Explicit novel that outstripped Harry Potter to be fastest-selling paperback ever has led to a boom in erotic and exotic aids
The runaway success of Fifty Shades of Grey, the graphically sexual novel that has sold more than a million copies, has led to a boom in sex toys and erotic literature.
Ann Summers is just one of the stores reporting that sales of blindfolds, whips and handcuffs have soared, reflecting the strong sadism and masochism theme running through the book.
Punters, including many more women, are also lining up to buy more exotic sexual aids that feature in the love lives of the protagonists. Sales of jiggle balls, for example, have risen by 200%.
The novel, which tells the story of the relationship between a female student and a company chief executive, was published electronically in 2011. Since it came out in print 11 weeks ago, it has become the fastest-selling paperback of all time – beating Harry Potter and The Da Vinci Code – despite a hostile reception from many critics.
Fiona Davis, a director of Ann Summers, said the consumer effect of the book was similar to that of Sex and the City, which popularised designer shoes and vibrators.
“Fifty Shades of Grey has introduced erotic literature to millions of people who may have never considered exploring this genre,” said Davis.
“Word of mouth and the digital age has ensured this trilogy has become a phenomenon. As soon as it hit the shelves as a paperback, its reputation preceded it, making it an all the more tangible and irresistible purchase for women across the world.
“Fifty Shades of Grey just proves what we know to be true; that the UK loves sex and wants more. We think erotica has always been bubbling under the ‘mainstream’ surface and actually it is incredibly popular.”
She said that the book has sold out in many stores and that sales of other erotic literature have risen by 130%. Other sex shops reported a similar surge in interest.
In Soho, traditionally the centre of London’s erotic entertainment industry, the sudden surge of interest is a welcome boost as the economic downturn continues. At Simply Pleasure, one of the district’s most well-known erotic bookshops, employees said that the curiosity generated by the book was introducing a new generation of women to sex shops and sex toys. “People realise that it’s not seedy and sordid, which has always been the problem for the sex shop industry,” said the store manager, Jane, who was reluctant to give her full name.
“Once women see that sex shops are clean and
then they visit again. Once they feel comfortable and realise that they are not the only people in the world trying to do something different they start asking the questions they would have asked years ago if they realised there was someone to ask.”
Lesley Lewis, who first worked as a dancer in Soho in 1979 and now runs the famous French House pub, said the new generation of visitors were a welcome addition.
“Soho was always a place where people could be themselves. In the past it was gay men holding hands and if now it’s women going to sex shops after reading Fifty Shades of Grey then that can’t be a bad thing. Long may it carry on like that,” she said.
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