50 Shades of Grey, E. L. James; Chapter Seven
I feel like I’ve been away for a long time. That said, I realise this is hardly one of those books that you forget where you were up to when you put it down for a bit, so there’s no need for a “previously…” recap.
Ana has just stepped into Christian Grey’s “playroom,” an expensively decked out BDSM dungeon.
The narrative runs between being acutely naive
“It’s called a flogger.” Christian’s voice is quiet and soft.
A flogger… hmmm. I think I’m in shock. My subconscious has emigrated or been strick dumb or simply keeled over and expired. I am numb.
— and sounding like it’s from a catalogue describing home dungeon packages. (I assume someone offers this since there’d definitely be a buck in it, particularly given how popular this book is.)
The description of the room and all the implements feels superfluous, especially since Ana is meant to have no idea what any of this stuff is and the descriptions sound far too seasoned. The result is a weird mismatch of narrative dissonance.
To summarise, he has a room full of BDSM gear and a four-poster bed. The furniture is dark red wood, which Ana somehow knows is mahogany (this annoys me, too: how the fuck does she know what type of wood this is? …remember, she doesn’t know anything about DIY or carpentry, people).
Ana looks around the room and is in complete shock. And I actually feel a bit bad for her, and hate Grey even more because it’s clear that she’s fucking clueless and he’s totally not made things clear until now. That’s mean. Especially since the whole thing about this sort of stuff is meant to be about trust and a level of communication and, well, maturity. Both of these people suck at maturity and communication.
What is the appropriate response to finding out that a potential lover is a complete freaky sadist or masochist?
Eek. That sentence. It sounds like it’s written by a 14 year old who’s never heard of this stuff or like it’s been recycled a few times by Google Translate.
Fear… yes… that seemes to be the overriding feeling. I recognise it now. But weirdly not of him– I don’t think he’d hurt me, well, not without my consent.
Awesome: she can recognise feelings. This may make her slightly less fucked than Grey (we don’t know about his ability to recognise his feelings yet. I’m sure it will be a point of interest down the track).
Firstly, that section sounded so clunky and awkward that I’m wanting to do things to the editor which would probably make Christian Grey look like a balanced, normal human being. Secondly, what Ana and Christian have demonstrated in their capacity to understand “consent” is horrifying.
Um, Ana: this is the guy who said he wouldn’t touch you without written consent and then changed his mind on a whim and slammed you up against an elevator, using restraint tactics that would make even the dodgiest security guard go, “Nope, not going there, I’ll get sued,” pulling your hair and hurting you and not even giving you the capacity to refuse his advances or not consent, so hearing you talk about what you think he would or wouldn’t do without your consent is a moot point.
“Say something,” Christian commands, his voice deceptively soft.
“Do you do this to people or do they do it to you?”
His mouth quirks up, either amused or relieved.
Oh god. It makes me think of that really creepy smirky smile thing that Kristoph Gavin does in one of his sprites in Apollo Justice. And that guy has been described as High Octane Nightmare Fuel on TVTropes.
And it just gets better.
“People?” He blinks a couple of times as he considers his answer. “I do this to women who want me to.”
You hear that, kids? He seems genuinely tripped out to hear Ana referring to his past vict– I mean, partners– as people. That’s okay, they’re just women. With submissive/masochistic/non-existent self-esteem/whatever tendencies; they’re not, like, you know, people. I think that this is seriously one of the most horrifying things I’ve read in awhile, because even with context, it’s still pretty damned awful.
I don’t understand.
And that just makes it even more horrifying, Ana.
“If you have willing volunteers, why am I here?”
Because they got mouthy and had to be disposed of, Ana, and it looks like you’ll break like a match stick.
“Because I want to do this with you, very much.”
“Oh,” I gasp. Why?
Her complete naivete about this is really scary and awful.
“You’re a sadist?”
“I’m a Dominant.” His eyes are a scorching grey, intense.
“What does that mean?” I whisper.
“It means I want you to willingly surrender yourself to me, in all things.”
I frown at him as I try to assimilate the idea.
“Why would I do that?”
“To please me,” he whispers as he cocks his head to one side and I see the ghost of a smile.
Please him! He wants me to please him! I think my mouth drops open. Please Christian Grey.
Oh, fuck. Where to start? Let’s begin with the fact that there is a world of difference between liking some sadomasochistic kinky sex and a complete lifestyle total power exchange thing. It’s a bit like comparing, I dunno, enjoying a French film every now and then to going, “Fuck this, I’m moving to France forever. Au revoir.” Let’s continue with the notion that clearly there’s more to this than just domination and that there has to be at least *some* level of sadism going on here given his range of equipment (and stuff that gets mentioned later on in the chapter) and that it is possible for someone to be dominant and masochistic. Grey’s skeleton explanation is coming across as really freakish and controlling. Sorry, but you’re into this stuff and you want to do it with someone else who is clueless? You damn well owe them a proper explanation of what’s going on and more than vague answers.
Finally, what’s with him cocking his head to the side all the time? Inner ear problems? We’ve had a few of these mentions. It’s happened enough to look like a tic.
Ana decides that yep, with the limited understanding she has of things, she wants to please Christian Grey above all else, and asks how to go about that. Grey explains he has rules and that if Ana doesn’t follow them, she’ll be punished. Grey says some malarky about trust and about gaining Ana’s, which is another moot point since she quite clearly already trusts him so much that it’s already like reading The Walrus and the Carpenter from Alice’s Adventures Through the Looking Glass and knowing that this is not going to end nicely.
For the first time ever, Ana asks what she gets out of the deal. Him. Um, all right. A mutual exchange of trust? Some great sex? Her desires catered to? Nope. Him.
They leave the room because Grey is finding it distracting having Ana in there and clearly the guy has control issues including some very flimsy self-control by the sounds of it. A light finally pings on in Ana’s brain and she realises that she’s out of her depth and that the guy’s dangerous.
“I’m not going to hurt you, Anastasia.”
I know he speaks the truth.
Yeah, Ana, those floggers and that talk of punishment is just for dramatic effect. Unless of course, he’s not going to hurt you provided you do everything he says. I’ll just meditate on this idea for a few moments. Yep. Still fucking creepy. Actually, on levels of creepiness, I’ve come across Snape/Harry fic which has been far less creepy than this.
Grey takes no time in then showing Ana a room with a lovely view, all in “sterile, cold white” and a double bed.
“This will be your room. You can decorate it how you like, have whatever you like in here.”
Wow. Presumptuous, much. Thankfully Ana is horrified, but Grey reassures her that he doesn’t mean he wants her moving in for reals, just from Friday through Sunday. No more weekends of drunken wenchery for you, Ana. He then tells her that they “have to talk about all that, negotiate.” If Ana wants to do this, of course.
Sleeping arrangements are discussed. Ana will sleep alone in there. Grey sleeps elsewhere.
My mouth presses in a hard line. This is what I cannot reconcile. Kind, caring Christian who rescues me from inebriation and holds me gently while I’m throwing up into the azaleas, and the monster who possesses whips and chains in a special room.
Please don’t let it be just me who is thinking, “If you’re this bothered by his kinks, then maybe you should be going, “Okay, that’s a dealbreaker”? The BDSM dungeon and even his preferences don’t make him a monster. His treatment of you, his attitude towards women, and his creepiness which has been evident from day dot are what makes him a monster.
There’s more of Ana saying she’s not hungry and Grey pushing her to eat because this is a recurring theme, and they sit down to some grapes and cheeses and then Grey allows her to ask some questions. And they talk about setting limits, which is again seems like a moot point since he’s already demonstrated that he’s reckless to her consent, but hey, why let that get in the way of E. L. James demonstrating that she’s watched Secretary and had some BDSM fantasies of her own?
“And if I don’t want to do this?”
“That’s fine,” he says carefully.
“But we won’t have any sort of relationship?” I ask.
“This is the only sort of relationship I’m interested in.”
Um, Ana, this is the bit where you realise that he isn’t interested in you as, you know, a friend or a human being, but as a thing to fuck and control, and this is where you go, “Um, fuck off, creep.” Hate to tell you, sweetheart, but relationships don’t just come in “sexual,” and if someone decides that you’re not even worth much as company because you don’t want to have sex their chosen way, guess what? They’re not interested in you for your brains or your personality or whatever else. Get out before he starts getting insanely creepy and before you get used, because quite clearly you’re in it for the emotional gooey stuff and he’s made it crystal clear that he’s not. He doesn’t even see you as human. You’re just a woman.
He shrugs. “It’s the way I am.”
Okay, dude, you realise that. In addition, you realise you’re this domly powerful manly thing, and you know what? With that power comes, well, responsibility. If you know yourself that well, you owe it to people you want these sorts of relationships with to not be a douche. You be upfront with them about what you want and what they can expect from you. And you don’t, for the love of god, lead idiots or feeble-minded children down the garden path for kicks. If you’re responsible enough to be domly, you’ve seriously got to have some idea of what abusing power looks like. And, well, Mr. Grey, I’d say you’ve got a metric fucktonne of learning to do.
“How did you become this way?”
“Why is anyone the way they are? That’s kind of hard to answer. Why do some people like cheese and other people hate it? Do you like cheese? Mrs. Jones– my housekeeper– has left this for supper.” He takes some large white plates from a cupboard and places one in front of me.
We’re talking about cheese… holy crap
I don’t know about anyone else, but that last line cracked me up. Ana’s inner monologue sounds like someone who’s smoked a lot of weed and who is tripped out by a discussion about cheese. I don’t know why talking about cheese is so intense, but apparently it is.
Anyway, Ana asks about the rules, Grey says they’ll talk after she’s eaten, she doesn’t want to eat (anyone else seeing a pattern here?) and he tells her She. Will. Eat.
They talk a bit about the situation, there is a completely not cliched moth-to-flame reference, and Ana asks how many women have gone before her. Fifteen, apparently. And she’s number sixteen. And surely I’m not the only one getting really hideous Dexter flashes, am I?
Ana asks a bit about these women, if he’s hurt them (yes) if he’ll hurt her (there’s a roundabout way of him saying yes) and she sips more wine, deciding that alcohol will make her brave. Oh no. All I’m doing now is sighing. Not long ago she was iffy about alcohol because of her drunken escapade the previous night. Now she’s deciding booze will make her brave.
Anyway, they head to the study and he goes through the rules, which are grouped into categories. Basically, Ana will do anything Grey says in following instruction and agree to any sexual activity deemed pleasurable by Grey. Since Grey is the master of objectivity and self-control, we all know nothing can go wrong there, right?
Anyway, blah blah blah, Ana will sleep at least seven hours a night, Ana will “eat regularly to maintain her health and well-being from a prescribed list of foods,” and “not snack between means with the exception of fruit.”
Fuck you, you motherfucking control freak shithead. Seriously, what if the girl has fucking food issues (as PLENTY of women in Western civilisation do?) Who made you a dietitian? Why is this meant to be sexy? OMFG, this was the point where I wanted to throw the book across the room. Just… fuck. If you’re going to fuck around with this stuff, bloody well have some sort of idea of what you’re doing. OMFG. Rageypants time, hardcore.
Also, while we’re on food, compare with the way food is used and mentioned in the other series I’m reading.
The other rules include clothing (Grey gives her a clothing allowance but chooses how she dresses); exercise (Ana will see a personal trainer four times a week for exercise, personal trainer will report back to Grey on her progress– just in case controlling what she eats doesn’t already fuck with the girl’s body image); personal hygiene (Ana will stay clean and tidy and “keep herself waxed and shaved at all times” and attend beauty salons of Grey’s choosing and undergo whatever treatments Grey wants her to– you thought Kate’s makeover was horrible, Ana…? Also: hate to state the obvious, but there is nothing dirty about having, er, body hair); personal safety (Ana won’t drink, use drugs, smoke or put herself in danger) and other crap under the heading of “personal qualities” (Ana will be respectful and modest and not have sex with anyone else and do nothing to embarrass Grey).
Reading all that I thought, “Well, fuck. If this is the book that is saving marriages, I think I want to write myself out of humanity.” Seriously, this is depressing. And surely a dude with that much cash and time on his hands could get himself a Real Doll, right?
Another thought I had on this: does everyone remember when The Surrendered Wife was all the rage in the self-help section and it was apparently saving marriages? (I still don’t think it’s “saving a marriage” if one party caves in completely to the other’s whims. That’s a bit like saying that we won’t have to worry about wars if one of those pesky sides just gives up and lets the other one take over all their stuff and kill all their people.) This is like a really crappy, fictionalised version of the excerpts of the book that I read, only with added, poorly-researched and some sort of hella problematic bastardised version of BDSM.
There’s negotiation about the clothes which ends with Grey telling her he wants to splash cash. There’s a bit of a disagreement about the amount of exercise. And that’s it.
Oh, Grey has limits, too.
No fireplay. He’s probably scared Ana will set the place on fire in rage for being treated like dirt once she cottons on to the fact that he is using her.
No scat/urine stuffs. Thank fucking god is all I can say to that one.
No blood play. Or piercing play.
No gynecological instrument stuff. (What? This one seems like a random inclusion. I’m having visions of E. L. James doing very basic kink research and suddenly realising what some people get up to and going, “EEERRRRRGH! Not writing that stuff!”)
No bestiality or pedophilia. Thank fucking Christ for that. Or not: perhaps the book wouldn’t have had such wide appeal if that stuff HAD been included.
No breathplay. No permanent marking of the skin. No direct contact of electrical currents (don’t taze me, bro!) and again, no fireplay. (Is there some backstory involving Grey having some sort of fireplay-gone-wrong thing happen to him? Is that what made him such a nasty little prick and control freak?)
And you know what else? No fucking safe word. Probably the most alarming of all of this: it doesn’t even bear mentioning, which is scarier than any of the rest of this stuff, especially if we’re talking about anything barring some very out there and extreme limits and people with unknown pasts, a major fucking lifestyle situation as opposed to casual fun sexytimes, someone who really has no idea about consent and saying “no” and that the whole lot is meant to be erotic and sensual and hot stuff.
Look at it this way: even in some of the most extreme settings ever– including ones which go beyond Grey’s limits– people will use safe words. Reference to The Administration again: one of the first things Warrick and Toreth actually do is sort themselves out with safe words before they get their kink on, and Toreth is meant to be a sociopath according to most people.
Another point worth making: it’s more realistic. People actually do that stuff IRL.
But not these two.
The chapter ends on the fun-filled note of Grey asking Ana what her limits are, Ana sort blushing, and admitting that she doesn’t know because she’s never had sex before and doesn’t know what she doesn’t like. Grey flips out and gets pissed because apparently Ana’s virginity should have been mentioned to him before now and is a topic of extreme importance.
I felt dirty after reading this book. Not in an ooh-la-la sexeh kind of way, in a “Ew, need shower” kind of way.