Before I know it, he’s got both of my hands in his viselike grip above my head, and he’s pinning me to the wall using his lips … His other hand grabs my hair and yanks down, bringing my face up, and his lips are on mine … My tongue tentatively strokes his and joins his in a slow, erotic dance ... "
And that's just one of the tamer excerpts we're allowed to run from Fifty Shades of Grey, the erotic novel that's become the year’s smash publishing sensation.
If you haven't heard of Fifty Shades, just look around wherever you're reading this, because someone in your immediate vicinity has surely devoured at least the first book, or its two sequels, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed.
Authored by E.L. James, Fifty Shades is, essentially, an S&M love story between 22-year-old college grad Anastasia Steele and a 27-year-old billionaire businessman, Christian Grey. There's tons of sex, bondage, domination, spanking, and a lot of other stuff that would totally embarrass your mom—unless she's reading the books, too. In fact, the series is extremely popular with mothers, which has led some critics to derisively dub the books "mommy porn."
Regardless, one thing can't be argued: Fifty Shades of Grey has been pumping a lot of green into the cash registers of Laguna Beach businesses.
, was having a good sales year already thanks to a cameo appearance on The Real Housewives of Orange County. But the Fifty Shades books have been a welcome surprise, says owner CJ Zucker, who sells all three volumes in the Fifty Shades series in her shop.
“People started coming in about seven months ago asking if I’d heard of these books, so I started investigating,” Zucker tells Laguna Beach Patch. “Then all my girlfriends started reading it, and they were telling me I had to read them, too. So I went through all three in two weeks, staying up till 2 or 3 in the morning. It was addicting!”
Zucker even made it mandatory for her employees to read the books, all the better to help customers when they come in with Fifty Shades-specific questions.
“Because we’re more of an upscale store, our customers trust us to give them honest feedback on what works,” says Zucker.
As an example, Zucker cites Luna Beads, which are mentioned several times in the Fifty Shades books. Zucker had already been stocking them in X & Oh, but as the books' popularity rose, the beads, which are used to help strengthen the vaginal walls ("They jiggle when you wear them and can cause an orgasm, so women have been going crazy over them," says Zucker) began selling out.
"The books have probably boosted sales at least 10 or 15 percent,” says Zucker. “I think it’s so great that they have opened the eyes of people whose eyes have never been opened before. Women who have never tried anything with their husbands are now saying hey, maybe its OK for me to try this. The books have gotten these women into all kinds of toys. It just makes everything OK, because everything is OK, as long as it’s consensual between you and your partner.”
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Just down the street at , Fifty Shades has been their number one best-seller for the last few months. Since April, the store has sold 240 copies of Fifty Shades, 93 of Fifty Shades Darker and 72 of Fifty Shades Freed, according to marketing and events coordinator Danielle Bauter.
“It’s so funny ... we get people of all ages coming in, people who are doing it for their book club, younger girls, older women,” Bauter tells Patch. “We’ve also had a lot of people coming in and asking what else we can recommend that’s in the same genre—that’s because of the success of the books.”
"People were calling and asking for it when it first came out, so many that we had a waiting list,” store employee Kim Vater tells Patch. “It’s just been selling like hotcakes since then. Any book that gets people talking, that gets people excited about books and authors and writing, that’s always a good thing.”
Considering the ribald content, though, does the bookstore ever get Fifty Shades customers who might be a little … self-conscious?
“Yeah, sometimes people will ask us to put them into brown paper bags!” says Bauter.
“I get the opposite,” says Vater. “I asked one woman if she wanted a bag, and she said, ‘No, I want my friend to be embarrassed when she sees me carrying it!'”