Shopping For Sex

By | April 12, 2008

Police in Glasgow recently raided a sex shop and closed it down for selling goods which are legal to purchase in this country if you’re over 18. The problem was the shop wasn’t licensed. In the UK sex shops have to be licensed by the local council. Glasgow council has a policy of not issuing any such licences. So while the goods were legal their sale wasn’t.

In Stoke On Trent a chain of sex shops had one of its signs complained about because it was close to a school and church. That particular complaint wasn’t upheld as the Advertising Standards Authority decided that a picture of a woman in a “Horny Devil” costume wasn’t explicit, offensive or inappropriate. The ruling of the ASA underlines that the original complaint was on moral grounds rather than the actual content of the ad.

In the UK were lucky. Unlike in a federal state like the US, the law tends to be consistent across the country, but the sex shop raid in particular highlights the regional differences when it comes to the retailing of adult products. More insidious, and therefore more worrying, is the advertising case.

I say that on two counts. First because if conservative groups intent on protecting society’s morals by imposing their own on everyone else decide to start causing trouble for adult retailers it could put a lot of them out of business. It’s very easy to raise a complaint and very expensive for a business to defend and represent itself against each action. Even if the expensive lawyers don’t get involved it’s time consuming and detracts from the running of a legal business.

Trying to put a shop out of business in this way could be very effective. However adult shops in this country are regulated. If all the legal shops in an area disappear the illegal ones like the one raided in Glasgow will spring up. As they don’t have a licence to worry about they are hardly likely to be too concerned about letting minors onto their premises and selling them R18 DVDs. Driving a legitimate and already tightly regulated business underground is just stupid.

The second problem with mischievous and deliberately disruptive objections to adult retail stores is simple. While minors don’t have credit cards and therefore cannot buy from online suppliers they can access terabytes of free, effectively uncensored sexually explicit material on the web.

Yes there is web filtering available if you know how to set it up, but most parents don’t know how to do that. When it comes to corrupting children and stealing their innocence the Internet is far more culpable than legitimate adult retailers.

Tags: sex shops licensed sex shops, adult stores, adult retailers, morality, sexuality