Everything you should know about 'Fifty Shades of Grey' if you don't want to read the book

By now, you’ve probably heard about “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

The film adaptation of the best-selling book series was a huge hit last year, and Universal just released a trailer for its sequel out next February.

While you may know the basic premise — it’s about a virginal college student who falls for a billionaire with a knack for bondage and domination — you may not have read the books nor plan on seeing the sequel.

But we bet you still want to know what it’s about.

We have you covered.

What is “Fifty Shades of Grey” about?

E.L. James’ erotica novel is written from the perspective of college student Anastasia Steele. Before graduation, she interviews the mysterious and eligible billionaire bachelor Christian Grey for her school’s paper. She’s not studying journalism. Instead, Anastasia, who goes by Ana, is just conveniently filling in for her sick roommate who was supposed to do the interview.

From the moment the two meet, Ana is pretty smitten with Christian. He makes her flush with nervousness as she fidgets with her tape recorder. She stutters as she speaks, and his calm but stern temperament makes her heartbeat start to race.

Naturally, Christian is actually pretty into Ana, too. It’s not really clear why. She’s a plain Jane, has no plans for her future after college, and she’s clumsy. But for some reason he can’t control himself any moment she bites down on her lip. Before you know it, Christian’s showing up at Ana’s place of employment, sending her expensive presents (first-edition copies of books by her favourite author and a new MacBook), getting jealous of other men in her life, and taking her for helicopter rides.

Romantic, right?

Well, here’s the twist.

It turns out there’s a reason Christian is single. He’s really into BDSM (bondage, domination, sadism, and masochism) relationships, and he wants Ana to play the submissive to his dominant.

50 shades of greyUniversal Pictures UKAna is more than willing to test out Christian’s kinky side.

If you’ve ever seen 2001’s “Secretary” with Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader, it’s sort of a similar setup.

Christian has a giant non-disclosure agreement whipped up detailing the specifics of their relationship. It contains safe words and limits, and it details the different sexual acts in which the two will participate.

The entire first book and movie follow Ana’s decision whether or not to sign the lengthy contract.

Oh, yeah. There’s more than one book.

If you thought you’d be free after the sequel, you’re wrong! There are three books in the series. The latter two are “Fifty Shades Darker” and “Fifty Shades Freed.”

If those two do well in theatres, there’s also another spin-off book written from Christian Grey’s perspective called, “Grey.”

It’s based on ‘Twilight’

TwilightThere’s a nod to the original title of ‘Fifty Shades’ in the first book’s opening. James dedicates the book to her husband, Niall, ‘the master of my universe.’

You can thank “Twilight” author Stephenie Meyer for inspiring “Fifty Shades.” The BDSM trilogy started out as “Twilight” fan fiction.

James began writing her series on Fanfiction.net. Early drafts of “Fifty Shades” were referred to as “Masters of the Universe” and were written from the perspective of Bella and Edward from “Twilight.”

Steele is Bella, right down to the clumsiness and awkward comments. And just like Bella, she is drawn to a dark man and embarks on a violent relationship. Grey is supposed to be Edward without the immortality, fangs, and sparkly skin. The two later transformed into Ana and Christian.

I don’t get it. Why do women love this? It sounds awful.

Oh, the writing’s not that great.

What I’ve gathered from reading the trilogy when it came out is that “Fifty Shades” is about playing out the fantasies and conversations written on the page in your head.

That’s what women had to do before they knew who were cast as the leads for the film.

In many ways, the film actually takes away from that experience, because there are many more explicit sexual acts in the book than in the film.

What are some of these conversations and fantasies you’re talking about?

Most of the first book’s 500-plus pages consist of text messages and email messages that occur between Ana and Christian. While many are flirty with silly email subjects, some are similar to dirty texts sent between teens or young lovers.

Here is an example of an email exchange between the two. Note that they will change the subject each time they respond to each other.

From: Anastasia Steele
Subject: Chastising … Me?
Date: May 31 2011 19:22 EST
To: Christian Grey

Dear Sir,

When have I ever plucked up the nerve to chastise you, Mr. Grey? I think you are mixing me up with someone else … which is very worrying. I really do have to get ready.

Your Ana

From: Christian Grey
Subject: Your Behind
Date: May 31 2011 16:25
To: Anastasia Steele

Dear Miss Steele,

You do it all the time in print. Can I zip up your dress?

Christian Grey

CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.

From: Anastasia Steele
Subject: NC-17
Date: May 31 2011 19:28 EST
To: Christian Grey

I would rather you unzipped it.

From: Christian Grey
Subject: Careful what you wish for …
Date: May 31 2011 16:25
To: Anastasia Steele


Christian Grey
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.

The two also have discussions about the different things Ana wants to consent to including:

Ankles bound

Elbows bound

Hands bound behind back

Knees bound

Binding to fixed items, furniture, etc.




Bondage with rope

Bondage with leather cuffs

Bondage with handcuffs/shackles/manacles




Vibrators and other sex toys

The list goes on, but you get the idea.

The emails are probably the best part of the book, and that’s a shame, because they get very little play in the movie.

Keertana Sastry contributed to an earlier version of this story.

NOW WATCH: Learn what all the fuss is about — here’s the regular guy’s guide to ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’

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