Londoners keep getting stuck in penis rings and handcuffs, and officials blame “Fifty Shades of Grey”

They have plenty of other important things to do.
They have plenty of other important things to do.
Image: Reuters/Stephen Hird
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Hapless Londoners get themselves stuck in things all year round, according to the city’s fire service, which is often called to their rescue. But while regular incidents of people trapped in washing machines or with their fingers caught in heaters has seen a downturn, more intimate entanglements are on the up.

Specifically, more people in London are getting trapped in handcuffs, and more men coming to grief through using penis rings—and the fire service blames the upsurge on the racy S&M-based book-and-film phenomenon Fifty Shades of Grey.

“As the second Fifty Shades of Grey film hits cinemas we are once again warning about people being stuck or trapped in objects, as penis ring removals soar,” the London Fire Brigade said in a press release. They are calling the campaign ”Fifty Shades of Red.”

In the last five years, 102 people in London have called the fire brigade to rescue them from handcuffs. That included 27 incidents in the 2015/16 financial year, almost double the 15 or so in previous years. And firefighters have had to save nine men stuck in penis rings since April 2016, more than in the two previous financial years combined, the service said. Rings, and jewelry generally, are in fact a big reason for call-outs, they noted, with 810 various emergency ring removals over the past five years. Twenty-three of those were from penises.

How do firefighters deal with such unfortunate situations? In one 2015 incident, firefighters used “pedal cutters—a hydraulic handheld piece of cutting equipment,” to remove a metal ring from a man’s penis.

The south London boroughs of Bromley, Croydon, and Lambeth were hot spots for such “Fifty Shades”-style incidents in the period 2008-2017, the service said.

More general household incidents like people getting their hands stuck in appliances looked to be lower this year than last, with only 376 call-outs so far since April, compared to 459 for the last financial year.

Fifty Shades of Grey is a series of three novels released in 2011 and 2012, and two films, released in 2015 and 2017, that revolve around an erotic relationship featuring the characters’ enjoyment of bondage, discipline, domination and submission, and sadism and masochism, a group of proclivities known as BDSM.

It’s possible that the London Fire Brigade’s linking of their campaign to the films is meant somewhat metaphorically, rather than implying direct causation. Quartz staff who had seen the films and read the books didn’t remember a penis ring featuring, and recalled restraint with ropes rather than handcuffs.