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Meredith Holt, Published September 13 2012

'Grey' impact: Books help women open up about sex, spike adult-themed sales

FARGO - Slumber Parties direct-sales consultant Jaime Lamp recently ran into a woman she met at one of her first “Fifty Shades of Grey”-themed parties a few months ago.

With tears in her eyes, the woman thanked Lamp for helping save her marriage. She said she was on the brink of a divorce but what she learned “completely changed” her relationship.

“I remember having a very candid conversation with her in the private shopping room, and obviously she took that back to her husband, and they took my advice and ran with it,” says Lamp, a senior executive team leader with the romance-enhancement company.

For the past several months, Lamp, Brianna Bergstrom of Pure Romance and Fantasy’s co-owner Kim Patterson have kept busy fielding questions about the “bedroom accessories” mentioned in British writer E L James’ erotic book series.

The businesswomen say talking about sex toys and accessories provides a natural segue into women’s sexual health and communication in the bedroom.

“We’re opening a window for women to ask questions, learn new things, and to help enhance their relationship, because that’s what Pure Romance is all about – sexual health and relationship enhancement,” Bergstrom says.

Among other things, Lamp taught her client that it’s OK to be expressive about what she wants from her sex life.

“I really opened up a whole new world for them, and it all stems back to ‘Fifty Shades of Grey,’ ” the 36-year-old Fargo woman says of the reconciled couple.

‘Grey’ mania

During her home presentations, Lamp asks new clients if they’ve read the “Grey” books.

“I would say about 90 percent of my customers at my parties in the last six months have read the trilogy at least once,” she says.

Adult-themed companies like Slumber Parties and Pure Romance have picked up on the trend and introduced product tie-ins to the popular erotica series.

In May, Slumber Parties announced the addition of “Grey Experience” packages and Pure Romance the “Grey Revolution” line, both featuring gray silk ties and blindfolds, items featured in the books.

Patterson, of Fantasy’s, says her manufacturers are jumping on the bandwagon, too, and that “Grey” is going more mainstream.

“It’s everywhere. You go to Wal-Mart, you see stuff. You go to Target, you see stuff. It’s not just the adult industry; it’s everywhere,” she says.

Getting a voice

Lamp says reading author James’ books has helped women become more comfortable talking about sex with their friends and partners.

“Women are now even more open, I have noticed in the last six months, than they have ever, ever been,” she says.

Consultants Lamp and Bergstrom have used their increased opportunities for sexual discussion to stress the importance of communication.

“This is giving women a voice in the bedroom,” says Bergstrom, 22, of West Fargo.

She helps clients learn how to effectively communicate to their partners their likes and dislikes or new things they’d like to try.

“It’s all about baby steps. It’s allowing your partner to be in on the process,” Bergstrom says.

She says generations of women have been afraid to speak up about their sexual needs and desires but they’ll be happier if they do.

“If men can help in getting their partner to the mountaintop, that’s a huge ego-booster for them, too,” Bergstrom says. “It’s a win-win situation.”

In the ‘Grey’

The “Grey” tie-ins have been paying off.

Lamp says her Slumber Parties sales are through the roof and team members elsewhere in the U.S. and abroad report the same.

“Now, honestly, almost every single woman is seeking out some type of bedroom accessory,” she says, recalling that only about half were interested in the past.

Patterson says sales at Fantasy’s, especially bondage sales, are up, too.

“There has been an increase in sales, and I’m sure we were behind the nation, because it was May before it hit Fargo,” she says.

Patterson has a hard time keeping Ben Wa, or Kegel, balls, which were famously featured in more than one of the books, in stock at her adult-themed stores here and in East Grand Forks, Minn.

“You get them in for two to three weeks and then they’re all gone,” the 41-year-old Fargo woman says.

She and Bergstrom say the books have also piqued curiosity about bondage play, which is discussed and explored in the series.

“No matter how old you are or how much experience you have, there’s always going to be something that you’re unsure of or interested in trying,” Patterson says.