The forerunner to the film is the erotic book trilogy by E.L. James centred on a literature student and business magnate engaged in a dominant-submissive relationship.
Vera Zyla, co-owner of the Art of Loving in Vancouver, said while she doesn't think "Fifty Shades" is the best-written book, she believes it has served a greater purpose in opening people's minds to exploring their sexuality.
"Then that sparked people to come into stores like ours and go ... 'I wanted to buy a blindfold and see what that's like.'"
Over the 13 years since she's owned the Art of Loving, Zyla said public stigma around sexuality, sex toys and sex shops has "slowly diminished."
"It's great because I think it is heading more towards a healthier, open, accepting and tolerating other's choices as OK — and I think that's a healthy direction that it's going in.
"It still has a ways to go, but I'm glad to see that it's going in a more open direction."
George Giaouris, owner and president of Northbound Leather in Toronto, noted that "Fifty Shades" isn't the first mainstream movie of its kind, pointing to 1994's "Exit to Eden" and the acclaimed 2002 film "Secretary," which also explored BDSM (bondage, dominance, submission, masochism).
"There's always every few years something (that) comes out that sort of pulls at the public imagination," said Giaouris, whose company creates homegrown leather goods and celebrates the 25th anniversary of its Fetish Night party on Feb. 21.
"But I do anticipate that there will be tire-kickers, people that will come in and say, 'OK, I want to know what this is about,' that may have not known anything about it but will have heard through ('Fifty Shades')."
Zyla said she believes a combination of factors have led to the popularity of "Fifty Shades," including Internet exposure and how it speaks to the erotic fantasies of women.
"All of those little things just made it catch on to more the vanilla, the more meat-and-potatoes crowd of people that maybe hadn't explored much sexually."
Christine Cervin of Montreal-based Il Bolero said while Valentine's Day is always busy, they've stocked up with "Fifty Shades" in mind as well, including restraints.
"I would say that the tying up is the biggest fantasy that they have," said Cervin.
Giaouris said BDSM gear described in "Fifty Shades" is standard fare available in most "love shops." He said they try to teach newcomers to the scene to focus on what they'd like to experience versus zeroing in on obtaining specific items.
"The younger ones that are coming out and they're starting to say, 'Oh, I heard I need a riding crop; oh, I need a collar.' And we try and educate them to say, 'No, you don't need necessarily this' but rather 'What is it that you like to feel and where is it that your role-play is taking you?'"
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