Freakonomics: How '50 Shades' is reshaping the world. Sort of...
Another day, another 50 Shades of Grey story. So what is the latest development being attributed to the popularity of E L James' sadomasochistic tale, now the fastest-selling paperback of all time?
Well, a baby boom allegedly. That's right, women up and down the country are so turned on by the story of Christian Grey and his submissive, Anastasia Steele, that apparently everyone's at it like rabbits.
It's a wonder anyone's turning up to work at all. Ellis Cashmore, a professor of culture, media and sport at Staffordshire University, has predicted a spike in the number of newborns in Britain next year as a result of the erotic book (and its two sequels).
"With the millions of copies it has sold, it makes complete sense to assume that in nine months' time we are going see a baby boom," he says. "It's not a difficult equation: more sex equals more pregnancies, which equals more babies."
So far the "50 Shades of Grey effect" has been credited for reviving ailing marriages (we should expect an announcement about declining divorce levels any day now; all E L James' responsibility, natch) as well as being the reason everyone's getting into bondage, apparently.
Ann Summers, not missing a fortuitous PR opportunity has reported sales of crops and whips to be up 15 per cent, paddles and handcuffs by 30 per cent, and blindfolds 60 per cent.
Meanwhile on the bookshelves, sales of erotic literature and porn have also rocketed by 130 per cent in the past month and the number of women buying sex toys has doubled.
But what other cultural consequences can we expect from our insatiable obsession with these books? Christian and Anastasia to become the most popular baby names? A global cranberry shortage as new records of women down juice to alleviate their chronic cystitis brought on from all that romping? A herpes epidemic? A leather shortage?
That E L James will have a lot to answer for.
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