When toys are made for movies, they are usually intended for children.
But with the Valentine’s Day weekend premiere of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” many of the tie-ins to the film are for adults only.
The sex toy industry is banking on the hope that the Universal Pictures film will generate soaring sales, much the way the blockbuster erotic novel of the same name created thousands of new customers from the female readers who passed the book around their suburban culs-de-sac.
In anticipation of such keen interest, mainstream retailers are stocking up on the pleasure industry’s blindfolds, whips, handcuffs and masks. Manufacturers have designed new packaging and products to fit the kinky tone and theme of the film, which is based on E. L. James’s story about a naïve young woman’s introduction to games of sexual bondage.
Even Target, one of the nation’s largest retailers, recently began selling an official “Fifty Shades of Grey” “vibrating love ring,” an item intended for wear by men, but not on the finger.
“It is the biggest moment for our industry in popular culture pretty much ever,” said Claire Cavanah, a co-founder of Babeland, an adult novelty retailer. “We’re all sort of preparing for what could be another wave of toys.”
Ms. James’s sexually charged trilogy — two followed “Fifty Shades of Grey” — became a cultural phenomenon, and turned Ms. James into something of a legend.
She sold the publishing rights to Vintage Books, a division of Random House, and soon reached even more readers who may never have normally read erotic fiction.
Last year, Vintage Books announced that it had sold 100 million copies of the series. Ms. James, a middle-aged British mother and former television producer, was credited with introducing the concept of BDSM (standing for, loosely: bondage/discipline, domination/submission, sadism/masochism) into the mainstream vernacular.
She also ignited a huge bidding war in Hollywood. Executives vied for a chance to pitch Ms. James and her literary agent, Valerie Hoskins, on how best to tell the story of Anastasia Steele, a virginal 21-year-old student who becomes the submissive sexual partner to Christian Grey, a successful 27-year-old businessman.
Universal Studios and Focus Features eventually won, and agreed to pay $5 million for the rights to make the film.
The studio wanted to capitalize on the same readers — and others — who sent sales of adult products skyrocketing after “Fifty Shades of Grey” had its debut as an e-book in 2011. Suddenly, retailers had trouble keeping once-obscure products in stock. The novel spurred a 7.5 percent jump in sales of sex-themed products, including toys, videos and books, in 2013, according to a report from the research firm IBISWorld.
“We were kind of taken by surprise when the book came out,” Ms. Cavanah said. “But we’re much more prepared for the movie.”
The movie will not be as graphic as the book. Neal Slateford, a co-founder of Lovehoney, the only company that has the rights to make the official “Fifty Shades of Grey” adult products sold in Target and elsewhere, does not expect certain toys used in the book’s steamiest scenes to appear in the movie. ...
Keeping the spice in a marriage can be difficult. Some turn to therapy or date nights, others have sex with other couples.
Tina and Fred, who wish to remain anonymous have been married for 30 years and are swingers.
They've been in the "lifestyle" as it's called, for seven years.
"It's fun. it's different. It's exciting." said Fred.
"We learn things from other couples. We learn things we like and things we don't like and try them out at home, said Fred's wife Tina.
Tina, an accountant, and Fred who is retired from the military, are among the estimated 4 million swingers in the U.S.
It's become a multi-billion dollar industry with conventions, destination resorts and cruises.
There's also apps, websites and private clubs.
One of the top clubs in the country is right here in San Antonio, The Player's Club.
"We are not out in the open because we don't want everyone coming by here. We want people to seek us out. People that are looking for this in their relationship. It's not for everybody." said club owner Tom, who prefers to keep his identity hidden.
Tom and his wife of 34 years opened the club 15 years ago as a hobby and it grew quickly.
Tom says the club now has 4000 members which consists of people who work in law enforcement, the medical field and even school teachers.
"This is a safe way to meet people in the swinging lifestyle to meet friends and socialize and interact. A lot of people not in the lifestyle will think it's just a wild orgy and it's not.
It looks like any other nightclub with a dance floor and music but this club has private cabanas and a special room with toys etc.
Sex is not allowed on the main floor but anything goes in the cabanas and that special room.
You can pretty much do anything you want. You can live out your wildest fantasy just remember women call the shots.
"We want women to be comfortable." said Tom.
There are rules to keep women feeling safe for example, couples are screened before they become members, single men have to be invited and you must ask before you touch.
"We don't like pushy behavior. We don't like groping." said Tom.
Privacy is of the utmost importance and for that reason Tina and Fred have become regulars at the club. ...
ARLINGTON, Texas -- An alleged swingers' club in an upscale Arlington neighborhood has been ordered to cease operation because it violates zoning.
On a swingers' website, Eutopia is promoted as an exciting, upscale "lifestyle" venue.
Neighbors say it's not a venue, it's a home. And they've been trying for weeks to get the city of Arlington to crash the party.
"This is a sexually-oriented swingers' club in my neighborhood," said neighbor Jon Vecchio. "We don't want it here."
Vecchio lives a few blocks from the half-million-dollar home at the corner of Cooper Street and Beady Road. The yard has been paved to accommodate 70 cars. It's owned by an Azle man.
But a man in Weatherford told us he's been hosting parties since last summer. The home has hosted close to 60 erotic parties, some with themes, since it opened in May 2014.
David Esopenko said off-camera it's not a swingers' club, because he doesn't charge... But the suggested donation is $80 per couple, $20 for single women and $80 for single men.
Esopenko said the money mainly covers snacks and drink set ups. The city says up to 200 people have attended some parties, which could add up to thousands of dollars in one night. Esopenko said not everyone pays and that no money is collected at the door. He saID guests write a number on an envelope, and drop the cash into a box.
"Shocked," Vecchio said. "Couldn't believe it was going on. We don't want it in our neighborhood."
The city just sent the owner, James Self, and Esopenko an order to cease operations. According to the city, Eutopia is a business because it offers promotional advertising, regular hours (every weekend from 8:30 p.m. to 3 a.m.), and services such as food, beverages, and condoms.
The house is furnished, but unoccupied. Esopenko said he plans to move in.
"Yeah, right," Vecchio said. "I don't believe that any more than he's just having parties for a hundred of his closest friends." ...
On a Monday night in late January, Liam and Tracie are cooking dinner for their daughter Emily. It’s her 16th birthday, and they’re having nachos and birthday cake.
As Liam and Tracie prepare dinner in the kitchen, Emily is on the couch in the living room talking with Melissa and Matthew.
Liam and Tracie are a married couple, and so are Matthew and Melissa. But they are also polyamorous. Liam and Melissa are paramours, which means they share an intimate relationship with each other. Matthew has a paramour outside the group, and Tracie currently is not in another relationship.
“Right now I’m invested in my own individual exploration,” she says. “I have a couple of projects that I want to work on now and am not really looking for another romantic attachment.”
THE START OF LIAM AND TRACIE’S POLYAMORY
Liam and Tracie decided to open up their marriage after Tracie had an affair with a friend.
“I made the mistake of not talking with Liam before I went ahead with it,” Tracie says. “But we decided to see what this could add to our marriage instead of taking away from it.”
Tracie and Liam met Melissa and Matthew through an online dating site a couple of years ago in Missouri. Liam and Melissa immediately hit it off, and got permission from their spouses to begin dating. After two years of the couples living separately in Missouri, they decided they were ready for their next adventure. They found an apartment in Rock Creek, a Portland suburb, and moved in together. They’ve been here for five months. ...
A metro Atlanta dominatrix who does play for pay is suing a DeKalb County private investigator for secretly filming their “role-playing” session as part of sting in a child-custody case.
Lakenya Monfort also contends Reginald Walker and Southern Professional Investigations also should be punished for breaching her privacy.
In the lawsuit filed Monday in DeKalb State Court, Monfort, of Clayton County, said she was contacted by Walker, of Woodstock, who posed as potential client for a “dominatrix session.”
She met with Walker at a Holiday Inn Express in DeKalb County in 2013 for an “unique role-playing session specifically requested by Mr. Walker” in exchange for a $300 fee, the lawsuit said.
Walker, however, had hidden a video-camera to record the session without Monfort’s knowledge. While the camera captured the couple in stages of undress, the video depicted no sex in exchange for money or requests for sex for money — acts interpreted as prostitution—according to the lawsuit, which was sparse on other details.
The hidden recording violated Monfort’s expectation of privacy, which was further “aggravated” because it was evidence against Monfort in her child-custody case, the lawsuit said.
Cassandra D. Sims, the paternal grandmother of Monfort’s child, sued for custody of her grandchild in 2013 after hiring Walker and Southern Professional Investigations to gather evidence, the lawsuit said. The video was played in Gwinnett County Superior Court in October 2013 in hearing for temporary hearing in the still unresolved custody case, the lawsuit said.
Monfort’s case boils down to the Georgia law that prohibits secretly filming or video-recording someone in a place where he or she has a reasonable expectation of privacy.
It is akin to the case brought by Waffle House CEO Joe Rogers against his former mistress who he said tried to extort money from him by video-recording potentially embarassing acts. ...
A Romeoville man pulled out of a bondage “slave school” business scheme, costing his partner nearly $15,000, according to a lawsuit filed in Will County court.
Defendant Scott Baker conceded that the allegations were “partly true” but denied owing any money to Dean Schoenewald.
“He’s a con artist and a scam artist,” Baker said of Schoenewald. “He’s a true sociopath.”
Schoenewald, who said he lives in Atlantic City, NJ, claimed in his lawsuit that Baker “withdrew from any and all participation in our start-up ‘BDSM slave school’ business, failing to adhere to our agreement and signed contract.”
Schoenewald, who wants $14,840 from Baker, said he did not wish to discuss his lawsuit.
“I’m not interested in publicity,” he said. “I’m interested in winning.”
Schoenewald was willing to talk a little about the slave school idea, which he said never got off the ground because of Baker.
“This is a sexual revolution that’s going on,” he said, claiming the market for sadomasochism is a veritable goldmine and pointing to the erotic romance sensation Fifty Shades of Grey as proof.
“In one month in 2012 it made $95 million,” Schoenewald said. ...
Calling a proposed swingers sex club “evil” and a would-be “cancer” on Madison, the leader of a Christian school put voice to local concerns during a meeting Monday that aired opposition.
“We will exhaust every legal, every political, every kind of resource we can find to stop it,” vowed Ricky Perry, president of Goodpasture Christian School, about a half-mile from the proposed club.
Perry spoke to more than 200 people who packed the Madison Police Precinct. Even before arriving, almost 3,000 had signed petitions — including online — against the relocation of The Social Club to 520 Lentz Drive.
Current zoning would allow a private club at its proposed location, officials said. But Bennett has started asking city staff about changes that might prevent it — although she wouldn’t share details and made no promises.
“Let’s face it: In the end, we will probably be sued,” Bennett said. “It’s what they do.”
The councilwoman noted she’d spoken to some club members in favor of the location. But none spoke up.
Many who did speak Monday had their minds made up, raising a loud alarm about the future of Madison, invoking their faith and asking about tactics to derail the club. They raised the spectres of alcohol, sexually transmitted diseases and sex offenders.
“Will we be a place where children are safe?” asked Pastor Maury Davis ofCornerstone Church. ...
Miju Han lives in the Bay Area, works as a product manager and shares a charming apartment with her fiancé.
Here's what makes her love story a bit different: She's also in three other relationships. In addition to her fiancé, Han has been seeing a woman for two years (they recently said, "I love you"). She also dates two other men.
Han, 27, says she never quite colored inside the lines. She grew up in the South, was attracted to women and fascinated by programming. In 2010, she moved to the Bay Area and has since worked at several major tech companies. Han declined to name her current employer.
She met her fiancé when he was 21 and she was 23. They fell in love but weren't ready to cut off other options.
"He hadn't dated many other women in the past, and I wanted to explore too," she explained.
Han says the term for her relationship status is polyamorous, meaning "many loves." People who identify as polyamorous are often in multiple romantic relationships. The arrangements vary, but they have a lack of exclusivity in common.
Han and her fiancé practice a hierarchical style of polyamory. Her fiancé, who asked not to be named, is her primary partner, meaning all other relationships are secondary or more casual. They spend five to six nights a week together and plan on marrying in 2016 and having children at some point. Han's fiancé is also dating three other women.
Han compares her experimentation with her relationship to the experimentation that happens in the Bay Area, a mecca for entrepreneurs who question the way things work.
"I think that in technology, people have higher appetites for risks," she says. "Opening up your relationship is really risky, kind of in a similar way that starting a company is really risky."
In fact, it's just a part of a rich history of sexual exploration in the Bay Area that far precedes the tech boom.
"There's still a lot of cultural taboo around open relationships and polyamory," says Polly "Superstar" Whittaker, who a started a private sex club called Mission Control in 2001. "This is a town that accepts alternative structures."