Shades of grey…

There is an irony when I give out my card and I hear, ooooh grey …..  Sales for 50 shades of grey have reached 660,000 a week at one point.

Every so often bdsm gets trendy. Lots of people think mmm, must try that. Tipping the velvet was the same for the UK, just in a television series.

Bdsm participants are still judged however. This book may put an angle on it for you yet how would you feel if the guy over there who likes his testicles nailed to a plank offers to baby sit your child? Or finding out that woman who works with you likes to be tied up and pee’d on? It’s alright to try to a certain point, but oh I’d never go that far? The book sells the romantic side with a hint of pain. The reality is open communication,  negotiation, meeting lots of people who potentially don’t have the same kink as you let alone the same vanilla ( all the “normal” people) interests.

I see bdsm clients. I see the person and work with the issue they bring which may or may not have anything to do with their kink. I am kink aware and kink friendly and my clients are very aware of that non judgemental stance.

One thing that strikes me is how knowledgable people become. About themselves, their limits, what they want and what they don’t want. They become aware. They also look into safety. It terrifies me that floggers and nipple clamps are increasing in sales. The romantic ideal is one thing, the reality on risk awareness is another. If s/he hits me there that’s my kidneys or potential hip damage. If the clamps are strong, blood supply issues etc etc etc.

Plus life gets in the way for kinky people too!  To have to cook, clean, sort the kids or run late after that meeting means you really have to want to “play”. Thw coming out or staying in the closet and the implications of being outed to friend and family, let alone work. I also see bdsm clients with anxiety, relationship issues and low self esteem and depression for example.

Having fun is great, risk awareness is paramount. Selling the idea that bdsm is the ultimate relationship though? They seem to be more intense, more passionate at times yes. They also suffer from normal relationship issues as the common denominal factor here is simple. They’re still human beings!

Also for couples with issues who use bdsm to spice things up, while sex really matters, introducing bdsm into your bedroom or life could potentially add to your issues eventually. It takes excellent comunication and what happens if one likes it more than the other or one says enough.

If a relationship isn’t going well then therapy can help, there are no guarantees yet change often occurs. (http://www NULL.standard NULL.html)

The Fifty Shades of Grey effect: how London got kinky There was a time when Londoners were nervous about nipple clamps and freaked out by floggers. Not any more. The BDSM bestseller Fifty Shades of Grey has the capital on its knees

Fan-tastic, how fiction written in homage by fans on the internet paved the way for Fifty Shades of Grey

‘I’m not into pain, but I was inspired to go out and buy a flogger. I love it’

Last Christmas, if you’d mentioned BDSM over drinks (and as GQ’s sex columnist, I stand guilty), you’d have been met with blank looks. ‘Floggers?’ Piers Morgan once confided. ‘A glass of wine would be a better aphrodisiac.’ Today, however, Bondage, Dominance and Submission Sado-Masochism is so now. And rocketing sales of a colourful gamut of bondage toys would suggest that we’re not merely reading about this summer’s ruling literary hero Christian Grey’s Red Room of Pain, but recreating it.

Because the sudden acceptability — even voguishness — of relatively hardcore erotic adventure seems to have been triggered by the remarkable success of the kinkbuster novel Fifty Shades of Grey, now the fastest-selling paperback in history, with some ten million print and more than one million e-reader copies devoured so far. Couple its colourful contents with tumescent media revelling in any opportunity to discuss the S&M nature of the novel, and it is perhaps unsurprising that naughty sex has sashayed out of the shadows.

Matthew Curry, head of e-commerce for the UK’s largest online retailer of sex toys,, has seen a huge change in buyer behaviour as a result of the book. ‘First-time customers are especially emboldened: normally they’d pick something like a small vibrator; instead we’ve seen a huge growth in sales of items such as nipple clamps.’ The figures are impressive. In March the site sold just over 200 pairs of nipple clamps. In June it sold 1,214. Over the same time, sales of whips and floggers have doubled, and sales of Ben Wa Balls (metal balls used for internal female stimulation, which cause Fifty’s heroine Anastasia’s ‘inner goddess [to do] the dance of the seven veils [and make her] needy, needy for sex’) are up by 400 per cent.

The Hoxton women-only erotic emporium Sh! reports similar spikes. It has seen partic-ular interest in entry-level spreader bars (bars designed to hold arms or legs apart, in this case with Velcro fastenings); Sh! ball gags — and spanking classes — have repeatedly sold out.

Where Fifty Shades has come to be known as ‘mummy porn’, enjoyed secretly on the Kindle by older women, it has exploded across all ages and definitely no longer just appeals to mothers. ‘I’m not into pain, but I was inspired to go out and buy a flogger. I love it,’ says Gemma (not her real name), 34, a single management consultant from South London. ‘The way EL James describes the toys in the book makes them sound glamorous and accessible — not cheap plastic things that would be ugly.’ Over the past few years high-end designers have quietly been working the erotic arena: the award-winning designer Yves Béhar, for example, collaborated on sex toys with manufacturer Jimmyjane, and Alex Monroe, a jeweller more usually known for nature-inspired pendants loved by Elle Macpherson and Emma Watson, has created a beautiful range of gold-plated, butterfly nipple clamps. ‘I also bought a tickler,’ Gemma adds. ‘It’s an amazing device. I couldn’t believe I’d never even heard about ticklers before. But then, I don’t spend time in sex shops so how would I have done?’

Mistress Absolute, a West London-based dominatrix who runs Club Subversion (a nightspot that twins dance spaces and dungeons) on the Albert Embankment, and organiser of the annual London Fetish Weekend, also recognises the Fifty Shades effect in inspiring interest in Londoners who might not otherwise have considered BDSM. But she’s equally keen to place the trend in a larger context. ‘Sexually our tastes are developing,’ she says. ‘We’re moving away from a hegemonic society, where 2.4 kids is the ideal, and seeking new things to try. The foundations of this move are various: shops such as Coco de Mer, for example, have for a while now made kink feel less smutty. On the club scene we’ve also seen more events based around fantasy. It’s a reaction to the economic situation: when times are tough, people want to dress up and go crazy. BDSM is an escape from the real world, creating a domain which is sub/dom but also consensual and safe.’

She also emphasises the role of the media, and in particular celebrities such as Lady Gaga. Where the lesbian kiss was de rigueur to demonstrate their sexed-up credentials in the early Noughties, that has now been tossed aside in favour of BDSM references. As well as Gaga, Christina Aguilera went for it with a diamond ball gag in the video for ‘Not Myself Tonight’; and Rihanna aced them all with her single ‘S&M’, the video for which saw her swinging from the ceiling in Japanese Shibari bondage rope and flicking her crop at journalists whom she’d trussed up with tape.

‘Of course, what they’re doing isn’t new. It’s a throwback to what Madonna based her early career on — kink repackaged for a new generation,’ says Absolute. S&M has breezed in and out of fashion almost as far back as records exist. Images on pots from the 6th century show that Ancient Romans had a taste for it, and culturally it has popped up in everything from the Earl of Rochester’s bawdy 17th-century verses to the infamous butter scene in 1970s erotic classic Last Tango in Paris.

The consensual nature of Anastasia and Christian’s relationship in Fifty Shades is emphasised via a 50-page Submissive Contract, which Anastasia is free to edit according to her limits (and which, when she reads with her ‘heart still pounding’, she discovers includes gems such as there will be ‘No acts involving children and animals’). The power that Anastasia wields is surely a key part of the book’s appeal. Perhaps as much as anything it made female readers recognise that, even as a submissive, they still could choose what happened to them in a BDSM scenario.

‘I used to have a judgement on BDSM,’ says sex and relationship coach Sue Newsome. ‘But once I studied it, I realised that while the dominant has control, the submissive has the power. If they are not responding, the master has to change what he is doing.’ Newsome is excited by the possibilities afforded by the popularity of the book. ‘I’ve noticed the buzz and think it’s brilliant. Sex games can help people to have open and honest communication about their curiosity and desires.’ But she advises caution: ‘Having read it, people have been coming to me to understand how to explore BDSM safely. I emphasise to them there has to be trust. There are risks. All kinds of equipment are readily available; for a few pounds you can buy a cane, and with it you can inflict an immense amount of pain.’

As a first step, she highlights the importance of knowing what you want to get out of erotic experiments, of having rules about your limits and also having safe words. (Since half the fun of power play is pretending that you are being forced to do something against your will, yelling ‘Stop!’ tends to imply the opposite. If you really mean, ‘Desist immediately or I’m calling the police,’ then a safe word such as ‘red’ is a better bet.) ‘BDSM can be a fantastic gateway to sexual pleasure and connection for everyone,’ she finishes. So, listen closely as you walk down the street on a quiet evening. You may just hear the creaking of women’s bodies suspended from the rafters, or even the crack of a whip…

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