According to the OED, the word's first appearance in English was in Thomas Nashe's The Choice of Valentines or the Merie Ballad of Nash his Dildo (c. 1593).[Note 1] The word also appears in Ben Jonson's 1610 play, The Alchemist. William Shakespeare used the term once in The Winter's Tale, believed to be from 1610 or 1611, but not printed until the First Folio of 1623.[Note 2]

By the 1980s, purges of the police force along with new and tighter licensing controls by the City of Westminster led to a crackdown on illegal premises in Soho. In the early 1990s, London's Hackney council sought to shut down Sh! Women's Erotic Emporium, because they did not have a licence. Sh! took the council to court and consequently won the right to remain open as there were no sufficient reasons for the closure. In 2003 the Ann Summers chain of lingerie and sex toy shops won the right to advertise for shop assistants in Job Centres, which was originally banned under restrictions on what advertising could be carried out by the sex industry.[13] In 2007, a Northern Ireland sex shop was denied a licence by the Belfast City Council. The shop appealed and won, but this was overturned by the House of Lords.[14] Sexshop
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