I was at a Canada Day picnic with about 80 people a few weeks back. It was a annual gathering of about 20 families (who pull into the large cottage lot in their RV’s). What was interesting to me is that rather than the usual catch up, everyone wanted to talk about Ben Wa balls, handcuffs, and 50 Shades of Grey.
If you haven’t read the wildly popular trilogy by E.L. James then you are one of the few that hasn’t. And anything you’ve heard about the books- both good and bad are true. It is steamy hot. Kinky erotic coupled with a traditional fairy tale love story never seems to go out of style. “Rich, powerful but troubled billionaire reaches out for invisible but beautiful student and sweeps her off her feet.” Very Cinderella-like except that the sex is riveting. And unlike the traditional bodice ripping Harlequin romance novels, this one has themes of Bondage, submission, dominance with all kinds of kinky toys. It also needs a good edit and won’t be winning any Pulitzer prizes anytime soon.

So why do you keep hearing about these books?

Here are my thoughts.
1. It’s risque. It’s a mainstream novel making the rounds of suburbia complete with an intact contract to be a BDSM submissive. As a sex therapist I’ve certainly used contracts with my patients, and they are common in alternative sex manuals, but have never seen one in a mainstream book. It’s a peak into a world that everyone wonders about but hasn’t been made palatable before. Unlike the Kink episodes they air on Friday night which are like a train wreck of pierced bodies and out there sex, 50 shades of Grey (or as my friend Sheila calls it 50 shags a day) makes the domination so delicious that you want to change places with the heroine.

2. It has really, really hot sex scenes. I can’t tell you how many women have told me how turned on they were by this erotica. Nicknamed “mommy porn” these passages are designed for arousal. If you don’t read much erotica this might be the first book in a long, long time that has made you that lubricated.

3. New toys. Every since Charlotte discovered the rabbit on Sex in the City (and had a rabbit intervention) there has never been as much interest among mainstream women in sex toys. Apparently the beginner bondage kit at Babes in Toyland has had a 90% increase in sales since the book came out.

4. It’s chocolate sauce on vanilla sex. And for women for whom the thought of the same sex with same partner makes them think about running off to a tropical island, 50 Shades is a great escape. It’s a safe way of having a romantic encounter while never leaving your bedroom. Many women can’t tell you what their fantasies are. We just don’t think that way and can’t rattle off a list of fantasies like men can. But if you paint us a scenario… then you get our attention. We love the story. If we can imagine the sex then we can get aroused. And most women are a little submissive. Think, “take me big boy”. So if you can add those pieces together (along with a great social media marketing campaign), and you’ve got the 50 shags err I mean 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon.