US sex toys fail to turn on UK teachers

12th November 2004 at 00:00
Porn magnate Larry Flynt opened his chain of Hustler Hollywood sex shops with a vision. "I want a store where a teacher can feel comfortable," he said. "I want her to be able to come in and buy what she needs."

Flynt's view of lesson preparation may not be the norm, but five years later his first UK store forms 6,000 square feet of neon and leopardskin opposite Marks Spencer in Birmingham city centre.

Merchandise includes fluffy handcuffs, adult toys, educational erotic books, and "a PVC playwear collection". But it's not all smut - there are packets of herbal tea in the window, slippers inside, and enough AA batteries to light up Birmingham.

Teachers, however, are not making a beeline for it quite yet.

"I would not be seen dead in the store," said one part-time Birmingham teacher with two young children. "The whole experiment is tackiness writ large."

"It would take more than a sleazy sex store to drag me into the middle of Birmingham," said a Solihull teacher.

"Somehow I doubt many teachers will visit," said a third. "Imagine being seen by one of your pupils: 'I saw Miss looking at an electric O'.'"

After extensive enquiries, Dave, a humanities teacher in his 20s, agreed to visit Hustler Hollywood on Saturday at The TES's request.

"You do feel a bit funny because you are going into the unknown, but the first things you see are T-shirts, not dildos," he said afterwards. "It's not sordid, in any shape or form. I saw more nipples in WH Smith down the road, than I did in Hustler.

"But if one of the kids said they'd seen me go in, I'd laugh and say it was rubbish. A lot of the stuff is cheap and tacky. It's not really my scene."

Marianne Tosh, the UK retail operations director says the store's bestseller is a branded T-shirt, closely followed by chocolate willies.

Flynt, played by Woody Harrelson in the film The People v. Larry Flynt, aims to open more stores in the UK, but at least one teacher resents an American pornographer making money in Britain. "I am far happier about Boots providing sex aids," she said.

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