Porn fight

Chain stores in South Africa compete for upscale customers.


Jack Boulware
December 23, 2000 1:01AM (UTC)

Porn enthusiasts shopping for last-minute Christmas gifts in Johannesburg, South Africa, need look no further than a miniature Santa Claus that gets a humongous erection when tapped on the head. This steamy stocking stuffer is just one of many reasons people are flocking to Adultworld, a growing chain of upscale porn stores.

The era of mom-and-pop porn is threatened with extinction, reports the Johannesburg Mail & Guardian. Three chains in particular -- Adultworld, Hustler and Sextopia -- have cornered the market on adult materials, with 21, 56 and nine outlets, respectively, across the country. Last month Adultworld launched its megastore in Johannesburg's Blackheath area with a gala opening that featured a lavish buffet of oysters and champagne, laid out on tables supported by shelves made of rubber vaginas.

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Every porn video must be cleared by the Film and Publications Board, and national laws prohibit materials that feature bestiality or sex with minors. But this leaves room for all manner of porn targeted to bisexuals, transexuals and lesbians, as well as videos about urination, or sex with old and/or fat people. Businessmen browse among dildos made of teak and oak, and some linger at a rubber vagina inserted into the end of a flashlight -- "for emergencies."

Owners of the three porn conglomerates purchase the rights to videos from international porn syndicates, and then dub thousands of copies for resale. Each chain attempts to stand out from the porn herd. Adultworld outlets feature in-store leather boutiques that offer state-of-the-art fittings of hoods, gloves, whips and paddles. Customers can also return magazines and videos to the store when they're finished reading, viewing or memorizing the contents.

The Hustler chain deliberately shoots for a downscale audience, while insisting that it offers nothing offensive.

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A Sextopia store in Johannesburg's Sunninghill area has installed a large fish tank in an attempt to create an upscale atmosphere. Co-owner Atienne Ernst claims that 40 percent of the store's clientele is female. "We're aiming for a high-profile look," said Ernst. "We sell a lot of DVDs and want to get away from the cruising areas. Viewing areas are part of the sleazy side of the industry, and the viewing rooms are for people who can't watch pornography with their wives. They just basically sit there on a couch and masturbate ... they have low morals."


Jack Boulware

Jack Boulware is a writer in San Francisco and author of "San Francisco Bizarro" and "Sex American Style."

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