Materials defined as pornographic have always been subject to regulation because of the potential of such items to ‘corrupt and deprave’. Yet the state and law has rarely sought to ban such materials, attempting instead to restrict their accessibility. The outcomes of such interventions have, however, rarely been predictable, an issue we explore with reference to the changing regulation of sex shops in Britain and France since the 1970s. Noting ambiguities in the legal definitions of spaces of sex retailing, this paper traces how diverse forms of control have combined to restrict the location of sex shops, simultaneously shaping their design, management, and marketing. Describing the emergence of gentrified and ‘designer’ stores, this paper demonstrates that regulation has been complicit in a process of neo-liberalization that has favoured more corporate sex shops – without this having ever been an explicit aim of those who have argued for the regulation of sex retailing.