Video: How ‘Fifty Shades’ Is Driving Porn Searches

Mar 20, 2015 4:00 PM PST

LOS ANGELES — A month after the movie’s debut, “Fifty Shades of Grey” is further entrenching itself into the popular psyche and becoming a socio-cultural icon, while driving sex searches in the process.

Its listing describes “Fifty Shades of Grey” as the story of how “literature student Anastasia Steele’s life changes forever when she meets handsome, yet tormented, billionaire Christian Grey.” “Fifty Shades of Grey” brings a new twist to this perennial storyline by injecting some kinky sex and a new level of passion that might make many readers of the timeless Harlequin Romance novels blush.

According to the book’s author, E L James, “Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control. When the couple embarks on a daring, passionately physical affair, Ana discovers Christian Grey’s secrets and explores her own dark desires.”

A runaway success, the book (and ensuing movie) is credited with awakening dark desires within many of its predominantly female audience members, and has garnered a great deal of criticism as a result. Critics notwithstanding, a new desire for information about BDSM and other sexual practices, was seen in the stats of adult websites and search engines, with a spike that underscores the cultural significance of the “Fifty Shades” franchise.

For example, porn powerhouse released a video as well as several charts that illustrate the rise in interest over this material.

“Cinema has come to affect our lives and views in real and meaningful ways. For instance, after the release of the film ‘Sideways,’ Merlot became more difficult to move off of shelves while Pinot Noir enjoyed a 16 percent spike in sales. Deer hunting decreased by nearly half for a few years after Bambi,” explains a PornHub spokesperson. “In the same vein, the recent release of the film adaptation of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ has been shaking things up over here at PornHub. Specifically, people are getting freakier in their pornographic preferences and we’ve got the data to prove it.”

The surge in searches began a few weeks prior to the film’s Valentine’s Day premiere.

“The 13th marks the real threshold though, with searches for words like ‘submission,’ ‘spank,’ and ‘bondage’ among others, increasing in the U.S. by over 20 percent (and by nearly 40 percent in women),” the spokesperson added. “Suffice it to say, our female users have definitely been channeling their inner Anastasia Steele’s.”

The PornHub stats show that searches for “submission” and  “dominate” top the chart, with both rising around 50 percent in search volume, while terms such as “whip,” “master,” and “leather” also spiked.

Also revealed by the study is the overwhelming preponderance of female interest in this subject matter.

“Following the release of the ‘Fifty Shades’ film, women appear to be more curious about most BDSM terms, searching upwards of 200 percent more for certain terms in some cases than prior to the release date,” the PornHub spokesperson says. “Men have been exploring these new waters as well, with increases closer to the range of 20 percent having been observed with these same terms.”

That’s 10 times the rate of increase for women than men searching BDSM-related terms.

“Again, action words like ‘submission,’ ‘dominate,’ and ‘spanking’ all skyrocketed by 150-220 percent by female PornHub viewers,” the spokesperson concluded. “Suffice it to say, the desire for less vanilla type videos is strong among the ladies — the only thing we can’t say for sure is which side of the paddle they’d prefer to be on.”

The statistics for the study were provided by the Pornhub Insights team, which “[compiles] data from billions of hits, all to explore the intricacies of online porn viewership.” was not the only site to see an increase in BDSM-related search activity, however, with adult friendly search engine also reporting an uptick in volume due to the “Fifty Shades” phenomenon.

“In the weeks prior to and following the release of the movie, I watched a significant increase in searches for ‘BDSM,’ ‘Bondage,’ ‘Kinky,’ ‘blindfold,’ and, of course, ‘50 shades,’” Boodigo’s Colin Rowntree told XBIZ. “It’s leveling off to normal levels at this point, but it certainly was a nice bump for both and all of the other kinky sites listed on Boodigo.”

“Although the book trilogy and the movie are pretty much defined now by the BDSM community as wildly inaccurate as to the nature and practices of ‘real BDSM,’ that franchise certainly blew a little fairy dust at both the BDSM content producers and kinky pleasure products retailers,” Rowntree explains, adding “I’m hoping for a sequel!”

While the numbers of searches for BDSM-related fare are now declining, considerable interest remains in the themes expressed in “Fifty Shades of Grey” — providing ongoing opportunities for adult content producers and marketers — and continued satisfaction for fans.

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