"A look at the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ economy"
Las Vegas Weekly
Women aren’t just reading the books, rolling over and going to sleep, however. If sales figures are any indication, they are also going shopping for the various accoutrements mentioned in the novel, from blindfolds and riding crops to the “pleasure beads” that play a prominent role in the book. Retailer Babeland has an entire section of its website devoted to the Fifty Shades phenomenon, including a Fifty Shades of Grey fantasy kit. Early to Bed, a sex shop in Chicago, tweeted out a picture last week of its in-store Fifty Shades display, featuring bondage rope and fuzzy wrist restraints. And here in Vegas, the Déjà Vu Love Boutique has dedicated its storefront window to kinky paraphernalia and the Fifty Shades trilogy.
So what does all of this mean in terms of dollars and cents? LELO, a Swedish company that makes a product similar to the sensual “pleasure beads” depicted in the books, reports that sales for its Luna Beads have jumped an astonishing 400 percent, growth it attributes directly to the series. Demand is so high that retailers I spoke with can’t keep the item in stock. Many sex toy manufacturers and retailers are reading Fifty Shades in an effort to better understand this new demographic of shoppers—what we might think of as the “Fifty Shades consumer.”
Metis Black, president of Tantus, a sex toy manufacturer in Reno, says, “I have to understand what the trends are, and part of that is doing research and understanding the zeitgeist.”
“What many folks have said to me,” says Jacq Jones, the owner of Sugar, a woman-friendly sex shop in Baltimore, “is that the book just has them feeling sexier, reminding them that sex is fun, turning them on and freeing them to try new things.”
Black echoes this. “Women haven’t been given permission to fantasize that much. This book gives women permission.” She adds, it also shows readers how to negotiate boundaries, establish safe words and talk about what they want to do and don’t want to do sexually.
Brenda Knight, an associate publisher at Cleis Press, which has been publishing erotica for over 30 years, has seen sales increase by 30 percent over the past few months. “It is really fascinating. At first it was hard to see, but at this point, [the increase in sales] is mostly books where the women are identifying as submissive. To me, that says that millions and millions of women are reading about that, and want to experience it. They want to experience what Anastasia is experiencing.”
Knight, however, wants to ensure that curious beginners who’ve never dabbled in BDSM or kinky sex have the information they need to do it safely. In September, Cleis will release an e-book called Fifty Shades of Kink: A Beginner’s Guide to BDSM, written by award-winning author and sex educator Tristan Taormino.
“There is such a surge in interest about kinky sex because of Fifty Shades,” Taormino tells me. “I wanted to create an accessible guide for newcomers, and also help paint a more realistic portrait of how people actually do kink that’s grounded in experience, creativity and safety.” ...