story by Meghan Stewart, art by Kelsey Bell
In Part 1, we detailed how much you can expect to pay for the officially licensed and franchised 50 Shades sexual experience. But as much fun as the products – and let’s face it, the hilariously clever names of the products – are, unless your kink is to have a brand-names on your sex toys, then at best the official 50 Shades product line is an introduction into a true fetish lifestyle.
As our expert Katy from Adam & Eve explained yesterday, really the 50 Shades products (and the story, in general) are “BDSM light.” In other words, they basically give you a way to introduce yourself to real-world fetishes that existed long before and wholly apart from the play E.L. James created in her series. But if after that introduction, you’re really into one of these fetishes or particular kinds of kink, how much is it really going to cost you?
“It’s happened a few dozen times since the books were released that a customer asked us to help them select items so they can recreate an experience they read about in the book,” says Starla Yednak of BDSM-gear.com. “And for those who read the books and want to dabble so they can add a little spice to things, we tend to direct them first to small, affordable products that allow you to try things out. Then if you enjoy it, you can move onto more expensive or customized items that really give you the high-end quality described in the book.”
Yes. You read that right – if you want to get your “kinky fuckery” right at the right price, one of the best ways to do it is to pick up the phone and call the customer service line for whatever website you’re perusing.
“About half of our business comes through customer calls rather than the website,” Starla confirms. “Most of our calls come from either new customers who need a little help finding something that’s right or from more experienced customers who are interested in customizing a more expensive order so it’s just perfectly suited for their taste.”
Here are the highlights, then read on for more details…
Introductory Shades at introductory prices
So to figure out how much it actually costs to finance a particular Shade or fetish, we hit up the web to assess the high-end and low-end of how much various fetishes, toys and devices cost. As you can see from the ranges on the infographic, almost everything tends to go from extremely cheap to a few hundred dollars if you want a particular top-of-the-line piece.
And even better, the cheap end of the price range is usually much lower than what you pay for those officially-licensed 50 Shades items we talked about yesterday. In almost every case, no matter what kind of toy or device you want to get, you can find something for less than $20. Or, you can always make your “kinky fuckery” into a D-I-Y project and use home products that you either already have or can buy for cheap.
That’s what smart retailers like Starla’s company can help you do if you’re a “vanilla” looking for a little spice (and yes, that term “vanillas” is now used by some companies to describe people who aren’t acquainted with these types of fetishes but looking are for an introduction). And don’t be shy about calling, thinking that you’re the only 40-something housewife or 30-something couple calling this kind of retailer.
“Most of our customers are into their 30s and about 75 percent are couples,” Starla explains. “It’s people who are comfortable in their sexuality and with each other who want to explore different kinds of intimacy.”
So basically, the cheap stuff isn’t going to get you off if aesthetics are your thing, but they can help you see if a fetish is actually worth a bigger financial investment.
A real investment if you’re really serious
So you spend ten bucks to realize you like a particular fetish. Now what? How much is one of these interests really going to set you back?
The good news: If you’re just talking about one particular product or toy, even the most expensive items tend to only cost a few hundred bucks unless you order them fully custom. A few hundred bucks will get you the best quality materials, like leather floggers and stainless steel shackles. Often sites will let you customize with your choice of colors and trims. So if you absolutely positively have to have all of your sex toys in oxblood, you can make that happen without incurring additional cost.
Fun 50 Shades note we learned from Starla: “Oxblood” is a color of leather and not a type, so getting everything in oxblood is just a matter of finding the implements you want in that signature deep red, instead of requesting a custom-constructed high-quality implement in a specialty material such as latigo leather.
That’s not to say that fetishes don’t get more expensive. After all, a Dominant is unlikely to stick to only one type of disciplinary tool. They will tend to have many – and many kinds of the same type. Anastasia’s question as to why Christian has so many different canes just wouldn’t make sense to most people who are actually into this kind of thing.
“While BDSM-curious customers can buy $20 handcuffs or restraints to try it out, serious members of the BDSM community can spend thousands and thousands of dollars on high-end or one-of-a-kind- items,” says Katy Zvolerin of Adam & Eve.
8 tips for keeping your kinky costs in line
So here’s what you need to do if you’re really interested in the fetish lifestyle but you don’t make $100,000 every hour like Christian Grey…
1. Always go cheap first. The cheapest items may not look like much, but they’re safe to use and can give you an introduction – usually for between $10-$20. If you like something, then it’s worth it to spend more. This way, you can pay for the introduction with free cash flow in your budget instead of going into debt to try something you might not like.
2. Talk to a rep. These people are trained to help you get what you want, so if you can get over any shyness you have then you can learn a lot and get some great advice by calling a customer sales representative.
3. Take time to comparison shop. Once you know you like something and want higher quality items, make sure to do some research, since cost can vary widely. Size, materials and special features all roughly determine price, but the price of comparable items on different sites can vary widely.
4. Spread out your purchases over time. Since most of these purchases are online or over the phone, people tend to use credit. The more you buy at once, the less likely it is that you can pay off everything you bought in the first billing cycle. Each month you leave the debt to accrue interest is more money you pay to play.
5. Consider prepaid or PayPal. If possible, using a prepaid credit card or your PayPal account will help keep your cost down. You’ll still have added fees attached to your purchases, but they won’t be added to a credit card balance to sit and gain interest. This helps keep the credit card debt you generate from online shopping minimized.
6. If you have to use a credit card, why not earn rewards? After all, cash-back-on-everything would clearly include sex toys. So if you can’t (or don’t want to) avoid using credit, try to put your purchases on a credit card that gives you something back for using it. Just make sure if you’re earning a little bit of cash back that you pay of the debt immediately. Otherwise, you’re still spending more money instead of getting a reward.
7. Only customize when absolutely necessary. Customized items are always going to be more expensive so you should really only order something custom if you’re 100 percent sure it’s worth the cost. If you decide to do a custom order, understand that the higher the quality of the materials you want to use, the more expensive it will be.
8. Avoid furniture unless you really want to invest. The most expensive stuff, by far, is the furniture, like bondage benches, tables and beds designed for restraint. These types of items are meant for the truly serious. Otherwise, you’ll spend your money for the sexual equivalent of that treadmill that you bought but only used twice.
And on that note, tomorrow’s post gets into this last (and most expensive) piece of the 50 Shades pie – exactly how much it costs to have your own Red Room of Pain. We also take a fun look at the yearly cost to keep a sub yourself, so come back for a final dive into the financial end of this kinky pool.