Some young people might be forgiven for thinking that the internet singlehandedly invented sex. The internet has made some sex toy entrepreneurs overnight millionaires through the sale of all kinds of sex toys for both men and women. But the adult superstore we know of today took a long time to evolve, and is still subject to many restrictions in certain parts of the world.

The first adult sex store was not called an adult superstore in those days, and was Beate Uhse in Germany which opened its doors in Flensburg West Germany in 1962. At this time pornography was illegal across most of Europe and the US, and such things as sex stores simply did not exist.

The dawn of the adult superstore

You have to understand that in the early stages, the vast majority of sex stores in Europe and the States were a long, long way from being the open, inviting and fun adult sex shops we know today. In fact they were quite the reverse, with many sex stores in the States being handled by the Mafia as a front for organized criminal activities.

Sex stores tended to be small, dark, intimidating places where men in long dark coats would ogle porn magazines or watch hard core videos. The only women present were prostitutes plying their trade. The whole atmosphere was one of sleaze.

Beate Uhse was well ahead of any other retailers because they already had an established mailing list and a respected name through the distribution of pamphlets on family planning. When pornography became legal in West Germany in 1976 they were already well prepared and quickly launched further outlets. By 1992 they owned 32 adult superstores and a chain of 25 cinemas. Today over ten million customers visit their stores or cinemas regularly with a presence in over 60 countries worldwide.

The idea quickly caught on across the rest of Western Europe – everywhere that is except the United Kingdom where the moral minority saw to it that the sale of pornographic literature and sex toys were illegal right up until the time they were forced to legalize them as part of the UK’s obligations as members of the European Union.

Right up to the present time, licensed adult sex shops stores in the UK are not allowed to show their products in shop window displays. To overcome this problem and allow for privacy, many sex store owners use blackened or covered windows or feature inoffensive posters displays. There must also be signage about age restrictions at the store entrance and nothing relating to sex, be it pornography or sex is allowed to be seen on the street. Councils also demand high licensing fees for sex superstores and advertisements for new staff have only been allowed in the last two or three years.

In the United States, a series of Supreme Court decisions generally legalized sex shops while allowing States to decide how they should be controlled and limited in their activities. As with other markets, until the mid 80s nearly all adult toy stores were exclusively aimed at men,. A popular feature was viewing booths where pornographic loops – which later became videos were displayed

This type of store is still much in evidence however starting in the 1970s a new kind of store was introduced which was more female friendly. Today some of the larger adult sex shops can cover 10,000 square feet of prime floor space.