. Oddly, he never called back.
But that story and word of some underground dealings of a pornographic colour happening at Ingle Farm were enough to get me hooked. I started to ask everyone I saw if they knew about pornography in Adelaide.
It turns out I see a lot of people daily. Most of the men I asked told me they knew some people and would get back to me in a few days. When I returned they were far less confident and admitted they did at least know a guy who had a lot of porn on his laptop. You know what buddy? I know a hundred of those and you're prrrobably amongst them.
One particular character said he had some definite contacts and duly took down my phone number. When he called back in a few days it was not to arrange an interview with his porn star friend, but to ask me if I wanted to be in a porn film. Such was my desperation that I went along with the idea for a good two minutes until I realized he was talking amateur porn. Then I hung up and washed my hands. The dirty feeling is still hanging around somewhere near the base of my throat though.
The women were more helpful. Several produced phone numbers of people they knew in the sex industry, working as prostitutes or brothel operators. I wondered whether it was rude to assume some kind of connection between the two industries before realizing people had probably asked these girls much more offensive questions.
That's how I found Natalie. Natalie has been a sex worker for the past five years and enjoys her work, which supplements her full time income so she and her partner can have a bit of extra cash.
Natalie doesn't know anyone in the pornography industry.
She does have some interesting things to say though. I guess she doesn't speak to journalists too often because she's keen to say her piece on sex worker rights and the "misinformation" that gets around about prostitutes."I made a very educated decision to get into this job, I was only nineteen, but it wasn't something I did for drugs or anything. I paid my way though uni and then discovered it was a good way to supplement income from my other job. Most workers I know have a similar story," she said.
According to Natalie the industry is not plagued by drug addicts, mental misfits and street cretins. She says prostitution is a career choice like any other. I called quite a few of Natalie's colleagues while following my other leads and though most weren't keen on appearing in the press and none knew about pornography, all of them were polite, helpful and eloquent. Two of them were supporting families through their work.
Having completed my interesting digression into the world of sex work, I reluctantly return to the increasingly frustrating pornography search. After a little work with the journalist's most trusty tool (Google) I happen upon the official appendage of the porn world in Australia.
The EROS Association, our national adult retail and entertainment association, is the pornography industry advocacy group and they get stuck into issues like classification, distribution rights, networking and other fun stuff. They are the politicians of the pornography world.
I call them and, unlike the politicians of the political world, they answer the phone. Telephonically I travel through a maze of offices looking for Suzy Humphreys, the President of EROS. From Perth to Melbourne, to an answering service of a company whose name I missed, to a garbled conversation with a man named Barry (I didn't know people were actually called that) I've talked to them all. But eventually the lady herself called me back.
"I'm in Adelaide at the moment," Suzy said.
My heart soared. "I don't know anything about that side of things," she continued.
It dropped back, a little further past its regular spot. "But Fiona Patten might."
Thank god for Fiona Patten.
Fiona Patten is former CEO of the EROS Association and convenor of the Australian Sex Party which is currently in the process of getting Electoral Commission recognition as a non-parliamentary party.
According to Suzy she is also "the person who knows everything there is to know about the Australian sex industry."
I want to talk to this woman. It's handy I have her number. I call it. It rings out.
Fresh out of leads, with the Internet being too scary an option to return to, I take my search to the streets. It's something I've been avoiding for the whole time, but now is the moment to go into a porn store and ask for local content. Luckily I have a friend, who has a friend who works in a massive porn store, so I don't have to approach this deal cold turkey.
My friend's friend is unnervingly receptive when I call him out of the blue, introduce myself and launch into a tale of pornography rumours, quest and disappointment.
He's also quite funny.
"I really needed a job and had been applying a lot. I didn't think I'd get the adult store job. I just thought it was a bit of a laugh but when I got to interview I passed pretty well. Later I found out I was the only one who showed up in a suit and tie, everyone else was really casual and wore trackies and stuff," he said.
"It was definitely awkward, especially when I was new to the job getting product trained and then giving customer service. Explaining with a straight face why one vibrator is better than another is pretty hard to do."
Hard indeed, so hard that Hugh (this guy's name) has since moved from adult retail to brighter pastures. It wasn't the content of the store that did him in though, or even the long hours. It was the clientele.
"It was just very seedy and the customers are the biggest turn off, you wouldn't have to deal with the same sort of people even in a 24-hour McDonalds," he said.
And while Hugh doesn't work in a sex store anymore he's still got that insider knowledge I'm after. The big question is whether any of the products he sold to his 24-hour McDonalds patrons was locally made.
"There were a few things that were name-branded with the store logo, but the vast majority was stuff from the US or imported from somewhere else," he said.
Damn. My man on the inside knows nothing and deadline day is fast approaching.
My only hope, now that I've traversed the spectrum of porn store attendants, prostitutes, brothel owners, your average man on the street and an industry body, is Fiona Patten.
Like a saviour, two days before deadline she calls me back. After we chat about the latest SA Liberal leadership debacle, the curious nature of men and the charming nature of Suzy Humphreys we get down to business.
"I've not heard about anything operating out of Adelaide. If it were there I'd probably know about it.
"The interesting thing is that even with your extremely conservative Attorney-General, SA is one of the few Australian states where it is probably legal to make pornography, just not legal to distribute it."
According to Fiona SA laws aren't watertight on the issue of making pornography. Although Mr Atkinson (who is our Attorney General, if you're not in the political in crowd) is a staunch anti-sex, anti-fun, anti-good times type he apparently never thought pornography production would be an issue, so hasn't guarded against it. Practically everything else, from prostitution to distribution, has been well and truly clamped down upon.
Despite this the strange truth is brothels are around every second corner in SA, but pornography is (evidently) absent. If we were all happy law-abiding citizens the opposite would be true and living rooms across the state would double as porn sets. What perverse people we are.
Fiona is sure that there is plenty of home-made Adelaide porn floating around on the Internet and has personal knowledge of a couple of local web-based adult content services.
I found what is probably one of them – www.adelaideporn.com.
But I'm squeamish and the only web access I have is in my office; so I didn't press the "Enter (if you're over 18)" button. You might want to try it, but I can assure you the hot girl/guy next door won't be featured because all their content is from interstate or overseas. You'll have to see them naked the old fashioned way – up a tree with binoculars.
There's no pornography industry in Adelaide, anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. On the bright side, this is the city of brothels and if you're sick of watching porn and want to get laid all you need is cash.
Though if you're charismatic, good-looking, charming or drunk you might not even need that.