On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me ... a spanking paddle and handcuffs?
It seems “Fifty Shades of Grey” is having an effect on gift buying this holiday season, at least among holiday shoppers who are relatively less Puritantical than most.
The immensely popular series of erotic novels by British fanfiction author E.L. James, which explore the world of sexual dominance and submission through the relationship between a successful entrepreneur and a BDSM-curious young co-ed, has led to a rise in the sales of a special type of stocking-stuffer ... for consenting adults.
One of Britain’s all-time best-selling books has led to an increase in sales of vibrating “bullets,” pleasure balls, whips, handcuffs and assorted harnesses, locks, rings and sleeves, all aimed at enhancing sexual pleasure.
“'50 Shades' has had an incredible effect on business,” Richard Longhurst, one of the founders of Lovehoney, Britain's top online retailer of erotic goods, told Bloomberg in a report on rising holiday sales of erotic toys. “It’s given couples permission to enter the market ... that buying toys is all right.”
Lovehoney, whose products include a combination alarm clock and vibrator, recently unveiled 20 licensed “Fifty Shades” sex toys that it hopes will generate £10 million ($16.1 million) in the next year, due to popularity of the book series in the U.K. The company’s first production run of the branded sex toys sold out in days, according to the report.
Women are fuelling this demand. German erotic retailer Beate Uhse AG of Flensberg, for example, said it plans to open more stores in northern Europe that are less male-oriented than the average erotic goods store.
“Vendors catering [to] women and couples will increasingly appear on the market. Adult life-style products for women and couples will continue to become more widely available in shops,” Beate Uhse said in its report on the company’s first half of 2012 performance.
Northern Europe -- home of the darker Santa -- is certainly less repressed than Puritanical America when it comes to the holiday season.
The red light district of Hamburg, Germany, is home to the annual St. Pauli Christmas Market, which features drag queens dressed like Christmas trees, strippers dressed as angels wearing chocolate penises and Santas with laps most parents wouldn’t want their children sitting on. The market, started seven years ago, is experiencing an estimated 20 percent rise in attendance this year, event founder Jochen Bohnsack told Paris-based English news site Worldcrunch.
The Christmas angle to this story may be overblown, however.
Sales of sex toys has been rising in recent years in part because shows like HBO’s “Sex and the City” (1998-2004), and frank commentary about bedroom secrets from stars like Gwyneth Paltrow have helped popularize the topic for women. Amazon.com’s list of most popular sex toys suggests women are major buyers of erotic enhancement products.
A survey earlier this year by North Carolina-based adult toy maker Adam & Eve estimated that $15 billion a year is spent in the U.S. on sex toys, and that such purchases by women has risen to 44 percent of all purchases.