50 Shades of Grey, E. L. James; Chapter Ten
At the end of the last chapter, readers were left with the first thing that’s resembled anything close to a cliff-hanger in the entire series.
Like just about every other newly-introduced concept in this book, though, it’s made me break out the Grumpycat face and go “Why?” And trust me, I’ve done that so many times now whilst reading this that I wish to add it to the list of things that a couple of others have proposed be on the list of the “Shades” Drinking Game. Amongst these we have Ana’s inner monologue (or Subconscious or Inner Goddess or something if you’re E. L. James, or Inner George Takei if you’re me) saying “Oh My,” references to Grey wanting to bite Ana’s lip and/or being distracted when she bites her lip, the use of the word “fervent” or any variation thereof, overly-long descriptions of interior decoration or clothing, and references to Ana’s Inner Goddess doing some form or dance or another. (I’m waiting for the Inner Goddess to do the Macarena. Or the Time Warp.)
The drinking game concept is one that makes me think that maybe readers of this book who aren’t falling in love with it have some kind of hive mind thing going on, because I thought, “Hmm, Shades Drinking Game…” after noticing repetition, Jennifer Armintrout, who readthrough-blogged the whole series (and whose reviews I love and don’t read until after my reviews of specific chapters because I don’t want to be influenced by her commentary… though I’m finding it hilarious that in some cases we’re both coming to the same conclusions about things) did the same thing, and on a community for an entirely different, unrelated series, the book came up in conversation and someone else mentioned a drinking game.
My version of the Shades Drinking Game goes like this:
“Fervent” or variation
Lengthier-than-necessary description of interior decoration or an outfit
“Crap” (and double- or triple- crap means repeating for the multiplying factor, of course)
Inner Goddess appearance
Inner Goddess dancing
Ana’s lip being bitten references
Ana having negative body image self-talk
Reference to Grey being controlling and/or perfect-looking
Reader makes Grumpycat face
= 1 sip
“Subconscious” interacting with Ana
Kate’s pyjamas described
Kate referred to as “tenacious”
Grey’s hair referred to as messy in some fashion
Pirate or nautical references
Twinings English Breakfast tea mentioned
Dubious consent issues
Grey tilting his head or looking down at Ana
Grey getting issuey and control-freaky about Ana’s food intake
References to body hair removal
Grey described as Adonis-like
“Apex of my thighs”
Grey telling Ana to orgasm
Grey referring to Ana as “young”
= 2 sips
While this is probably enough to get you completely sozzled after fifteen minutes of reading, I’ll add these just because you’re going to need extra doses of alcohol to numb the horror:
References to Grey doing something “gently”
References to things which should never be referred to during sex scenes: ie. children, animals, military strategy
Descriptions of orgasmic reactivity which defy what is commonly understood to be normal working order of the human body and the laws of physics
Ana blaming herself for some dude being creepy towards her
Stupid inconsistent plot issues/plot holes so enormous you could fly Grey’s helicopter through them and there’d still be room around them
Sexual practises that don’t seem well-researched at all or liable to leave someone in serious amounts of pain or the emergency room afterwards
Grey completely 180ing on his “limits,” either the ones he’s stated in the contract or the ones he’s talked about
= drain your glass and refill in anticipation of more things to be drinking at. Trust me there will be more. Hell, there are quite possibly horrors I’m unaware of and haven’t even considered, like various hazing rituals or a rotting tooth: you have a vague idea that it’s bad, but when you actually learn the truth, you realise that a part of you never actually comprehended that level of awfulness until that point in time. Unfortunately, I have a fairly vivid imagination anyway and I’m apparently a natural pessimist, so I always *think* I’ve imagined the worst of things to come, but even I’ve been caught out. And it ain’t pretty.
Anyway, the cliffhanger we ended on last chapter involved Ana being all gooey because she had her first experience with bondage, Grey was all rambly about how perfect they were for one another, and then everything was interrupted by Grey’s mother who seemingly has the same lack of understanding about people having private lives and apparently no phone recption or a dead battery (yet she has his house keys).
Anyone remember that episode of Sex and the City where Carrie hooks up with the overgrown manchild and they smoke weed in his parents’ place and Mom comes home and finds out and it’s all very awkward? (And the suggestion is that Carrie gets blamed for her son being a dope fiend?) I’m expecting that to happen here. That Lady Grey (since it is her last name and we have a tea theme going on here, ‘kay?) is going to see her tied up and accuse Ana of corrupting her innocent little darling.
Anyway, let’s find out.
I’m going to add, too, before embarking upon this chapter; there’s a trigger warning for sexual assault apologetics towards the end. And mentions of childhood sexual abuse. (Because it isn’t much fun getting hit outta left field with that shit, and most people wouldn’t expect that in, um, a book that’s meant to make you feel sexy. [And I realise that some people reading my blog haven’t read Shades themselves and might not be aware of it.])
The chapter starts with this ultra-romantic opening:
He pulls out of me suddenly. I wince. He sits up on the bed and throws the used condom in a wastebasket.
I don’t think, in Ana’s vivid descriptions of the contents of the room, a wastebasket was mentioned, but continuity isn’t exactly a strong point in this book, and it’s nicer than wondering if he just left the used condom somewhere in the bed. And before someone looks at me and goes, “Now, really, no one does that,” lemme say that unfortunately, I have experiences which challenge such idealistic notions. I’ve also cleaned rich people’s houses before, and money doesn’t necessarily mean “understands the function of a rubbish bin.”
Anyway, Grey seems to take the surprising intrusion into his home and personal life from his mother in his stride, and merely grins at Ana, telling her that they need to get dressed if she wants to meet his mother. Let’s just say that having met some parentals early into relationships with their offspring, you know what? If I was Ana, I’d possibly prefer to stay tied up and hidden in the bedroom.
“Christian– I can’t move.”
His grin widens, and leaning down, he undoes the tie. The woven pattern has made an indentation around my wrists. It’s… sexy.
Until people start noticing it when you’re at work, Ana.
He gazes at me. He’s amused, his eyes dancing with mirth. He kisses my forehead quickly and beams at me.
“Another first,” he acknowledges, but I have no idea what he’s talking about.
I suspect he’s noticed the indents in her wrists, but that’s a vague guess, and to be honest, I don’t particularly care. There are a lot of “firsts” here, too, including “First time getting busted by mom,” too, but hey.
Ana is panicked about things, and decides that perhaps it’s a smarter idea to stay in the bedroom after all.
“Oh no, you don’t,” Christian threatens. “You can wear something of mine.”
Firstly: hang on: I thought he was giving her some choice in the matter of meeting his mother– and secondly, threatening her?
In spite of my anxiety, I lose my train of thought. His beauty is derailing.
I think that was meant to sound poetic. Train of thought. Derailing? Geddit? Also, fight-or-flight doesn’t work like that. Humans have evolved over thousands of years and some stuff is hardwired into base, biological reaction: one of those few things people can agree on is fight-or-flight, and extreme panic will block out everything else if you’re desperate to survive or escape that panic. Either Ana isn’t that freaked out, or Grey’s beauty isn’t that distracting. This isn’t one of those shades of grey things.
“Anastasia, you could be wearing a sack and you’d still look lovely. Please don’t worry. I’d like you to meet my mother. Get dressed. I’ll just go and calm her down.”
First, he tries ridiculous, Google-translate-multi-cycled dialogue, which is almost flattering, and then
His mouth presses into a hard line. “I will expect you in that room in five minutes, otherwise I’ll come and drag you out of here myself in whatever you’re wearing. […]”
So apparently he doesn’t just do the Jekyll-and-Hyde thing in bed.
And Ana, rather than doing what any sensible person in her place would do (which is wait for him to piss off, before throwing on a T-shirt and then climbing out the window and running far and fast) starts getting contemplative about meeting Grey’s mother, thinking that maybe she’ll understand him a bit more. (Which is a fair point, and the only reason I’m interested in her. Seriously, a lot of guys who hate women have mother issues. I wonder if it’s justified sometimes.)
She picks up her shirt off the floor, and because this is female fantasy reading, she’s delighted to see “that it has survived the night well with hardly any creases.” Because that would totally be a prime concern at this point in time, wouldn’t it? She finds her bra, and has a minor freakout that her knickers aren’t clean.
Again, I raise my eyebrows. Maybe I fail at “ladylike” entirely, but Ana: they’re your knickers. No one else has worn them. Put them on, meet his mother, go home, have a shower, get changed. It’s not that huge a deal. But apparently it is, and wearing his Calvin Kleins is totally less weird and awkward. She puts on her jeans and Converse, leading me to wonder why a lack of socks isn’t pissing her off if she can’t handle putting on already-worn undies.
And apparently just-fucked pigtails don’t suit her (along with every other hairstyle, it seems: just shave your head and be done with it, Ana) she fixes her hair up with more complaining.
Apparently the slut-shaming isn’t limited to Ana’s inner monologue talking about Kate, or her own statements to the girl, either.
Maybe I should take Christian up on his offer of clothes. My subconscious purses her lips and mouths the word “Ho.”
Again, maybe I fail at ladylike, but you know what? If he’s offered, and since you’ve already been told the only thing you’re getting out of the relationship is him, Ana, you might as well take advantage of whatever fringe benefits you’re being offered as well. Also, if he gets to dictate what you wear, he bloody well should be paying for it. It’s not like a workplace uniform that you get to claim on your tax.
Christian introduces Ana to his mother as though she’s making her debut or something, with a “Here she is” while he’s in the living area, and then introduces her by name.
Mother is impeccably dressed in a camel coloured knit dress and of course matching shoes. Her name is Dr. Grace Trevelyan-Grey, which sounds like something out of a science fiction novel. At least it doesn’t sound like a romance writer’s nom de plume/porn star/Mary Sue name.
Since she sounds kind of formal and severe, I’m interested to see how this goes.
She holds out her hand.
“What a pleasure to meet you,” she murmurs. If I’m not mistaken, there is wonder and maybe stunned relief in her voice and warm glow in her hazel eyes.
Maybe you ARE mistaken, though, Ana, and this is that cool, overly-polite-but-totally-caustic thing a lot of upperclass people have down to a fine art. Or maybe the stunned relief is that she’s seen you alive and/or not covered in bruising. No, seriously: I am trying to work out why else on the stunned relief.
Surprisingly, she seems to genuinely take to Ana. I don’t know if this is E. L. James writing fantasy where the mother-in-law figure is really pleasant (because anyone who has dealt with MIL drama knows that it really sucks, and it seems to happen frequently enough for people to groan in sympathy when standup comedians start talking about it) or just being lazy and using Mom as a prop, or Ana is the Biggest Mary Sue Ever and everyone loves her and if they don’t they’re awful people in that Bella Swann kind of way, or if Grace is just a friendly person who is being nice, but she’s warmed to Ana fairly quickly.
Christian frowns when she asks Ana to use her first name and explains that Mrs. Grey is her mother-in-law.
She asks how they met, Ana explains briefly, and then her phone rings and she steps aside. Kate? Noooo: it’s Jose. Damn: I was hoping he’d gotten the message and pissed off by now. (Also, one would have hoped that Ana would have blocked his number, too.)
Jose is ringing, days later, because he’s had a lightbulb moment of “Friends don’t try to force themselves on their friends” or “I’d better apologise to her before she hooks up with Grey” or something equally asinine, and he tells her that he needs to apologise for his behaviour. Ana tells him that he’s called at a bad time. Jose then starts whinging about how Kate’s being so evasive with him.
Oh my fucking god.
DUDE. You don’t get to whinge about either Ana OR Kate not wanting to have anything to do with you, you disrespectful piece of crap. Furthermore, you don’t get to ask where Ana is or get shitty that she’s with another man.
Sheesh. Ladies: this is what people are referring to when we talk about dudes with Nice Guy Syndrome. (Ten bucks says that later down the track Jose will whine about how girls only want to date assholes, conveniently forgetting that he meets the criteria and no one wants to date him.)
Anyway, Ana hangs up on him not because she’s grown a spine but because she’s got more important issues in front of her– like Grey’s mother– and she walks back to Grace and Grey and their conversation.
“I thought we might have lunch together, but I can see you have other plans, and I don’t want to interrupt your day.”
Wow: can we say passive-aggressive much? The moment Ana walks off, we get to see another side of Mommy Dearest, who, perhaps should have called him up and seen if he was available before barging into his house and saying that in front of the girl he’s with.
She gathers up her long cream coat and turns to him, offering him her cheek. He kisses her briefly, sweetly. She doesn’t touch him.
Yeah: just a touch icy. Ana, she was doing that “polite” thing rich people in movies (and sometimes real life) do to suggest that behaving in a manner depicting disapproval overtly is beneath them, but so are you. Don’t expect a Christmas card from her, kiddo.
“I have to drive Anastasia back to Portland.”
“Of course, darling. Anastasia, it’s been such a pleasure. I do hope we meet again.” She holds out her hand to me, her eyes glowing, and we shake.
Okay, I’m genuinely confused. Am I meant to understand that they like one another? Because all I’m seeing here is passive-aggressive, subtle vying for dominance stuff from Grace, and submissive cluelessness from Ana. And I really am confused: this is like when I started reading The Fountainhead with no knowledge of the book and the blurb talked about a passionate love story, and I kept waiting for Roark and Keating to have epic libertarian gay sex and I was genuinely “Hang on, wtf, they DON’T hook up?” when Dominique Francon turns up as Howard’s love interest. (And then I doubled over with even more confusion when I found out that Ayn Rand was a raving homophobe given that there’s so much homoeroticism in her books that you’d think you were in ancient Greece if you took out the technology and the “American capitalism RULES” stuff mentioned in them.) I’m genuinely not sure what is going on here.
From a plotting point, I’m not sure why Mom made her appearance then, either, but there’s a lot going on in this book that feels kind of random, so I’ll just deal.
Anyway, Taylor appears mysteriously, (again, I don’t know, and I’m not asking questions) and escorts her out, and can we say Biggest Anticlimatic Moment Ever, ladies and gentlemen? I was actually wondering about his mother.
Once she’s gone, Grey asks if it was Jose who rang because he’s a mind reader and stuff, and he glares at Ana about it because apparently it’s her fault that he’s not the only creepster stalking her.
Back the fuck up here for a moment: Grey’s sounding stern and pissed off because Ana got a call from Jose. I’m glad Jose didn’t rape her, because I’m suspecting he’d have blamed– oh, wait, he came close to it– Ana for that, too. You’d think he’d offer something macho and protective, like to send hired goons out to kneecap Jose or something, but before he can do that Taylor interrupts him with work stuff about an issue with the “Darfur shipment.” What’s Grey involved with here? Arms dealings? Does that explain what the problem is?
Anyway, Grey gets all cold and businesslike and there’s talk about the helicopter and Ana asks if Taylor lives there. Yes, he does, and Grey’s in a bad mood about something (the Darfur shipment, having to drive Ana to Portland, missing out on lunch with his mother, Jose calling? I don’t know) and there’s some boring businessy talk stuff he does over his phone, and almost like an afterthought, he nicks off into his study, grabs the contract, and gives it to Ana advising her to read it, and to research stuffs and that they’ll talk about it next week.
“You’ll be amazed what you can find on the internet,” he murmurs.
This is the sort of thing airheaded lifestyle show hosts would say with wonder back on TV shows in the mid-to-late-nineties before the net explosion and when the general consensus was that only nerds used modems, and when the internet was this weird novelty and a bit of a luxury. It’s the sort of thing I’d say if I was being snarky after someone asked a stupid question, or in an entirely different voice when trying to explain the diversity of fandom to people. But, I digress.
Internet! I don’t have access to a computer
Dafuq? How the hell were you writing assignments, Ana? What about online discussion tutes for your degree? What about, um, research? (Assuming, once again, of course, that you actually did some and didn’t outsource your study requirements and assessments to other people.) I was at uni, erm, more than ten years ago, and even then, the internet was pretty much a must-have for study back then. Furthermore, if you have a smartphone, you have internet access, Ana. And if not: you live in a large city where surely there’s a library or an internet cafe or somewhere for internet access.
Apparently Ana only uses the computers at school, but if they’re anything like the computers at most universities, there’ll be Net Nanny type stuff all over them and unless Ana’s willing to curry favours with some computer science students, she’s probably not going to figure out how to circumvent this stuff and get the information she’s looking for.
Grey tells her he can let her borrow one (once he’s put a keystroke logger on it, I presume) and tells her to get her stuff because they’re about to go. Ana wants to make a call. She needs to hear Kate’s voice, apparently. Nope. No subtext there at all. Right?
Either way, Grey gets pissy and jealous and goes back into Mr. Hyde mode because he’s assuming she’s trying to call Jose.
His jaw clenches and his eyes burn. I blink at him. “I don’t like to share, Miss Steele. Remember that.”
Wow. Can we say entitled little fuckwit, much, kids? Not only did he not even give Ana a chance to explain what was going on (nor should she have had to) but he’s assuming that any relationship with another person has got to be about “sharing” her with him. He either thinks she’s sleeping with everyone she interacts with, or he has problems with her having relationships of ANY type with people who aren’t him.
Which leads me to:
a) He’s insecure
b) He’s being abusive
This isn’t romantic. This is creepy. This is the sort of stuff which domestic violence information packs would call “alarm bells” and what I’d call a big fucking get the fuck out of there siren.
Furthermore, what the fuck does he think is going on with Jose? Jose was in the process of sexually assaulting her when Grey last saw him. One would assume that if they’re talking, Ana didn’t initiate it and that she’s certainly not going to be hooking up with him. Unless Grey truly believes Ana is a creature of Stockholm Syndromey fucked-up-ness and that she completely melts for sociopathic creeps who don’t give a shit about her consenting to stuff.
Oh. Wait. That’s why Grey’s so hot for her, isn’t it?
Holy crap. I just wanted to call Kate, I want to call after him, but his sudden aloofness has left me paralysed. What happened to the generous, relaxed, smiling man who was making love to me not half an hour ago?
Jesus fucking Christ. I really want to nitpick about Ana’s irritating inner monologue, but the last sentence just made me sad.
Ana, they are the same godamned person. This is how abuse works. You see, if he’s overtly creepy, violent, emotionally abusive, controlling, manipulative (and every other adjective I can throw in describing Grey’s shittier side) all of the time, you aren’t going to like him, especially not when he’s trying to seduce you. Once he’s suckered you in, he peppers the abusiveness with kindness, so you start doubting yourself. Then your shitty self-esteem gets even worse. Then the majority of his behaviour is creepy and abusive and controlling, but he sprinkles in some good times so you’re reminded that he isn’t all that bad. Hell, you might even start blaming yourself, especially when he’s started convincing you that it’s your fault when men are abusive towards you and when they don’t give a shit about your boundaries. By this point, he’s isolated you from your friends and any support contacts you might have so basically, you’re feeling fucking trapped.
Let’s step back from this: what are Grey’s actual good points? Okay, he’s pretty. Okay, he has lots of money, and cool stuff. Okay, he buys you things, which could be construed as generousity (or control attempts, or a way of trying to buy your affection, or a way to put down your own sense of autonomy and decision making in how you choose to adorn yourself, or a tactic to be used at a later date when he starts calling you a whore). What else? He’s introducing you to nifty sex stuff, which probably wouldn’t be such a big deal if you had figured out how to get yourself off ages ago.
Beyond this? His bad points are vastly overshadowing his good points. You know it’s pretty bad when even someone who likes bad-guy complete-mess unhinged characters gets this far and goes, “You know, um, nope. This guy has so few redeeming qualities that he’d have to get put into solitary confinement for his own safety if he ever wound up in prison. And even then, the staff would have to be bribed to actually feed him.”
If this was de Sade or American Psycho, I wouldn’t be this critical, but you know what? This is meant to be the man who is making women wetter than a Melbourne winter. This is meant to be a romantic hero. The only thing less romantic and slightly more scary that I can think of in terms of cultural icons is Pennywise from Stephen King’s It, and that’s because Pennywise is a fucking clown.
Grey puts on his mask of normal cool politeness (and I am disturbed at Ana’s realisation that it is a mask: ANA Y U WANT RELATIONSHIP WITH THIS FUCKSTICK?!) and Ana ponders about why he’s got a bag with him. I love how Ana will overthink details like THAT yet will easily neglect the fact that she’s involving herself with a man who makes Dexter look stable and reasonable. (Actually, I’ll be fair: I have a soft spot for Dex, and at least he doesn’t treat women like, well, this.) She then realises that Grey will be at her graduation.
Another ridiculous description:
He’s wearing a black leather jacket. He certainly doesn’t look like the multi-multimillionaire, billionaire, whatever-aire, in these clothes. He looks like a boy from the wrong side of the tracks, maybe a badly behaved rock star or a catwalk model.
What, like he’s posing? Or like, I dunno, that English guy who was more famous for doing coke and Kate Moss than he was for any actual music? Or, I dunno, if we’re going to talk musos who pose and who are pretty much famous for their douchetastic behaviour, I dunno… er, Chris Brown?
Anyway, they head off, and since Taylor sees them off, Ana starts thinking that Taylor thinks she’s succumbed to Grey’s “dubious sexual habits.” Again, I can’t help but wonder why the fuck you’d be pursuing someone whose sexual proclivities clearly disturb you that much. And the only thing I’m finding dubious, to be honest, is Grey’s behaviour. And Ana’s consent. It’s not about the kink, it’s about him being a creepster, which he could very well be if he was a total lights-off-bedroom-only-nothing-but-missionary position kinda guy.
Ana thinks that she can’t ask Kate about sex, and that she’ll have to seek the perfectly warped (as she described it last chapter) opinion of Grey on the topic. Repetition again, folks.
They get in the lift, and we become aware, yet again, that Ana’s biting her lip because he tells her to stop doing it or he will fuck her in the elevator regardless of any other people needing to use it. Charming. Is that getting your motor running, ladies? It’s making me want to get mine going. Well, the motor on my chainsaw. Also, has anyone else wondered if Ana has, like, indents in her lip from where she’s allegedly always biting it? Maybe her front teeth just naturally move into that position because over time, her lips have accommodated to that position.
Finally, he seems to get out of his scarybad mood, so Ana attempts conversation.
“Christian, I have a problem.”
Yeah, well I’d argue that you have a lot of them, Ana, but hey. One thing at a time, right?
I’m really hoping this is where Ana puts her foot down and says, “I really like you, and I want to fuck your brains out all the time, but you know what? This emotionally-abusive moody-teenager crap is really fucking unappealing and childish,” but instead it’s nothing like that and Ana—yet again—tells Grey that she needs to talk about sex with Kate.
You got it, folks: she’s asking for permission to talk about herself and her experiences. And this is sexual empowerment for women, circa 2012. Can we go back fifteen years where at least galpals could debrief about their sex lives without needing to ask permission on Sex and the City?
I pause, struggling to find the right words. “I just don’t have any terms of reference.”
He rolls his eyes at me.
Wow: there’s behaving like an adult, Grey. I suppose a shred of consideration for the poor girl is completely undoable, right? Oh, wait, you said it chapters ago: she’s not even human in your eyes, she’s just a woman. Fuck. You.
“Talk to her if you must.” He sounds exasperated. “Make sure she doesn’t mention anything to Elliot.”
This is the point where I was almost expecting him to hand Ana a pistol and say “Kill her if you have to.” Because, um, how the fuck is Ana to be held responsible for what Kate says and does? Oh, wait, Ana’s responsible for Jose’s behaviour, too, right, so it only seems fair that she’s responsible for Kate’s, too. Gender equality, Grey style.
Ana assures him that Kate won’t talk, and Grey assures him that Elliot is a nosy bastard who is apparently interested in his sex life. At which point I go, “Erm…” because I’ve never had that sort of interest in what my family members are doing in bed. Is this some sort of vaguely incestuous thing (have fandom people been writing Elliot/Christian Greycest fics?) or is Elliot just creepy? Or, more likely—is Grey just a delusional turd who thinks everyone else is fascinated with the miniature of his life? (Or, hang on: Elliot is one of the “ethical” vampire clan in Twilight, right? I can’t even remember which one he’s meant to be. Obviously not Alice or the blonde woman who is a bitch because she’s blonder and prettier than Bella.)
Grey agrees, making Ana promise to only talk about what they’ve done so far, and then mutters something about how Kate would probably have his balls if she knew what he wanted to do.
The thought of Kate with Christian’s balls is not something I want to dwell on.
Me neither, E. L. James, but cheers for the mental imagery.
His lips quirk up and he shakes his head.
“The sooner I have your submission the better, and we can stop all this,” he murmurs.
“Stop all what?”
“You, defying me.” He reaches down and cups my chin and plants a swift, sweet kiss on my lips as the doors to the elevator open. He grabs my hand and leads me into the underground garage.
Me, defying him… how?
Thankyou, Ana. There is so much mind-bogglingly wrong here that I want to scream. First off, my understanding of BDSM is that someone submits to someone because that someone has earned their trust. They feel safe submitting to them: there might be an element of danger, but there is, overall, an understanding that the person they’re submitting to is trustworthy enough to respect their limits—and that is why we have things like safewords. (Which Grey doesn’t. I wonder what he’s going to do when Ana does her internet research and finds out about safewords.)
Secondly, signing up for kinky sexytimes and other lifestyle arrangements is NOT the same thing as signing up to be a voiceless drone who can’t and won’t have an identity of her own. Remember, too: Grey only wants Ana around for the weekend: for those other four or five days of the week, she has her own life and identity, presumably. Or is she going to have to give that up, too?
Thirdly: how the fuck is it defiance wanting to talk to your friend about something girls generally will discuss with their nearest and dearest?
This is looking awfully like Grey’s attempting to isolate Ana from this angle, but wtf would I know? I’m not a romantic, after all.
They move to his car, and Ana notes that it is
one of those cars that should have a very leggy blonde, wearing nothing but a sash, sprawled across the hood.
Grey, your creepiness is making Ana think about near-naked women draped over cars. (Also, that Ana associates sexy with blonde makes me smile: Ana/Kate ftw.)
“Nice car,” I murmur dryly.
He glances up and grins.
“I know,” he says, and for a split second sweet, young, carefree Christian is back. It warms my heart. He’s so excited. Boys and their toys. I roll my eyes but can’t stifle my smile.
The irony, of course, Ana, is that you’re just another one of his toys. This conversation is a bit like how they feed animals in fur farms their dead, skinned former neighbours, isn’t it?
She asks about the car (Audi R8 Spyder—again, I ask, why this particular type of car? Why not a vintage Jag or something insanely rare and obscure like one of those Italian bat-cars with the nifty suicide doors if we’re thinking sporty? Come on: the guy loves cars and is a gazillionaire. He’s not going to just stroll into a posh showroom and choose something a salesperson has told him is trendy. Also, the car could be TOTALLY used to give some insight into his personality, E. L. James: give him something individual that shows the reader what type of person he is. If I had even a tenth of Grey’s riches, I would have a completely reworked 1975 Falcon XB which I would happily pay other people a shitload of money to make into my dream, customised ride for my main form of transport. [I would also have a completely redone hearse—I’m not overly picky on make and model because pretty much anything would make me happy— from the 1940s. Because seriously, that would be fucking cool.]
And… I’m not even a huge car buff. But even I wouldn’t be just grabbing something off the showroom floor.) and it seems that for all the excitement, Grey doesn’t geek out about his car and its specs like a good little car buff would, and instead tells her they’re going to take the top down and go for a drive and that there are baseball caps and sunglasses for both of them if she wants.
They listen to Bruce Springsteen as they drive along uneventfully, and Ana analyses the significance of the baseball cap. People stare at them, because I think being stared at when you’re in a sports car with a dude who’s a millionaire is a female fantasy, too.
He asks if she’s hungry, which is just Christian-speak for “You WILL Eat, DAMMIT” and so they pull off and he decides they’re going to eat. De ja vu, for the hundredth time, folks.
Funny that I should mention some French here, because next up on the menu is their arrival at a chalet in the woods with rustic décor, clichéd gingham tablecloths, and the name Cuisine Sauvage. I’m no foodie, but I’ve heard about people talking about homestyle cooking in restaurants, though it’s always bewildered me why you need to eat out to get stuff that’s meant to be “homestyle.” That’s sort of like doing your homework at school. And trust me, the reverse doesn’t work, either: I don’t make restaurant-quality food when I’m at home.
Anyway, Grey explains that there’s no menu, and you just get what you’re given. He seems to think that’s funny. Let’s home Ana isn’t severely allergic to anything because that could be a mood killer. Or just a regular killer.
Things get interesting when the waitress arrives.
She flushes when she sees Christian, avoiding eye contact with him, hiding under her long blonde bangs. She likes him! It’s not just me!
News flash, Ana: if you’re rich and attractive, people with flirt with you. Hell, you could be as ugly as sin and people will still flirt with you. Seriously, you could be ugly as sin, a thoroughly mean and hideous person, and have awful politics which are all about screwing over people and ideas about women that belong in the 1950s, and a toupee that makes some of my cosplay wigs look realistic, and women will still be flirting with you. Why are you so surprised, Ana? Honestly.
Also, has anyone noticed that there seems to be some complete oddness about hair colour distribution going on here? Grey’s got auburn hair, right? Ana is a brunette. Everyone else significant to this story—well, significant enough to get a haircolour ascribed to them—Jose being the exception, I believe—is blonde. And if Stephanie Meyer taught us all something important, blondes are the bad guys. Everyone wants to fuck them and they are out to steal your men, ladies. And be prettier than you. And make you feel insecure.
As a blonde, I have to say, I really fucking hated this shit in Twilight and I’m making my unimpressed face seeing it again here. Hair colour is a really fucking stupid measure of attractive, anyway, and from my understanding, and I believe, at least one study someone commissioned, brunettes are actually the mates of choice from respondents, anyway. Also: boo hoo hoo: you feel inferior to people who are blonde, Bella. You hate your hair. Home hair colouring is quick and easy and cost-effective. I mean, FUCK. Or you could rock your sexy-arsed brunette ‘do and be your hair’s best friend. I hate seeing author bias like this.
Grey orders wine for them even though Ana wanted a diet coke instead, the two of them smile back at one another, and then Grey tells her that his mother liked her. Here’s where I’m raising my (blonde, boyfriend-stealing) eyebrows at this since Dr. Grey (OMG, I just noticed it then: cue corny Grey’s anatomy jokes from me now) was coming across as little more than cordial towards Ana and passive-aggressively clingy towards Grey. Apparently she always thought that Grey was gay, and I think the suggestion is that she’s relieved that he’s dating a girl otherwise I’m not sure why it bore mentioning.
Grey explains that since his mother hasn’t seen him with a girl, that’s where her assumptions came from. The logic here is making me roll my eyes. (Furthermore, it’s flawed: how many gay people will date or otherwise have romantic-looking interaction with people of the opposite sex to placate homophobic parents?) Anyway, Ana asks “not one of the fifteen before me?” and Grey is touched that she remembers the number, and this is where I wonder if Dr. Grey never saw them because he disposed of the bodies before she came over (and perhaps that’s why she makes unannounced visits? She’s suss and she wants to catch him in the act?).
Grey reels off a list of firsts he’s had with Ana: never slept with anyone, never had sex in his bed, never flown a girl in the helicopter, and never introduced one of them to his mother. Taking credit for the latter seems a bit cheeky since it wasn’t like he planned to, though.
Over the table, there’s some smiley moments between them, another “stop biting your lip” and they get their wine, and Ana blurts out
“What’s vanilla sex?” I ask, if anything to distract myself from the intense, burning, sexy look he’s giving me. He laughs.
“Just straightforward sex, Anastasia. No toys, no add-ons.” He shrugs. “You know… well, actually, you don’t, but that’s what it means.”
Okay, that’s interesting. Firstly, way to be a condescending twat, Grey. Just because she didn’t have sex before she met you and she hadn’t kissed many people, doesn’t make her completely naïve. What’s to say she wasn’t reading her mother’s Black Lace novels or watching Real Sex on TV or reading and writing anonymous Dr. Who fanfiction on her parents’ computer or something as a teenager? Sex education starts long before you actually have sex. I cannot believe that a woman who is writing porn doesn’t seem to realise this. Anyone else seeing the irony there?
Also, “vanilla,” from my understanding, was more “conventional.” There are plenty of fairly weird things you can do without toys or add-ons that most people are going to not consider vanilla, and in the age of books like this being sold in the supermarket, and pretty much everyone over thirteen knowing what a vibrator is, toys don’t necessarily make something non-vanilla.
“Oh.” I thought it was chocolate fudge brownie sex that we had, with a cherry on top. But hey, what do I know?
Please, Ana, no more chocolate fudge comparisons. Please.
The waitress brings them nettle soup and then apparently flounces off to the kitchen, in Ana’s opinion because she doesn’t like to be ignored by Christian. Um… perhaps the girl has work to do? Unless of course, Ana is correct and she’s one of the fifteen and he’s being a bit of a shithead bringing Ana here knowing full well it’s going to piss her off, which sounds exactly like the sort of snitty, arrogant, just jerky thing he would do, actually.
Ana then asks why he’s never had vanilla sex before.
He gets visibly nervy and then tells Ana that one of his mother’s friends seduced him when he was fifteen.
Oh-no, not, o-kay.
Whoa: there’s knocking someone outta left field with something really unexpected and fucked up.
A few things on this: a) unless that friend of his mum’s was around the same age as him, that was child abuse. Thing b) What the fuck kind of paediatrician manages to miss that? While kids will go to effort to hide sexual abuse, seriously, there will be signs that pop through and as someone who works with kids, not to mention his mother, you should fucking well have some vague notion of a clue.
There’s more, but I’m still trying to wrap my head around this much. By the way, I have seen situations like this written so much better. At this point, I’m assuming it was only a one-off incident (though still, one-off incidents can completely fuck people up: I buy that) though am still failing to get that his own mother had no idea and didn’t even suspect a shift in his behaviour.
I’ll give E. L. James this much: it at least offers SOME reasoning behind why Grey seems to be competing with Charlie Sheen and Chris Brown for the Misogynist of the Decade award.
Ana’s subconscious even doesn’t offer commentary on this, and Grey admits he didn’t get a run-of-the-mill introduction to sex. No kidding, dude.
Ana then asks if he didn’t date in college then, and this is where the dial gets cranked up on the creepyfactor.
“No.” He shakes his head to emphasise the point.
The waitress takes our bowls, interrupting us for a moment.
“Why?” I ask when she’s gone.
RRARRAARRRRGH. Shut up, Ana. This guy has just disclosed that he was sexually abused by one of his mother’s friends—someone he should have been able to trust and who should have been a grownup, and you know, not molested her friend’s son—and you’re asking him why he didn’t date in college. You might want to rethink journalism, sweetie, because I can see you in the middle of interviewing some poor person who’s just lost their house in a bushfire or had to bury their kid or something and you’re asking them inane questions when you should just let them talk.
He smiles sardonically.
“Do you really want to know?”
(Well, we can assume that’s why she asked, Grey, but at the moment I’m prepared to cut some slack here.)
“I didn’t need to. She was all I wanted, needed. And besides, she would have beaten the shit out of me.” He smiles fondly at the memory.
Oh, this is way too much information—but I want more.
Ana has the tact of a five year old in a crowded elevator. Honestly, I’m not sure if I’m glad she didn’t do a social work degree or if I’m just too busy being horrified at her nosiness and just… information harvesting with very little consideration as to what it means and how difficult it is for Grey to talk about it, as well as the hideous implications. Yeah, he’s a shithead. He has no self-awareness in relation to that. But neither do you, Ana. If it weren’t for your inability to use the internet and your crippling stupidity, you guys would be AWESOME for one another.
Grey admits that this mysterious woman was old enough to know better and that they’re still friends and that of course his mother doesn’t know. I call horse shit. Clearly the relationship went on for long enough (unless Grey was a child prodigy who was in college at 15) to raise at least a couple of alarm bells. Surely the friendship between Dr. Grey and Mrs. Robinson changed in some feasible manner in that time. Or are all the characters in this book really oblivious and stupid?
I will say this much, though: I can’t complain too much about Grey’s reaction to what happened nor the way he describes it to Ana. Perhaps this is something E. L. James has done her research on, and I get that talking about and dealing with (especially if it’s something assumed to be buried and dealt with in the past) abuse is a difficult area, and there aren’t any hard and fast rules about how someone discloses such information. Grey could be blasé about it because he truly has dealt with it, because he’s covering up a heap of shit he hasn’t sorted through, or from shock, just as much as he could be a lazily written character. I guess time will tell with how it’s handled down the track.
A forewarning: it is an enormous pet hate of mine seeing abuse—especially something as hideous as childhood sexual abuse—dealt with flippantly and like some sort of gimmick. When you start writing this stuff, you owe it to yourself—and your readers—to do it well and to treat the subject with dignity and give it sufficient gravity. I don’t mind if survivors and victims aren’t all cowering tearful I-can-barely-talk-about-it types (actually, I’ll be honest, I hate stereotypes like that about abuse survivors, too, though I realise people will react like that so it’s at least believable if it’s consistent with characterisation for them to act like that) but I will mind if I get the impression from the writer that they don’t know what they’re doing and they are using abuse to excuse someone’s shitty behaviour. That’s a big fucking insult to people who have suffered all sorts of awfulness and who haven’t repeated the cycle. While it sometimes does happen like that, the abuse doesn’t excuse repeating the cycle. I have seen this shit happen in one of my fandoms (oh gawd, it was a fic that contained a heap of hideous inaccuracies about BDSM too) and it was horrible and offensive and triggery. I really, truly hope that something as terrible as that made it past an editor, but who the fuck knows?
The waitress comes back with lunch but Ana isn’t hungry even though it’s venison—excuse my biased sarcasm here—and thinks
What a revelation. Christian the submissive… Holy shit.
Um, to quote you, Ana: holy shit. Way off the mark: being submissive and being a sexually abused teenager are actually very different from one another.
He’s so overwhelming, so alpha male, and now he’s thrown this bombshell into the equation. He knows what it’s like.
“But it can’t have been full time?” I’m confused.
“Well, it was, though I didn’t see her all the time. .It was… difficult. After all, I was still at school and then at college. Eat up, Anastasia.”
So it wasn’t just a one-off thing. Don’t you really hate it when you get all optimistic and stuff and hope that the worst possible scenario isn’t the case, and then it gets spat back in your face?
On the upside, Ana can at least recognise, to some degree, that he’s been sexually abused, and that this wasn’t just extreme kink or something. Alle-fucking-lujiah.
Grey reverts to being a complete douche, though, and makes Ana eat. Ana actually considers if this is what she wants, you know, him acting like a power-hungry motherfucker with a feeding fetish—and then she even asks him about that aspect of things.
I want to cheer Ana on.
“Is this what our, er.. relationship will be like?” I whisper. “You ordering me around?” I can’t quite bring myself to look at him.
See, Ana? Told ya you’d nail this in no time; you’re being a good little submissive and already not looking him in the eye.
“Yes,” he murmurs.
“And what’s more, you’ll want me to,” he adds, his voice low.
I sincerely doubt that.
Don’t worry, Ana, No one actually wants Stockholm Syndrome. And then, when you get it, you actually don’t mind, which is part of the crazy, from my understanding. Also, for anyone who thinks this is how it works: no. BDSM isn’t Stockholm Syndrome.
For the first time ever, Grey actually tells her that she should read the contract and do the research, and I’m actually not sure if he’s playing headgames or not. I think this is Grey trying to be written as a non-psychopath. This is him advising informed consent or something. He even says he’s happy to discuss things, though that’s probably because he’s scared of Ana asking Kate about stuffs.
Ana then asks the question I’ve been wondering about because I read and watch too many crime thrillers:
“What happened to the fifteen?”
He raises his eyebrows in surprise, then looks resigned, shaking his head.
It was not an unreasonable question, Grey.
“Various things, but it boils down to…” He pauses, struggling to find the words I think. “Incompatibility.” He shrugs.
Did anyone else get creeped out about that completely vague answer? See? All my suspicions that Grey is in fact a serial killer aren’t that far fetched when you consider this sort of stuff, though perhaps they are because I don’t think any serial killer would be this obvious about revealing this to his next victim. Then again, if he’s already killed fifteen people, he probably thinks he’s master of the universe and that he can get away with anything and he won’t get caught.
He explains that he’s not seeing any of them any more (he’s not into necrophilia, remember), and this news, in combination with the wine, and Ana’s memories of the way those pyjama pants were hanging off Grey’s hips (described as “like that” if I recall accurately) makes her a little distracted and put off her food. So she starts thinking sexy thoughts, and there’s some inane “I wish I knew what you were thinking” banter between them (God, I had an ex who used to do this, and I believe the relationship lasted as long as it did BECAUSE of the fact that this person had no idea what I was thinking. Actually, that could accurately describe a couple of relationships I’ve had.)
Anyway, they drive back to Vancouver (I keep thinking “Canada” although I don’t think I’m meant to, but eh), and he’s awkward about going into her place, so they do farewells in the car and agree to catch up later in the week. She then shows him she’s wearing his underwear. Christian is shocked. Ana’s inner goddess is thrilled and she sashays into the house.
Kate’s there, packing, and she’s anxious about Ana’s involvement with Grey.
Crap… I have to deal with Kate’s persistence and tenacity, and I’m in possession of a signed legal document saying I can’t talk. It’s not a healthy mix.
Okay, first off, I will not be held responsible for any liver damage sustained by actually playing the Shades Drinking Game. It is all in good parodic fun only, though if you want to drink, I trust that you’re informed and responsible adults and that’s your business.
Secondly, the signed legal document wasn’t actually viewed by Ana, which I have a tiny suspicion might make it just as open to challenge as the idea of Grey/Ana’s relationship being romantic and consensual. I do not believe Ana is of sound mind. Her signing ANYTHING is on par with a ten year old getting their own credit card.
Thirdly, he finally relented and said that she could talk to Kate, just not about the BDSM stuff.
Fourthly: Ana, you are completely terrible at discerning intentions. On one hand, you go melty about a control freak who may or may not be a serial killer, swooning at his terrible get-in-my-bed lines, on another, you blindly accept that his mother’s cool friendliness means “She likes me” (in spite of her passive-aggressive comments to her son afterwards), on another, you completely dismiss and minimise the actions of a would-be rapist who tried to assault you after plying you with booze, and yet the one person who seems to have your back and show some genuine concern for you? You talk about her like she’s some nosey-arsed inconvenience.
Kate asks how the sex was, in that wink-wink-nudge-nudge kind of way, but Ana’s allowed to talk about that… she’s just coy about talking about it. She tells Kate that it was good, Kate asks more questions trying to ascertain how good, presumably, and then admits that her own “first time” was awful, and that she’s impressed that Ana had orgasms on her first time. Is this meant to be another female fantasy? Making your girlfriends jealous because you’re having an awesome sex life? I dunno.
Kate asks if it’s a Thing, and Ana tells her they’re doing dinner on Wednesday but she’s not sure if it’s going to be permanent. There’s more talk around that, which is really fucking dull, but does include Ana wondering what will happen if she breaches a nondisclosure agreement. I dunno, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Grey isn’t going to know unless Kate talks or Ana tells him. Furthermore, I doubt he’s going to drag her arse into court and sue her because she’s talked to her best friend about stuff that he probably doesn’t want a magistrate getting wind of.
I must remember to Google “penalities for breaching a nondisclosure agreement” while I’m doing the rest of my “research.” It’s like I’ve been given a school assignment. Maybe I’ll be graded. I flush, remembering my A for this morning’s bath experiment.
Oh god. Here’s an example of bad localisation. Presumably Ana has completed assignments since being in high school since she’s been at college, right? All the editor needed to do was suggest “college” instead of “school” and this wouldn’t have sounded creepy. But no, it does. Again, combined with Ana’s childlike narrative and naivete and now this: ew. I have read fanfiction where characters have been aged up more convincingly. Hell, Ana seems younger than the main character in Enzai and the character’s possible age in that was probably the least disturbing thing about that game.
Kate notices Ana looking a little funny at that thought and comments that she looks different, and Ana says she feels different—sore—Kate says she is, too, and they laugh girlishly about men being animals.
And apparently the Grey magic has worked on Kate, too, who is dewy-eyed and gushy and in love with him. Ana’s never seen Kate like this before, but instead of it being shippy, it’s just really fucking boring. They compare notes on what they got up to, and Kate says that Elliot is helping them move.
Stepping aside here, does anyone else think that things could get mighty awkward if one couple has a breakup or brothers or best friends have a falling out? I realise that if we were talking about well-balanced adults here, that wouldn’t necessarily be the case, but, er, we’re not. I’m waiting for someone to suggest double-dating. Interesting times ahead, especially if this is after Ana’s all submissive and stuff. I can hardly wait.
Anyway, Ana says she’s giving Grey back his fourteen-thousand dollar books for some reason (she’s lost interest in Tess and moved onto other literary references?), and Kate explains that Jose has been calling for her. There’s some chatting about their respective lives after college—Kate has an internship lined up at The Seattle Times and is going away on holiday with her family beforehand. Which is obvious!speak for “Ana will have their shared accommodation to herself for awhile.”
Then Jose rings.
In the most anticlimactic confrontation of the year, their discussion goes like this:
“Can I see you? I’m sorry about Friday night. I was drunk… and you, well. Ana—please forgive me.”
I think the only part of that line that was important was the last bit because the first would have made more sense to me if he’d said it in Spanish. (But it seems that he only speaks in Spanish when he’s being creepy.)
“Of course I forgive you, Jose. Just don’t do it again. You know I don’t feel that way about you.”
What. The. Fuck? Ana was fucking TERRIFIED when he was forcing himself upon her. She couldn’t fight him off. She was drunk. He had been feeding her booze to get her drunk. “Just don’t do it again” is probably the most offensive, ridiculous thing I’ve heard on this. Unless, of course, she’s keeping her enemies closer and she’s planning on throwing him to the wolves down the track or getting Grey to exact revenge upon him. Which she probably isn’t.
He sighs heavily, sadly.
“I know Ana. I just thought if I kissed you, it might change the way you feel.”
Yeah, usually forcing yourself on someone, while they are drunk, when you damn well KNOW they don’t like you like that, will change the way they feel about you. My gawd: EVERYONE IN THIS BOOK SUCKS.
“Jose, I love you dearly, you mean so much to me. You’re like the brother I never had. That’s not going to change. You know that.” I hate to let him down, but that’s the truth.
Holy fucking god, I don’t even. Also, brothers don’t do that. Well, most brothers don’t do that.
“So you’re with him now?” His tone is full of disdain.
Bada-bing, folks, add seriously passive-aggressive to all of Jose’s other hideous traits. Ladies, this is a personification of Nice Guy Syndrome.
“Jose, I’m not with anyone.”
“But you spent the night with him.”
“That’s none of your business!”
“Is it the money?”
“Jose! How dare you?” I am staggered by his audacity.
Yep, because implying that someone is a golddigger is worse than sexually assaulting them. Nice going, Ana.
“Ana,” he whines and apologises simultaneously. I cannot deal with his petty jealousy now. I know he’s hurt, but my plate is overflowing dealing with Christian Grey.
“Maybe we can have coffee or something tomorrow. I’ll call you.” I am conciliatory. He is my friend and I’m very fond of him. But right now I don’t need this.
Rolling my eyes here. He is not your friend. And you don’t need this treatment EVER. Jesus fucking Christ.
“What was all that about?” Katherine demands, her hands on her hips. I decide honesty is the best policy.
Since when did she become “Katherine?”
Anyway, in the understatement of the year, Ana says that Jose “made a pass at [her]” which is a bit like saying that maybe Robert Downey Jr. may have dabbled with coke during his earlier years. Kate’s response is to assume that the Jose thing was consensual and to assume that Ana’s pheromones are going haywire.
Anyway, they eat dinner, Elliot rings Kate, and Ana wonders what it is about the Grey men, thinking about Christian and how deep and complex he is and about the contract. Kate goes to bed soon afterwards, suggesting she’s suss on Christian, and Ana goes to bed. But before she does, she tears open the contract.
Somewhere amongst all this, Ana doesn’t go to work like she was meant to, which was her whole reason for needing to come home then, but who cares about continuity, right?
And the next chapter—yes, I continued on—will be short as all hell because most of it is the contract. And my inner law student had more fun reading that chapter than she did reading any of the others so far. Watch this space, people.