In the United States, a series of Supreme Court decisions in the 1960s (based on the First Amendment to the United States Constitution) generally legalized sex shops, while still allowing states and local jurisdictions to limit them through zoning. Zoning regulations often caused shops to be located either on the outskirts of town, or clumped into a single area, creating a type of red light district of adult stores and businesses. Into the 1980s, nearly all American sex shops were oriented to an almost entirely male clientele. Many included adult video arcades, and nearly all were designed so that their customers could not be seen from the street: they lacked windows, and the doors often involved an L-shaped turn so that people on the street could not see in.In addition, during the late 1980s and early 1990s, many stores that also had theaters or arcades were subject to closure by the government, citing the spread of AIDS as the motive.While that type of store continues to exist, since the end of the 1970s there has been an evolution in the industry. Two new types of stores arose in that period, both of them often (though not always, especially not in more socially conservative communities) more open to the street and more welcoming to women than the older stores.
On the one hand, there are stores resembling the UK’s Ann Summers, tending toward “softer” product lines.[On the other hand, there are stores that evolved specifically out of a sex-positive culture, such as San Francisco’s Good Vibrations and Xandria. The latter class of stores tend to be very consciously community-oriented businesses, sponsoring lecture series and being actively involved in sex-related health issues, etc.