SEX IN SA

Finweek English Edition - - COVER STORY -

South Africa went through its own pe­riod of re­pres­sion, but for very dif­fer­ent rea­sons. Lo­cally Sec­tion 18A of the Sex­ual Of­fences Act, which was part of the Im­moral­ity Amend­ment Act of 1969, out­lawed the sale of items “in­tended to be used to per­form an un­nat­u­ral sex­ual act”, which meant this disin­gen­u­ous law was aimed at prevent­ing les­bians and gay men from us­ing vi­bra­tors, dil­dos or other sex toys. This of­fen­sive law was only re­pealed in 2007.

writer Richard Po­plak tells the story of Cala­ma­ras, and how the man turned Adult World into a “global brand, with over 600 stores on four con­ti­nents”.

“When I got here in ’93,” Cala­ma­ras tells Po­plak of his ar­rival in Cape Town, “I thought I was in dark­est Africa. You guys knew ab­so­lutely noth­ing. Now, the cities in this coun­try are, like, First World. Back then, this was a f *ck­ing back­wa­ter. There was like, lit­er­ally 10 tapes in a shop all cost­ing R400, and 10 mag­a­zines and 10 sex toys. I couldn’t be­lieve it. No one would touch me, not be­cause of who I was – be­cause no one knew who I was – but be­cause I was a for­eigner.

“We thought of South Africa as an ex­per­i­ment,” Cala­ma­ras tells Po­plak. “It was never on Adult World’s radar, un­til we were of­fered a cou­ple of stores by a lo­cal part­ner.” Po­plak writes that when the first Adult World opened in down­town Cape Town in 1994, it took R50 on the first day, and R100 on the sec­ond. “I was ready to slit my wrists,” says Cala­ma­ras, re­lay­ing the story to Po­plak.

Cala­ma­ras hopped on a plane back to Syd­ney, but quickly bought a re­turn ticket when the store raked in R50 000 dur­ing week three. To­day Adult World is the largest re­tailer of sex toys, erotic lin­gerie and adult DVDs in SA with 65 stores dot­ted across the coun­try. Cala­ma­ras has done so well that in 2010 he ac­quired Sexpo, an an­nual Health, Sex­u­al­ity & Life­style Expo, which drew more than 60 000 peo­ple to Nas­rec in Septem­ber this year.

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