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The Paris sex shop its Catholic neighbours couldn’t ignore


Poor Nicolas Busnel, the erotic entrepreneur who was forced to shut up shop in February after Paris’s criminal court heeded to the calls of an irate Catholic association. The group argued that his “1969 Desirable Curiosities” boutique (above right) was too close to a school. But in truth, they didn’t like the fact that it was stationed opposite a church.


Interestingly, not one single parent of a child at the school in question - which is actually down the street, behind the church - complained about the shop. But after a determined campaign by Catholic activist group ‘CLER Amour et Famille,’ the powers that be ruled the shop guilty of a 1987 law (revised in 2007) which prohibits the sale of pornographic material within 200 metres of a school.


That’s not to say this law is unjust or unnecessary. Nobody wants their kids perusing a shop window filled with vein-embossed dildos and blow-up dolls as they trot home from school. But as anyone who has ever stepped a foot into Paris knows, you can barely make it half a mile anyway without finding yourself inadvertently staring at some lubed fake breasts or a provocatively positioned arse-hole.



It’s not just the trashy sex shops that line the shady Rue Saint-Denis in the 2nd arrondissement or the Place Pigalle in the 18th. It’s the advertisements for ‘top-shelf’ magazines outside every tobacconist and news kiosk that are the most stupefying.


Only they’re not on the ‘top shelf’ in France. The very notion of placing porn on the top shelf – where children can’t see it – remains an alien concept here; something only those prudes across the Channel bother with. To make matters worse, the very sandwich boards designed to advertise pornographic magazines come in at four-feet-tall. Yep, the average height of a six-year-old.


In comparison, Nicolas Busnel’s “1969 Desirable Curiosities” store looked more like an overpriced chocolate shop. No garish sign, no mention of poppers, peep shows, or upstairs ‘massages’. The naughtiest thing on offer was a two-speed vibrator.


Busnel’s boutique has long been boarded up and leased to a shoe shop chain. But in what his lawyer described as a “posthumous victory” last week, a Parisian tribunal decided to forward his case to the country’s highest court of appeal, the Cour de Cassation.


The court is now charged with weighing up the protection of children against the right to free enterprise. But isn’t there a middle way? Perhaps instead, French law should enforce all sex stores to disguise themselves as overpriced chocolate shops. And stop taking cues from the Catholic Church – if they really cared about protecting children, they’d look further than outside their front door.

Inside, for a start.

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Very interesting article. I've just moved from London to Paris and work in the 2nd. Yesterday, I stumbled across what I assume is the Rue st Denis. After enjoying a mooch through the picturesque market streets, I walked through a lovely upmarket shopping colonnade. When I reached the end, to my shock, I found sex shops galore and a smattering of ageing hookers! I hastily retreated back to the safety of the shops to peruse some fancy pants art, and what I think was an old lantern... I can only presume my reaction was due to my inherent prudey Rosbif-ness. Don't worry, I recovered after a nice Earl Grey and a sandwich.