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'Fifty Shades of Grey' means lots of green

There's a lot of buzz about the erotic novel, "Fifty Shades of Grey," the wildly popular first installment of a trilogy by British author E.L. James.

The prominently showcased book has "consistently been one of our number-one best-selling books in the store for the last 13 weeks," said Marla Peter, store manager for the Barnes & Noble book store in Santa Rosa. "It's a huge seller for us. Books one, two and three are number one, two and three on our paperback best sellers list."

And it's not all about the book. Its featured pleasure toys, from feather whips and pleasure beads to cotton rope and other restraints, are flying off store shelves as readers decide to create a little Fifty-Shades excitement in their own relationships. At least some of the buzz about the book is battery-powered.

Dubbed "mommy porn" by the media, the three-novel series that has sold upward of 40 million copies goes beyond the usual bodice-ripping romance novel into a world of dominance and submission role-playing called BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism). That includes the main character's "Red Room of Pain," a sort of pleasure/pain chamber with a variety of tools of the trade.

With copies of the books sold in Target, Costco and Barnes & Noble (as well as on more discreet e-Reader tablets), items like satin scarves and blindfolds are becoming nightstand standbys.

"This isn't about a kink lifestyle. It's about soccer moms," said Jessica Chalvez, general manager of Spice Sensuality Boutique in Rohnert Park. She says the average age of people coming in after reading the book is between 35 and 55 years old, and many are first-timers emboldened by the sexual escapades of the book's main characters, Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele.

The store recently hosted a "Fifty Shades" party featuring toys from the books, like masks, feathers and restraining cuffs. But the beads seem to be the biggest seller.

Manufacturers of the toys described in the books have reported sales spikes of up to 400 percent. A line of adult products called "Sex and Mischief" by adult novelty manufacturer Sportsheets features tasteful models in black-and-white photos and beginner toys for couples.

"It's about sensation and restraint play," said Chalvez.

"The book showed that a shy person can open up and explore their sexuality and become more self-empowered and a stronger person," said Chalvez.

"It's made it more comfortable and acceptable to talk about your personal sex life."


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