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"Pull down the shades, pull out the toys"

on Wednesday, 25 July 2012. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates

As 'Fifty Shades of Grey' goes mainstream, sex toy sales are heating up too

Chicago Tribune

Moms aren't the only ones riding high on "Fifty Shades of Grey." Sex toy sales are surging as more couples add handcuffs and riding crops to their repertoire.

At San Francisco-based Good Vibrations, sales of bondage sex toys have increased 65 percent and erotica 50 percent since "Fifty Shades" rose to the top of the best-seller lists this spring with its graphic tale of an ingenue submitting to the sexual games of a powerful man, introducing mainstream audiences to themes of BDSM (an acronym encompassing bondage and discipline, domination and submission and sadism and masochism). At New York-based Babeland, bondage toy sales have grown 40 percent, with certain paddles, blindfolds and a spiky metal tool called a pinwheel experiencing triple-digit increases, said public relations director Pamela Doan. The store also is offering free classes based on the "Fifty Shades" sex scenes, drawing 125 people to the first event and 400 RSVPs to the second — far more than the 25 to 30 attendees events typically draw, Doan said.

Kegel balls, the beads mentioned in "Fifty Shades" that strengthen pelvic floor muscles for improved orgasms, have become particularly popular. Manufacturer Fun Factory has seen sales of its Smart Balls rise 350 percent this spring over last, and its German factory has had to pick up night shifts to keep up with demand, said marketing director Emilie Rosanvallon.

"I have never seen anything like this," said Susan Wright, founder of the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, an advocacy group for BDSM. "We have tracked media coverage of BDSM since the '90s, and it is just astonishing how many people are talking about this."

Just as "Sex and the City" prompted a run on Rabbit vibrators, "Fifty Shades" is giving people — and women in particular — permission to venture into new erotic territory they may have previously been too shy to explore, said Carol Queen, staff sexologist at Good Vibrations.

Though it's hardly the first book on the topic, and movies such as "91/2 Weeks" and "The Secretary" depicted steamy sadomasochistic scenes, "Fifty Shades" managed to hook mainstream audiences with its romance novel tropes, providing a bridge to erotica, Queen said.

Rebecca Salerno said she had never set foot inside an adult toy store until her co-workers turned her on to the book and she went to Babeland's "Fifty Shades of Hot Sex" class. The book, perhaps because it's so silly, she said, made her feel more comfortable talking about and experimenting with sex toys, "and it gave so many good ideas." ...

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