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Fifty Shades of Grey – My Thoughts

9 April 2015 2 comments

Those who went to see the Fifty Shades of Grey film adaptation expecting seductive and titillating scenes of hot kinky sex would have been sorely disappointed! Many of the 100 million readers of the trilogy referred to the books as 'mommy porn' although the general consensus of film goers was that the porn scenes were yawn-worthy. Whilst there were a number of semi saucy nude scenes I don't actually believe they could really be described as porn. Given the film was released on Valentine's Day in the US it was clearly pitched as romance in contrast to porn.

Fifty Shades of Grey - My ThoughtsFifty Shades of Grey - My Thoughts

I was on holidays in New York at the end of January and noted the overwhelming presence of two huge movie billboards in Times Square, that were only twenty metres apart, promoting the release of the film. And most cabs I saw throughout New York, and Los Angeles a week prior, also had external advertising featuring the movie release. Then there was the TV I watched in the hotel – many channels aired talkback shows featuring discussion on what the movie could behold. The US was fervently waiting and the anticipation was building by the day!

In May 2012 adultshop.com retail stores and website sales leapt. By the following month our retail sales were 70% above budget and our staff were rejoicing! In prior months sales were somewhat disappointing. The feedback I received from staff was that the increase in sales was totally attributable to the release of the Fifty Shades of Grey novel. Analysis of what we were selling revealed that products like restraints, handcuffs, blindfolds, nipple clamps, orgasm balls and butt plugs were selling out - literally. We had difficulty stocking these products due to the insatiable demand of Fifty Shades fans. Our biggest seller was orgasm balls (also referred to as duo balls) and they sold out worldwide. Manufacturers simply couldn't keep up with the demand! It was the boom the adult product industry needed.

And it wasn't just light BDSM (bondage and discipline) products that were selling. Sex toys were also selling well (although not as fast as the BDSM products). Our staff also reported many new customers venturing into our stores and the percentage of new customers buying online was increasing. This is something that retailers dream about – well above budget sales and a massive influx of new customers, all in a short space of time and with no additional marketing, advertising or change in business strategy.

The new customers weren't the stereotype men in leather or raincoats (nor did they have a whip in their back pocket). In fact they were mostly women aged 20-50 and with diverse demographics. They'd read the book and it had opened up a whole new realm of sexual possibilities and adventures for them. I've heard that the book saved marriages and relationships – although I'm sure the thought of this raises a few eyebrows. Maybe their sex lives were stagnant and they simply needed to spice things up a bit. Bondage and discipline, light or otherwise, isn't actually how it's portrayed or depicted in either the trilogy or the film. It's not necessarily controlling nor is it as emotionally draining.

So in June 2012 I decided to read the book to see what was getting so many women worked up enough to want to broaden their sexual horizons. I remember trying to finish it on a business trip flight over east, but to no avail. To my amazement I spent more time discussing the book with a number of the hostesses and numerous other female fliers after they spotted me reading the book on their way back from the toilet. And they had absolutely no qualms about discussing some of the more salacious erotic passages within earshot of the other guests. I doubt most of them had read anything so sexually arousing before – where for me readers 'true' stories in Penthouse magazines was something I'd been regularly reading since I was a young teenager (note my parents weren't aware of this). I'm slighty embarrassed to admit that I also read a number of Joan Collins' books in my late teens (they were a girlfriends), including her best seller The Stud, and her books had more sex in them than Fifty Shades. Nevertheless I enjoyed Fifty Shades and after reading it I had a better appreciation for why the sale of adult products was skyrocketing.

I also read the next two books of the trilogy in the hope the BDSM and sex scenes improved, but alas they didn't. The books were more Mills and Boon type romance and only moderately entertaining for me. I suppose part of me was hoping the sex continued to improve in books two and three so as to continue the momentum of our sales at adultshop.com. Unfortunately the huge spike in sales only continued for a few months then they slowed.

Not long after I read the book I found it hard to fathom why a number of married friends complained to me that their wives, who had also read the book, were now un-relentless in their pursuit of more sex and kinkier sex. I think they'd become complacent with their mundane sex lives and were taken back by their wives sense of adventure. One friend decided he wouldn't shower after the gym in the hope that his wife would stop "pestering him for sex" (his words). It didn't work. Then he was horrified to hear she wanted to try sex toys (I was frowning at this stage of our conversation). I'm happy to report he's recently told me their sex life is certainly far from mundane these days.

Most reviews from critics have trashed the books and the films. This is in stark contrast to the huge number of Fifty Shades fans who raved about the books and the film. Fifty Shades of Grey was the first novel E.L James wrote. To date the trilogy has sold over 100 million copies worldwide and they've been translated into 52 different languages. Prior to the release of the movie E.L. James had earned US$123 million from the trilogy and was adding US$1 million a week to that fortune. As of last week the film had grossed US$565 million at the box office and smashed many records.

I agree to a certain degree with the critics. The books were poorly written. E.L.James by her own admission is no literacy genius. She didn't embark upon her journey with fan fiction, akin to Twilight, with the objective of creating high brow and intellectually stimulating reading. No – her aim was to tell a story and entertain. A lot of the storyline is incredulous. How does a man at the age of 27 become a billionaire business tycoon from humble beginnings? And as if being filthy rich isn't enough he's also handsome, has a masculine physique that most men would envy, is super well endowed and supposedly a sex god with a deviant intriguing twist. Whilst having all these attributes might make him many women's dream man, Christian Grey is really a fantasy character and probably no different in essence to James Bond or Superman.

Anyone seeing the film should understand that Australian and US censorship laws are conservative (note Australia's are more conservative). In Australia a film can't have actual (in contrast to simulated) sex scenes, showing genitalia and penetration, unless they're classified X18+. And it's illegal to show X18+ films in cinemas. There are also restrictions on sales. R18+ rated films can show nudity and simulated sex (no visible genitalia) however the sex scenes can't be included in the same film as violence or sexual violence. BDSM is considered sexual violence by Australian censors – note that hot candle wax dripped onto nipples or the use of fluffy handcuffs as restraints is considered sexual violence by our censors (quite illogical). Likewise any smacks to the buttocks (subtle, light or otherwise) need to be edited out of any Australian films that also have sex scenes in them. From a financial perspective a challenge the film producers had was to make the film as accessible as possible in order to maximise sales, whilst maintaining as much nudity, sex and BDSM allowable. This meant they needed an M15+ rating in Australia and similar in the US. And this ultimately is why the BDSM scenes are weak and not representative and it's also why the nudity is limited and the sex scenes aren't really sex scenes.

I, as I'm sure most readers of the book, would have loved to see the film made without any government censorship restrictions. I would have also preferred the film's producers to deviate from the books portrayal of the BDSM scenes so that they're more realistic. By making the BDSM scenes more realistic I believe the film would have received less criticism (noting Christian's egotistical controlling manner also drew considerable criticism). adultshop.com hosted its own movie screening premiere in Perth. After the film finished I discussed it with many of those at the premiere and wasn't surprised that many women were put off by the last scene where Christian beat Ana in his red room of pleasure and pain (he called it his play room) to the point she was crying. Whilst she asked him to give it to her "as bad as it gets" and she didn't mutter either of the code words yellow or red (meaning she was either reaching her physical pain or emotional torment limit, or exceeding it), the fact that she was crying at the time was an issue for most women – and understandably so. Reflecting upon the film now I'm going to assume he didn't see her crying and I'm quite sure he would have stopped if he had of.

After watching the film, and not getting too entrenched in the last BDSM scene, or the cliffhanging end, one does have to think about who really did have the power (ie. who controlled who), or if there was a power shift during the film. And who knows what goes through Hollywood film producers minds – maybe the last BDSM scene was designed to cause outrage and have more people talking about it. The power of social media these days is phenomenal and box office receipts for the film are testimony to that!

As to be expected an adult film production company, Smash Pictures, jumped on the Fifty Shades bandwagon and produced a pornographic version of the Fifty Shades trilogy entitled Fifty Shades of Grey: A XXX Adaptation. It was released early January 2013. Universal, who had secured the Fifty Shades film rights, took legal action against Smash Pictures and it was eventually settled out of court. I managed to buy a copy of the DVD before Smash Pictures stopped promoting and selling it. As to be expected the movie didn't really stack up against the book (by a long shot) however the explicit sex scenes in it were very entertaining!

I'm actually tired of hearing the ridicule and dissing of the books and the film! I think the joke is on the antagonists and the proof is in the record breaking book sales and box office receipts. Obviously E.L James is laughing at those who've criticised Fifty Shades – all the way to the bank! I firmly believe that Fifty Shades has helped 'normalise' the use of sex toys and at the same time has opened up minds to the possibility of sexual adventure. Whilst everyone might not be into a bit of 'slap and tickle', we all want to experience a fulfilling and rewarding sex life - and that requires communication, trust and enthusiasm to continuously keep monotony and boredom at bay.

Since the release of the film, sales at adultshop.com have increased again. And it's because more adults have awakened their desire to experiment sexually!

I'm eagerly anticipating the release of the sequel films and have no doubt that they'll continue to fire up debate about what a control freak the Fifty Shades of fucked up Christian Grey is – and of course it's fortuitous for adultshop.com that Christian Grey doesn't do romance, love or flowers, but he does do sex toys and restraints!

I'm interested in hearing your thoughts on Fifty Shades.

Delivering passion and pleasure.

Mal

Izzy Pelham 12 April 2015 at 9:58 am
I love your blogs! On this one, you have summed up a majority (my opinion) view on the FSOG phenomenon. I don't know why there is such an uproar on this. Everyone needs a moment, just to chill-out! I loved the novels, and wasshocked at some of my friends' reaction to my reading them. This surprised me, I did not know this sideof my friends, discussing it with them I think it was simply the fear of the unknown (Sex & BDSM) ie these are topics one does not discuss - so it must be wrong, even talking about the books made them uncomfortable because theythought they should not talk about them. I agree they were not well written, I wasn't reading them as an assignment, I'm not an educator marking a paper, I wanted the escape, it's simply a romance/love story - end of story. I don't know much ofthe BDSM world and it has certainly piqued my interest, I'm in my mid 50's and it's doubtful that I will get my partner to explore much but happy to try and persuade him to try and yes I am a new customer to your online shop!
Kris 27 April 2015 at 3:07 pm
While I haven't read the books myself, I've heard mainly positive reviews about them. I know that some of my friends were a little bummed out that the movie wasn't as saucy as they had anticipated, although a couple of them are now dabbling in watching porn for the first time to get their needs met. In my opinion, anything that opens up people's eyes to a more diverse sex life is a winner.
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