50 Shades of Gay: Not just for soccer moms

BACKSTORY

"Welcome to the 66th annual Tony Awards, or as we like to call it, 50 Shades of Gay," quipped Neil Patrick Harris in a nod to the best seller “50 Shades of Grey” by British author, E.L. James.

“50 Shades of Grey” is the book that captured the imagination of readers around the world and has been the subject of online memes, sitcom jokes and late night TV monologues since it’s release in late 2011.

Here’s a quick synopsis of the story. A beautiful, soon-to-be college graduate named Anastasia Steele interviews a sexy, successful businessman named Christian Grey. She is a naive virgin.

He could have any woman but is attracted to innocent and adorably clumsy Ana. He is, of course, damaged and emotionally unavailable and yet, something about Ana changes him.

Ultimately, at least in the first book, she decides it just won’t work out and leaves poor Christian brokenhearted. Even though “50 Shades of Grey” doesn’t end with happily ever after. Remember there are two more books in the trilogy.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s pretty much the plot construct of every romance novel. Boy meets girl. Boy has problems that only the love of a good woman will fix. She fixes him.

This is an overused trope in popular fiction, but it’s overused because it sells. Romance novel sales topped $1.3 billion in 2011.

There is a significant reason this story is different from the ubiquitous bodice rippers that feature Fabio on the cover. The reason?


IT’S KINKY … AND POPULAR

This book is seriously kinky, y'all. It provides an insight into the world of hardcore BDSM slave and master relationships complete with floggers, butt plugs, nipple clamps and detailed contracts that include stipulations on everything from hygiene to diet.

He has a “red room of pain” full of “toys” and devices or torture. Even though she starts the book as a virgin, Ana quickly finds herself both repulsed and aroused by the sexual predilections of Christian.

Apparently the same could be said for many of the women reading this book, often described as “mommy porn.”

The saucy bestseller and its sequels, “50 Shades Darker” and “50 Shades Freed” have found themselves atop of the New York Times list for months now. All three of James’ books are in the top 10 and have been there for over eight months.

Back In June, Hoda and Kathie Lee from “Today” talked “50 Shades,” the new boom in rope sales, and fondled Ben Wa balls. Yeah, that happened. “50 Shades of Grey” is now part of the collective consciousness.


WHY HAVEN’T YOU READ IT?

And why is that? The fact is that an erotic book centering on heterosexual sexual exploration just doesn’t appeal to many in the GLBT community. One gay man I asked said simply, “I’m not into mommy porn. Now, daddy porn ... that’s altogether different.”

Not that there’s anything wrong with it. If straight people want to get their kink on, that’s fine with the average gay man. He just doesn’t have any desire to read about it.

In Nashville, Hustler Hollywood anecdotally reports a significant bump in their bondage toy sales as the “50 Shades” hype reached fever pitch. Adult entertainment companies like
SmittenKittenOnline.com reported 100, 200 and even 300+ percent increases in sales for items such as Kegal balls, paddles and other BDSM products, reported AZCentral.com.

Part of what seems to have suburban women blushing in their minivans is those titillating sadomasochistic sex scenes (and the books are full of the sex scenes). Christian Grey is not into vanilla sex.

Handcuffs, chains, and whips, oh my! Soccer moms everywhere are slipping into their local adult bookstore and buying sex toys. They’re asking their husbands to tie them up.

They’re opening their eyes to a whole new world of sexual escapades. “I have many clients who’ve read this book ... women in their ’30s through early ’50s,” said Adam B.,
a Nashville hair dresser. “They like the romance part and they really like the kinky part.”


KEEP AN OPEN MIND

Even still, there are some in the gay community who have read the book. Eric W., 27, a Nashville hairdresser picked up the book after hearing about it from clients. “I wanted to see what the hype was about, why all of these women were reading this book.”

Much like his clients, Wright was soon swept up in the story. “I wanted to be Ana! I wanted to be the one to save Christian,” he laughed. “How come she gets to meet this sexy guy and have all this hot sex?”

Topher F., 29, describes himself as an avid reader and plans to read the book. “I’ve heard good things. I’ve heard it’s a good story and sexy. Love and sex sells.” And, don’t forget the simple appeal of romance.

For some, the idea of a couple who meet and begin a complicated relationship is enough to pique their interest. Randy S., 42, said, “I heard it’s good and I’m a sucker for a love story.”

“As we explore, we become more open to making decisions regarding our sexuality and desires,” said Roger Dale, 32. “Too often in the gay community we have a tendency to run from relationships because of our lack of trust that is developed as a child.”

Regardless of whether you’ve read the book or not, the phenomena of “50 Shades of Grey” seems to have accomplished one really positive thing: It has successfully opened up a dialog about being more open-minded about sex and trying new things.

Dale has been reading the book for a few weeks and can’t put it down. “‘50 shades’ has opened the Pandora of human sexuality. As we grow older we come to find ourselves within boundaries and start to explore. We explore and become more open to making decisions regarding our sexuality and desires.”

He has been able to look at the under tones of the book and look at different areas of his life. “It has helped me to look at thinks I have often seen as taboo … realizing that it is differences we as the gay community need to be embracing since we are often shunned and considered to be taboo.”

In America, where being sexually repressed has always sort of been our thing — AKA the Puritans — even a book with gratuitous bondage may move us closer to the idea that two consenting adults can do whatever they want behind closed doors. And that’s a good for everyone.

But always, be safe!
 

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