Is 50 Shades Of Grey Responsible For A Boom In Male Escort Services?

It might not have a sweeping literary scope or be winning any Pulitzers any time soon (we're not going to go so far as to say it's responsible for the lack of award in fiction this year...), but it's safe to say this: 50 Shades Of Grey is changing something. To wit, middle-aged women are finally finding a outlet to openly discuss sex, we're coming to a global realization that, when it comes to sexual preferences, there aren't any blacks and whites and S&M does occupy some of those in-between "shades," and we're having a discussion around the fact that sexual identity is, in fact, quite important.
Thanks to the book, Rachel White of The Observer argues, more ladies are looking for the all-encompassing sexual experience — and are paying for it, too. With male escort services on the rise (she cites that the hits to have increased 50 percent since the 50 Shades craze started), escorts who specialize in the emotional, psychological, and sexual needs of their clients are finding plenty of work.
And while the male escort premise feels a bit like that Debra Messing-Dermot Mulroney movie, it's in fact not fiction. What these ladies are looking for isn't just sex, but a whole experience (with sex included). One escort White spoke with said, "What I am doing is playing to my strengths, which are forming connections and listening to people’s stories.... Women are emotional creatures. Very few pick a male escort solely based on looks.”
So, while ladies aren't exactly flocking to S&M dungeons en masse, the popularity of 50 Shades has women looking for a more fulfilling sexual experience, and enterprising individuals aren't ignoring their search. And while paying for sex opens up a whole other can of socio-political worms, it's clear that 50 Shades (albeit unintentionally) is offering a new vehicle to at least talk about it. It's true that that vehicle might be, well, a jalopy, but the insane popularity of the text is providing a space for women to think and talk about what they want, what they are missing, and how far they are willing to go to get it.
Whatever the reason (or confluence of reasons) for this uptick, this book (which started out as Twilight fan-fiction), has captured the minds (not to mention the Kindles) of our nation. Culture critic Tania Modleski wrote about the Harlequin romance as being a space for women to escape, insert themselves into fantasy and relate as the all-knowing reader but also the romancer. In her watershed feminist work, Loving With A Vengeance, she writes, "[Romance novels'] enormous and continuing popularity, I assume, suggests that they speak to very real problems and tensions in women's lives." What happens, then, when those problems and tensions are best met with a little of Christian Grey's brand of pain and pleasure?

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