Uncovering sex shop culture: does it matter where a sex shop is located?

Uncovering sex shop culture: does it matter where a sex shop is located?

By Ailish Armstrong

From dodgy back streets to becoming a couple clicks away, sex shops have evolved immensely over the last fifty years. It is, however, still, one of the most secretive industries in the world, leaving many sceptics with plenty of questions. However, their integration into mainstream culture reflects shifting societal attitudes towards sexuality, pleasure and personal experience.

Sixty-one-year-old Rocko has worked in Miranda sex shop located in Zeist for the last 14 years. Initially spending almost thirty years as a bartender in a swinger’s club, Rocko saw opportunity in working part time in Miranda and decided to take the job. The salesclerk quickly decided to move full time soon after.

Modern day marketing aims to ditch the stigma surrounding sex toys through celebrity endorsement as well as online sex shops. Many female influencers are now labelling sex toys to be ‘empowering’ or ‘liberating’. Many sex shops prioritise education, providing resources and information to help the customer make an informed decision.  Rocko feels it’s important to debunk misconceptions and embrace sex shops in all their glory.

“Here in The Netherlands, we are very open about sex shops. I always ask my customers if they would like any help or give them advice if necessary. Many people are grateful and come back with lots of reviews!”

Bright, flamboyant and often targeted to men, sex shops can often be an intimidating place for many people. However, Rocko believes that is how every store owner runs their own sex shop. “Ratio wise, I would say fifty percent of my customers are women, thirty percent are men and around twenty percent are couples. I am always open to help customers.”

In earlier years, sex shops were far less commercial and had an element of secrecy surrounding them. In many places, this is still the case.

Perhaps if the location, aesthetics and layout of many adult shops were different, customers would be more enticed to visit. Many customers prefer to shop for sexual products discreetly, away from prying eyes and judgmental attitudes. However, opinions certainly differ surrounding its location.

“I believe that it is very important that sex shops are local. I don’t believe shopping centers are the best place for a sex shop- they are too open! People like to drop in and out.”

“I think people are attracted to the commercial side of it. Our bright signs and colorful window display often draw many people in. In earlier years, you had to enter adult shops through a closed, with lots of curtains and it was very dark. Nowadays you can just walk in!”

Sex Shops are now a largely important part of our culture. Having recently made a shift towards openness, acceptance and empowerment in matters of sexuality, adult shops are now appealing to much larger audience than ever before. Sex Shops help to create a more inclusive and fulfilling understanding of human sexuality by allowing exploration, education and community building.

About The Author

Ailish Armstrong

Ailish is a 21 year old Journalism and Digital Communication student with a major in sociology. Her past times include reading, going to the gym and listening to music.