Fifty Shades of Grey (2011) is the first in the Fifty Shades trilogy, telling the story of student Anastasia Steele and businessman Christian Grey – who introduces her to his dark world of sensuality, bondage, and discipline.
Introduction: Go deep into a famous erotica title.
Table of Contents
Few books written this century are quite as notorious as E.L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey.
Few books have sold as many copies, either – the Fifty Shades trilogy as a whole has sold more than 100 million.
All in all, it’s not bad for a project that started out as fan fiction. After a few reworkings, James self-published it in 2011 and achieved sudden and unexpected success. Mainstream published Vintage Books picked it up in 2012 and sales soared. The highly successful movie franchise began in 2015.
And why’s it notorious? Well, because – despite being a huge mainstream hit – it’s BDSM erotica.
Fifty Shades has introduced millions to the enthralling world of bondage, discipline, dominance and submission, and sadomasochism. And this is your chance to find out what all the fuss is about.
Who is Christian Grey?
Anastasia Steele – Ana to her friends – is nearly 22, and about to graduate from Washington State University Vancouver. She has pale skin, brown hair, and big blue eyes. She’s bookish and shy, and has gotten used to living in the shadow of her gorgeous, vivacious roommate, Kate.
But she’s prettier than she thinks she is, and nobody can quite understand why she’s never had a boyfriend.
Today she’s doing Kate yet another favor. Kate, a student journalist, has been working for months to secure an interview with the enigmatic young businessman who’ll speak at their graduation ceremony: Christian Grey, CEO of Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc. But Kate is ill – so Ana will drive to Seattle and interview him in her place.
So she tames her messy bed hair into a crude ponytail, puts on the only skirt she owns, and hits the road.
Grey Enterprises Holdings is a modern architectural fantasy in steel, glass, and sandstone. His assistants are all meticulously presented young women. Ana is hugely intimidated, and her heart is in her mouth as she approaches Mr. Grey’s office – and she stumbles in the doorway and falls.
So the first time she lays eyes on the tall, copper-haired Adonis of a man that is Christian Grey, she is on her knees. He gently helps her up, and there’s a thrilling static shiver as they touch.
Ana nervously stutters out Kate’s questions, hypnotized by Grey’s intense yet somehow playful gaze. His answers are all about the importance of control and discipline. Ana is enthralled. Part of her wants to run.
Back at home, Kate is thrilled by the intriguing answers Ana has elicited from this notorious recluse, and Ana heads off to work at the local hardware store.
That weekend on her shift, an unusually well dressed customer comes in. It’s Mr. Grey.
He’s restocking cable ties and rope.
Ana holds it together enough to ask Mr. Grey to do a photoshoot for Kate’s article, and he agrees. The girls get José to do the shoot – Ana’s photographer friend who she’s always kind of known has a thing for her.
After the shoot, Mr. Grey asks Ana for a coffee. She can barely speak – but mumbles out a no. But he’s forceful, and she consents.
The mysterious Mr. Grey asks her lots of personal questions – about how she’s an only child, and her mom lives in Georgia with her fourth husband, while the man she calls her stepfather, Ray, is in Montesano, Washington. Yet he is taciturn when she asks about him. She knows he’s adopted – that’s public record – but that’s about it.
A bundle of nerves, she stumbles again as they make their way out – and almost gets hit by a cyclist. He whips her out of the street and holds her to his chest. She looks up at him, longing to be kissed.
But he gently pushes her away.
Over the next few days, Ana is awash with emotions she’s never experienced before. But she manages to hold it together and finish her final exams. She and her friends go out to celebrate, and she gets drunk for the very first time.
Stumbling to the bathroom, she calls Mr. Grey and slurs a message at him. He sounds concerned.
Back in the bar, José gets a little friendly. He puts his arm around her. She tries to say no and push him away, but he’s quite insistent. He’s kissing her neck even though she doesn’t want it.
A voice tells him to stop. She looks up. It’s him.
Christian Grey has tracked her phone and found her, concerned about her drunken call. He’s brought his brother Elliott along too – who immediately joins Kate on the dancefloor.
Grey takes her back to his suite and into his bed. They sleep next to each other, chastely.
The next day they finally get to talking. He rejected her before, he explains, because – although he’s drawn to her – he’s not the romantic type. But he suggests he can explain more about his particular predilections back in Seattle. Ana is confused but intrigued, and agrees. They catch an elevator down, and in a moment of sudden, delicious passion, they kiss.
Ana’s first time
Christian flies Ana to his Seattle home in his helicopter, pours her a glass of wine, and fetches a document from his study. It’s a non-disclosure agreement for her to sign.
He also needs to show her a few things – including what he calls his playroom. It’s a softly lit space in leather and wood, with a huge mahogany cross on the wall. There are long, beautiful poles, there are paddles and whips, there are feathers.
He explains – he’s a dominant, and this is the room where he dominates his submissives.
And that’s why she has to sign a contract, as well as the NDA – to lay out the rules.
Rules like that she has to be obedient to him, be present at fixed times, and not see anyone else – plus terms to do with eating, sleeping, exercise, and contraception. It also lays out hard limits – things like no fire or breath play or acts involving urination. Ana’s mouth is agape.
Does she want to add or change anything, he asks?
Well, she explains – barely able to speak – she’s never even had sex before, so this is all new.
Shocked, he takes a deep breath to control his anger.
Why didn’t she say before, he asks.
Christian figures out how to proceed. She simply needs to start at a more basic level. Her first time will be vanilla.
So he undresses her slowly and compliments her beautiful, pale skin. Stripped down to her underwear and tingling from his touch, she falls back on the bed. He tells her to touch herself. What? she says – she never does.
So he takes matters into his own hands, caressing her breasts with his hand and tongue. She is in agonizing bliss, and he keeps on going. She feels a great intensity and her legs stiffen. He tells her to let go and she comes hard.
He removes her panties and his own briefs – although he leaves his shirt on – and slips a condom over his impressive erection. He sees a note of fear in her eyes and tells her not to worry – it’ll fit.
There’s a little pain as he enters her for the first time, but it’s mainly exquisite pleasure. At her second orgasm he comes too, calling out her name as he finishes deep inside her.
They fall asleep together.
Christian the enigma
It’s been a night of firsts for Christian as well as Ana. Despite his sexual experience, he’s never slept alongside a partner before. In fact, he’s never had vanilla sex either.
Over time, their relationship deepens, and Ana learns a little more about the smolderingly intense and mysterious man who has taken her virginity. Now 27, his first sexual encounter was with an older woman, a friend of his mother’s, at the age of just 15 – a relationship in which he was submissive, and she was dominant.
Ana is horrified – but Christian assures her it was all fine. They’re still in touch, in fact, as friends and business partners. Ana is not reassured.
Soon enough, the time comes for Christian to deliver the speech at her graduation, and Ana isn’t sure how they should act together in public. But the minxish Kate introduces Christian to Ana’s stepfather – as Ana’s boyfriend.
Ana is momentarily stunned – but Christian handles it deftly, charming Ray into a conversation about fishing.
Christian is also an extravagant gift-giver: Ana receives a top-of-the-range laptop, a Blackberry, and even a beautiful new car – all of which Ana insists are merely “on loan” rather than outright hers. She is still a little hesitant, as she admits in their flirtatious email exchanges, about signing the contract to be his submissive.
Ana still visits frequently, and they still have wonderful sex – even in the playroom, where she’s opened up to a whole new world of gentle, sensuous experiences that never quite cross the border into the purely painful. She agrees to many of his demands, including going on the pill, and discovers her playful side – she goes for dinner with his parents without any panties on, causing him to quickly take her in the boathouse.
But she still won’t sign the contract. When will she truly understand this strange and troubled man?
In one rare moment of vulnerability, Christian takes his shirt off, and Ana sees small, circular burn marks – cigarette burns. In another moment, he tells her his birth mother was a crack-addicted prostitute.
Pleasure and pain
Still unsure about her feelings, Ana goes to visit her mother in Savannah, Georgia. She and Christian email during the trip – he’s upgraded her to first class, of course – and he mentions he’s having dinner with an old friend, whom Ana correctly deduces is Mrs. Robinson, her name for his older former lover.
He reiterates that their sexual relationship is long over – and that she did him good, helping him to find himself despite his troubled childhood. But Ana still feels a confusing mixture of jealousy and anger – and she expresses this in her emails.
Ana is in a bar drinking Cosmos with her mother, and suddenly realizes – he’s here.
Worried by the tone of their exchange, Christian has surprised her by flying all the way to Georgia and tracking her down. He charms her mom, who is immediately smitten.
They make up, and have some amazing sex. While they’re in Savannah, Christian takes her gliding as well, and they experience a different kind of high soaring freely up in the skies. It’s a magical time. But is it too good to be true?
Ana has been offered a job at a publishing company, and is ready to move on to the next stage of her career. She desperately wants Christian to be a part of her future – but there’s so much about him she still doesn’t understand.
Back in Seattle, there are highs and lows in the playroom. Ana is in new fits of ecstasy when Christian blindfolds her and works her over with all manner of sensory tools, while the beautiful strains of the Renaissance choral composer Thomas Tallis sing sweetly in her ears. But when talk turns back to the contract they know it’s decision time.
Christian still hasn’t fully shown Ana what being a submissive means, and she finally agrees to find out. He bends her over a bench and whips her six times with a belt. The first couple of whips, she takes – the sensation of screaming out feels good. But after that? It simply hurts.
She is in agony by whip number six – agony without the ecstasy. So that’s what it’s like? That’s what truly gets Christian Grey off?
He can see how she feels – and looks devastated. He looks even worse when she says she’s in love with him – because he knows what’s coming.
She leaves, fleeing back home. She collapses on her bed, distraught. The physical pain vies with her emotional torture.
That’s the cliffhanger on which Fifty Shades of Grey ends – but it’s not the end of the story.
This summary has only covered the first book in the Fifty Shades trilogy, which continues with Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed. Stay tuned for later installments.
About the Author
E L James is an incurable romantic and a self-confessed fangirl. After twenty-five years of working in television, she decided to pursue a childhood dream and write stories that readers could take to their hearts. The result was the controversial and sensuous romance Fifty Shades of Grey and its two sequels, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed. In 2015, she published the #1 bestseller Grey, the story of Fifty Shades of Grey from the perspective of Christian Grey, and in 2017, the chart-topping Darker, the second part of the Fifty Shades story from Christian’s point of view. She followed with the #1 New York Times bestseller The Mister in 2019. In 2021, she released the #1 New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and international bestseller Freed, the third novel in the As Told by Christian trilogy. Her books have been published in fifty languages and have sold more than 165 million copies worldwide.
Sex, Relationships, Society, Culture, Domination and Submission, Erotic Romance, S & M Fiction, Adult, BDSM, Contemporary, Chick Lit, Adult Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Holiday Romance, Contemporary Women Fiction, Contemporary Romance
Fifty Shades of Grey is an erotic romance novel by E. L. James, published in 2011. It is the first book in the Fifty Shades trilogy, which follows the relationship between a college graduate, Anastasia Steele, and a young business magnate, Christian Grey.
The story begins when Ana, a shy and inexperienced English literature student, agrees to interview Christian, a mysterious and handsome billionaire, for her friend Kate’s school newspaper. Ana is instantly attracted to Christian, but also intimidated by his cold and arrogant demeanor. Christian, who is secretly a dominant in BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism, and masochism) relationships, is intrigued by Ana’s innocence and curiosity. He offers her a contract to become his submissive partner, with rules and limits that he expects her to follow.
Ana is shocked and fascinated by Christian’s proposal, but also hesitant and scared. She agrees to try out his lifestyle, but soon realizes that he has a dark and troubled past that haunts him. Christian is emotionally distant and controlling, and has difficulty expressing his feelings for Ana. He also warns her that he is not a romantic person, and that he can only offer her sex and pain.
Ana falls in love with Christian, and hopes to change him and heal his wounds. She tries to understand his needs and desires, but also challenges him and defies him at times. She experiences intense pleasure and pain with him, but also suffers from his jealousy and anger. She struggles to balance her own identity and independence with his demands and expectations.
The book ends with a cliffhanger, as Ana breaks up with Christian after he punishes her too harshly for disobeying him. She realizes that she cannot accept his lifestyle, and that he cannot give her the love and respect she deserves. She leaves him heartbroken and devastated.
Fifty Shades of Grey is a controversial and popular novel that has sparked debates and discussions about its portrayal of sexuality, gender roles, consent, abuse, and romance. The book has been praised for its erotic scenes and its exploration of female fantasies, but also criticized for its poor writing quality, its unrealistic characters and plot, its glorification of violence and manipulation, and its negative influence on readers’ expectations and behaviors.
Some of the strengths of the book are:
- It is engaging and captivating, with a fast-paced plot that keeps the readers hooked.
- It is provocative and daring, with explicit descriptions of sexual acts that appeal to many readers’ curiosity and imagination.
- It is empowering and liberating, with a female protagonist who discovers her sexuality and expresses her desires.
- It is emotional and dramatic, with a complex relationship that involves conflict, tension, passion, and love.
Some of the weaknesses of the book are:
- It is poorly written and edited, with grammatical errors, repetitive phrases, clichés, and unrealistic dialogue.
- It is unrealistic and implausible, with characters that are too perfect or too flawed, situations that are too coincidental or too convenient, and details that are too vague or too specific.
- It is harmful and problematic, with a portrayal of BDSM that is inaccurate and misleading, a depiction of consent that is ambiguous and inconsistent, a representation of abuse that is normalized and romanticized, and a message that is disempowering and regressive.
Overall, Fifty Shades of Grey is a novel that has generated a lot of interest and controversy among readers. It can be seen as an entertaining and erotic read for some people who enjoy fantasy fiction or as an offensive and dangerous read for others who value realism or social justice. It can also be seen as an opportunity for dialogue and education about sexuality or as an obstacle for communication and respect in relationships. The book’s impact and value depend largely on the reader’s perspective and preference.