Failing banks may be giving the stock market jitters, but they have yet to rattle the world's oldest profession - sex.
As financial turmoil spins around the globe, some Australian brothels say it is business-as-usual for now with sex seen as a consumer need like tobacco, for which demand remains strong despite an economic slump.
"We're certainly not seeing an impact yet, hopefully it won't happen," the madam of Sydney's upmarket Xclusive bordello told AFP.
"I think that during times of economic downturn, you often find that it's alcohol, tobacco, gambling and the sex industry which are the blue-chip industries," said the woman, who gave her name as Catherine.
"Because I think men are unwilling to give up their alcohol, their sex, their gambling and their smoking."
Catherine said that the arrival of the southern hemisphere summer and Australia's hosting of the Rugby League World Cup beginning later this month would almost certainly boost trade.
"Even this week, business as a whole has been up. It's been good. We've seen a steady increase over the past couple of weeks. But again we're coming into summer and that's always good for business," he said.
"We're hoping that we won't see any downturn."
Neil Gilmore, who owns the Pentagon Grand brothel on Queensland's Gold Coast, said business had not suffered as a result of other global problems such as the September 11 attacks in the US or the SARS epidemic a few years ago.
"And at the moment, we're not seeing much of an effect from the global economic crisis," he said.
But he said that if the turmoil led to rising unemployment, particularly among blue-collar workers in the mining industry, business could suffer.
Janelle Fawkes, chief executive of the Scarlet Alliance, the Australian Sex Workers Association, agrees that in some ways, the industry was recession-proof.
"It certainly changes with the times," she told AFP. "The industry is well known for adapting to the circumstances."
Fiona Patten, who heads the Eros Foundation which represents the adult retail and entertainment industry, said it was not surprising that brothels were running a brisk trade in the face of enormous financial upheaval.
"The common understanding is that the adult industry is fairly recession-proof, and that has been the case (in the past)," she told AFP.
Patten credits her own involvement in the industry to the economic downturn Australia experienced some 15 years ago.
"I was in the fashion industry in the 90s during the recession and that was what introduced me to the sex industry because my customers were sex workers - they were the only ones who could afford one-off designs at that time," she said.
Patten said while the sex services industry was unlikely to be significantly impacted by the global crisis, there would probably be a fall in the number of casual customers.
"In services, it depends on why people go. Many come because it's part of what they do. They are regular customers. They go every week," she said.
"So it's probably not something they would cut out of their budget immediately. They will see it as an affordable expense."
If anything, the sale of pornography may drop, but this could be partly attributed to the rise in Internet porn, she said.
"People are spending less time going out to dinner, or are pulling in the belts on holidays or things like that, but they are still buying porn," Patten said. "It's seen as a cheap luxury."
"However, the American industry is certainly feeling the pinch. They have most definitely seen a downturn. While Australia probably hasn't come to that point yet, we are probably expecting to follow the American model and see a downturn in adult retail goods."
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