50 Shades of Grey: What Makes It So Appealing?


In the novel 50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James, a 21-year-old university graduate Anastasia Steele, finds herself caught up in a whirl wind relationship with the enigmatic 27-year-old billionaire Christian Grey. Ana  meets Christian while awkwardly interviewing Christian  in place of her bestfriend Kate for a newspaper article for the Vancouver WSU student paper in Washington where Christian will be conferring degrees on Ana’s graduating class. Ana, who has never been majorly attracted to anyone before, finds herself enthralled by Christian. The chemistry between them is immediate and charged.

Ana finds herself in a difficult situation, however, when she discovers after coffee with Christian that he is not into typical relationships. The only type of relationship Christian has ever had and wants is a dominant – submissive relationship where he is the dominant and controls his submissive in every way when they are together and often a part. Anna wants Christian Grey and has strong feelings for him and even though Christian does not realize it, he has feelings for Ana too. This changes the dynamic of the relationship because eventually Ana wants “more” than a dominant-sub relationship from Christian and Christian gives ‘more’ to Ana even though he has never wanted more from any of his submissives before. In fact, Ana gets away with a lot more than any of Christian’s other submissives ever have.

But what is it about E.L James book that makes women (particularly) love The 50 Shades of Grey series so much? First, it is sex and the idea of a unique S&M relationship that develops into love for Ana and Christian; second, it is the character of Ana, who allows Christian, a deeply controlling and broken man inside, into her life while most other girls of her age and sexual experience would have run away; thirdly, it is the thoroughly brilliant yet clueless character of Christian who ends up falling in love with Ana and experiencing many firsts with her. Despite his preferred S&M lifestyle, Ana becomes the most important person in Christian’s life and they fall in love with each other.


Sex is the most immediate thing that comes to mind when thinking of 50 Shades of Grey. Not just sex but sex that is taboo. Christian is not just attracted to Ana immensely. He does not come into their relationship wanting the typical relationship that develops into a  “white picket fence” marriage. Christian does not even image that for himself in the beginning of the book series. He wants Ana as his submissive to control, keep safe, and use for his pleasure. Ana wants to be with Christian and break down his walls. She wants a pleasurable and enlightening relationship with Christian. She wants Christian without all his baggage. But she is very curious and taken a hold of by the sexual part of their relationship. She even finds it very pleasurable when Christian introduces her to his kinky lifestyle.

Sex of course is frequent through out the entire book. It is through sex (and banter) that the entire relationship of Christian and Ana develops. Christian first introduces  Ana to sex by making love to her because she is a virgin. He is shocked that she has never had sex before and Ana is surprised he has never had vanilla sex before. Christian invites Ana over to his home in Seattle and shows her all the usual and unusual ways of having making love and Ana thinks this is double chocolate with triple fudge on top sex, not just usual sex. She is always aroused for him and he always want to touch her. It is a wonder she can still walk by the end of the first weekend.

A week later, Anna agrees to try S&M sex with Christian. She has a dream where Christian uses a leather riding crop to hit her and make her have an orgasm. Although she is afraid of the pain, Anna allows Christian to flick her with the riding crop, hand cuff her to a track that leads to a giant X against the ‘playroom’ wall, and have sex with her hard. Christian also makes Ana hang on to the bed post while screwing her really intensely again even though she is exhausted. Through out the ordeal Anna finds herself extremely and shockingly turned on and must address Christian as ‘Sir’ or he will smack her hard with the riding crop if she does not. She is told she is be quite and sit by the door in only her underwear kneeling submissively in any sexual scene Ana and Christian get into in the playroom. Christian is thrilled with the way Anna reacts to the sex scene he had planned out and carries her to sleep in her bedroom. I think the fact of being vulnerable and giving yourself over to be sexually pleasured is something many women could relate to with to Ana. Christian is very knowledgeable and skilled about sex and he does promise not to hurt Ana at this point. Even when he does hurt her, and spanks her, she is turned on and Christian makes sure to take care of her with aspirin and lotion/baby oil afterwards.

The third, sexual situation Christian and Ana find themselves in is again in the playroom where Christian blindfolds Anna and plays iPhone music in her ears and cuffs her to the bed. He whips her with a flogger and finds  she enjoys being flogged. Ana finds it very seductive and entrancing. Even though she is feeling a little pain it is okay because of the sexual chemistry and sexual awareness that she is experiencing with Christian. Plus, she trusts him by this point. Sometimes I wondered  in the book why Ana did not stand up for herself a bit more and not agree to call Christian Sir and be so acquiescing. But it’s because she  likes what’s happening to her sexually and that Christian likes doing what he is doing to Ana that she allows the situation to continue. Not only does she trust Christian she is falling in love with him. I’m sure many guys can imagine doing similar sexual things  to a woman  or women can imagine having these things done to them. That whole sexual fantasy aspect plays a huge roll in the book’s success. What Ana cannot tolerate though is real painful punishment from Christian. Her acceptance to experience it one  time to give Christian a chance because she loves him, and then her choice to leave Christian, leads him to the realization that being without Ana is even more painful than being thoroughly lashed with a belt and punished as she is in the end of the book.

Additionally, the chastity and goodness of Ana is very important in the book. She goes about handling Christian with her wits and her innocence, and this beguiles Christian. Having never had any boyfriend and little sexual experience beyond kissing before, Ana is chaste and Christian likes this because it makes Ana completely his. It also makes Anna open to trying a lot of things other girls wouldn’t have been open to trying because she has no frame of reference but Christian. Christian is floored that someone as beautiful as Ana has never had sex before and is quite happy to show her how several times. He is thrilled by her and her innocence. Not only her innocence in being willing to have sex but her willingness to try S&M sex with him just after reading about it on the internet and after reading through and reluctantly saying what she will and will not do with him in a relationship, in a contract. Ana is shocked by some of the things listed in this contract.

It is also Ana’s wit and wisdom that makes her so appealing to Christian. She jokes with him that he is her stalker because he is always worried about her and wants to know her whereabouts and if he does not know where she is, he will track her cellphone. She jokes with Christian in bed and deals with him gently, even though he is a very damaged man. She knows this is the closest he has ever come to a ‘real’ relationship and even though she isn’t keen on the idea of pain she is willing to be vulnerable to him because she likes him and believes he has potential as a person and a partner. She is also in lust with him and this develops into love. Moreover, when she falls in love with Christian she hopes that he sees that she is willing to sacrifice for him. She listens to Christian and encourages him to talk about his past even though he does not like talking about his experiences, especially his early childhood and his toxic relationship with Mrs. Robinson that warps his views on sex. Ana also respects that Christian doesn’t like being touched in some areas on his body and Christian later lets Ana touch him in the second book, something none of Christian’s submissives had ever done. Ana becomes Christian’s girlfriend, rather, then his submissive.

Lastly, Ana is a good influence on Christian and an interesting character because she finally does set limits for him, something no one dares to do. She will not allow Christian to hit her and punish her like his old submissives. She cannot live with that. She lets him know that his issues of liking punishment are issues he will have to deal with because she will not accept that he is a masochist or permanently destroyed person . If he wants her, loves her,  than Christian has to learn to control himself. That is why she tells him to “get it together Grey” when he belts her over a bench in the playroom at the end the first book. It  is her or his urge to punish and control her, not both.She decides she will not be his submissive of punishment is required.

Thirdly, it is the character of Christian Grey that especially makes 50 shades of Grey intriguing. Christian is a mystery. Why is he so dominant? Why does he feel he needs to punish his submissives? Why is he so controlling? It is also his growth as a human being that is fascinating coming from his circumstances. He is a 27-year-old billionaire who can do what he wants and he picks seemingly plane Anastasia Steele and thinks she is gorgeous. He cannot stay away from her and he goes to visit her after their interview at the hardware store where she works. He makes all this effort to explain his lifestyle to Ana who is a virgin to begin with because he is completely bewitched by her. This has never happened to him before and Ana is someone he could be compatible with for life, despite the fact that he is an angry and a possibly masochistic man due to his past. Christian lets Ana talk and have an opinion because he likes her wit and  he enjoys that she is smart like him. He introduces her to his entire family who is shocked at first by the existence of her as Christian’s ‘ girlfriend” because he has never brought a girl home before and they assumed Christian might be gay. Moreover, his family genuinely like Ana and comment at the good change Ana causes in Christian. She opens him up emotionally to herself, his family, and to love.
Additionally, Christian wants and is willing to give Anna the ‘more’ she wants. He shows up at the Hotel  Ana and her mother are drinking at on vacation because Ana misses him and he takes her on a gliding plan after a night of talking and making love. He even gets to the point that he does not much care about the sexual contract between Ana and himself.  He just wants her submissive in the playroom and obedient. She is free to be herself otherwise, something he never allowed with past submissives. Then again he never had a girlfriend before. He even feels more comfortable when Ana sleeps beside him and tells her the most comforting thing he has ever heard was when she said  in her sleep that she would never leave him.
Christian’s failing of course, is believing that Anna will be obedient to his will. She is not a very submissive person, not to mention she is  a person and you shouldn’t even punish an animal by hitting it when it does something you don’t like.When Christian punishes Ana so she will know how bad it can be to be hit,  he fails to realize that Ana will do anything to avoid intense pain, to avoid punishment. She does not understand Christian’s need to punish her and really hurt her even though she loves him. When he belts her hard several times, Ana ends up leaving Christian putting Christian in intense pain. For 4 days he lets the love of his life walk out on him and the pain of not having her to love and be with is more pain than he’s ever experienced in his life. It gives him the sickly taste of what Ana feels about punishment. He soon realizes in 50 Shades Darker, that he must get Ana back because she is the light in his life. Ana is the best thing that has ever happened to him, his only release from the pain without her, and the release from the pain of his dark past. Christian’s intense, sexy, but remorseful character makes him likable and attractive. He becomes a better person because of Anna and because he can be saved by her and by himself. Because of this, he is redeemable, despite his love for punishment and darker desires.

In 50 Shades of Grey by E.L James women and particular find the book extremely appealing. The strong influence of sex, often taboo sex, makes the book interesting for many people to read as well as the innocent and loving character of Ana, and the enigmatic, suffering, yet forgivable character of Christian Grey. Although, Christian does not understand until the end that he must choose between his love of punishment to stay in control or his girlfriend Ana, he soon realizes that life without her is a far worse hell than he could have imagined. Both Ana and Christian are a mess without each other and in the following book both characters and their strengths and weaknesses are exposed so that Anna truly realizes how strong love must be to love someone as tortured and hurting as Christian. It is her ability to love despite his giant flaws, her patience to give, and Christian’s unexpected love for Ana that make the series so appealing.