What Is "Fifty Shades of Grey" Actually About?

The Basics of the Famous Sexy Novels

Author E. L. James attends the 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' - The Classical Album Launch Event at Soho House on September 17, 2012 in New York City.
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The steamy "Fifty Shades of Grey" and the following two books in the trilogy, "Fifty Shades Darker" and "Fifty Shades Freed," quickly became major pieces of pop culture. The three books held the top three spots on ​best sellers lists for much of their debut year and have inspired parodies and knock-offs. You might have heard "Fifty Shades" described as "Twilight" for adults or mommy porn and wondered what the books are really about. Here is a brief summary to help you understand what everyone is talking about.

Background: "Fifty Shades" Conceived as "Twilight" Fan Fiction

E.L. James originally wrote "Fifty Shades" as a series of episodes on a "Twilight" fan website. The main characters were originally named Edward and Bella, and the story takes place in Seattle, which is close to the location of the "Twilight" books. James originally titled the story "Master of the Universe." After readers raised concerns about the sexual nature of the content, James removed the story from the fan site and posted it on her own website.

Story Summary

"Fifty Shades of Grey" is the story of a 22-year-old college student, Anastasia, who begins a relationship with a 27-year-old very successful and powerful businessman, Christian Grey. She meets him while interviewing him for her college newspaper. When they later meet up in Portland, Oregon, he rescues her after she over-imbibes and she ends up chastely spending the night in his Heathman Hotel room.

He is intrigued by her and offers her a non-disclosure agreement and a contract that keeps their relationship purely sexual and defines it as one of "dominance and submission." She doesn't sign the agreement but loses her virginity to him.

The novel plays on tension over the nature of their relationship and the possibility of romance and love as well as Ana's sexual explorations in Christian's darker tastes in sexuality. Christian is a control freak with physical and mental scars from child abuse before being adopted by loving parents. However, he is likely as seduced by emotion for her as she is enticed by sexual explorations and a romantic relationship with him.

Further scenes in the first book introduce his lavish lifestyle with astonishing Seattle apartment, personal helicopter, and chauffeur. But there is also tension with an older woman who first introduced Christian to BDSM and allusions to a former girlfriend who figures in the later books. Ana meets Christian's parents and the reader is also introduced to Ana's mother and stepfather.

Sex and "Fifty Shades of Grey"

"Fifty Shades of Grey" fits into the genre of erotica but has gained mainstream popularity rather than remaining genre fiction. Many credit the advent of e-readers as allowing women to read books without others knowing what they are reading.

It has detailed scenes of sexual activity, including dominance and submission. The plot and characterizations rely on the sexual content.