“Fifty Shades Freed” Makes $38M+ in Its Opening Weekend

'Fifty Shades Freed' (CW Theaters)

‘Fifty Shades Freed’ (CW Theaters)

“Fifty Shades Freed,” the third and last entry in the “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy, hit theaters this past weekend. The movie took in $38.8M+ in the US for its opening weekend. It played in 3,678 theaters, averaging $10,549.21 per theater.

This opening weekend actually decreased from previous entries in the trilogy. The opening weekend of “Fifty Shades of Grey” performed 54% better, and “Fifty Shades Darker” performed 16% better than the current movie.

The gender split for this movie was a little different than the previous two films: Women comprised 75% of the audience, making it the highest ratio of male-to-female audience members for the trilogy.

Overseas, the movie made $98.1M. The movie made the highest opening day of the year in the UK, Spain and Mexico. It’s interesting to note that both of the previous films made 70% of their revenue off overseas audiences, so we’ll see if the same pattern repeats. “Fifty Shades Freed” opened in 57 overseas markets, and was #1 in 54 of those markets.

Worldwide, the entire franchise has grossed over $1.085B.

Bernie Sanders Essay: How Many Women Have Rape Fantasies?

Bernie Sanders (Crooks and Liars)

Bernie Sanders (Crooks and Liars)

Last week, “Mother Jones” found an essay that presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders wrote in 1972 for alternative newspaper “Vermont Freeman.” Sanders’ two-page essay observed sexual dynamics between men and women.

Here’s the part that got everyone talking:

A woman enjoys intercourse with her man — as she fantasizes being raped by 3 men simultaneously.

Sanders was positing this as a general observation that held true about all women. But is he correct in this assumption?

There’s been some research done on this fantasy.

Last year, researchers at the University of Canada, Quebec asked territory residents about their sexual fantasies and published results in the “Journal of Sexual Medicine.” Though the researchers didn’t directly ask about rape fantasies, they did ask respondents if they agreed with the statement “I have fantasized about being forced to have sex,” which can be construed as such. Over 28% of women agreed with that statement, but it wasn’t enough to hit the “normal fantasy” cutoff (which started at 50% agreement from respondents). The study didn’t examine how often the women had these fantasies.

A 2010 “Psychology Today” article on women’s rape fantasies stated that nine surveys on the topic had been published between 1973 and 2008. Here’s what that collective body of data showed:

They show that about four in 10 women admit having them (31-57%) with a median frequency of about once a month. Actual prevalence of rape fantasies is probably higher because women may not feel comfortable admitting them.

A 2009 study done by North Texas University found that answers depended on what terminology was used. Fifty-two percent of college women said they’d fantasized about being “overpowered by a man,” but only 32% of women agreed when it was labeled “rape.” It’s interesting to note that this range nestles right in the range quoted above.

There also appeared to be an inverse correlation between the number of women who reported having rape fantasies and the frequency with which they had them: 25% of women reported having the fantasy less than once a year, and 13% had the fantasy a few times a year. So while it might be a part of some women’s sexual fantasy playlist, it doesn’t pop up in the rotation with much frequency for those women.

Though Sanders was certainly on to something with his claim, the fantasy isn’t nearly as pervasive (or self-reported) as he made it seem. But Sanders did recognize the desires that that specific fantasy taps into: a woman being overpowered by a man who can’t stop himself from ravishing her. No wonder he recently compared it to “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

#ThrowbackThursday: Don Draper and Bobbie Barrett’s BDSM Session, “Mad Men” 2008

'Mad Men' season 2 still (Live Auction Group)

‘Mad Men’ season 2 still (Live Auction Group)

This week, we’re examining sexuality data from the 1960s, in celebration of the upcoming final half-season of “Mad Men” beginning Apr. 5th.

Remember this scene? In season 2, Don (Jon Hamm) began sleeping with Bobbie Barrett (Melinda McGraw), the wife of a performer that Sterling Cooper hired for an Utz Potato Chips commercial. In the episode “Maidenform,” we learn she has a penchant for being tied up during sex. But she doesn’t get satisfied, as she tells Don she’s been discussing his sexual prowess. He abruptly leaves, and that’s the end of their affair.

It’s actually the first of two BDSM-tinged scenes the show has depicted. The second one occurred in the sixth season during one of Don’s sessions with Sylvia Rosen (Linda Cardellini). Each scene effectively ended its respective affair. While two instances aren’t enough data from which to extrapolate a pattern, it’s certainly worth noting.




What are Common Personality Traits of Women Who’ve Read the “Fifty Shades of Grey” Trilogy?

'Fifty Shades of Grey' still (The Tipsy Verse)

‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ still (The Tipsy Verse)

Now that we’ve all seen “Fifty Shades of Grey” (or are waiting for Netflix/Redbox/not-so-legal means), we can all relax until the franchise’s next installment comes out.

Until then, you have time to catch up on the rest of the trilogy. But that might say certain things about your personality.

Last year, Michigan State University researchers found that women who had read the erotic trilogy were “more likely to have a verbally abusive partner with stalker traits and eating disorders than non-readers.” The study polled 655 women ages 18-24, and was published in the “Journal of Women’s Health.” The subjects were divided into thirds of non-readers (those who hadn’t read any of the books), one-book readers (those who’d only read the first book) and three-book readers (those who’d read the entire trilogy).

Compared to women who hadn’t read the books, women who had read them reported more abusive behavior in relationships: They were 25% more likely to have been yelled at by a partner, and 34% more likely to have had a potential stalker.

But it’s unclear whether the subjects engaged in this behavior before reading the books, so we can’t say definitively that the books influenced them.

How Has “Fifty Shades of Grey” Impacted the Sex Toy Industry?

'Fifty Shades of Grey'-themed sex toys (Crushable)

‘Fifty Shades of Grey’-themed sex toys (Crushable)

With the recent “Fifty Shades of Grey” movie coming out last month (along with the requisite storm of thinkpieces), the sex toy industry is seeing an impact on the bottom line.

Different sex toy retailers are feeling an impact. “Variety” reports that Manhattan-based The Pleasure Chest was offering “Fifty Shades”-themed classes every night leading up to the movie’s premiere (though it doesn’t say for many weeks this went on).

Online retailer Adam & Eve, which holds the largest market share at 4%, has also gained a boost in sales. They’re also selling their own toy line “Scarlet Couture” pegged to the movie, in addition to the official “Fifty Shades”-inspired line.

“The Hollywood Reporter” has a piece which came out before the movie opened giving us some hard numbers. The U.K. sex toy brand Lovehoney made the line of “Fifty Shades”-inspired toys, which includes blindfolds, riding crops and feather ticklers. Demand for the “Inner Goddess” Ben Wa balls (or vaginal balls) sold out Europe in pre-orders. (Full disclosure: I was actually given a box of these when I attended a sexual health conference in January.)

THR reports that Lovehoney’s profits “tripled from $1.1 million the year before to $3.39 million by January 2014.” The “Fifty Shades” line has already sold 1.2M units worldwide, and is estimated to boost sales by 40% once the movie debuts.

If you’re looking for lingerie, Bluebella has you covered. The lingerie line has three “Fifty Shades”-inspired collections, and they anticipate a spike in sales not only from the movie, but also from Valentine’s Day.

“Inc.” also had a comprehensive article on this cultural phenomenon, and puts it in the larger context of a sea change. Market research firm IBISWorld found the following:

Between 2008 and 2013, sex toy sales in the U.S. increased by approximately 12.5 percent annually, raking in $610 million in 2013 overall.

The article notes that it’s more the smaller companies seeing a boon to their bottom line. But there’s also been a shift in who the sex toy industry’s customers are:

In 2013, women made up approximately 67 percent of U.S. industry patronage, which was a 12 percent increase from 2008.

It’ll be interesting to see if this is just a one-time sales spike, specifically in BDSM gear, or if this trend will continue, eventually making the practice almost, dare I say, vanilla.






“Fifty Shades of Grey” Morning After: Opening Weekend Box Office

'Fifty Shades of Grey' still (Nova FM)

‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ still (Nova FM)

Last week, we examined different aspects of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” in preparation for the then-upcoming movie. 

Who saw “Fifty Shades of Grey” this weekend? I did, twice (and I own my choices).

The collective ticket-buying (and swooning over Jamie Dornan) is estimated to make $81M+ its three-day opening weekend (comprising Friday, Saturday and Sunday). The movie opened at 3.6K+ theaters (“the widest release to date for an R-rated film,” as “The Hollywood Reporter” notes), and is projected to make $90M+ over the four-day holiday weekend (which includes Monday). If it hits this number, “Fifty Shades of Grey” will hold the honor of having the biggest President’s Day opening weekend in history.

Internationally, the movie has opened to #1 in 56 markets to nab $158M+, doing very well in Europe and Latin America. “Deadline Hollywood” reports that five countries have yet to release it, including Korea and the United Arab Emirates, through Mar. 5. China will release the movie next weekend. So far, the global total numbers $248M+.

Needless to say, “Fifty Shades” is doing gangbusters business. It’s safe to say the movie will turn a profit: it was only made for $40M.

The movie has also hit another milestone: it’s the biggest opening for a female director. Catherine Hardwicke previously held this record for directing the first “Twilight” film, released in November 2008. (Incidentally, the “Fifty Shades” trilogy started out as “Twilight” fan fiction.) That movie took in $69M+ its first weekend.

It’s unclear whether director Sam Taylor-Johnson would try to repeat that feat with the next two movies in the “Fifty Shades” trilogy. So far, there have not been any discussions of her returning, as she only signed a deal to make one movie.

Hopefully, this stunning showing will open the door for more female-led erotic films, both in front of and behind the camera.

“Fifty Shades of Grey:” BDSM Practitioners’ Personality Profile

'Fifty Shades of Grey' still (Lovelace Media)

‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ still (Lovelace Media)

This week, we’re examining different aspects of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” in preparation for the upcoming movie, opening on Feb. 13th. 

In the “Fifty Shades of Grey” book, billionaire BDSM sex-god Christian Grey is portrayed as…well, exactly that. But as far as personality goes, he’s shown to be narcissistic (it’s all about him and his pleasure) and obsessive (always harping on Ana’s eating habits), and a total stalker (just happens to show up at Ana’s workplace, a mere 2.5 hours from his home base of Seattle) among other undesirable traits.

A person with no experience or knowledge of BDSM might well believe that these characteristics are typical of a participant in The Lifestyle. That person might have the idea that someone into BDSM is not a “good” person. But this is far from true, as several studies have confirmed. As it turns out, BDSM practitioners possess quite a few beneficial traits:

1. Openness to experimentation:

An Australian study from the University of New South Wales done in 2001-2002, and published by Northern Illinois University in 2008, found that those who participated in BDSM were more sexually adventurous overall. Researchers found that BDSM enthusiasts were more likely to have watched porn, had group sex and/or slept with someone else besides their regular partner within the past year.

2. More socially outgoing:

Related to being sexually adventurous, a 2013 Dutch study found BDSM practitioners to be more extraverted and social (because how else will you find partners for group sex?). They’re also less sensitive to rejection, enabling them to seek out novel (and/or vanilla) experiences with no shame.

3. Less anxious:

The Dutch study also found that BDSM enthusiasts tend to be less neurotic. Roni Jacobson of “The Cut” recently wrote an article in she interviewed doms and subs. During scenes, the doms and subs each reported entering beneficial mental states, such as having “feelings of deep focus and concentration” (termed “topspace”) and an “altered state of consciousness where one feels released from stress and present in the moment” (termed “subspace”), respectively. The mindfulness naturally replaces any anxiety during and after the scene.

4. More relationship closeness and conscientiousness:

A 2009 study by Northern Illinois University found that a good sadomasochism (here abbreviated as SM) scene resulted in decreasing cortisol (stress) and increasing relationship closeness between participants. Likewise, the aftercare (always part of a BDSM scene) also helped aid the closeness:

The increases in relationship closeness combined with the displays of caring and affection observed as part of the SM activities offer support for the modern view that SM, when performed consensually, has the potential to increase intimacy between participants.

The aforementioned Dutch study found that BDSM participants ranked higher on conscientiousness than the non-BDSMer control group. This makes sense, as a mutually satisfying scene involves looking out for your partner every step of the way.

5. Love of language and wordplay:

Kinky sexpert Jean Franzblau of Sexual Esteem with Jean has found, through her own personal experiences, that BDSM enthusiasts are also enthralled with language and wordplay. Even though it might sound harsh to those unfamiliar with The Lifestyle, it’s just part of the scene.

“In the BDSM community, we use very dastardly language. But underneath it, it’s all good,” she said in her “Welcome to Kink” class at the Los Angeles Academy of Sex Education last fall.

6. Holds advanced degrees:

In tandem with loving language and wordplay, Franzblau’s anecdotal data suggests that BDSM practitioners value education, as they are more likely to hold advanced degrees. This would make sense, as education and open-mindedness to new experiences have long thought to be positively correlated.

7. Greater self-acceptance:

Dr. Juliet Richters, author of the University of New South Wales study, told Australia’s “Sydney Morning Herald” that the study’s BDSM participants scored higher on measures of psychological wellbeing. She interpreted that as meaning the participants were happier:

It might just be that they’re more in harmony with themselves because they’re into something unusual and are comfortable with that. There’s a lot to be said for accepting who you are.


With this list in mind, I’d say the benefits far outweigh any risks. Just remember to keep your play safe, sane and consensual.




Thursday Trends: Female Directors and Erotic Mainstream Films

'Sleeping Beauty' film still (Australian Broadcasting Media)

‘Sleeping Beauty’ film still (Australian Broadcasting Media)

This week, we’re examining different aspects of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” in preparation for the upcoming movie. 

As we mentioned earlier this week, the upcoming “Fifty Shades of Grey” movie bears an interesting distinction: Women are in prominent positions behind the camera. Aside from author E.L. James, Sam Taylor-Johnson is directing off a script written by Kelly Marcel. In an industry where female directors comprise only 29%+ of total directors, this trifecta will no doubt prove a competitive advantage in adapting a property beloved by so many women worldwide.

It might usher in a new film concept as well: the mainstream erotic, yet female-friendly, film. So far, the closest we’ve come has been with “Sleeping Beauty,” released in 2011. Debuting during the Cannes Film Festival, Australian director/screenwriter Julia Leigh’s film focuses on university student Lucy (Emily Browning) who moonlights as an erotic freelancer. Lucy’s job is to sleep peacefully in a large bed, while paying male customers sleep next to her, following the establishment’s “no penetration” rule. The film was Leigh’s directorial debut.

In France, director Catherine Breillat is known for depicting realistic sexuality and intimacy onscreen, even casting Italian porn star Rocco Siffredi in two films. Her work tends to examine facets of female sexuality. Breillat’s films “Virgin” and “Fat Girl” specifically focus on budding female teenage sexuality. Incidentally, she also has a film titled “The Sleeping Beauty.”

It’s interesting to note that most of the erotic films that are (relatively) mainstream come from overseas, where sexual mores are a bit looser. And this holds true for the “Fifty Shades of Grey” movie: Though produced by three American production companies and distributed by Universal (all American companies), James, Taylor-Johnson, and Marcel are all British.

The closest mainstream American BDSM film we’ve had with a female presence has been “Secretary,” released in 2002. Written by Erin Cressida Wilson from a short story by Mary Gaitskill, the script won Wilson a Best First Screenplay award at the 2003 Independent Spirit Awards. But the prominent women in behind-the-camera positions stop there.

Hopefully, “Fifty Shades of Grey” will open more doors for female directors and screenwriters, particularly for films of an erotic nature. But with American’s puritanical take on sex, progress might happen at a snail’s pace.

#ThrowbackThursday: “Secretary,” 2002

Maggie Gyllenhaal in 'Secretary' (Film4)

Maggie Gyllenhaal in ‘Secretary’ (Film4)

This week, we’re examining different aspects of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” in preparation for the upcoming movie. 

E. Edward Grey: Look, we can’t do this 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Lee: Why not?

– “Secretary,” 2002

A forerunner of the “Fifty Shades of Grey” movie, “Secretary” was first shown at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2002 before released to a wider US audience in September that same year.

Recently released from an institution after a bout of self-harm, the socially awkward Lee Holloway (Maggie Gyllenhaal) takes a secretary job with eccentric lawyer E. Edward Grey (James Spader). Her submissive personality entices Grey, and the two enter into a D/s relationship. Holloway gains confidence and falls in love with her boss, while Grey struggles with his own feelings towards her and his urges.

“Secretary” was the most recent film to showcase BDSM, specifically highlighting D/s relationships, and does so fairly sympathetically. It didn’t judge, pathologize or shame its characters, but showed them growing as a result of their preferences.

According to Box Office Mojo, the film made $182K+ its opening weekend, ranking it #31 of that weekend. It was released in 11 theaters, and pulled in $16K+ on average. It ranked #70 of yearly R-rated movies of 2002, and #183 of yearly opening weekends in 2002.

Domestically, “Secretary” made $4M+, grossing 43%+ of its budget. It did better in the foreign market, making $5.2M+ for a gross of 56%. The film took in $9.3M worldwide.

“Fifty Shades of Grey:” What the Hell is BDSM, Anyway?

'Fifty Shades of Grey' still (MoviePilot)

‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ still (MoviePilot)

This week, we’re examining different aspects of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” in preparation for the upcoming movie, opening on Feb. 13th. 

“Fifty Shades of Grey” depicts BDSM as pretty hardcore: There are whips, chains and cable ties all in Christian Grey’s Red Room of Pain. A person (let’s be honest, woman) reading the book with no prior knowledge and/or experience of BDSM would likely be inclined to believe that’s primarily what the consensual sex practice about.

But BDSM isn’t just about the hardcore stuff. It encompasses a wide variety of activities. The four letters can be arranged to refer to different practices under the BDSM umbrella: B&D (bondage & discipline), S&M (sadomasochism), D&S (dominance & submission).

Dr. Richard A. Sprott, executive director of the Community-Academic Consortium for Research on Alternative Sexualities (CARAS), notes that BDSM can be synonymous with “kink, fetish, leather, and S&M.” The term can denote “a practice, lifestyle or orientation.”

Sprott labels the two most important components as “consensuality and mutually defined activities.” Other common aspects include “eroticization of power, role-playing/fantasy, and intense sensory stimulation and/or physical restriction.” Roles include the dominant, submissive and switch (someone who plays both dom and sub roles as needed). A BDSM “scene” (single session of play) has three parts: negotiation (deciding what will happen), play (the scene itself) and aftercare (coming down from the scene).

The Teramis website concedes that “no acronym is ideal in defining” the term, and open communication must be used to find out a person’s specific kink. The most important rules are that things are kept “safe, sane and consensual.”

How widespread is it? The 1990 Kinsey Institute New Report on Sex found the following:

Researchers estimate that 5-10 percent of the U.S. population engages in sadomasochism for sexual pleasure on at least an occasional basis, with most incidents being either mild or stage activities involving no real pain or violence.

As “Fifty Shades of Grey” makes clear, audiences will react to the most extreme version of BDSM. But there are a lot of, dare I say, shades of grey within the moniker for practitioners.