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What is 'Fifty Shades of Grey?'

By

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.
Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Fifty Shades of Grey and the following two books in the trilogy, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed, have been one of the major pieces of pop culture for 2012. The three books held the top three spots on bestsellers lists for much of the 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: 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.

Read more about Fifty Shades publishing background and success.

Story
Fifty Shades of Grey is the story of a college student, Anastasia, who begins a relationship with a 27 year old very successful and powerful businessman, Christian Grey, after interviewing him for her college newspaper. Ana loses her virginity to Christian, and he wants her to sign a non-disclosure agreement and a contract that keeps their relationship purely sexual and defines how their relationship as one of "dominance and submission."

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.

Sex & Fifty Shades
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.

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