Fifty Shades of Grey Historical Context 📖

As a novel that propelled erotic romance into the mainstream, ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ merged the best of wealth, power, control, and sex into its story.

Fifty Shades of Grey

E. L. James

Before Fifty Shades of Grey,’ erotic romance was a genre of literature almost forgotten. The genre suffered from unpopularity because of the lack of streamlined stories that combined extreme sex with romance. ‘Fifty Shades of Grey became the beacon that lit up the path for the genre.

Fifty Shades of Grey Historical Context

Historical Context

‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ is a novel that has heavily impacted the world of erotic romance and mainstream romance at large. Before its publication, the genre struggled under the shadow of mainstream romance novels. However, the story ended the struggle, and erotic romance became a song in people’s mouths.

Though the novel got inspired by a mainstream romance novel, it maintained its distinct sexual nature and used the sex and thrill of romance to propel its story. From the beginning, the story started normal and gradually progressed into an intensely sexual tale. One thing consistent in the novel is money and power. The story created a sense of intoxicating power to make its protagonist, Ana, much more exciting.

Since its publication, many books have followed the trend of including wealth, toxicity, unrealistic innocence, and power in their stories. Fifty Shades of Grey’s massive success made many new writers shift their focus to the aspect of romance that involves extremely toxic macho characters falling for extremely innocent feminine characters.

The novel impacted the world as it led to the acceptance of BDSM in literature. Before it, BDSM was seen as a forbidden aspect of sex as it rarely got mentioned in any romance story, but with the publication of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey,’ BDSM and masochism entered the limelight, and people became more accepting of it in romance. Though the novel led to the acceptance of sexual kinks in literature, the change made some people stop reading romance novels because of the claim that ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ contained negative stereotypes of BDSM and the story painted toxic relationships in good light.

Cultural Context

‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ has impacted society’s perception of erotic romance. Before it, erotic romance typically had stories that focused less on the form of sex. However, the novel changed everything as it included not just extreme sex but toxic behaviors. It became the beacon for stories that portrayed love as the relationship between toxic men and super innocent women.

The inculcation of extreme sex and toxic relationships into the story soon changed people’s perceived perception of love. Novels like ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ and ‘After’ by Anna Todd set a precedent for some people to believe the idea that the best type of relationships were the ones that were toxic and emotionally abusive.

Fifty Shades of Grey’s impact on pop culture sealed the idea of people believing that bad boys or toxic men are the most romantic kinds of people to have in a relationship. Though the novel received good reviews, many women pointed out that it negatively impacted society and changed women’s views on abusive relationships.

Adaptation and Awards

After its publication, Fifty Shades of Grey’ skyrocketed in popularity. The novel’s extreme sex depiction and glorification of toxic relationships propelled its sale as it topped best sellers’ charts globally. It became the fastest-selling UK paperback of all time, and its success saw it getting translated into more than 50 languages.

After its success in the charts, ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ got slotted for a film adaptation, and in February 2015, it got released in theatres. With the film starring Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey, it raked in 569.7 million dollars from a 40-million-dollar budget.

The novel’s massive success on the screen and among romance novel readers earned awards like the British Book Award for Book of the Year and the British Book Award for Fiction Book of the Year. The film was the most awarded at the 36th Golden Raspberry Awards as it won five of the six nominations. Among the awards won by the film included Worst Picture Award, a title tied with Fantastic Four.


Is Fifty Shades of Grey a good influence on society?

‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ has been cited for its misrepresentation of BDSM and glorification of toxic relationships and abuse. The novel faced severe backlash from people who stated that it painted BDSM in a false light. People who enjoyed BDSM as a kink said that the story painted BDSM as sexual activity for people with past trauma. The story glorifies Christian and Ana’s relationship, but people pointed out that Ana and Christian’s relationship got centered around toxicity and abuse; this made critics lash out heavily at the book after its publication. 

Is Christian abusive in Fifty Shades of Grey?

When one combines Christian’s need for dominance with his desire to always be in control over others, you have the blueprint for an abuser. In the story, Christian turned Ana’s life worse as his constant pressure made her feel sad and worthless at the same time. Christian’s need for undisputed attention made pleasing him a rollercoaster of intensely high and low emotional drainage.

Did Ana enjoy being Christian’s submissive?

While she enjoyed Christian’s unique sexual desires, Ana started falling in love with him. She hated getting treated as a sex object than a person worthy of love. In a last attempt to understand Christian, she asked him to go all-out on her. However, she broke up with him after he used a belt on her.

Why do women like Fifty Shades of Grey?

Though many women expressed their dissatisfaction with ‘Fifty Shades of Grey,’ it was a hit with its sales. The novel’s success relied on many factors. However, the primary reason it blew up was that it appeased its readers by providing them with an extreme form of fantasy that relied on continuous sexual tension. The story made Ana, a shy and innocent girl, fall for Christian, a cold-hearted billionaire; this is a perfect mashup for creating a romance that hooks people who still dream and fantasize about their first love.

Joshua Ehiosun
About Joshua Ehiosun
Joshua is an undying lover of literary works. With a keen sense of humor and passion for coining vague ideas into state-of-the-art worded content, he ensures he puts everything he's got into making his work stand out. With his expertise in writing, Joshua works to scrutinize pieces of literature.
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