The dot-XXX saga has been a part of the story of the adult online industry for so long that it has taken on a mythology all its own, especially regarding the unrelenting stories of backroom promises in exchange for support. The fact that dot-XXX has been rejected by ICANN time and again—only to be resurrected from the dead wholly due to ICM Registry’s utter determination to get what it believes it is owed—has done little to squash the many rumors and accounts that have swirled around the domain from the very beginning.
Had the thing been approved in 2005, some of the controversy surrounding its dark past might have abated, and yet it’s hard to imagine people would forget (or forgive) the many deals and understandings they continue to swear took place. For them and others, a resilient rage still exists, more than a decade after Jason Hendeles first came on the scene. Other mainstream issues may have long since overshadowed the industry’s internecine ones, but for many in the biz the real story of dot-XXX remains a squalid tale of misrepresentation, trickery and out-and-out lies—one of those sinister family secrets that never sees the light of day, but about which the family remains painfully sensitive, with some determined to try to hide their complicity forever.
My own first-hand experiences—along with the many conversations, including recent ones that I have had with informed or involved people who were around back then—have only confirmed for me that deals did take place during Hendeles’ early crusade to extract support from companies and people in the industry by any means possible. Like many, I too was relentlessly targeted by Hendeles for support he knew full well I was not willing to give. By early 2004, his final gambit with me was to purposefully lie to me in order to gain a concession that I regretfully gave: I would consider sitting on the IFFOR board if the scheme passed, but only if ICM promised not to use the concession to assist in the application or even to show it to ICANN, which in the end is precisely what ICM did. In light of that deceit, I believe they pulled similar stunts with others.
Back then, Hendeles’ campaign was notoriously ruthless in achieving its ends through furtive and fluid tactics. Today, when current ICM chairman Stuart Lawley swears with every fiber of his being that no promises were made, the declaration carries little legitimacy, since he was not around when the lion’s share of the deals took place. It is no accident, of course, that Jason Hendeles himself is no longer allowed on the dot-XXX scene, so to speak, despite the fact that he remains vice president of ICM Registry. His very presence would remind everyone of what really took place in the dark early days of dot-XXX.
None of those issues matter to the mainstream, however; the larger world actually prefers to remain ignorant of and disinterested in the years between 1999 and 2004, when ICM founder Hendeles gathered his “support.” I haven’t a clue if similar shenanigans occurred with other sTLD applications, but for me it has certainly been a lesson in the bureaucratic mindset to have experienced first-hand the extent to which people outside the industry, and especially within ICANN itself, have been utterly indifferent regarding this ugly episode.
Sadly, the nefarious goings on are not a thing of the past, and in some ways have gotten worse as the years have stretched into a decade and Lawley’s increasingly anti-industry rhetoric has only further antagonized an already strained relationship with the community whose “broad-based” support he claims. It remains somewhat upsetting to see the few company owners and other executives still try to evade the truth about their own involvement with dot-XXX, as if simply saying something will make it so. It’s also kind of painful for me to experience the same old spectacle repeat itself as these people try to deploy the tired saw that says perception is more important than reality, or is reality, when in fact history will recall only the pitiable vision of their tactless charade.
Immersed in its own reality, ICM may remain adamant that the clock be turned back to 2005—when the only window of opportunity existed for it to pull the wool over ICANN’s eyes with respect to industry support—but schemes like this only get so much time to conduct such an ambitious and public heist. As far as the broad-based adult entertainment community is concerned, that brief window closed long ago—ICM’s day has come and gone—porn has no interest in reliving that particular chapter of its dark past.
This article originally appeared in the June 2010 issue of AVN magazine, and has been edited for content since.