As part of Metro's annual sex issue, we explore today's hottest sex trends both locally and nationally. For more of this year's theme -- kink -- check out our 2012 sex poll and an interview with E.L. James.
Most mornings on the subway, you can peer over the shoulder of someone reading "Fifty Shades of Grey" and see the following two words: Butt. Plug.
Yes, a book this filthy is apparently an acceptable read, even during rush hour. Which led me to wonder, what if I flat out read porn? Down-and-dirty S&M porn, in a public place, during workday hours? What's the difference? It's illegal to do so in London, but I gave it a shot, approaching fans of "Fifty Shades" to ask them: Are you into this?
Stop I: A public park
I head to London's grassy Soho Square, where Lily, 21, a PR assistant, sits on a bench reading "Fifty Shades." "Everyone's reading it, so I've no reason to be ashamed," she says. Sensing my moment, I whip out the magazine Taboo, which promises (and delivers) "29 XXX beauties hurt and squirt." On the cover is a handcuffed redhead with a ball gag.
Lily unabashedly flicks through it. "I don't think women respond to reading erotic material in the same way that men do," she says. "Men need porn to be visual. They need s-- like this because they respond to the images more.
"They want things quicker, and if something turns them on, it's instant," she says, pointing to her own groin. "Women have a bit more control. And if you saw someone on the tube reading a magazine showing a girl with her vagina out, it would be a bit of an issue."
Let's find out.
Stop II: The subway
At the Kings Cross St. Pancras station, curiosity got the best of 23-year-old architect Sophie, who is already on page 100 of "Grey." "I'd never read any erotica before but I started reading 'Fifty Shades' because I wanted to know what all the hype was about," she says. "I just didn't expect it to be so ... sexy. I don't think I've even gotten to the really raunchy bits yet, but so far the WHOLE thing has been about sex."
When I whip out Taboo, she gets fidgety and flustered, checking behind her to see if anyone is watching us. "If I saw anyone reading a porn magazine on the tube, I'd be like, 'OMG, why are you doing this in front of everyone!'" Her face scrunches up with offense, but the girl is curious, so I leave her to it as she flips through the entire magazine. She eventually admits there's not much difference between it and "Fifty Shades." "You're still reading it or watching it because you want to. Just in a different way," she says.
Stop III: The sushi bar
Reading “Fifty Shades” on her lunch break, financial PR rep Louise, 29, doesn’t think the book is that extraordinary, calling it a trashy romance. “There are plenty of other novels out there that are just like it, but the whole ‘mommy porn’ connotation has made it a lot more acceptable and approachable,” says Louise.
Acceptable, and yet … she’s reading “Fifty Shades” on her Kindle rather than in paperback.
“I can’t help but feel a little bit awkward and self-conscious when I’m reading it,” she admits. “It feels safer this way.” I show her Taboo.
She takes a step back, flips through it, and stops on a close-up of what appears to be a clitoris ring. “A couple of straps and handcuffs — fine. But if someone read this sort of porn in public,” she says, “I’d find it very shocking.”
I leave her and she picks up her Kindle, back to a safer world where butt plugs are mentioned but not seen.