London Fire Brigade reports that, since the Fifty Shades trilogy hit bookshops, it has received significantly more call-outs by people who need help getting out of handcuffs. Nine male Londoners have had their penises stuck in rings, Express.co.uk reports, while one inventive Brit had his penis locked in a toaster.
Lithuanian fire fighters have yet to receive any call-outs about sex games gone wrong. However, sales figures from book stores – as well as adult shops – suggest that the international Fifty Shades craze has caught Lithuanians' attention, too.
Fifty Shades of Grey, the first book in the series, has sold over 20 thousand copies in Lithuania. The recently published second book, Fifty Shades Darker, has already been bought 10 thousand times. The third book is to appear in shops in autumn.
Giedrė Jonušaitė, director of online adult shop suaugusiems.lt, is happy that Fifty Shades has stirred the adult toys market in the country.
“The book gave a huge push to our business. People are writing emails very actively, with questions, asking for advice. We had ordered a themed toy collection inspired by this book – everything was sold in a flash. We have ordered a new shipment, it will reach Lithuania soon,” Jonušaitė says.
She notes that customers' interest in erotic merchandise hiked after the publication of E.L.James' second book, Fifty Shades Darker.
“Clients who simply decide to try out something new are usually quite ignorant about what they want. Whereas those who come to us after reading the book know exactly what they need. Most people look for anal beads they've read about in the book,” Jonušaitė says.
Anal beads have become a very popular hens party present: “Girls call us up and say they want to get something like that as a present for the bride who has read the book. They also make jokes about how she will get married and will be able to use them instead of spice. They are sweeping the beads off our shelves.”
Though adult toys usually come in glaringly bright shades, Lithuanian customers seem to favour ashen colours. That, according to Jonušaitė, is another influence of the book.
Popular with married couples
Shop owners have noted that adult toys are particularly popular with men who like to add it as souvenirs when they present E.L. James' book to their girlfriends.
“In Lithuania, there are still myths that erotic play with additional toys is something obscene, bad, even a perversion. Most of our clients, however, are married couples, both young and old. These are people who do not wish to look for adventures outside their marriage, but still like to spice up their sexual lives,” Jonušaitė notes.
Donatas Šerpenskas, who co-owns another adult shop, fantazijos.lt, says he has also observed more interest in toys described in the book.
“Out of ten people who come to our shop, only two are women. But that does not mean that women are not interested in erotic merchandise. They simply send their men to take care of it. We've had many clients who openly say they have been sent to buy some toys like those described in the book,” Šerpenskas shares.
Clients spend, on average, 100 to 200 litas (30-60 euros) in his shop, he claims.
“Gone are the times when people had sex under the blanket and in the dark. Online shopping is becoming particularly popular, because of the sense of confidentiality it gives. You'd be surprised how many people are interested in erotic toys. By no means are they lonely people, but mostly couples.” he says.
Legitimization of secret desires
Psychotherapist and sexologist Andrius Kaluginas believes that erotic novels have a positive effect on readers. First, written erotica, more than audiovisual production, “turns on” reader's imagination.
“In filmed footage, we can see actors' faces that we either like or not. Meanwhile written texts give us an opportunity to conjure up images we want, for instance, we can imagine our own partner as the main character – there's more room for imagination,” Kaluginas explains.
A second important effect of erotic novels is that they lend legitimacy to readers' own secret and often unspoken desires. “The reader sees a published and popular book that touches upon certain taboos that perhaps he himself has fantasized about. And now he realizes that these fantasies are nothing wrong. And that makes him or her loosen up and, if both partners agree, perhaps realize the fantasies or at least try to,” he speculates.
According to Kaluginas, novels like the Fifty Shades trilogy brings social benefit: “A book can provoke a discussion with your lover. After the discussion, it might turn out that both partners actually share some secret fantasies.”
He adds, however, that he is not surprised that men of the clergy or self-appointed guardians of public morals deride books like Fifty Shades as bad literature and, moreover, something that upsets the society's morality. “And they are right, from the point of view of the morals they represent. It is a matter of world views, so both sides can be right,” Kaluginas believes.
Publishing houses fight over rights
E.L. James' books have already sold over 70 million copies worldwide.
In Lithuania, Fifty Shades of Grey, the first book in the series, has sold over 20 thousand copies. The recently published second book, Fifty Shades Darker, has already been bought 10 thousand times.
The third book is to appear in shops in autumn, October or November.
Danguolė Viliūnaitė, director of Alma Littera publishing house that brought the Fifty Shades trilogy to Lithuania, says there was no doubts about the book's success in the predominantly catholic country.
"It has already been tested with readers worldwide and Lithuanian readers hardly differ from those around the world, especially when it comes to popular literature. We knew the book would be a hit, so many Lithuanian publishers competed for the rights to publish it - that's what auctions are for," Viliūnienė says.
The Fifty Shades trilogy is mainly targeted at women, but, according to the director of Alma Littera, it is quite popular with men, too.
It has been called, sometimes derogatorily, literature for housewives. "But what is a housewife these days?" Viliūnienė asks. "Gone are the times when a woman's only job was kitchen, home, and kids. These days, housewives are usually women who are out of paid job only temporarily, for example, on maternity leave. These women are educated, have career ambitions, and their reading habits are not necessarily limited to popular literature."
She notes that E.L. James' books are not manuals in erotics. "They contain adventures, a touching love story, even hints of a detective story. And love is unimaginable without erotics - either in real life or in one's fantasies."