Fifty Shades of your mom in leather handcuffs

February 6, 2015 Originally published on SFGate

Talk about your mixed blessings.

It’s well known to be the tackiest, worst-written pieces of pseudo-erotica ever, leading to what looks to be one of the schlockiest movies, featuring a pair of lead actors who clearly hate each other, filmed by a director who fought with E L James all the way through, all tied to a massive wave of “naughty” marketing that is right now hitting full, slippery, spanking stride, for better and all kinds of worse.

But if there’s one upside of the Fifty Shades of Grey Valentine’s Day marketing onslaught, it’s perhaps the nice upsurge of business to be enjoyed, albeit briefly, by the long-beleaguered sex toy industry. Don’t you think?

As reported, quite chastely, in the NYT, every toy joint from to Goodvibes has stocked up on Fifty Shades-style toys, lubes, cuffs and vibrating things – nothing too hardcore, of course, because FSOG is to real BDSM what Taylor Swift is to Iron Maiden – in preparation for a flood of new and desperately inexperienced, middle-aged, almost exclusively female customers (the books’ key demographic, by an enormous margin), most of whom, we can safely assume, have no idea what a Hitachi Magic Wand is really for, and who think sex is eight minutes of gasping in the dark, until he rolls off and falls asleep.

No. 1 new turn-on? Book titles on cock rings. Hot!

No. 1 new turn-on? Book titles on cock rings. Hot!

It’s nice, right? That you can even, right this minute, buy a vibrating cock ring – er, “love” ring – at, of all places, Target? Lube and velvet eye masks, too? Why, toss in a few bottles of FSOG ‘White Silk’ wine ($12.99 BevMo) and America’s moms will be all set for one luxurious, orgasmic, ultra-naughty sex romp for the ages!

Or, you know, maybe not. Sure, everyone agrees that the bizarre Fifty Shades phenom has made BDSM into a household… well, if not word, then at least a scintillating concept of exotic, impossible dirtiness most American women – and their very nervous, confused husbands – have only ever feared/dreamed of. But few are sure that’s a good thing.


Wait, MY plug says "Harry Potter and the Cave of Wonders." Did I get the wrong one?

Wait, MY plug says “Harry Potter and the Cave of Wonders.” Did I get the wrong one?

Did you know much of the BDSM community despises Fifty Shades of Grey? True. Not just for the awful writing, or because James gets the world of fetishism pretty much completely wrong, but because she actually encourages some highly irresponsible, harmful practices that should not be tried at home, much less by a smarmy 27-year-old twit and his timid, virgin nymph who’s never seen her own clitoris.

Hence, the cynical voice, the one that says the movie will almost surely flop, the surge in sales will be brief, few buyers will have the slightest clue what to do with those “naughty” toys and hence most of them will sit, unused, in the drawer next to the nasal spray and the anti-snoring face strap. Meanwhile, the needle on America’s sexual illiteracy moves almost not at all. In fact, we just might get a little bit dumber.

Also makes for excellent beer bottle cozies

Also makes for excellent bear bottle cozies, after going un-used for a year

But let’s try to be optimistic, shall we? More vibrating cock rings, leather cuffs, beginner butt plugs and (mildly) dirty fantasies in the hands and minds of millions of America’s undersexed moms – not to mention at Target stores – can only be a good thing, right? Could possibly lead to a resurgence of real erotica? Better sex education/less dread over their kids’ sexuality? Inspire someone, somewhere to make an accurate, badass, genuinely sexy BDSM movie? Might lead us to a slightly less uptight, more attuned sexual culture overall? Hey, it could happen. Is it so wrong to fantasize?

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Mark Morford

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