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In Numbers: How 50 Shades Changed Online Dating

Love it or hate it, you have to admit that Fifty Shades of Grey has had a colossal impact upon the world of sex and relationships.

With over 100 million copies sold, it’s not just the sex toy industry that’s seen a big shift in consumer tastes (sex toy retailer Lovehoney report their turnover doubling since the release of the steamy books) – the internet dating world has, too. In an age of tinder, snapchat and Plenty of Confusion, has Fifty Shades of Grey actually changed the way we search for our partners online?

Personally, I would have to say yes. During my year of singledom in 2013, I spent around 10 months internet dating, and on several occasions I was messaged by men claiming to have ‘Christian Grey tastes in the bedroom’. Nothing else needed to be said – I knew he was into kink and wanted someone submissive. I didn’t message him back (mostly due to his terrifying pictures and love of cats rather than the Christian Grey kinks), but it soon became clear that the ‘I like to get kinky in bedroom’ chat no longer needed to happen via an awkward conversation – or worse, sexual encounter. The dialogue had already been opened, explanations no longer necessary.

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Fast forward two-and-a-bit years, and singles who are seeking kinky partners can now sign up to specialist dating websites for bondage lovers, dominant/submissive specific tastes and even ‘millionaire boyfriend’ experiences for those seeking the full Christian Grey treatment.

But is it just me who has noticed the trend in kinky internet dating? Andy Hammonds, owner of dating network Bright Day, currently runs over 350 dating sites, almost two-thirds of which are in the ‘adult niche’ category. This can mean anything from sites for arranging one-night-stands to indulging extreme foot fetishes and BDSM kinks – and he agrees that the industry has experienced a boom in this area.

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Having analysed 10,000 dating profiles, Hammonds says it’s no small increase either. “A few years ago, our more ‘adult’ dating sites were doing OK, but were only visited by a handful of people who had enjoyed an alternative lifestyle in the bedroom for some time.”

“Since Fifty Shades of Grey, however, we’ve seen an 11% increase in BDSM-focussed dating sites to meet the demand from members who are exploring their kinky sides for the very first time and want to find a partner willing to share in that.”

Hammonds also reported that wealthy men or ‘sugar daddy’ sites have also seen an 8% rise since 2012, a claim notice by sugar daddy site Seeking Arrangement back in 2012. In fact, the increase has been so noticeable that Bright Day have created several specific sites just for the influx of Fifty Shades-inspired singles, including ChristianGreyDating.co.uk and FiftyShadesLovers.co.uk.

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So there you have it – it’s not just little old me. It would appear that what once was a small, underground network of kinky online daters is quickly transforming into a more mainstream way of selecting partners online. It’s not all that surprising when you think about it – if people can be choosy about the height, weight and location of their ideal match, why not be specific about shared niche tastes in the bedroom? If you’re lucky, you might just end up finding a partner who embodies both a GSOH and some BDSM…

Lucy is a freelance journalist, restaurant junkie and lover of chocolate cake. By day she runs the PR at online sex toy retailer Lovehoney, and by night can be found in garish pyjamas eating sushi on the sofa. A hippy at heart, she loves nothing more than plinky-plonky spa music and spending time in nature with her dog.