LOS ANGELES — Twenty-four-year-old BDSM and fetish gear manufacturer The Stockroom is reporting a surge in business inspired by “Fifty Shades of Grey.”
"In recent weeks, we've received literally hundreds of calls thanks to this book," Stockroom President Mike Herman said. "About 90 percent of them are middle-aged 'soccer mom' types who never imagined themselves calling a fetish sex toy company.”
The Stockroom offers advice for BDSM beginners making their first purchase. Blindfolds, Herman says, are a safe, simple, yet profound way to begin.
"Take away that one sense, and others are immediately heightened,” he said. “We are happy to see how brave and eager many women are to try some more advanced toys and deeper experiences," Herman says. "We start out discussing blindfolds, and within minutes we're talking about more esoteric topics, like bondage gear, whips, electrical stimulation, and chastity play."
Since the 1980s, Stockroom has built its reputation not just on whips, restraints and fetish clothing but also on education and community building. The Stockroom University series of workshops and lectures covers such topics as Bondage 101, Flogging, or Electrical Play.
According to Midori, a sex educator who teaches Stockroom University classes, many newcomers turn to the Internet for instruction, but "there's such a glut, including some terrible information." To spot the bad advice, Midori lists the basic things to watch for: "Does it seem like practical, reality-based information for people who lead actual lives in the real world? If it seems too absolute or too rigid, or lacks compassion, then it's probably garbage. And always remember that this is about pleasure and play, and everybody must respect everybody's humanity."
Stockroom also fulfills its commitment to education and community building via contributions to assorted organizations and causes, and its stewardship of Daedalus Publishing, which specializes primarily in non-fiction books by authors who address the philosophies, ethics and how-to aspects of alternative sexuality.
Stockroom founder Joel Tucker started the company in 1988 as a 21-year-old college student.
“Regardless of the taboos,” Tucker says, “I knew that an otherwise normal, sane person could be attracted to this form of eroticism, because I had these interests myself. I found a small community of people in Los Angeles who pursued these interests in safe, healthy ways. I saw a need for a company that could provide quality, affordable gear with intelligence and discretion, and so I created it.”
The recent surge of popular interest in its area of specialization has not caught Stockroom unprepared, the company said.
“This is a trend I foresaw when I started the company, and we have tried to stay current with it all along,” Tucker says.
In 2005, the company created a new brand, Kinklab, specifically designed and packaged to bring kinky gear to the mass market. Items from the Kinklab line include affordable basic restraint designs, Mandible Body Clamps, Jawbreaker ball gag, and Kinklab’s latest release, the Neon Wand.
“Dedicated kinksters have been playing with specialized electrical toys such as these for decades,” Herman said. “But previously these kits were hard to find, and cost $400-600 or more. We knew that if we could produce a more affordable kit, include an informative manual, and package it for the mainstream adult market, there would be demand for it.”
The Neon Wand retails for $150, and its demand has exceeded expectation, the company said. “Fifty Shades fever fuels that trend,” Herman said. “Stores around the world are carrying the Neon Wand. We are ramping up production as fast as we can to meet the demand.”
The Stockroom catalog has grown to more than 4,000 items, and only a small portion of its kink offerings have been targeted for mainstream crossover so far, the company said.
Stockroom will celebrate its 25th anniversary year in 2013.
“This may have been an underground interest years ago,” Herman saysm “but as mainstream catches on to it, we are ready for them and welcoming their inquiries with open arms.”