More philanthropist than porn-czar, Phil Harvey launched what is
now the nation's largest adult-oriented mail-order company fueled
by his post-college dreams of saving the world.
As Steve Almond reports in Nerve.com, Harvey's work with the CARE organization in India in the years after he graduated from Harvard taught him the futility of attempting to feed the world's hungry. The real key to the future of the developing world, he realized, was family-planning services. Returning to the U.S. to pursue a masters degree in family planning administration, Harvey launched Adam and Eve, a mail-order condom business through which he hoped to earn money. While he attempted to sell other items in the catalogue like clothes and shipbuilding kits, he says, '(The customers) just yawned at that stuff. Every time we put something with erotic appeal in the catalog, the bells would ring.'
Though Adam and Eve experienced its share of bumps along the way (namely government crackdowns on erotic material), it continued to grow and enabled Harvey to establish a nonprofit arm, DK International, through which he can fund family-planning efforts around the world. 'By selling sex products to the world's richest citizens, he's been able to distribute cheap contraception to the poorest', writes Almond. In the past year alone, DK International has distributed IUD's, injectibles, about 23 million cycles of birth-control pills, and more than 364 million condoms. Harvey estimates that during the past two decades, he has donated $40 million of his own money to family planning efforts in Third World countries.