There are plenty of reasons to dislike 50 Shades of Grey. The potentially abusive relationship between Christian and Anastasia, the standard of writing in the novels, and the proliferation of terrible, terrible brand promotions trying to capitalise on the series’ success, to name just three.
But here’s a new one: it’s bad for the fire brigade. Why? Because wannabe BDSM enthusiasts are getting out of their depth with whips, chains and willy rings, and expecting the fire brigade to bail them out.
London Fire Brigade tweeted this morning that “In 2010/11 we had no penis rings incidents. Then @fiftyshadesUK came out…”, with a link to a breakdown of all the S&M-related incidents they’ve been called to since the books shot to fame. These included 7 stuck penis rings, 28 people trapped in handcuffs, one guy who tried to bone a toaster and another who got over-amorous with his hoover. Poor Henry.
Not all of these are related to 50 Shades, of course. But the London Fire Brigade comments that incidents like these have been increasing year-on-year since the books first came out, and each one costs the taxpayer a minimum of £295. That means we’ve spent hundreds of thousands of pounds removing appendages from places they should never have been, and people from dungeon-grade sex appliances they have no idea how to use.
Frankly, this vexes me. I’m all for people experimenting and trying out things they might like, but calling 999 when your pecker’s caught in a trap you put it in? Not so much. I got a ring stuck on my finger once. It swelled up and turned purple, and hurt like a mofo. Know what I did? Got in a cab, and went to A&E. I didn’t expect the fire brigade to blue-light its way to me to fix a problem I’d caused.
While 50 Shades has increased the number of people experimenting with potentially dangerous items, I think the increase in calls like these is also related to the effect of our customer service economy. We’re very used to being treated like valued consumers, with companies bending over backwards to come to our aid and make us happy. A lot of people seem to see the emergency services the same way: as a resource they’re entitled to, that should come and serve them in their home, at their convenience. That’s not how it works, actually. Granted, if you’ve got your manhood stuck in a Dyson then it’s probably not terribly possible to propel yourself to hospital, but I’d argue that the guy who penis-poked a plastic bottle and the one hopelessly locked in his chastity belt could have put on an overcoat and got in a taxi. Plus, why are these people calling the fire brigade and not an ambulance? “My johnson’s turning blue, better get a fireman involved” doesn’t seem like a particularly logical train of thought to me.
Dave Brown of the London Fire Brigade comments, “I’d like to remind everyone that 999 is an emergency number and should only be used as such. If there’s a genuine emergency, fire crews will of course attend and will be on the scene to help within minutes.”
See that? Genuine emergency. “I’ve lost the key to my handcuffs” isn’t a genuine emergency. It’s an occasion to send your play-partner down to Homebase for some bolt-cutters, while you have a word with yourself. It makes a better anecdote if uniformed public servants turn up to save your bare-cheeked embarrassment, yes, but it also takes those workers away from actual fires. And personally I don’t want to burn to death because some fool put a ring on it.
Main image: Flickr Creative Commons