According to Turkish law, erotic shops cannot be located on the ground level, as they are across Europe.Last November, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered all “erotic shops” in the Turkish capital of Ankara be renamed “love shops” because he’s “disturbed” by them. Gulum Bacanak of the Turkish Sexual Health Institute is not surprised that it’s so taboo.We have a depot in Kadikoy and, if they don’t have it, we are happy to find it for you,” she told my friend, who was holding a hot pink vibrator.
All I could come up with was “Sik istemiyorum,” which literally translates to “I don’t want penis.” That seemed to throw him off long enough for me to get out. The 8” x 11” “Eromega” sign is easy to miss next to the bars of the first-floor window of what looks to be a newly painted apartment complex. “We have normal working hours and are closed on Sundays.“My customers come all the way from Antalya [in southern Turkey] and around the country.” Not even the massive anti-government Occupy Gezi protests, which erupted last month only a 10-minute walk away from her shop, have hurt business, she said.Eromega is contained in two rooms, one of which is Reyhan’s private office, on the second floor. “If there’s something you don’t see, just let me know.Three blocks later, I found it: a neon sign blinking, “Erotik Shop! A headscarved (term for an older woman, like “auntie”) passing by clucked at me in disapproval as I stepped closer.Five flights of stairs later, I was inside, surrounded by four dirty white walls amplified by fluorescent lighting.“Let me help,” he insisted, his eyes following mine as I scanned the unimpressive selection of vibrators. “I bet I know what you want,” he said, pointing to the back wall of nothing but dildos in every size and color. There was another sex shop, “owned and operated by a woman,” he said. That’s how I came to be chasing down an address scribbled on the back of a receipt and weaving in and out of the side streets of Taksim on a perfectly good spring day.