Plastic cocks and handheld vaginas line the walls in a surprisingly sanitary Kingston sex shop. As I lean down to examine some of the more niche smut films on display, Adam (not his real name) tells me that some of the films can actually be quite sophisticated.

He points out a DVD from an imported French range and, apart from the dead-eyed smiles of the actresses, it almost seems like they’re enjoying their contractually bound sexual experiences. At the other end of the spectrum is ‘XXX Council Lads 4’, a gay orgy bonanza filled with sweaty Burberry on Burberry action.

Of course, nothing in the shop is worse than what is at your fingertips on the internet at home, but to be presented with this concentrated burst of filth makes your jaw go slack.

~~~~~

The products Adam sells have historically been restricted to the top shelves of newsagents and service stations, or to be ordered from the back pages of the Sunday Sport.

But since the dawn of the internet, in just a couple of clicks you can have a loaf-sized phallus delivered direct to your door overnight. This accessibility reached a new peak last week when it came to light that you could even buy your cheap thrills in your local Poundland.

Even as an adult, there’s an instinct to scan around for witnesses before shimmying into the shop doorway. What is the advantage of donning your trench-coat and going to your local sex shop? “Here you can touch the products, you can feel the textures.

Do you know what the difference is between TPR and ABS plastics? When you’re ordering off the internet you can’t feel the difference” said Adam from behind the counter. Before entering I had pictured a greasy old bloke to be manning the registers, gurning wild-eyed previewing the magazines before putting them on display.

In reality, Adam is in his early twenties with a shaved head and a faint beard, he’s wearing dark blue denim jeans and Crosshatch jacket. In short, he looks like your average 18-25 male Londoner. He’s run the gamut of soul-killing retail jobs but says that this definitely isn’t the worst.

He describes it just like working in the local Sainsbury’s, serving the regulars and helping people pick out the right products. People buy eggs, people buy milk, people buy ‘Backdoor Sluts Monthly’. Apparently it’s all that simple.

 ~~~~~

Although private shops continue to function it would seem that the market for pornography is becoming more and more web-based. The bygone era of shifty looking men thumbing through Razzle in the back of the newsagents are past us, thanks largely to the internet. It has provided ease of accessibility to filth watchers like me and you and has revolutionised the way we view smut.

As well as making it easier to search for porn, it also gives people the privacy to explore their sexuality through viewing pornography. A recent study published in the Archives of Sexual Behaviour found that a over a fifth of straight men watch gay pornography.

Leader of the project Dr Martin J Downing of the US organisation Public Health Solutions told US magazine Cosmopolitan that “sexual attractions and behaviours are more than just identity”, with the study also suggesting that “some gay men are attracted to or find heterosexual or masculine men more attractive”.

Despite this, London houses the capital of sex establishments in Britain today; none other than fusty old Westminster. According to a recent investigation by Mirror journalists, Westminster is home to include 20 sexual entertainment venues and 10 sex shops.

Journalist Patrick Scott compiled data from nearly every council across England and Wales to come to the grand total of 391 sex establishments (including sex shops, sex cinemas and ‘sexual entertainment venues’).

When I asked him what he thought of the results, he told me “I suppose I thought that there might be more… Although places like Soho had quite a few, there were quite a few local authority areas where there were none at all because the councils had a blanket ban against them.”

But he suggests that there might be even more hidden below the surface; “Seeing as these are just the officially regulated venues it’s probable that the UK’s sex trade is larger than my figures suggest – unlicensed venues wouldn’t have shown up.”

 ~~~~~

It could be the stigma of dingy sex shops that make customers go online for porn nowadays, but it could also just be the vast selection on offer to our eclectic tastes.

But as society’s attitudes change toward sexual liberation, will there be a larger market for strokers and poppers? “Hopefully people will start to understand other people’s point of view, sex shops still hold a negative image because people tend to stick to their preconceived ideas. People need to chill out and stop focussing on the negative” said Adam.

Is the high street sex shop an outdated relic scooped by the internet? Or is it the shame associated with sex shops that stop people from using them? For now only one thing is for sure: I’m still going to stick up my collar when I leave.

~~~~~

Follow me on Twitter – @GenericRedfern

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