Sex operators

A small island in the South Pacific decides to stop leasing its area code to porn phone lines.

Published October 11, 2000 7:41PM (EDT)

No man is an island, but let's say you are, in particular the tiny island nation of Tuvalu, tucked away in the South Pacific. Your boundaries support about 10,000 people. In the past eight years, you've found a novel way to bring cash into the country: leasing your 688 area code to sex-line operators. You've raked in millions of Australian dollars from lonely guys across the world, who whack off to the dramatically lewd voice of a student or a working mother. But while you're taking porn money, your citizenry has developed an itch that can't be scratched. They're deeply religious, and the onslaught of porn is driving them crazy with guilt.

This predicament recently forced the government of Tuvalu to decide between two options -- continue to take the sex industry's cash, or bow down to their God and cut off the pipeline? The country's leaders took the spiritual road, and shut down all the porn phone lines.

"We don't need any more sex calls," said Prime Minister Ionatana Ionatana. "That venture continued to damage our reputation on the religious front."

But there was another factor in the decision -- the porn simply wasn't making as much money as it had been. Last year, Tuvalu took in about $3 million (about $1.6 million U.S.) from leasing out its area codes, but the revenue has dropped drastically in recent months.

"This year we are only getting some hundreds of thousands," said Ionatana. "That's peanuts. These people are selling the service to millions of people around the world and we know for sure they are getting millions of dollars, and yet they refuse to show their accounts to us."

Turning down the easy money was actually easier for Tuvalu than it might seem. After eight years of the crazy porn cash, the island is enjoying a more relaxed pace and a calmer religious climate. Oh, and there's also the millions of honest dollars Tuvalu made earlier this year, when the nation sold partial ownership and the administration of its .tv domain name to the highest bidder.

By Jack Boulware

Jack Boulware is a writer in San Francisco and author of "San Francisco Bizarro" and "Sex American Style."

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