SEX IN SA
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 This offensive law was only repealed in 2007.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.