Sex remains a taboo topic across Greek society. Religious influence renders sexuality something to be kept in the shadows. According to a study conducted in 2009, Greek students’ mostly received sexual information from friends and parents, but the majority stated a preference to get information from sex education specialists (Matziou et al., 2009). While this study is dated, many locals feel the situation has not improved. As young people living in Thessaloniki, it’s interesting to note the presence of sex shops across the city. This begs the question – if sex is still such a controversial topic, why are there so many sex shops here? Are these shops promoting sex positivity, or perpetuating harmful stereotypes and ideas? Join us as we take you on a tour of two shops and explore these complex questions.
Eros Megastore – Giannitson 29, Thessaloniki 546 27
Founded in 1996, Eros Megastores has a storied history. According to their website, the owners opened the first sex shop in Thessaloniki in 1991, named Tutti Frutti. The outside of the shop is inviting and has a pride themed window display, showing that inclusivity is something they consider.
Once inside, the staff were approachable and open to us photographing the shop. Boasting two floors of products, the ground floor is home to an array of sexual delights such as lingerie, dildos, lube and various sex toys. Prices were on par with competitors and most had a 20% discount applied.
The second floor is home to pornographic DVDs, a dying industry due to the internet age. One can see why these titles are not popular with younger people and especially women. Most films seem aggressively sexual toward the women in them. Multiple titles also seem to fetishize certain groups such as lesbians, ‘teens’ and transgender women. It is not hard to see that mainstream pornography still capitulates to the male gaze. While many aspects of the shop were positive, the focus on distributing this material makes it difficult to recommend to anyone who is looking for a more conscious experience.
Kama Sutra – Ermou 19, Thessaloniki 546 24
Established in 2005, Kama Sutra is a sex shop that takes a considerate approach in appealing to a wider audience. From our first encounter, there is an inviting atmosphere throughout the premises that makes the shopping experience incredibly comfortable. There were a selection of products targeted toward women and unlike other shops, exploitative pornography could not be found anywhere. As sex shops so often prioritize a male audience, it is refreshing to note the presence of one that is progressive in appealing to women and the LGBT+ community.
The owner, Polina, is a knowledgeable presence one finds on arrival. She has much experience in this industry and can definitely aid a consumer in finding the correct product(s). Even more, she was willing to share her perspective about sex in Greece and became an invaluable source. From our brief encounter together, she shared that essentially, sex education is something that does not exist here. There are multiple factors that contribute to this but religious influence in society remains a determining factor. This often leads to young people finding information about sex from outside sources, such as pornography that oftentimes is not an accurate reflection of reality and can give a false impression of what sex ‘should’ be – a performance instead of authentic connection.
Of all the sex shops visited, Kama Sutra was the most comfortable experience. It is most definitely a space where one can feel comfortable asking questions and exploring the sexually unknown.
It’s important to also highlight the positive developments in this area. In 2021, sex education was implemented as part of the curriculum in 218 schools across the country. It is a stride forward and a cause for celebration.
In conclusion, sex shops provide an essential space for people to explore their sexuality in a society where it is still taboo to do so. While the original question of why there are an abundance of these shops here still goes unanswered, it is clear that these spaces are an avenue for a form of alternative sex education. One can argue that some shops who distribute unethical pornography are contributing to the perpetuation of harmful stereotypes and ideas about sex. But until there is a holistic understanding of sex implemented in mainstream education, this gap in the market will continue to be exploitable.
Thank you to Steffi Thaller, Maxime Ricaud and Karoline Heinzl for photography, support and inspiration.