Sex shop

A sex shop, erotic shop is a shop that sells products such as sex toys, pornography, erotic lingerie, erotic books, and safer sex products such as condoms and dental dams. The euphemisms "Adult Video Store" and "Adult Book Store" are commonly used to refer to sex shops that sell or rent pornographic videos, books, and magazines. However, a lot of adult films are not rated when released to video or DVD.

In most jurisdictions, sex shops are regulated by law, with access not permitted to minors, in most countries/states, the age depending on local law. In case of doubt, on entering a sex shop, one may have to present a valid ID. Some states/countries regulate sex shops and the merchandise they sell, e.g. many Muslim countries as well as a few US states. In some jurisdictions that permit it, they may also show pornographic movies in private booths, or have private striptease or peep shows.

Near borders of countries with different laws regarding sex shops, shops on the more liberal side tend to be popular with customers from the other side, especially if importing the purchased materials by customers to their own country, and possessing them, is legal or tolerated. In 1962 Beate Uhse AG opened the world's first sex shop in Flensburg, Germany.

United Kingdom

There are effectively two different models of sex shops in the United Kingdom. Recent law changes relating to censorship and the selling of R18 movies allow registered stores to sell hardcore pornography and sex toys. Businesses who did not wish to register as an adult interest store could sell adult material amongst mainstream comics and books.

Almost all adult stores in the UK are forbidden from having their wares in open shop windows, which means often the shop fronts are boarded up or covered in posters. A warning sign must be clearly shown at the entrance to the store, and no items should be visible from the street. No customer can be under eighteen years old.

Sex Shop The Ann Summers chain of lingerie and sex toy shops recently won the right to advertise for shop assistants in Job Centres, which was originally banned under restrictions on what advertising could be carried out by the sex industry. The increasing acceptance of sex shops can also be seen as the north-west England chain Nice 'n' Naughty became the first adult company to win an investor in people award.

In 2007, a Northern Ireland sex shop was denied a license by the Belfast City Council. The shop appealed and won, but this was overturned by the House of Lords.

In London, many boroughs have no shops with sex licences at all.

There are also many online sex shops, such as Passion8 or Beate Uhse AG, selling a variety of adult content such as toys, fetish wear etc. These types of shop are often favoured by the consumer as they have less overheads and can be perused within the comfort of your own home.yo

Republic of Ireland

Until recently sex shops in Ireland have been small, low profile establishments although the restrictions on such shops are not nearly as tight as the UK. The Ann Summers chain expanded to Ireland in the last few years and since then other chains have started.

United States

In the United States, a series of Supreme Court decisions in the 1960s (based on the First Amendment to the United States Constitution) generally legalized sex shops, while still allowing states and local jurisdictions to limit them through zoning. Into the 1980s, nearly all American sex shops were oriented to an almost entirely male clientele. Many included booths for viewing pornographic film loops (later videos), and nearly all were designed so that their customers could not be seen from the street: they lacked windows, and the doors often involved an L-shaped turn so that people on the street could not see in.

While that type of store continues to exist, since the end of the 1970s there has been an evolution in the industry. Two new types of stores arose in that period, both of them often (though not always, especially not in more socially conservative communities) more open to the street and more welcoming to women than the older stores.

On the one hand, there are stores resembling the UK's Ann Summers, tending toward "softer" product lines. On the other hand, there are stores that evolved specifically out of a sex-positive culture, such as San Francisco's Good Vibrations and Xandria, Arizona's DesertSexToys or Seattle's Toys In Babeland, which has expanded to several other cities. The latter class of stores tend to be very consciously community-oriented businesses, sponsoring lecture series and being actively involved in sex-related health issues, etc. They also often carry toys that are manufactured on a craft basis rather than mass manufactured.

The 1990s also saw the birth of the sex "superstores," some of them with over in area.


The first sex shop in Italy was opened in 1972 in Milan by Masia Angela and her husband Ercole Sabbatini. This was the first OFFICIAL sex shop. Since then Italy has become overrun with sex shops, mostly in Rome. It is known as Sex Shop Citta' di Milano . This store faced opposition from conservative segments of the Italian population, and was closed several times by the police. Its establishment marked a turning point in Italian mores, however, and today many more sex shops have opened in the country.


In Japan, the sex shops contain hentai magazines, adult videos and DVDs, and adult video games.

See also

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