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A visit to Adam & Eve's happy wonderland of sex toys



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Finally, I'm introduced to Harvey, the man at the helm of this adult playhouse. I don't know what I was expecting -- certainly not some buff stud or even Hugh Hefner -- but I admit I was surprised to see a pale, balding, short man with a slight build who speaks in a flat, almost monotone voice. He seems more like an erudite accountant or high school math teacher than the impresario of his own massive sex empire. Much like the rest of the building, his desk and office walls are littered with line graphs, bar diagrams and memos, which are oddly juxtaposed with pictures of naked women.

Harvey was born in Illinois 66 years ago. Although he came of age during the sex, drugs and idealism of the 60s, it was "from a distance," he says. After Harvey graduated from Harvard in 1960, he enrolled in the Peace Corps, but was drafted instead, and served a two-year stint in the Army. Still in his early 20s, Harvey then joined the charity CARE, and traveled to India where he spent five years supervising the pre-school feeding program.

"For most of the 60s I was in India," Harvey says from behind his desk, his thick, black-framed glasses perched atop his head. "We imported all the Beatles' songs, and certainly the sexual revolution was taking place in cities like Bombay and New Delhi, but mostly we just read about it.

"Kennedy had said "Ask what you can do for your country,'" he continues. "It was part of the spirit of the times, and I was looking to go out in the world and be useful. But I also wanted to live and work in a part of the world that was completely different from what I knew, to find out what other human beings were made of."

During his time in India, Harvey became frustrated with how ineffective many of the feeding programs were, and realized that if the industrial world really wanted to help countries like India, voluntary family planning was the way to do it. With that goal in mind, he returned to the US in 1969, and enrolled at UNC-Chapel Hill where he earned a masters degree in family planning administration. During this time he met Dr. Tim Black, who shared his vision of making contraception available on a mass scale in the Third World. Black helped Harvey with his post-graduate thesis project, which was concerned with the "non-medical distribution of contraceptives" (i.e., mail-order condoms). At the time, sending condoms through the mail was illegal due to the Comstock Law, which classified them as obscene. Nonetheless, Harvey and Black decided to forge ahead.

"We did it under the aegis of a non-profit corporation," Harvey explains. "But as the orders started rolling in, we could see that it contained the seeds of what might be a profitable business. So we incorporated into a regular commercial company."

This all eventually led to the establish-ment of the family planning and AIDS prevention organization DKT International, a non-profit based in Washington, DC, that's still headed by Harvey, offering contraceptive protection to 5.7 million couples in 2000, the last year for which they have complete figures.

Meanwhile, the condom mail-order business continued to grow, and the Adam & Eve mail order catalogue was born in 1972. "It evolved from expressed demand," Harvey says. "We experimented with all kinds of products -- digital clocks, ship building kits, leisure wear -- but it soon became obvious that anytime we offered products that had an erotic appeal, sales jumped way up."

Adam & Eve (Neither Harvey nor Black can recall how the name came about) continued to boom throughout the 70s and 80s. In May of 1986, however, during the heyday of the conservative Reagan administration, the company hit a major speedbump. Thirty-seven federal agents with guns on their hips raided the North Carolina headquarters, then located in Carrboro, and detained, searched, and subpoenaed 118 employees.

"The feds had an agenda," Harvey says. "Once Ed Meese took over as Attorney General they wanted to eliminate all sexual material from American culture. They hired what I would call "True Believers,' and these religious crusaders simply believed sex was evil and bad and they set out to eliminate anything they deemed obscene."

Meese and his crew had already driven out of business at least seven other mail order companies that distributed erotic material by using multi-jurisdictional laws, in which they threatened prosecution in several different states. "It was an extremely effective tactic," Harvey says. "It would cost these companies millions of dollars to defend themselves against these different lawsuits. The feds were blatant about it. They made it clear they were out to break us."

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