A Recent Phenomenon

Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James has captured the collective imagination of women around the world since it was first published in May 2011. It was initially published as an eBook, then the unprecedented popularity led to its being published in hard copy. Since then, two sequels have been written (each more popular than the last). The audience for this trilogy seems to be the thirty-something and forty-something mothers, which I find interesting. As a curious husband, I have set out to discover why this particular series is so popular within the 'yummy mummy' demographic.


Fifty Shades of Grey begins with Anastasia Steele, the main character and a literature student, going to interview a famous businessman by the name of Christian Grey. He is a high-class businessman with a substantial net worth. The two experience an immediate attraction though the innocent Anastasia feels she is no match for the handsome, charming and uber-rich Christian Grey. Christian, however, pursues her while at the same time warning her not to get close to him. He is a man haunted by his traumatic past. At first he is only interested in a dominant-submissive relationship with Anastasia and she is willing to explore this type of relationship with him. As she finds herself falling deeper and deeper in love with him she realizes that she cannot continue in this type of relationship with him. She wants more than he can give her. The end of the book finds her calling off their relationship.

The second book of the trilogy is called Fifty Shades Darker. Anastasia pursues her new career as an editor’s assistant at a Seattle publishing house. Anastasia and Christian are both miserable without one another and when they have an opportunity to meet again shortly after their break-up, they both jump at the chance. They find themselves once again drawn to one another and they rekindle their romance. This time, however, Christian is offering Anastasia the “more” that he was previously unable to provide for her. This book finds Anastasia coming face-to-face with two different women from Christian’s past. The book ends with Anastasia having a confrontation with her boss who is then fired and Christian proposing to her.

The last book of the trilogy is Fifty Shades Freed, which is when both of their lives start to change dramatically.  The book begins with Anastasia and Christian on their honeymoon. Their bliss however is short-lived as they discover that someone is after them with the intent of causing harm. Car chases and passionate sex scenes lend to the excitement of book three.

What Makes This So Popular?

There is nothing out of the ordinary about the plot or the writing style; however this book has broken into the mainstream due to its portrayal of sex, relationship and fantasy. There is very little difference between the Fifty Shades trilogy and lesser-known romance titles. However, the people I have spoken with read these books because they enjoy the fantasy of having a relationship where someone gives a woman everything, loves her so completely and where the sexual chemistry is so profound. Perhaps this resonates more with young mothers, whose real lives are very different from Anastasia’s. Anastasia is pampered and cared for like no other woman. Most readers are juggling their time between careers, family and community responsibilities with precious little time saved for themselves. This trilogy gives a voice to an aspect of the readers that may have long been silent, as this need for nurturing can be difficult to explain to a partner. I have heard of wives who have photocopied excerpts for their partners. This has been a benefit to the husbands as they gain a better understanding of what is needed from them, especially when it comes to the sexual side of their relationship or marriage.

Fifty Shades of Grey will captivate the reader. This franchise has become so popular that copycat books are being published, iPhone apps have been produced and a movie is now in production with Universal Pictures. I believe that the popularity of this series has provided a forum for couples to discuss intimacy issues like they never have in the past. The books themselves will never win a Pulitzer Prize, however the dialogue that is taking place is valuable for both partners in committed relationships.

If you have read the series, I would be very interested to hear whether these books have resulted in new and meaningful discussions with your partner on issues of intimacy. Please use the comments box below and keep the content safe for all readers.