Were There Sex Shops in the Time of George Washington?

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The opening of a sex shop in the historic district of Alexandria, Va., has generated outrage among local residents, who claim such a business sullies an area once frequented by the Founding Fathers. Were there sex shops in George Washington's day?

No. There is little record of sex toys, let alone a sex toy industry, from America's Colonial era. To the extent that Colonials used sex props, they would have made them on their own. (In one of the few references to sex and inanimate objects from the time, a 17th-century New York court described a prostitute flamboyantly measuring her clients' penises using a broomstick.) Nevertheless, there were plenty of brothels in the Colonial era, especially in port cities like Alexandria.

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