Covent Garden, Paris, The A1 – Sex Shops Are Everywhere, But Why?

In an age of internet shopping, why are we still choosing to buy sex toys in person?

Covent Garden, Paris, The A1 - Sex Shops Are Everywhere, But Why?

by Rebecca Reid |
Published on

One of the most obvious advantages of online shopping is that you don't have to purchase anything even faintly embarrassing in person. Whether it's a pregnancy test, verruca treatment or Canesten, you can order personal items online without having to buy 15 other items in a doomed attempt to distract the person on the check-out.

It would follow, then, that internet shopping would have killed the sex shop. After all, buying condoms in the supermarket is cringey enough... why would anyone want to enter a whole premises filled with rubber phalluses? But the truth is, unlike much of the British high street, sex shops are still thriving.

Underlining the point, the BBC published a piece today asking, 'Why are there sex shops on the A1?'

It's true, the stretch of motorway leading north from London is studded with sex shops. There are seven Pulse & Cocktails adult superstores along the A1, which have taken the place of what used to be roadside restaurants - mostly Little Chefs.

In an attempt to understand why these shops are thriving, the BBC spoke to Graham Kidd, one of the directors of Pulse & Cocktails, which has been in business for 21 years – quite a feat in a time when shops are closing down left, right and centre.

Graham told the BBC: '[The shops] have good car parking, they are high profile and they are discreet - you're not likely to run into your neighbour inside. We can never get away from the fact that we are British and everyone is frightened to death of being seen going into a local adult store, but if they are 100 miles from home they have the confidence to go in.'

But the point that Graham doesn't touch on is that even in a world where we're scared of being caught in an adult shop, we still go. It would be easy as pie to order sex toys online. They arrive in discreet packaging and aren't itemised as anything 'adult' on your bank statement.

In a world where we can get super-graphic high-definition porn within seconds, it's no wonder that we want sex to feel naughty and illicit

People go to sex shops because they want to go to sex shops. They're a thrill. Naughty, illicit, exciting and arousing, the experience of going to a sex shop is almost as much fun as using whatever you buy afterwards.

The A1 isn't the only place that is laden with sex shops. Tottenham Court Road, a road where various other fashion brands have closed down, still plays host to a multi-story sex emporium named Harmony. Covent Garden, one of the most expensive retail locations in the world, has Coco de Mer.

In Paris the entire district of Pigalle is lined with shops selling brightly coloured phalluses and jewelled butt plugs. Tourists, mostly couples, weave in and out of the shops, blushing and giggling despite the insouciance of the shop workers.

Visiting a sex shop, whether it's alone or with a partner, on the A1 or in the city of lights, is an easy way to create sexual intrigue.

In a world where we can get super-graphic high-definition porn within seconds, it's no wonder that we want sex to feel naughty and illicit. And the only way to achieve that is to step out from behind a screen and into the real world.

Adult shopping doesn't require the same level of bravery as attending a swingers party or sex club, but the adrenaline created by crossing the threshold into a sex shop is a shot straight into the veins of your relationship. Yes, buying sex toys to take home and enjoy together is great, but it's the experience of buying the toys in the first place which really makes the difference.

It doesn't really matter whether what you buy is shoved into a plastic carrier bag or wrapped in scented tissue paper, whether you're pulling up into a car park on the A1 to furtively purchase a porn magazine or strolling through Pigalle hand in hand with your partner, visiting a sex shop puts the sense of naughtiness back into sex which, in the era of porn, can so often be lacking.

READ MORE: The last time I had sex - the woman who is sleeping with a co-worker.

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