WARSAW -- Amid the gloom and grumbling that pervades Poland's post-Communist economy, there are two shining beacons of entrepreneurial success.
Sex and guns.
In heated embrace of Western culture, Poles are buying peekaboo panties and rubber handcuffs, aphrodisiacs and life-size Wonder Wanda inflatable dolls.
They also are queueing up for handguns that fire stun-gas bullets. The favorite model here in the capital is the 8mm, 14-shot "Miami Vice" automatic.
One prosperous gun-seller, wearing a shoulder-holster stuffed with a gleaming black automatic, observed that "everybody wants to be Don Johnson," the star of "Miami Vice."
Over at the Intersex shop in the fashionable Mokotow quarter of Warsaw, one needs sharp elbows to push through the housewives and businessmen, students and workmen who gawk at -- and often pay handsome prices for -- unseemly items of a sort the prudish Communists never would tolerate.
"If we want to keep pace with Europe and the world, we should offer these services to Poland. In this aspect of our culture we have always been backward," explained Jacek Baran, 27, co-owner of Intersex, Warsaw's first sex shop.
He and his partner, Paul Siarkiewicz, 26, decided last October to bet their financial future on the proposition that Poles were starved for "rubber goods."
The Communists had been booted out of power a month earlier. The Solidarity-led government was promising a bold era of free-market opportunity. So, Baran and Siarkiewicz took Solidarity leaders, many of whom are devout Roman Catholics, at their word.
They obtained a letter from the Department of Sexology and Pathology of Human Relations at the Medical Center in Warsaw. The letter, in part, said: "In our opinion there exists a certain group of people for whom these articles will be needed."
They petitioned the customs office to set duties on such untraditional imports as sexual stimulators; duties were set, by mutual agreement, at 15 to 20 percent. Thus armed, they applied for and won a business license from the Council of Ministers.
Finally, they made several buying excursions to Nuremberg, West Germany, where wholesale prices for sexual paraphernalia are low and selection is both wide and weird. The result has been all that the young entrepreneurs had dreamed -- and more.
Wedged in an upscale shopping strip between a women's tailor shop and a furniture store, Intersex has an atmosphere quite unlike that of similar establishments in the United States.
It isn't seedy-looking, nor are the customers furtive. Intersex has the ambience of a health-food store. Inside the shop, one hears embarrassed giggling. More than a few customers blush.
"I had counted on good business. But I hadn't expected it to be this good. I can sell everything. For example, aphrodisiacs. They are going like thunder. The last shipment was gone in only three days. We are even importing things based on special suggestions from our customers. They seem to like very much a Chinese aphrodisiac called Posh," Siarkiewicz said.
Not everyone in predominantly Catholic Poland is inspired by this rubber-to-riches success story.
After making preliminary inquiries about doing a feature story on the shop, Polish state television told Intersex owners that they could not broadcast videotape of the place because the local Catholic episcopate had objected.
Nor is all of Warsaw applauding the sudden stun-gun firepower.
There are now close to 20 shops in Warsaw selling handguns that fire gas bullets. Last September there were none. Police say that in the past eight months, "several thousand" stun-gun permits have been granted.
"Democracy does not mean that everyone can shoot at everyone else. The situation is becoming very dangerous, and I expect the Interior Ministry to take a firmer stand on the issue," said Polish police spokesman Col. Wojciech Gartska. "Our policy was too liberal and will certainly have to be more strict."
In Communist times it was almost impossible to get a license to own a stun gun. The weapon uses a tear-gas or stun-gas bullet that explodes on impact. It can incapacitate a human being for several minutes and is effective at a range of up to 30 feet.
It remains all but impossible to license a real-bullet pistol in Poland, although some have been smuggled into the country.
After the Solidarity government changed the stun-gun rules in October, the first purchasers were pensioners.
"They felt endangered by what they saw as a changing situation in the country," said Wanda Tuczynska, a vice president at InterAms, a computer company that started selling stun guns in April and now sells several hundred a month.
Police in Warsaw have reported an unprecedented rise in burglaries and robberies in the past year, and the popularity of stun guns -- which cost from $70 to $200 -- seems proportional to growing crime anxiety among middle- and working-class Poles.
"Now everybody is buying them -- taxi drivers, waiters. We all know that in a situation of crisis, threats arise," Tuczynska said.
Gun-sellers, like the co-owners of Warsaw's only sex shop, agree that booming sales are not going to last forever. They say there is a "forbidden fruit" appetite that is likely to be sated in Poland in a year or so.
"Speaking frankly, it is a short-term business," said Tuczynska.