With libraries reporting waiting lists in the thousands and retailers reporting over 10 million copies sold in just a month and a half, the popularity of 50 Shades of Grey and its siblings 50 Shades Darker and 50 Shades Freed has not only dominated The Hunger Games trilogy but (mercy!) "ripped through the virginity" of America's familiarity with, and openess to, BDSM.
Much to the delight of its publisher, the trilogy by E.L. James is being banned in libraries across the nation, where "pornography," not "literature," is used to describe the tome. And the only thing nearly as popular as reading the book is writing about how terrible it is as a book. (True fact: The books started as fan fiction featuring characters from the Twilight series — now it's inspiring fan fiction.)
Capitalizing on the new craze for "mommy porn" is "leading fetish company" Stockroom.com, which reports a "a remarkable surge in inquiries."
"Fifty Shades of Fetish" is Stockroom.com's marketing message, tempting customers to "Live the Fantasy!" An enticement made all the more erotic by saving "up to 60%." Indeed, what horny housewife can resists the sale price of $13.80 (originally $19.99) on an "Ophoria Silicone Anal Chain."
A recent Stockroom.com press release can barely contain its giddiness about such a great marketing opportunity, calling it "50 Shades Fever":
"Top-selling items from the Kinklab line include affordable basic restraint designs, its "Mandible Body Clamps," and a whimsically sweet ball gag using a jumbo candy jawbreaker for the ball. Kinklab's latest runaway hit, the Neon Wand, is a higher-tech device that produces sensual stimulation with colorful electric shocks and assorted electrode attachments."
Yes, "Whimsically sweet." The Pleasure Chest, a sex toy superstore founded in 1971, offers "8 Essentials to Fulfill Your '50 Shades' Fantasies" for those who want to "play like Grey." The Pleasure Chest smartly packages its products with related quotes from the books. For example, the Njoy Pure Plug is sold alongside the passage: "He moves one of his hands from my hips and twists the plug again, tugging it slowly, pulling it out and pushing it back in. The feeling is indescribable, and I think I’m going to pass out on the table.”
Toys in Babeland, a sex toys brand with online retail and brick and mortar stores in America's hippest neighborhoods, is hosting events such as "Fifty Shades of Hot Sex" on June 7 at its East Pike Street store in Seattle:
"Fallen under the spell of Fifty Shades of Grey, the erotic novel sweeping the nation? If you’re curious about how to try out some of the scenes from the book, we’ll discuss ways to make your fantasies into reality using kinky toys and vibrators. Bring your BFF’s or your lover and get inspired to try new things in the bedroom. Arrive early; the first ten guests will receive gift bags with toys that are Mr. Grey Approved."
"Did 50 Shades of Grey inspire you to try spanking?" Three days later, Babeland's Lower East Side Manhattan store will offer a "mini-workshop." On June 15th, its Brooklyn location will host a similar event where "the first fifteen guests will receive gift bags filled with toys that are Mr. Grey Approved."
Melissa Buys, the director of Pure Romance, told brandchannel that she hoped "women feel more open about communicating these needs to their partners to have a more fulfilling relationship in and out of the bedroom." Well, Melissa, it appears they are.
In Arizona, The Republic reports that at erotic retailer Fascinations "sales in the bead-and-ball category are up 98 percent in the past four weeks. Feathers and items that tickle are up 34 percent, and the BDSM category is up 18 percent." Meanwhile, San Francisco store Good Vibrations "has seen a 350 percent increase in BDSM items, including handcuffs, blindfolds, bondage tape and paddles."
Even the property owners of the Seattle condo where the book's trysts are centered, the Escala building, are seeing a bump in interest. Yes, you too can live the fantasy for between $4 to $6 million.
The best news is that all those handcuffing themselves to the "50 Shades" phenomenon only have more to be giddy about. A movie is already being fast tracked for theaters, assuring plenty of opportunity for the product placement of the Njoy Pure Plug™. And it has also given a boost to sector — hardware stores — with sales of the type of rope used in the books being driven by suddenly randy soccer moms.
Below, a look at how the Fifty Shades books are doing on the bestseller lists this week: