Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

Ulster's king of porn

David Christie opened his sex shop in a remote and inconspicuous part of an industrial estate to avoid the legal difficulties of using other premises

One Ulsterman supplies stock for most of the sex shops throughout Ireland. He has also recently obtained the first ever licence for a legal sex shop in the province. Jonathan McCambridge meets the man who has made sex his business





Lines of concrete warehouses make up the drab industrial estate in Mallusk which is home to CBC Distribution. A small sign by the front door identifies the premises, which is otherwise identical to the grey buildings on either side. A less likely location for titillation would be difficult to imagine.



The proprietor is also perhaps not what might be expected. David Christie is a diminutive, softly-spoken 34-year-old from Ballymoney. He lives with his long-term partner and they are about to become parents for the first time. He seems genuinely bemused and sometimes amused by the fuss that his controversial business activities create.

David runs CBC Distribution, which is Ireland's only cash and carry distributor of goods for adult shops. He also owns the only licence for a sex shop in Ulster, recently granted to him by Newtownabbey Borough Council for his Mallusk base.

This means that in addition to his wholesale business, selling stock to more than 40 adult stores across Ireland, members of the public can now walk through the front door and purchase over the counter a wide array of sex toys, lingerie and 'R18' films - hardcore porn to you and me. R18 is the classification given to restricted movies by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) and they can only be sold in licensed shops. There are about 90 of these shops in the UK and now, because of David, one in Northern Ireland.

In reality, most of what is in David's shop is not at all shocking and, porn films aside, similar to what you might find in any Ann Summers shop on the high street. There are various lines in lingerie, PVC and rubber outfits and a range of novelty adult gifts which would be popular for hen and stag nights. As you move further into the shop the shelves stock multiple condoms and lubricants as well as sex toys. Right at the back are the magazines and DVDs.

The battle for legitimacy for the sex retail industry in Ulster has been difficult.

Belfast City Council has turned down a series of applications for licences for sex shops in the city centre and recently won a case in the House of Lords which ruled it was not a contravention of a sex shop owner's human rights to deny a licence. The council has followed up this court victory with a string of prosecutions against a number of adult entertainment outlets which operate without a licence. Councillors have argued that the city centre is not a suitable location for sex shops.

However, David Christie has managed to sidestep many of these difficulties with a simple solution. Because his shop is in an industrial estate the argument that innocent people who happen to be passing can be corrupted is negated. His shop is so remote and inconspicuous that it would be virtually impossible to find by accident.

David believes what he has done has opened the way for sex shops across Northern Ireland. "I believe this opens doors," he said. "Up to now councils have always had legal arguments for turning people down.

"There was always going to be a stigma with getting the first licence because no council wanted to be known as giving the first. But now that hurdle has been crossed the next licence will not create the same fuss.

"I think it will lead the way for other councils and others might look at the idea of having it in an industrial estate. There could be lots more applications and lots more sex shops opening up. You could have legal sex shops in most towns in a few years.

"This business has always gathered media attention and I knew getting the first licence would add to that. But, for me, I just see it as another business. I see it purely in terms of products, buy them at a price, sell them at a price and the profit margins."

However, he knows that no matter how professional his outlook is, the sex retail industry in Northern Ireland is not just another business. In his nine years in the trade he has endured the wrath of countless politicians, church figures, even friends and family.

In the past, David has issued an open invitation for any politician opposed to his business to come and visit. He is still waiting for the first acceptance. Similarly when I ask him about the opposition from churches he just shakes his head. However, I sense he is bothered when some of the criticism becomes more personal.

"Coming from Ballymoney and still living in the town, there are a lot of very small country attitudes. For every person who is cool with what I do there are another dozen who would like to see me hung, drawn and quartered. If someone is of the mindset that they don't like this type of shop then there is no way I am going to change that.

"People have been rude to my face. I know one girl in particular who I had been friends with for 15 years. When she found out what I did she was horrified. Now it would trouble her to speak to me. I have lost friends, her and others.

"I was brought up going to Sunday school. A lot of my family are still heavily involved in the church and they detest what I do. I have no comings or goings with any of them now and if I see them at a family event they will say hello but not much more.

"There were people who did not know what I did before I got the public attention of getting this licence. My girlfriend got a hard time from some of her family. She is pregnant and it is not good in her condition.

"At the start I was not always open with people about what I did but it has gone too far now. I am proud of what I do, I create jobs, I employ people and pay their wages. There is a demand for this and someone has to supply for it. We are putting a more acceptable and professional face on the industry. This is a discreet and secure environment."

David also believes the appeal of his industry is becoming more mainstream every day. He believes the idea that the sex shop is only for dirty old men is outdated.

"It is for everybody, from 18 through to 80. I have seen all types of people in shops. I know schoolteachers, bank managers, doctors, lorry drivers and farmers who come in.

"It is also popular with both young and older women. People come into the shop because the doctor has sent them here. Guys who have problems, we have certain creams, sprays and pumps which can help.

"There is still a thing about sex shops; it will always raise a giggle but times are changing. You can now buy sex toys in some chemists and supermarkets. I never thought I would see that. I think that is going to increase.

"Some of the programmes on TV such as Sex and the City have made it more acceptable as well. Women will come in and ask by name for the product they want.

"There is also the internet, the downloading of films. DVD producers are now looking to go straight to downloads. This could mean DVDs disappearing altogether from shops. Media centres are one direction I am looking at. The future will be properly regulated adult TV channels that you access through the internet. It is miles away from the guy in the van putting top shelf magazines out."

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