50 Shades of Grey, E. L. James; Chapter Eleven
So, I confess; I fell off the wagon a bit with my updates on Shades. One thing was that my life unexpectedly got a bit hectic. Another was that I’d already read The Sex Contract Chapter and kind of thought, “I have this shit nailed” and never got around to actually writing it up and posting it.
Anyway, I bring forth the bit we’re all eagerly awaiting: 50 Shades of The Real Deal. Please note: give this to your friends who have anything to do with contracts on a regular basis and watch the expression on their face as they read this chapter. Actually, we should get a whole bunch of people to do this and take photos. And then upload them to a communal album on PhotoBucket like someone did in a similar manner with “Reactions to Seeing Goatse for the First Time.” Then we should play a game where we mix the photos up and get people to guess whether they’re reactions to a fictional sex contract or reactions to a guy demonstrating that he could probably stuff a small country up his arse.
There are several papers inside the envelope. I fish them out, my heart still pounding, and I sit back on my bed and begin to read.
The contract starts simply enough. Is there some sort of DIY sex contract website out there like there are those DIY legal will sites? A quick Google demonstrates that at least one entrepreneurial lawyer with a sense of humour has tried to get something like this happening. Probably in the hope that they’ll be the name remembered when the relationship goes to shit and someone needs a divorce.
Not much to say initially: they spell out who’s who (calling Grey “The Dominant” and Ana “The Submissive”) and it opens with fairly contract-y sounding things.
Then we get to “Fundamental Terms” and up go my eyebrows.
2 The fundamental purpose of this contract is to allow the Submissive to explore her sensuality and her limits safely, with due respect and regard for her needs, her limits, and her well-being.
Firstly, I don’t think this actually goes under this particular heading because it’s not actually a term being defined; I believe it would go under something like “Purpose.” Or “Background.” But then again, a) I didn’t actually study contracts law when I was at uni, b) this is an English writer writing as an American so technicalities are likely to get lost in translation, and c) maybe this is a place where creative license can excuse these sorts of things. I will say this though: already my suspended disbelief isn’t, and I have seen “sex contract” themed fic done really well with regard to the whole BDSM TPE (total power exchange) thing done fairly well. (My primary fandom is about lawyers, after all. And most of them are kinky lawyers.)
Secondly: is this finally Grey actually reining in his creeptastic behaviour? Because he hasn’t given due (or any other kind of) respect to Ana’s needs, limits, well-being, or consent until now. He’s played her along, played headgames with her, accused her of inviting Jose’s unwanted attention, pouted and played the silent game afterwards, committed at least one act against her which could be interpreted as sexual assault, and basically behaved like an obsessed stalker.
There’s a few more things under “Fundamental Terms” (which seem to be more suited to “Fundamental Terms” than the “purpose” though there’s still something clumsy about that which just kind of grates me) including stuff about how everything that occurs under the contract will be consensual (is this because he’ll get her consent or because, by his definition, anything that occurs after she’s signed the contract is going to be deemed by him as consented to? If, say, she doesn’t give consent, does this make the activity against the contract, or does this mean that the recognition of the contract is seen as consent to anything?) confidential and in line with limits. And that other stuff might be agreed upon in writing.
There’s also a bit about how they’re both signing off on not having any “sexual, serious, infectious or life-threatening infections or illnesses […]”. (Presumably, the contract is void if someone gets cancer. Which just makes him an even bigger douche, because seriously, there is a special place in hell reserved for people who dump their partner when they wind up with cancer.)
This is the point where I shake my head and go, “We all know where THIS is going, RIGHT?” He wants to do away with those pesky condoms. Which is fabulous, of course, until you remember that there are potentially nasty STIs which don’t show up immediately and which Grey might have without knowing about them. There are also things like, um, crabs, which aren’t exactly serious or life-threatening or a disease, but which are still kind of icky and now’s where I’m wondering if this is Grey’s way of admitting through omission that he’s got crabs.
There’s stuff about them having to tell the other if they wind up with anything nasty “prior to physical contact” but I’m sitting here wondering why they don’t just go a mutual agreement that they’ll be monogamous and use condoms until it’s confirmed most definitely that neither of them have anything to begin with.
Item six states that
Everything in this contract must be read and interpreted in the light of the fundamental purpose and fundamental terms set out in clauses 2-5 above.
The “fundamental purpose” was one of the fundamental terms.
The next section is all about roles. Basically, very quickly because I’m pretty sure me nitpicking a fictional sex contract is not as much fun as me nitpicking about fervent inner goddesses and purple prose (and I’m wanting more Ana/Kate, too), the roles defined are that Grey gets to take responsibility for the training, guidance and discipline of the submissive. In line with the agreed terms, he gets to decide on stuff including “agreed additionally” stuff which may come up later. If at any time, he does anything against any of the agreed terms, “the Submissive is entitled to terminate the contract forthwith and to leave the service of the Dominant without notice.”
Erm, that’s big of him. If he does stuff to her without her consent, she not only has the right to “leave without notice” but to have him charged with things. Seriously: this is fried. This isn’t about him agreeing to make her breakfast every morning and then not one day– this is about consent. And guess what, kids? You can’t actually sign off on being assaulted… in the UK, at least. (Which is where E. L. James is from and now I want to go talking about that UK case where there were those dudes doing kinky masochistoc stuff and the courts ruled it was decidedly NOT okay even though they’d consented to it. And after a very long FaceBook discussion about this, all we got was that it was “murky” about whether or not you could sign away your right to consent and to not getting assaulted in the US in situations like this. And I spent FAR TOO LONG trying to chase up relevent Washington legislation but turned up a big fat nothing on this.)
Yes, I may be overthinking this a tad. You ARE talking to someone who geeks out about case law and who likes her canon Making Sense, Dammit. Yes, I am a giant nerd. Yes, I have “too much time on my hands.” But you know when you start getting into an issue or an argument and you just kind of can’t let go?
Probably the most frustrating thing about this stupid fucking contract is that given Ana’s mental state, the damn thing is screaming “VOID” so loudly that you can hear it a few countries away. While I realise the age of consent in Washington is 16, Ana does seem to have diminished capacity given her mental state which has been demonstrated as extremely childlike. Grey is aware of this, too: he’s exploited it well before any contract-signing came into the picture. (I’m also now dead curious if any of the stuff he’s going to detail later on falls afoul of Washington law, too. Some states have some weird laws about sex toys and particular sex acts…)
I swear, this book becomes a whole lot more believable and interesting when you don’t think of it as erotic entertainment but a piece of surreal suburban literature about Stockholm Syndrome with the writer’s representation of a psychopath clinging to an outdated belief in what he believes represents masculinity in a world which is changing and deeming men like him superfluous. And then come the sex scenes and it’s like being kicked out of fantasy land.
The Submissive is to serve and obey the Dominant in all things.
Subject to all the stuff mentioned above (which wasn’t much but which I can’t be arsed typing because now I want to go reading up on Washington case law), “she shall without query or hesitation offer the Dominant such pleasure as he may require and she shall accept without query or hesitation his training, guidance, and discipline in whatever form is may take.”
Oh. God. The dude’s a sadist. (No, he’s not merely dominant, it’s quite obvious that he has sadistic urges, too.) He’s also a fucking psychopath whose emotions chop and change extremely quickly and for no discernible reason. (Let’s face it: you know Toreth, from the Administration? Grey makes him look like a fucking kindergarten teacher. Toreth might have state-sanctioned torture on his job description and enough psych issues to put a shrink’s octuplets through med school, but at the end of the day, he’s upfront and respectful and for the most part predictable when it comes to the people he’s having relations with. Grey is none of these things. Grey is a bully and a manipulator and he preys on the mentally weak. Toreth is drawn to a challenge who is on the same level as him. Grey has used physical force on Ana to take what he wants, reckless to her consent. Toreth pointedly won’t lower himself to doing that with Warrick. Think about it.)
Grey also won’t hear Ana out on things like her not making Jose call her, and well, to do this sort of schtick, you really, really need to have some healthy communication going on. A couple of questions on this, too:
a) what happens if he asks her to do something and she needs clarification? Remember, this is the person who didn’t even know how to masturbate before Grey showed her.
b) what happens if he asks her to do something painful or stupid but not permanently scarring, like, I dunno, douche with wasabi paste? This guy is a mean-spirited emotionally abusive arsehole. Potentially he could do SO MUCH stuff without actually going against the terms in the contract.
c) what’s he going to do if she hesitates? Sue her?
Next up we get the “Commencement and Term” bit which basically says that it’s effective for three months (and they’re going to be three very long months, judging by the fact that there are two more books in the series and they’re all thick enough to take up noticeable handbag space) and that they’re both entering into the contract fully aware of what they’re signing off on. Which would be nice but arrrrghghgh1!one!!!wtfbbq!!!morearrrrrghgfh because Ana is not in the position to consent to fucking anything. Literally.
“Availability” covers the next two points: Ana will make herself available to Grey from Friday evenings through to Sunday afternoons and at other mutually agreed upon times. Grey can dismiss Ana from his service “at any time and for any reason.” Ana, however, “may request her release at any time, such request to be granted at the discretion of the Dominant subject only to the Submissive’s rights [under the aforementioned clauses].”
Erm, did you see that? He gets to tell her to fuck off whenever he wants to and for whatever reason, and yet she has to request to be allowed to fuck off. Unless he, you know, does stuff to her that she hasn’t consented to, presumably. Or doesn’t tell her he has HIV. Or something else fairly extreme.
Next we move into “Location” which basically says that Grey gets to decide where stuff happens. And that he’ll foot the bill if Ana incurs any costs in getting there.
Afterwards– “Service Provisions.” Notes that “certain matters may arise that are not covered by the terms of the contract or the service provisions, or that certain matters may be renegotiated.” (I’m guessing a zombie apocalypse may cause the length of the contract to shorten significantly, especially if either party gets zombified. While zombification isn’t covered under the diseases section, someone being undead would be a bit of a game-changer. [See, if they were merely dead, the contract would be void. Ahh, the legal ramifications of a zombie apocalypse. Don’t tell me you haven’t laid awake at night wondering about this.])
This is the point where I go, “Fuck. There are another twenty pages of this stuff.”
The next section pertains to Grey and his role as Dominant, and basically outlines that he has to take Ana’s health and safety into consideration (now I’m wondering if dominatrixes have specific Occ. Health and Safety laws pertaining to their activities and now I want to go looking for that stuff). One hopes that this includes her psychological wellbeing but then again, if that ever was a consideration of Grey’s, he’d have left her the fuck alone when he realised she had the comprehension and mental capacity of a child.
15.2 is where we get to the creeptastic bit:
The Dominant accepts the Submissive as his, to own, control, dominate, and discipline during the Term. The Dominant may use the Submissive’s body during the Allotted Times or any agreed additional times in any manner he deems fit, sexually or otherwise.
Technically, this could include when Ana is asleep, couldn’t it? *shudders* I bet Ana hasn’t thought about that one. On top of that… isn’t this basically Grey stating that he can do anything he likes to her provided he doesn’t think it will kill her and they’ve agreed to it?
There are a couple of points about how he’ll provide a stable and safe environment and training and guidance. Given that he has demonstrated his stability is on par with your average rapid cycling person dealing with bipolar disorder’s, I don’t think he’s able to provide that. Can we say “voidable,” ladies and gentlemen? This contract is SO fucked up. Let’s poke some more holes in it, shall we?
15.5: The Dominant may discipline the Submissive as necessary to ensure the Submissive fully appreciates her role of subservience to the Dominant and to discourage unacceptable conduct. The Dominant may flog, spank, whip or corporally punch the Submissive as he sees fit, for purposes of discipline, for his own enjoyment or for any other reason which he is not obliged to provide.
That last bit basically gives him permission to do whatever he wants, whyever he wants, with no explanation. Even if she’s doing the right thing, I guess. This is again, so fucking stupid. Another point on this, too: hate to be a killjoy, but if you’re trying to condition someone into behaving a particular way, it’s probably not a good idea to punish them haphazardly. Anyone else thinking about various experiments everyone learns about in first-year psychology? The learned helplessness ones with the rats in the room with the electrified floors were horrible– but demonstrated something: if you continually punish someone, without reason, and with no discernible pattern, basically you’re teaching someone that their actions have no influence on the outcome of things, that they have no control. They give up. They break. They aren’t going to try anything because they’ve learned– through such conditioning– that there’s no point. That regardless of what they do, they’re fucked.
But thinking about this: perhaps this is precisely what Grey wants, which is really fucking awful, and which is another point where I go, “Um, this is seriously looking more like the advanced stages of an abusive relationship than something about mutual sexual pleasure and respect.” Seriously, this isn’t looking like sexy funtimes, this is looking more like that part of Fetlife where people who get a bit into interrogation play start discussing amongst themselves how to make things “realistic,” conveniently forgetting that realistic generally goes against the Geneva Convention. (Also, a sidenote on that: Ms. Francis, if you’re reading this: there really are interrogation junkies.)
More subsections, summarised: Grey can’t leave permanent marks on Ana’s body or do anything to her that requires medical attention, Grey will make sure his punishment equipment is in safe and working order and that they won’t be used in a way that exceeds her limits (does anyone else not see how that could happen, and is suspecting that that addition was more to cleverly put her at ease and have her ignoring the frighteningly creepy earlier subsections?) and Grey will look after Ana if she’s ill or injured. Grey will seek medical attention for Ana if he judges it necessary–
Whoa. Back the fuck up there. Ana’s not allowed to seek medical attention? How the fuck does he know when she needs a doctor or not? Does this guy have a medical license that we haven’t been made aware of, or is this some sort of creepy thing where it’s about taking every last bit of control away from her and where she doesn’t even have the basic ability to seek medical attention when she needs it?
Oh: I forgot. A doctor might ask where the bruises came from. A doctor might realise she’s in an abusive relationship. A doctor might tell her that using body wash internally can result in painful UTIs. No doctor for you, Ana.
Boy, I know THIS is making me excited. Not.
More subsections: Grey will look after his own health. Grey can use mechanical restraints and binding on Ana. For whatever reason he wants to. For as long as he wants to. Grey will make sure the equipment used will be clean and in safe working order. No one wants to get the clap from a rusty chastity belt after all, do they?
Next we come to Ana’s obligations and rights.
15.13 The Submissive accepts the Dominant as her master, with the understanding that she is now the property of the Dominant, to be dealt with as the Dominant pleases during the term generally but specifically during the Allotted Times and any additional agreed allotted times.
Question on this: isn’t slavery illegal in Washington? Illegal terms in a contract will render it void, too. I don’t think Ana is legally able to “understand” that she is property any more than she’s allowed to sell crack to kindergarteners or drive on the left hand side of the road.
Also, wtf is up with this time stuff: one minute she’s required to do stuff on weekends and any mutually agreed upon extra times, now there’s a “general” component in there, too? This has very quickly snowballed into something going beyond a three-days-a-week gig.
Next bits: there’s an appendix full of rules, and Ana needs to follow them, too. Ana will endeavour to serve and please Grey to the best of her ability. Ana will look after her health, advising Grey of any health issues “that may arise” and request or seek medical attention.
Hang on, I thought the doctor thing was covered before? So basically Ana has to seek medical attention AND ask Grey is she needs to seek medical attention, so… technically the terms of this contract are contradicting one another. I believe, earlier in the book, Grey said his lawyer looked over this, so I’m having a hard time believing it’s a sexy playtimes fun representation thing which isn’t meant to be taken seriously (as a few friends of mine suggested. That sounds rational and believable and understandable. However, the weight this stupid contract has been given in the book along with the mentions of legal professionals okaying it makes it look like it’s bigger than For Entertainment Purposes Only).
(Forget my Inner Law Student having a hissy fit, my Inner Unpublished Writer is having a nervous breakdown and going “WHHHHHYY? HOOOOOOOOW?! DA FUUUUUUUUUUUUQ?!”)
Oh, back to the contract: Ana’s also gotta go on the pill. And make sure she doesn’t get pregnant whilst on it. Because NO ONE EVER gets pregnant while they’re on the pill and taking it properly. (I’ll inform my friend who managed to conceive whilst on the pill of this. Apparently her daughter is the second coming.)
Another point on this, too: does Grey even know what the pill DOES? I have a vague idea: it’s doing stuff with yer hormones. Hormones can already be fucked up enough without adding to the crazy. I know people who’ve gone on the pill not for the pregnancy stuff, but to deal with other female-hormone related bodily funtimes, but I’ve also known people who’ve gone on the pill for pregnancy prevention and who’ve gone off it because it’s wrecked crazyawful havoc on them in other areas. One can only wonder what will happen to Ana if this is the case. Of course it won’t happen, but seriously? I’m making That Face again.
The remaining items concerning Ana are does and don’ts. Ana shall accept and not question anything Grey does to her. Ana must remember her status and role in relation to him at all times. (Like it’s something she’s going to forget.) Ana can’t touch or pleasure herself without Grey’s permission. (This is the tropiest trope in BDSM fic. Yawn.) Ana must “submit to any sexual activity demanded by the Dominant and shall do so without hesitation or argument.” *shudder* She also has to accept a whole bunch of variations on the ‘being hit with stuff’ theme and anything else Grey deems appropriate as punishment.
In addition to the just… fucking hell aspect of this contract, anyone else noticing the way it might as well read “Grey is allowed to do whatever he feels is appropriate” with the way every list of things tends to end with “or anything else the Dominant believes is appropriate”? It’s a bit like saying that someone can wear shoes, boots, flip flops, slippers or any other footwear, which pretty much covers anything anyone could foreseeably (or otherwise) consider to be footwear. Personally, I wouldn’t sign such an open-ended contract even if the rest if it was acceptable: there are WAY too many bits– I wouldn’t even call them loopholes because they’re not even that tricksy or covert– left open for basically anything. Yet again, I ask, “Is this contract voidable with terms like this?” (Which is a moot point, I suppose, since there is so much else wrong with it, but hey.)
More Ana terms: she can’t look into his eyes unless instructed to do so. (Hey, didn’t I mention this earlier? She’s already doing this!) Ana must maintain a “quiet and respectful bearing in front of the Dominant.” Does that include when he’s hitting her with stuff?
Not sure: it goes on to say that she must conduct herself in a respectful manner (whatever the fuck that means) and call him Mr. Grey or Sir. Oh, and in addition to not touching herself, she can’t touch him, either.
There are a few more sections: “Activities” says Ana can’t do anything risky as deemed by either party (I feel sorry for anyone who isn’t able to go paintballing or scuba diving or roller derbying) or “any activity detailled in Appendix 2.” Whatever that means. Given Ana’s clumsiness, it might mean walking up stairs in heels. There’s also some other bit about them discussing activities and agreeing to stuff which almost makes the whole thing look mature and considered and fair and not-creepy until you consider Grey’s little snuck-in backdoors basically giving him free reign on everything.
Then we get– and I don’t fucking believe it– safewords. OMFG, WTF, BBQ, we have safewords, ladies and gentlemen. If I could insert a .wav of that choir chorus going “Hallellujiah!” I totally would. Grey’s decided them, of course, and they aren’t as quirky as “plastic duck,” but hey, they exist, which is something. (One only hopes that she won’t need them when she’s unable to speak or Grey can’t hear her for whatever reason, because nothing non-verbal is mentioned.)
Then there’s a conclusion, which is basically “we accept.” Hooray. Or not.
More definition-y stuff. This is where I wish we’d see a “show, not tell” thing, because this list-reading is pretty boring, especially since we’re not seeing Ana’s reaction to any of it.
Appendix 1 is a list of subcategories and explanations of what is expected of Ana and what Grey will do towards helping her achieve these things. There’s some repetition on the contract (I guess the editor had filled herself up with martinis this far into the chapter) and then a bunch of orders aimed at how Ana is expected to make her entire life’s purpose about keeping Grey happy. She must sleep eight hours a night when she’s not with Grey. She must keep herself clean– and shaved and/or waxed at all times. Grey will decide which beauty parlour she will attend and what treatments she will get there. And he’ll pay for it… that’s big of him.
It gets creepier and more controlling: there’s then stuff about food which basically states she will eat for health (as opposed to, you know, enjoyment), and that she will not snack between meals and that she will only eat foods on a prescribed list. (I’m guessing this isn’t because Grey is so deeply anaphalactic that he’s liable to drop dead if he catches so much as a whiff of her having consumed peanuts. I’m also guessing this isn’t because since his father died of a heart attack, he’s had a serious paranoia about super-healthy foods and has a specially-qualified heart smart organic chef at his service. I’m guessing this is more because he’s a fucking cretinous control freak who knows that one way to really fuck with a girl’s head is to go straight for the kill with destroying body image. I guess if she gets an eating disorder and starts fixating on food, she’ll be easier to break mentally.)
My thoughts on this are only confirmed when he prescribes that she has to see a personal trainer for four days a week for hour-long sessions. Fuck you, Grey. Seriously. And fuck this being “romantic.” This is another one of those points where I want to throw this book across the room, only this time it’s after setting it on fire. Seriously, so much what the hell on this. It’s like every hideous trope about what it means to be female in today’s society packaged up for the impressionable and insecure and then called romantic. And it’s fucking disgusting.
Oh, and there are behavioural things for Ana because in case dictating how she must dress (I think in my absolute disgust about the food and exercise thing, I neglected the clothes thing: basically he gets to redefine her style for her while she’s with him, but he pays for all her clothes which I’m sure Ana’s inner goddess has some slut-shaming problems with), eat, exercise (which I suppose isn’t during the three days of weekendage he has set out for her, so he’s essentially running her life even on her days off) doesn’t break her spirit, telling her she can’t drink, smoke, take recreational drugs, or otherwise have fun probably will. She’s also meant to be respectful and modest at all times and apparently her behaviour needs to be recognised as a direct reflection on Grey. She’s also not to “misbehave” when he’s not around.
Ahem. Um, folks, isolating you, and controlling your life? They’re two classic abuser traits. Sure, Ana’s signing up for this, but Ana has the mind of a very simple teenager with serious denial issues and a weird fantasy world thing going on. Ana is already technologically isolated, completely sheltered and scared of Grey’s proclivities, and now he’s basically given her great sex and said he wants her in his life and now he’s laid out this. Can we say “false advertising” at all? It’s like going to a car yard, getting to test drive a brand new luxury model something, and then being told it’s pretty much the same as the old bomb with the rust spots out back which you’ve just paid for. Even if someone was a complete ditz and didn’t know shit about cars, that would be dishonest and awful, right?
Grey’s like the sleazy used car salesman of romance novels. Sure, he might look nice and seem interested and know the right things to say, but underneath… let’s not go there.
Anyway, Grey’s attempts at selling Ana a TPE lifestyle after a couple of fucks, particularly using a contract to make it look above board—is pretty damn dodgy. Can we say misrepresentation, much? Once you sign that contract, sweetheart, you’re screwed. Literally as well as metaphorically, because, hey, if you ain’t gonna leave when he’s got no tangible hold over you (I’m not saying this contract actually is, either, but the fact that you believe it is is what matters here and gives the damn thing its power), you’re sure as fuck not going to breach what you think is a legally binding contract.
Anyway, I started giving this some thought on my FaceBook and a discussion happened. Unfortunately, I don’t know any lawyers in the US on FB, but it seems that the general understanding is that the contract isn’t worth the paper that it’s written on and Grey is creepy and abusive. A friend suggested that perhaps the lawyer who Grey had mentioned looking over the contract knew and had pointed out that it wouldn’t hold up (to anyone but Ana, anyway) but I went a step further: what if there was no lawyer? What if that was all just a ruse to lull Ana into accepting it because she believed it had been okayed by some legal dude? We have a whole new level of mind fuckery going on. And normally that’s where I’d be interested, because I like mindfuckery, but you know what? Screwing with Ana’s head and perception of reality is like popping a soap bubble. Not exactly difficult, and it you’re going to take some sort of immense elaborate pleasure in doing so, well, you’re a bit fucked in the head. It’s like kicking puppies except that puppies have personalities.
Anyway, pretty much everyone is in agreement that the contract is only slightly less valid than those dodgy “CONGRATULATIONS READERS DIGEST SWEEPSTAKES WINNER!” things that mysteriously show up in your mailbox every few months.
Anyway, Appendix 2 is Grey’s list of stuff he says no to, which is all the same stuff he said no to a few chapters ago. Appendix 3 is about soft limits ‘to be discussed and agreed between both parties.’ Which… I believed was the definition of, um, agreement. But okay. Onto the sexy stuff.
Weeeeell… sort of. You know when you eat, say, low fat yoghurt, and it looks like yoghurt, and it has the same sort of consistency as yoghurt, but in the aftertaste, you go, “My brain is telling me it’s yoghurt, and I’m seeing yoghurt, but dammit, I’m not satisfied and that wasn’t really yoghurt”? Well, that’s what the next bit—the list of “dirty stuff” was like. Most unerotic list of sex stuff ever. In short, a list of stuff under the heading of “Does the Submissive consent to–?” with all the stuff they’ve already been doing, with added fisting and anal. Then a list of sex toys. Then bondage specifics, and to be honest, all this could have been summarised and a whole lot less painful, but because I’m a good-hearted person who wants to go back to meta-ing about The Administration, I will spare you the details.
There are more specifics, and my brain has started wandering off and thinking this would be so much better if he’d put a quirky twist on the contract—say, if he’d written the whole list of possible activities in Dr. Seuss rhymes, ala:
Would the submissive be gagged in the nude?
Or what about with some food?
Would the Submissive whine and brood
If the Dominant said he wasn’t in the mood?
Anyway, the next bit is about pain. How much pain is the Submissive willing to experience?
Is Ana even able to answer that question? Honestly, until you know the joys of a fractured sacrum or drug-free childbirth, I’m willing to bet that your perception of pain is probably kind of different to most people’s. Likewise, it’s probably a big ask to expect someone to nod their head like a car ornament when you’re asking about fisting and they have only masturbated two or three times in their life.
I don’t know how Ana is expected to answer this one. Or is this some kind of test where her willingness to experience more pain shows how much she trusts him… or something? God, I don’t know.
The next question is iffy and creepy because it asks about pain and punishment and what Ana’s willing to do. Most of it’s variations on the spanking/sex toys thing. There’s a mention of ice. And clamps. And then hot wax. And then other types/methods of pain. Creepily non-descript. Maybe he means poking you with a finger. Maybe he means getting a nasty-arsed violet wand and cranking up the voltage until you can smell stuff burning: it’s like the lucky dip of Oh My Fucking God This Guy Is Fred Fucking West.
Ana actually reacts to this with a “Holy fuck” this time rather than a “crap” so we know she’s serious.
My head is buzzing. How can I possibly agree to all this? And apparently it’s all for my benefit, to explore my sensuality, my limits—safely—oh please! I scoff angrily. Serve and obey in all things. All things!
You know, like you’re already doing, Ana. Except for your pesky desire to talk to the one and only friend you have who isn’t a creepster.
I shake my head in disbelief. Actually, don’t the marriage vows use those words… obey?
Some do. But believe it or not, plenty of people have ditched them. I’ve been to a number of weddings, and I haven’t heard those words before. I think my parents said that stuff at their wedding, but that was way back in the days where people thought left handed children were the work of the devil and that children of unmarried mothers were to be pitied. Times, they have a-changed.
Actually, how the hell does Ana know this, anyway? It seems like an obscure bit of logic for someone who is pretty much clueless about everything to have. God. I don’t know any more.
Ana then thinks about the women before her and realises that if she gives up every weekend, she’ll never see Kate or any friends she might make at her new job. Can we say isolation, ladies and gentlemen? She decides that maybe she should get one weekend off a month… when she’s got her period, because that would be practical.
Erm, a couple of things on that: doesn’t the pill make you stop having periods? And thing number two: which, sorry to say, folks, but I’ve been around fandom for years and this stuff just comes to mind automatically now, but– Ana, did you notice that there was something NOT on his list of hard limits? He might have said no breaking skin to make blood, but he did not say ANYTHING about menstrual blood. And remember, this dude is totally based on a fictional vampire. His creator is a woman who has been around internet fandoms, and they can get pretty kinky. Comprende?
Anyway, isn’t Ana a literature student? Surely she’d know who Hunter S. Thompson was and the whole deal with the Hell’s Angels thing, right?
Ana then considers being spanked and decides that it would be humiliating, but that being tied up probably won’t be so bad because he’s tied up her hands before. She does more of that um-ing and ahh-ing thinking about Grey and there’s more talk about inner goddesses and how beautiful and fucked up Christian Grey is and Ana goes to sleep and dreams of grey eyes and shackles and four poster beds and godammit, I wanted the contract to be over and done with but I’d forgotten how repetitive the rest of the writing is and now I think I want it back.
When Ana wakes up, she has to sign for a package. It’s big, leading me to remember the delivery guy innuendo in Legally Blonde and now I want to go and watch that, but let’s find out about this package and…
It’s a laptop. It’s an MacBook Pro. It’s silver. It’s got a one-point five terabyte hard drive which is making me feel woefully inadequate because I bought MY lappie this year and it doesn’t have that much and this was written in 2011 and now I’m wondering if Apple were making their hard drives that big. Do I care? Not really: I’m one of those curmudgeonly Windows people who is decidedly not into Apple. I’m not a graphics designer, so I can’t appreciate the full awesomeness of them, but years of working in an Apple-only environment and seeing all the hardware fails was most informative. I don’t trust Apples. (Then again, my argument is kind of stupid because I don’t exactly trust Bill Gates and friends, either, and, well, Windows 8.)
Kate is shocked and asks why Christian sent her a laptop. Ana explains that “it’s on loan” though even though the Apple rep/delivery guy has just explained that Apple haven’t even released it to the general public yet.
I think this is meant to be continuing the theme of being made to feel special and exclusive that has seemingly been a running thing in this book, but I can’t imagine anything worse than having a first generation, pre-release Apple product. Not only will it be full of bugs, but it’ll be obsolete in five minutes and incompatible with later software upgrades. (Why yes, I am still pissed about my first-gen iPod Touch being useless…)
Mr. Apple rep delivery dude asks what Ana wants to use it for after giving her a rundown on the specs, and seems bewildered that she wants to use it for email, as though he expected her to say something like, “I’m going to hack the planet and free enslaved humanity!” Does anyone even ask what people want latest-model computers for nowadays (other than sales staff when you’re buying said computer)? I dunno.
Anyway, he explains to Ana how to use her email (because how many twenty one year olds can’t figure out a computer?!) and everything seems suspiciously already set up, and Kate makes a comment about how most women get flowers or jewellery and they giggle and then the delivery guy leaves.
And then we get the email exchanges between Ana and Grey.
Why oh why we need inclusions of every email ever is beyond me, especially when they have the delivery details listed (seriously, this is the sort of thing kids do when writing books and it’s endearing and cute then but looks painfully stupid here) so I will summarise, in point form, the next handful of pages.
- Grey hopes she’s using the laptop as intended. As opposed to, I dunno, letting her cat use it as a warm resting place or using it to smack people upside the head or something.
- He says it’s on loan indefinitely. (Anyone else thinking that since it’s already suspiciously set up for her, there’s a keylogger in there?)
- Grey asks if she has questions, and Ana says that she does but they’re not suitable for email and that “some people have work to do.” Whatever that’s supposed to mean because she only seems to go to work to break up events in the story a bit, and anyway, EVERYTHING is suitable for the internet.
- Grey uses “later, baby” in email.
Ana actually DOES have to go to work, but this is her last week there anyway, so she assumes her bosses will cut her some slack.
She’s giddy about the fact that he emailed her. And not at all suspicious about anything, though she wonders what would happen if his account got hacked. I’m guessing that since he’s a rich CEO dude, probably hackers would be interested in a whole lot more (like his arms dealings or whatever he’s got going on overseas) than the fact that he’s doing kinky things with a simpering idiot.
Jose phones her after this.
“Hey, are we doing coffee?” He sounds like the old Jose. Jose, my friend, not a—what did Christian call him? Suitor. Urgh.
Oh, shit. You lose one douchebag for a moment, and another one turns up.
Ana goes back to work, having agreed to the coffee date.
Jose is punctual. He comes bounding into the shop like a gambolling dark-eyed puppy.
“Ana.” He smiles his dazzling toothy all-Hispanic-American smile and I can’t be angry with him any more.
*blink* *blinkity blink* Firstly, a smile? That’s how you get over being assaulted and plied with alcohol by a dude who then continually harassed you and your room mate and done the perfect Nice Guy Syndrome demonstration to prove what a creep he is? A fucking smile.
Secondly, I really hope I’m not the only one who is feeling incredibly uncomfortable with the way Jose’s ethnicity gets referred to in questionable moments. He speaks in Spanish when he’s about to do creepy things. Any reference to his appearance seems incredibly othering, like it needs to be pointed out every time he gets mentioned that he’s Not White. Especially when he’s being creepy, sounding like a lovelorn stalker or being superficially nice. Before he turned into Creepy McCreepster, he was just Jose, her friend who took photos. Now that he’s crossed the moral event horizon, it’s like E. L. James needs to make reference to his Hispanicness all the damn time.
I find that shit really unnerving. It’s not like there are references to anyone else’s background popping up in the book, so it’s really noticeable with Jose.
Anyway, they have a thankfully short coffee date where Jose does little more than ask Ana if she’s really forgiven him, and she says yes. Awwww. Not.
The rest of the chapter is emailing from Grey to Ana and back again and it’s mundane ho-hum nothing conversation which makes me think of awkward first dates only it’s done over email. They sort of flirt and be silly for a bit and he tells her how to do research. Specifically, how to start with Wikipedia.
You know, I’m no academic, but I’m pretty sure this sort of stuff makes academics want to scream. (I remember in my last years of uni, lecturers HATED people using Wiki as a resource, and said they could tell if you got all your material from the links on there.) Better yet: Wikipedia can be inaccurate at best, hilariously hacked at worst. Some Wiki articles I recall being in existence have been about how Andrew Bolt (a hideous right-wing journalist in Australia who happens to be one of Gina Rinehart’s favourite media personalities) liked to have sex with goats (I’m not saying he doesn’t, but that he probably doesn’t broadcast it widely if he does) and that Insane Clown Posse started out as being the opening act for Britney Spears.
I type “Submissive” into Wikipedia.
Hey, this is like one of those read-along books from your childhood, where you can read along with the tape and the book while you—
Except that I actually can’t be fucked looking at what Wikipedia has to say about submissives. This also reminds me of when Bella in Twilight Googled vampires and got a bunch of links to actual vampire fiction and some BPAL perfume descriptions.
Half an hour later, I feel slightly queasy and frankly shocked to my core. Do I really want this stuff in my head?
ROFLMAO. Too bad she didn’t visit FetLife and see some of the unintentional nightmare fuel or hilarity there. Also… did it really take her half an hour to read a Wiki article?
Jeez—is this what he gets up to in the Red Room of Pain? I sit staring at the screen, and part of me, a very moist and integral part of me that I’ve only become acquainted with very recently, is seriously turned on. Oh my, some of this stuff is HOT. But is it for me? Holy shit… could I do this? I need space. I need to think.
I don’t even know what that was. “A very moist and integral part” still sounds like badly translated something through several translation programs. And… has this woman been completely oblivious to the idea of sexual arousal up until NOW? I don’t buy it. I really, seriously, don’t buy it, unless she was living in some sort of cult or something or she’s asexual.
But you know what? It’s the end of the chapter. I feel like I’ve overthought this WAAAY too much and I deserve a reward. And booze if off-limits because I have work tonight.