A sex shop is a store tthat sells products such as sex toys, pornography, erotic lingerie, erotic books, and safer sex products such as condoms and dental dams. The terms "Adult Video Store" and "Adult Book Store" are commonly used to refer to sex shops that sell or rent pornographic videos, books, and magazines. However, a lot of adult films are not rated when released to video or DVD.
In most jurisdictions, sex shops are regulated by law, with access not permitted to minors, in most countries/states, the age depending on local law. In case of doubt, on entering a sex shop, one may have to present a valid ID. Some states/countries don't tolerate sex shops at all, e.g. many Islamic states and/or countries.
In some jurisdictions that permit it, they may also show pornographic movies in private booths, or have private striptease or peep shows.
In Japan, the sex shops contain hentai magazines, adult videos and DVDs, plus video games rated "Z" by the Computer Entertainment Rating Organization (CERO).
Near borders of countries with different laws regarding sex shops, shops on the more liberal side tend to be popular with customers from the other side, especially if importing the purchased materials by customers to their own country, and possessing them, is legal or tolerated.
There are effectively two different models of sex shops in the United Kingdom. Recent law changes relating to censorship and the selling of "18" movies allow registered stores to sell hardcore pornography and sex toys. Businesses who did not wish to register as an adult interest store could sell adult material amongst mainstream comics and books.
Almost all adult stores in the UK are forbidden from having their wares in open shop windows, which means often the shop fronts are boarded up or covered in posters. A warning sign must be clearly shown at the entrance to the store, and no items should be visible from the street. No customer can be under eighteen years old.
The Ann Summers chain of lingerie and sex toy shops recently won the right to advertise for shop assistants in Job Centres, which was originally banned under restrictions on what advertising could be carried out by the sex industry.
The online sex shop: [http:\\www.Sexfun4u.com SexFun4u.com] has had increasing numbers of visitors recently due to many of their products being cheaper than Ann Summers' online store.
In London, many boroughs have no shops with sex licences at all.
In the United States, a series of United States Supreme Court decisions in the 1960s (based on the First Amendment to the United States Constitution) generally legalized sex shops, while still allowing states and local jurisdictions to limit them through zoning. Into the 1980s, nearly all American sex shops were oriented to an almost entirely male clientele. Many included booths for viewing pornographic film loops (later videos), and nearly all were designed so that their customers could not be seen from the street: they lacked windows, and the doors often involved an L-shaped turn so that people on the street could not see in.
While that type of store continues to exist, since approximately the 1980s there has been an evolution in the industry. Two new types of stores arose in that period, both of them often (though not always, especially not in more socially conservative communities) more open to the street and more welcoming to women than the older stores. On the one hand, there are stores resembling the UK's Ann Summers, tending toward "softer" product lines. On the other hand, there are stores that evolved specifically out of sex-positive culture, such as San Francisco's worker-owned Good Vibrations and Seattle's Toys In Babeland (now simply Babeland, and existing in several other cities as well). The latter class of stores tend to be very consciously community-oriented businesses, sponsoring lecture series, being actively involved in sex-related health issues, etc. They also often carry toys that are manufactured on a craft basis rather than mass manufactured.
More recently, starting in the 1990s, there have been sex "superstores", some of them over 10,000 square feet in area.