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A sex shop or erotic shop is a shop that sells products related to adult sexual or erotic entertainment, such as vibrators, lingerie, clothing, pornography, and other related products. The world's first sex shop was opened in 1962 by Beate Uhse AG in Flensburg, West Germany, and sex shops can now be found in many countries. Many sex shops also trade over the internet. Sex shops are part of the sex industry.
In most jurisdictions, sex shops are regulated by law, with access not permitted to minors, the age depending on local law. Some jurisdictions prohibit sex shops and the merchandise they sell. In some jurisdictions that permit it, they may also show pornographic movies in private video booths, or have private striptease or peep shows. Also an adult movie theater may be attached.
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.
Almost all licensed 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 sex articles (for example, pornography or sex toys) should be visible from the street. However, lingerie, non-offensive covers of adult material, etc. may be shown depending on the license conditions of the local authority. No customer can be under eighteen years old.
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 London, there are few boroughs that have licensed sex shops. Soho has fifteen licensed shops and several remaining unlicensed ones. Islington has several sex businesses (at least three licensed shops- Private, Adultworld and Soho Original Books- as well as three pornographic cinemas and numerous massage parlors/strip clubs, concentrated on Caledonian Road). The Euston area has extant old-fashioned hardcore sex shops, with most on Eversholt Street. In the early 1990s, London's Hackney council sought to shut down Sh! Women's Erotic Emporium, because they did not have a license. Sh! took the council to court and consequently won the right to remain open as there were no sufficient reasons for the closure.
There are also many online sex shops, 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 the home. Their discreetness is also appealing to some.
Sex shops in Scotland are regulated under the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982.
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, Xandria, Seattle's Toys In Babeland, Jillians Fantasy or My Spicy Treasures of Denton, TX . 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 10,000 square feet (930 m2) in area.
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The first sex shop on the continent of North America was "The Garden". which was opened in October 1971 by Ivor Sargent on tony Crescent Street in downtown Montreal, Quebec. The Garden combined the basic concept of Beate Uhse (Germany) and Ann Summers (U.K.) with a Canadian twist- to make the store comfortable and appealing to Mr. & Mrs. Joe Public and to remind them that a personal sex-life should always be fun. The store's opening attracted long lines of curious shoppers -men, women & couples- and was noted in The New York Times; Women's Wear Daily (US);Playboy magazine;The Financial Post(Canada);and Weekend Magazine (Canada). The Palm Beach Post commented: "Like the chicken or the egg controversy,no one is really sure which came first-the sex boutique or the so-called Sexual Revolution"  The prevailing public taboos against sex, and over-zealous authorities, made progress difficult for The Garden,but hundreds of sex boutiques now flourish across the country and "sex toy parties" modeled after "Tupperware parties" have become the latest rage...illustrating the enormous shift in public attitudes since 1971. There are no specific laws against using or buying sex toys at basically any age, however there are laws about pornography.Although the age of consent is 16 in Canada you have to be 18+ to purchase or view pornography. Most sex shops of today, such as Stag Shop, carry adult videos, which means that most sex toys remain strictly in the hands of adults.
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.
Sex shops have operated in Australia since the 1960s, first in the urban areas of Sydney, notably Kings Cross. Sex shops in Australia are regulated by state laws and are subject to local planning controls.
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