50 Shades of Grey, E. L. James; Chapter Twelve
Okay, first up: just throwing it out there: trigger warnings for some really icky victim-blamingy stuff and abuse stuff come with this chapter. I know it shouldn’t need spelling out, but it’s really not cool and healthy and marriage-saving when you’re being guilt-tripped into agreeing to sexual things and when you’re actually scared of your partner and walking on eggshells because of it. Seeing this considered a love story is making me want to cry.
For the first time in my life, I voluntarily go for a run.
This is a more interesting opening line than I was expecting, though it’s disappointing that she’s deciding to now, as opposed to, say, when she’s had creepy dudes being creepy around her and plenty of incentives to run.
I find my nasty, never-used sneakers,
(how the hell can they be nasty if they’re never-used? Sports gear starts smelling and looking nasty precisely *because* it gets used)
some sweatpants, and a T-shirt.
Well, good thing she detailled her outfit. I would have expected she’d head out for a run in a full-length ballgown and six-inch heels.
I put my hair in pigtails, blushing at the memories they bring back, and I plug in my iPod.
Minor *moment* here: she plugs her iPod into what, exactly? If she’s plugging it into something, that implies she’s attaching it to a power source or a computer to sync music with it. Therefore she can’t be using it to listen to music on her run.
I can’t sit in front of that marvel of technology and look at or read any more disturbing material.
Oh, for fuck’s sake. Anyone’d think she wound up on an animal rights site with horribly graphic photos or /b/ or something. Again: if she’s really this freaked out, and if this is the only way Grey can have a relationship, well, these two things are really not compatible.
I need to expend some of this excess, enervating energy.
You also need to lay off the alliteration, E. L.
Quite frankly, I have a mind to run to the Heathman Hotel and just demand sex from the control freak. But that’s five miles, and I don’t think I’ll be able to run one mile, let alone five, and, of course, he might turn me down, which would be beyond humiliating.
Huh? Where the fuck did this come from? Seriously: Ana’s suddenly been hit with an attack of the hornies, and, ignoring all her previous weirdness, is just thinking she’ll rock up and demand sex– but ohnoes, he might reject her? I don’t need to go through all the reasons there’s so much WTF in that paragraph, do I? No. Good.
Kate is walking from her car as I head out of the door. She nearly drops her shopping bags when she sees me. Ana Steele in sneakers.
Wait. Hold it right there: this is ridiculous. All through the book Ana has brand-dropped that she’s a Converse wearing person. I think that’s the only brand of shoes which have been mentioned throughout the book. Even Grey has realised that she likes Converse enough to buy her a pair.
Unless I’m horribly mistaken, aren’t Converse, um, sneakers? I’ve got a couple of pairs… that’s what I’d call them. Even Google reveals that yep, Converse are sneakers. So… why the fuck would Kate be shocked to see Ana wearing her favourite type of shoes? Continuity— this book ignores it. And, dammit, it makes me realise why the editor fucked off long ago, too.
Once upon a time, I agreed to beta a fanfic for someone– to check for spelling and grammatical errors, continuity issues, cliches, weird-sounding dialogue, etc. I’m not any kind of expert on this stuff and never claim to be much more than an avid reader who can spot mistakes and things that jump out as “this could be done a bit more smoothly.” Anyway, three pages into the damn fic, I was regretting my offer. The whole thing should have had a whole rainbow of squiggly lines underneath it in Word. But I was gentle, and I was nice about it. I left detailled notes, encouragement, and suggestions. I invited discussion with the writer. I could have walked away from it; a sensible person who was more world-weary than I would have. But I was thinking I’d be decent and not shit on the fragile writer’s spirit and hopefully help offer some advice to make a mediocre fic less than mediocre, to encourage the writer to do things like use spell check and read through her own work, et cetera. I spent fucking hours trying to politely say “Change this, it’s horrible” in so many ways that I nearly had to resort to using other languages. I spent nearly a WEEK on polite beta-reading and notes.
Anyway, I saw the entire fic, posted in all its hideous, unedited, Marysuetastic glory posted on the internet a day after I’d returned it to the writer. I didn’t even get a thankyou from her. But… I did get credited as the beta reader.
I didn’t lose my shit until then. And because correspondence had not happened from her, I left a message at the end of the fic stating that yes, I’d beta-read it, but that NONE of my suggestions had been taken on board, and that was pretty much the copy I’d received, not the betaed version. (A couple of days later the writer pulled down the fic and flounced because no one gave her feedback. Perhaps if they’d been able to read it, they would have.)
Ahem. My point is: I’m perversely curious about whether this book has actually seen an editor, or, if it has, the editor in question has a similar tale of “Holy god, what the fuck happened there—I edited this?” to mine in that scenario. Or, if the subsequent editors refused to be named as such after they were ignored. In the opening credits, James’ husband is thanked for “doing the first edit” (leading me to believe that he skimmed over it, went “That’s nice, dear,” and went back to doing whatever he was doing). In theory, too, if Niall, James’ husband, did the first edit, then that’s suggesting that there were subsequent edits.
Which leads me to one of two logical places: a) someone, somewhere along this supposed chain of events is lying, or b) the book was even worse than this before it saw an editor. In order to preserve what is left my sanity, I am going to assume the former. Basically, there are some very lazy editors over at Arrow books. Or some very ignored ones. Or… I can only wonder if this is one of those things like Caligula that no one’s actually game to own up to.
I wave and don’t stop for the inquisition.
What inquisition? You mean, Kate saying hi and asking what’s up?
Snow Patrol blaring in my ears, I set off into the opal and aquamarine dusk.
Okay, firstly: unless there’s a serious need to do so, it’s generally a good idea to be vague about musical acts mentioned in your story. Firstly, the work becomes dated when you mention ’em. Secondly, not everyone knows who Snow Patrol are. My mother could pick up this book and start reading it (and I swear, she’d probably have more things to say about the editing than I have) and she’d go, “WTF is Snow Patrol?” Seriously, there isn’t any need for inclusions like this: it feels like too much self-insertion and it makes it look choppy and amateurish.
Secondly, “aquamarine and opal dusk” is the sort of fucking ridiculous description that belongs with “a voice like chocolate melted fudge or something”, “taking no prisoners” when feeling someone up, and “integral and moist parts” of someone. Unless Ana is dropping acid, I have no idea how the fuck the dusk manages to look “opal and aquamarine.” Seriously, had E. L. James even seen an opal? How the fuck does THAT translate into a skyscape, unless the Northern Lights are doing their thing at the moment (which they aren’t, because, um, geography)?
Ana goes through to the park and has a big long think about things. If this were a musical, I swear, this is the point where she’d make with an angsty solo number about decisions. (Oh god: now I’m waiting for it: Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Fifty Shades of Broadway. You heard it here first, people.)
What am I going to do? I want him, but on his terms? I just don’t know. Perhaps I should negotiate what I want. Go through that ridiculous contract line by line and say what is acceptable and what isn’t.
No shit. That might be a good idea.
My research has told me that legally it’s unenforceable.
Thank fuck for that. Seriously, I actually feel a tad better seeing this in the book, though I’m a bit disappointed. Since we get pages of pointless description about everything from helicopter rides to interior design, why didn’t we get a blow-by-blow account of the research Ana did which brought her to the conclusion that the contract isn’t viable? That would have been interesting.
Ana figures that Grey’s aware of the fact that the contract is a load of hooey and that it’s just about setting the parameters of the relationship. Has the internet made Ana grow a brain, or is it just a quick-and-easy way to get some character advancement happening?
I am plagued by one question– why is he like this? Is it because he was seduced at such a young age?
Oh dear. Seriously, the fact that Ana has wondered about this a few times now and it hasn’t been shot down as a definite no worries me a lot.
I think it’s perfectly acceptable and reasonable that Grey has issues with women and intimacy and all the rest of it since he was abused as a kid. That would explain the jealousy, the abuse, the emotional blackmail, the “don’t leave me/I must control you crap” which makes Grey scary and volatile and all the rest of it.
But Ana’s problem isn’t with any of that stuff– no– she’s freaked out about the fact that the guy is into kink. The kink is the least problematic aspect of Grey’s character. The kink doesn’t need explaining. The rest of his bullshit– maybe that does.
Further to the point: is it just me, or are there a whole heap of issues with someone who is an unbalanced control freak thinking that his abusive behaviour falls under the BDSM umbrella rather than the bugfuck crazy umbrella? Just because one crazy guy likes peanut butter sandwiches, we don’t see people insisting that it’s only crazy people who like peanut butter sandwiches, right? (Correlation and random extra information, E. L. James: two different things.) Repeat after me, people: BDSM isn’t abuse with expensive sex toys done by crazy people.
Another thing: why the fuck is Ana so desperate for an explanation of why he’s into it? For the most part, Ana doesn’t really analyse anything or seek out explanations, and suddenly she’s tripped out about this? Why not have that fascination for her mother’s inability to settle down, or Jose’s Nice Guy Syndrome or any other issue pertaining to a character?
Ana has a moment in the park with a tree where she decides to put her foot down and tell him what she’ll say no to, and decides that she needs to tell him her thoughts about things. She then returns home and ordinarily I would skim over this but—
Kate has been shopping as only she can, for clothes for her vacation to Barbados. Mainly bikinis and matching sarongs. She will look fabulous in all of them, yet she still makes me sit and comment while she tries on each and every one.
I dunno, but I’d say that’s awfully suggestive. Maybe you try on a bazillion outfits at the shops and ask for opinions from your galpals, but to take your booty home and then do it for feedback from your housemate? We’re not talking prom dresses, folks, we are talking skimpy bikinis.
There are only so many ways one can say “You look fabulous, Kate.” She has a curvy, slim figure to die for. She doesn’t do it on purpose, I know, but I haul my sorry, perspiration-clad ass into my room on the pretext of packing more boxes.
Pfft. Whine whine whine. Also, Ana didn’t do any running and she’s “perspiration-clad”? I don’t get it. And I’m too tired to argue, E. L. James, and there is a whole lot more chapter to get through and I swear, I’m starting to think that forcing people to read this chapter should be considered psychological torture designed to break people down over time.
In another act of randomness, Ana then emails Christian with two lines:
Okay, I’ve seen enough.
It was nice knowing you.
Just as I’m reeling from that and trying to work out where the fuck that came from, it’s then revealed that this is Ana joking. She’s giggling and hugging herself like a fucking lunatic, then she worries– after hitting “Send”– that he’s not going to find it that funny. Ten minute passes and she starts freaking out, realising that perhaps a joking tone doesn’t translate so well in print and over the internoodles.
She then spends the next however long packing books, listening to Snow Patrol, and freaking out because he hasn’t emailled her back yet, so she starts reading the contract again. And then—
I don’t know why I glance up, maybe I catch a slight movement from the corner of my eye, I don’t know, but when I do, he’s standing in the doorway of my bedroom, watching me intently.
Can we say really fucking creepy, ladies and gentlemen? The guy can now add actual stalking to his resume of dubious activities. This is the bit where Ana is meant to let out a blood-curdling scream and start defining some boundaries, but instead she gets all distracted because he’s wearing grey flannel pants and a white linen shirt. The significance of this escapes me.
Ana, instead of being freaked out that he’s in her room, that Kate hasn’t warned or even asked if it’s cool that he be let in– is bothered because—
I’m still in my sweats, unshowered, yucky, and he’s just gloriously yummy, his pants doing that hanging from the hips thing, and what’s more, he’s here in my bedroom.
Reading this sentence is like going over the sex contract chapter: I don’t know where to start in pointing out what’s wrong with it because there’s enough wrong there to warrant an aneurysm. But, okay. I think there are bigger problems than that Ana hasn’t showered; who over twelve actually describes another human being as “gloriously yummy” (well, Jeffrey Dahmer might have described people like that, but… HANG ON. Shouldn’t Grey be describing HER as “deliciously yummy” since he’s the vampire)? and I’m not sure where else pants are meant to hang from, but I think that was meant to be sexy and I’m just making one of those “Iunno. I got nothing” faces at the moment.
“I felt that your email warranted a reply in person,” he explains dryly.
I open my mouth and then close it again, twice. The joke is on me. Never in this or any alternative universe did I expect him to drop everything and turn up here.
Why the fuck not? He’s done crazy-arsed things like this before. I know you drank a LOT that night when you were out with Jose and co, but don’t you remember that? He has a history of travelling long distances to rock up and be creepy and controlling.
Grey, it seems, has the same fascination with interior decoration as Ana does, and takes interest in her bedroom. Ana gets all excited because he’s sitting on her bed. He explains that he’s still at the nearby hotel (which only makes his arrival slightly less creepy; remember, this guy DID turn up from way out woop-woop to buy DIY bondage gear at the hardware store where she worked after seeing her, what, once?) and then gets to business asking about the email. Ana offers him a drink (does she have a bar fridge in her room?) to which he says no, and then
He smiles a dazzling, crooked smile, his head cocked slightly to one side.
That’s a lot of crooked there. Inner ear issues playing up again, Mr. Grey? (And on that, is that the sort of chronic illness which would breach his own contract?)
“So it was nice knowing me?”
Holy cow, is he offended? I stare down at my fingers. How am I going to dig myself out of this? If I tell him it was a joke, I don’t think he’ll be impressed.
Let’s face it, Ana, given what we know about him and jealousy and overreaction, he’s probably going to be even less impressed if it’s not a joke.
“I thought you’d reply by email.” My voice is small, pathetic.
“Are you biting your lower lip deliberately?” he asks darkly.
I blink up at him, gasping, freeing my lip.
“I wasn’t aware I was biting my lip,” I murmur softly.
Oh, gawd, not this crap again. Get some new material, E. L. James. We’re not even halfway through the book and I’m sick of hearing about Ana biting her lip. Also, on that… she doing it because she’s nervous. Why is that meant to be sexy? Isn’t confidence sexy any more? Yet again, I’m seriously mystified as to how this is supposed to be sexually arousing literature. Or Mommy porn. Or whatever the hell it’s meant to be. There’s just something really forlorn and childish and, as Ana even said herself, pathetic about this.
Anyway, in spite of this, Ana can feel that magic electricity between them, and before we all know it, he’s undoing her pigtails and commenting on her exercising, asking why and pulling on her earlobe at the same time.
“I needed time to think,” I whisper. I’m all deer/headlights, moth/flame, bird/snake… and he knows exactly what he’s doing to me.
Well, if that wasn’t the laziest fucking writing I’ve seen anywhere. Not to mention, bird/snake? I dunno what sort of birds– or snakes– they have in Washington, but my thought on that addition to the things that Ana is like went to “one of these things is not like the others.” Birds, to my knowledge–and maybe this is culturally influenced to some level– eat snakes. Maybe “egg/snake” would have worked better, except that eggs don’t have any sense of impending doom when a snake’s about to eat them. Then again, Ana doesn’t really, either.
Grey then asks perhaps the most idiotic question ever.
“Think about what, Anastasia?”
The national deficit. Global warming. Raunch culture and the decline of music videos on MTV. Jesus fucking Christ, Grey, this is probably the most idiotic thing you’re said so far. What the fuck do you THINK she’s thinking about?
“And you decided that it was nice knowing me? Do you mean knowing me in the biblical sense?”
What the everloving fuck was that? A quick Google informs me that knowing someone in the biblical sense means that you’ve had sex with them. You learn something every day. (Who the fuck uses this term? I’ve managed to make it to my thirties, through all sorts of crowds and websites and experiences without hearing it used ever.)
“I didn’t think you were familiar with the Bible.”
“I went to Sunday school, Anastasia. It taught me a great deal.”
Huh? Of course he went to Sunday school. This book was written for an American audience and we can’t have the readers thinking that he’s one of those immoral irredeemable atheists or something, right? (Speaking OF atheists, I’d like to point out that I think Richard Dawkins can argue til he’s blue in the face about why there isn’t any higher power up there, but it’s THIS book– not The God Delusion— and its mammoth success– which makes the strongest case for “there is no god” that I’ve come across.) Also, I haven’t read the Bible, but I’m seriously wondering what Christian– whose “Christianity” seems to start and end with his name– learned from the Bible. To be backwards about women? (Or maybe that you should stone to death people who disrespect their parents or get tattoos or grow two different sorts of crops together or work on Sundays.) That’s not something you want to advertise, dude.
“I don’t remember reading about nipple clamps in the Bible. Perhaps you were taught from a modern translation.”
Now that, Ana, I believe, was humour. Grey even smiles at this.
He then tells her that he thought he should remind her how nice it was knowing him, because, hey, when you’re writing porn, who gives a shit about cliched, cheesy dialogue— and then things get freaky.
His eyes blaze at me, his challenge intrinsic in his stare. His lips are parted– he’s waiting, coiled to strike.
Told you it got freaky. It sounds like he’s transformed into some kind of animorphy thing.
Desire– acute, liquid, and smoldering– combusts deep in my belly.
What the hell? It sounds way too much like heartburn.
Things get Serious and they’re making with the alleged sexytimes, and Ana’s thoughts run haywire.
His tongue is in my mouth, claiming and possessing me, and I revel in the force he uses. I feel him against the length of my body. He wants me, and this does strange, delicious things to my insides. Not Kate in her little bikinis
Can I just say that her thinking about Kate in the middle of a makeout session with someone else makes my inner Kate/Ana shipper go “YAAAAAY!”?—
not one of the fifteen, not evil Mrs. Robinson. Me. This beautiful man wants me.
Oh god. The crippling self-esteem this is suggestive of just makes me sad. Am I correct in thinking that the “sexy erotica thing” is really, at the heart of it all, about being wanted? Because, sorry, but being compared to a bunch of exes including a child molester… in the spur of the moment? I dunno, to me, that’s not exactly sky high standards we’re talking about here.
My inner goddess glows so bright she could light up Portland.
There. Are. No. Words.
He then asks the second most superfluous and idiotic question ever, which is
“Trust me?” he breathes.
Well, duh. The reason the two of you are in this mess to begin with is because she has trusted you implictly from day dot.
Another point on this: has anyone else noticed that often when people need to assure you that they’re trustworthy, or ask for your trust, they are most certainly not deserving of it? The people I hear “trust me” from the most often are people who are up to something dodgy enough to need to reassure people about it. Basically, if you “need” to ask me to trust you, I’m going to wonder why you’re asking me to, which is going to throw your trustworthiness into some serious doubt. And interestingly enough, it’s always been people who’ve whined about my trust issues who’ve later tried to screw me around the most. Conversely, I’ve found it’s the people who don’t ask for– or expect– trust– who tend not to do that stuff, or, who, if they have done something hurtful or stupid– have truly been unaware of what the were doing or the result it would have.
(Maybe that’s my biggest issue with Grey, come to think of it. The onus is always on Ana to just trust him for no feasible reason [actually, to trust him in spite of behaviour that sets off some serious alarm bells], while he quite clearly doesn’t trust her. He doesn’t really give her an inch on anything, yet she’s expected to just hand over everything. To me, that’s unbalanced at the least, and really fucking creepy and disturbing further up the scale.)
Given Grey’s track record AND now this, trusting him would be the last thing I’d be doing, but waaah, I’m just a grouchy old cynic and stuff.
The short version is that he ties her wrists together with the tie featured on the front cover, and then ties that to the headboard.
I’m pretty sure there’s implied consent (I mean, she launched herself at him, right? Surely that means she’s consenting to everything else that happens afterwards < / sarcasm >) because then he starts undoing her shoes, and she tries to kick him away and then he tells her, in no non-creepy manner—
“If you struggle, I’ll tie your feet too. If you make a noise, Anastasia, I will gag you—
Hate to interrupt the party, folks, but since they never agreed on an non-verbal cues to halt sexual activities, if he gags her, she can no longer use a safeword to point out that she’s withdrawing consent and she wants things stopped. Just a thought.
He then points out that Kate can probably hear what’s going on, like Kate has nothing better to do than stand outside her room like some sort of jealous creeper, which is enough to make Ana fall silent, and returns to undressing her. He then comments on how she’s biting her lip, we get a sing-in from her Inner George Takei, and he gets near-naked himself, only to tell her that she’s seen too much– like he’s got miltary secrets tattooed on him or something equally ridiculous– and to cover her eyes with her T-shirt.
He then tells her he’s going to get a drink, and he leaves the bed, leaving Ana alone with her thoughts on this. And seriously, they’re so mundane that we’ll pretend they never happened– Grey comes back soon enough anyway with ice and alcohol, presumably, and sound effects indicate that he’s removing his pants.
He asks if she’s thirsty. Ana realises she is.
I don’t really know how to describe what happens next but basically Grey pours white wine into a glass, adds ice, and sips on it, and kisses her, transferring white wine into her mouth at the same time. Whatever toasts yer muffins, I guess, but that wasn’t what I’d call particularly hot. Ana disagrees with me.
It’s so unexpected, so hot, though it’s chilled and Christian’s lips are cool.
“More?” he whispers.
I nod. It tastes all the more divine because it’s been in his mouth. He leans down, and I drink another mouthful from his lips… oh my.
Anyone else noticing that “oh my” seems to be E.L. James’ shorthand for “How the fuck do I finish this sentence?” Nonetheless, I keep hearing it in George Takei’s voice, so it’s all good, and much more entertaining than pretty much everything else in the book.
Grey then warns her about her limited capacity for alcohol (because a few mouthfuls of white wine is the same as, what, FIVE margaritas, right?), and continues what he’s doing, then adding ice to the transferred liquids, then kissing her. (Remember that she was apparently all sweaty and gross before, too…) Ice and wine wind up in her navel and he warns that if she moves, wine will get all over the bed and if that happens, he’ll have to punish her. His proposed punishment is orgasm denial because I don’t think E. L. James has worked up to writing hardcore BDSM yet.
Ana gets all incoherent.
“Oh. please… Christian… Sir… Please.” He’s driving me insane. I hear him smile.
Wow. Maybe I really am missing out on something, because I’ve never experienced any kind of sexual activity that’s had me hallucinating. Well, I’ve had delusions that certain people would be decent more permanent partners because of the sex, but that’s not the same thing as experiencing stimuli through some other sense than the commonly accepted one. Generally when you’re hearing visuals and tasting noises, there’s some kind of chemical involved.
I’d like to add, too: yes, this is just me being bitchy, and ordinarily, I can let a lot slide when it comes to characters being all incoherent and lustiful when they’re in the throes of passion. But there’s a bullshit threshold for me. Once you’ve repeatedly crossed it, and you keep piling on more bullshit, everything becomes ridiculous. And that’s what’s happened here. On the upside, E. L. James could throw in a bunch of ninja and pirates and tentacle monsters and dodgy-looking spaceships into the mix like this is some sort of failing NaNoWriMo novel that has lost its oomph and it wouldn’t ruin the story. On the downside, though… she doesn’t.
Anyway, what follows is a fairly predictable, unremarkable sex scene with nothing to really offer any commentary on, beyond the fact that in amongst Grey’s teasing her, Ana talks about how it was all a joke and Grey keeps asking her if this is a joke, and if it’s nice, and she has an orgasm that results in her screaming his name (do people actually do this? I’ve only ever heard of it happening in fiction or in really unfortunate circumstances where someone else’s name gets yelled out) whereby I wonder if Kate is still, as Grey suggested, able to hear what’s going on. Though one would suspect she’s clued in and figured it out by this point.
“That was really nice,” I whisper, smiling coyly.
“There’s that word again.”
“You don’t like that word?”
“No. It doesn’t do it for me at all.”
Well tough fucking shit, Grey, you don’t get to police her language too.
“Oh– I don’t know… it seems to have a very beneficial effect on you.”
“I’m a beneficial effect, now am I? Could you wound my ego any further, Miss Steele?”
Unh? I’m truly lost here, Grey. She said that a word had a beneficial effect– which was, presumably, you deciding to give her good, skilled sexytimes– and you’re offended by this? How do you get offended with a compliment like that?
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with your ego.”
Wow. Thankfully, Ana is not a psychologist, I guess, though it wouldn’t take one to figure out that this guy has more issues than your average tormented romantic hero/serial killer.
But even as I say it, I don’t feel the conviction of my words– something elusive crosses my mind, a fleeting thought, but it’s lost before I can grasp it.
Well. That kind of DOES sound like what happens when you’re ingesting hallucinogens, but it could also be what happens when you’re Ana Steele and you so desperately want to be loved by a psychopath and you have an enormous capacity for denial.
This leads into Ana asking him why he doesn’t like being touched.
Now. A little bit of TMI time here… I sort of empathise. I’m not a touchy feely person and never really have been.
While I’m sure someone could try to psychoanalyse that, the honest-to-god truth is that I’ve pretty much been like this since I was *born*. (I wasn’t a “cuddly baby,” according to my mother, even. Though… my youngest was like that and he’s a super-duper affectionate little person now, and my oldest was all about the baby massage and he’s now more like me in the “Don’t fucking touch me” sense.) I find people touching me– especially when it’s unexpected and I don’t know them very well– an invasion of my personal space… and even when it’s people I like and know, I find it kind of intrusive and irritating. At one end of the scale, I find it a mild annoyance, at the other end, I find it a serious threat.
And there doesn’t have to be a reason for not being a touchy-feely person, E. L. James. Suggesting that there’s something wrong with– or damaged about someone for not being a touchy-feely type is like suggesting there’s something broken about people who are extroverts. Or who like animals. Or who don’t like peas. Personal preference can be just that, and some people’s personal preference is “Keep yer mitts off the goods.”
But, uh, wait: E. L. James doesn’t get this, does she? Just like Grey’s kink is about him being damaged, his dislike of being touched has got to be about it, too, right?
Even Grey says as much, but we all know, since it’s been mentioned several times, that he’s bullshitting and it’s part of his Big Mysterious Mystery and it’s going to crop up again in the story. If this book was any more predictable, I’d be wondering if it was ghostwritten by Dan Brown.
They discuss the contract and how it totes wasn’t funny that Ana made a joke (admittedly, it didn’t translate well, but holy overreaction, Grey), and then we hit a point that any eagle-eyed scenester would have noticed was mysteriously absent (other than the fact that he never said never on at least one thing which possibly could be relevent to a vampire’s interests in the bedroom).
“I don’t know yet. I haven’t made up my mind. Will you collar me?”
Wow. That was random. Note to E. L. James: writing books that aren’t predictable doesn’t just mean making random things come out of left field when you’re worried things are a bit formulaic.
He raises his eyebrows. “You have been doing your research. I don’t know, Anastasia. I’ve never collared anyone.”
Okay, that was a bit unexpected. It’s not exactly like collaring people is some kind of really out-there edgeplay thing. I always kind of got the impression it was a fairly solid staple of the BDSM dealio– I realise it’s not a given thing for everyone, but assumed that since this book is full of a whole bunch of other cliches, this would be one of the obvious and fairly vanilla ones.
Oh… should I be surprised by this? I know so little about the scene… I don’t know.
“Were you collared?” I whisper.
“By Mrs. Robinson?’
“Mrs. Robinson!” He laughs loudly, freely, and he looks so young and carefree, his head thrown back, his laughter infectious.
I grin back at him.
“I’ll tell her you said that; she’ll love it.”
“You still talk to her regularly?” I can’t keep the shock out of my voice.
“Yes.” He’s serious now.
Oh… and part of me is suddenly insanely jealous– I’m disturbed by the depth of my feeling.
Oh. Oh gawd. It’s like Total Dysfunction Junction, The Jerry Springer Show edition. The fact that Ana is jealous of a sadistic pedophile is pretty fucking disturbing, too. Your self-image– and your weird, creepy attachment issues– have gotta be pretty fierce if the first thing that comes to mind in this situation is that you’re jealous. I’m not exactly pimping myself as normal, folks, but my reaction to something like that would be rage and disgust and a sense of wanting to do the world vigilante justice. (Because, fer reals: maybe she and Grey are on good terms and can laugh about it now, but what about the OTHER underage kids she might have– or be preying upon? Yuck.)
None of this stuff occurs to Ana.
“I see.” My voice is tight. “So you have someone you can discuss your alternative lifestyle with, but I’m not allowed.”
Is it just me, or is anyone else getting a sort of wicked stepmother-y fucked up fairytale vibe from this woman’s existence? A sort of quest thing where Ana is the rightful heiress to Grey’s heart or something but first needs to break the spell of wicked Queen Shotatiger’s curse and free Grey’s heart and cure him of his need for BDSM and creepiness and teach him the meaning of true love?
“I don’t think I’ve ever thought about it like that. Mrs. Robinson was part of that lifestyle. I told you, she’s a good friend now. If you’d like, I can introduce you to one of my former subs. You could talk to her.”
Ten bucks says she’s blonde and she makes Ana feel insecure.
What? Is he deliberately trying to upset me?
Um, whoa, nelly. I’m hardly a member of the Christian Grey fan club, but even I get the impression he was actually trying to be a little bit empathetic towards Ana there.
Though why Ana can’t just talk to whoever she damn well wants to about her sex life– and it’s hers as much as Grey’s– is beyond me.
I think we’ve ALL met one of THOSE BDSM zealots, and maybe Grey knows how fucking irritating they are and this is part of the schtick about how Ana’s behaviour reflects back on him: he doesn’t want his girlfriend to become That Annoying Submissive Girl.
You know the type– or not, depending on who you run with or meet along the way– it’s like what happens when you smush a One Direction fangirl and a just-turned-18-can-legally-party person together. They’re that person at the writer’s meetup who needs to make every fucking subject of the conversation about BDSM. They’re that person who will compliment you on your tattoo, and before you can say “Thankyou,” they’ll start prattling on about how they want a tattoo but their dom has forbidden it. They’re that person who, at a random, cross-sectional gathering of assorted people– let’s say, at a housewarming– will make sure that every single person in attendance from the littlies at the kids’ table to ninety-six-year-old Great Aunty Edna to some random person they’ve never even encountered on FaceBook– knows all about the fact that they’re a sub and about all the rules and expectations put onto them by their dom.
If you think I’m over-exaggerating or joking, I actually envy you, because these people are part of the reason I am a bit of a shut-in nowadays. They kind of contaminated the local alternative scene a few years ago, and they’re still going strong— it’s hit a point where I don’t know if I can go to a goth night and kick back drinking G&Ts with some old friends while old Nine Inch Nails tracks thump in the background or if I’m going to be annoyed to the point of wanting to step on someone’s throat because some dipshit (who initially complimented me on my awesome dress sense) is now telling me in depth about under what circumstances she can and can’t wear underpants. And I’m not risking a twenty dollar door charge to find out when I could be at home writing or playing videogames.
If Grey’s motivated to stopping Ana from being That Annoying Submissive Girl, then maybe I’ve horribly underestimated him and he’s not that—
Whoa. Wait. Rewind. Grey is a miserable, selfish, abusive douchemachine. This isn’t about him—or E. L. James— wanting to see BDSM represented responsibly and in a fashion that doesn’t piss off or creep out random strangers, this is about him emotionally and psychologically abusing Ana. (Though, TBH, I don’t believe his intention here was to upset her, but still: he should be at least aware of the fact that he’s toying with someone whose emotional development stopped just before puberty.)
Anyway, Ana gets pissy about this, and Grey gets pissy about that. How DARE she not want to meet his exes? He taunts her about being jealous, and then lets her know in no uncertain terms that he doesn’t sleep with girlfriends, slaves, subs or anyone, that those previous times he did with her were exceptions.
Ana says she’s tired, he takes that as his leave— but asks her about the contract beforehand, because it’s ALWAYS a great idea to bring up a subject that should be addressed and discussed with sensitivity and maturity when you’re in the middle of a pissy bitchfest with someone, right?
At this moment, I’m not sure whether they’re both just awful people and it’ll be fun to watch them destroy each other in a Bitter Moon kind of way or if they’re both so dysfunctional that they’re perfect for each other. There’s so much childish pettiness and passive-aggression here that even I’m amazed, and I’ve survived some fascinating family Christmases.
In another act of random randomness, they then agree to meet up the following week, and then he leaves her room.
Ana pokes around the house for Kate, because now that she’s alone, Kate and her blondeness and apparent inquisitions ain’t looking so bad. But Christian hasn’t actually left yet!
Christian follows me out. During the short walk from bedroom to front door, my thoughts and feelings ebb and flow, transforming. I’m no longer angry with him, I feel suddenly unbearably shy. I don’t want him to go.
I’m actually kind of pitying her, because this is completely how I imagine Stockholm Syndrome to look. He’s upset her, she’s challenged him about it, he’s been emotionally abusive (“I don’t sleep with anyone! Those times were exceptions!”) and she’s asked him to leave and now she feels bad and lonely.
For the first time, I’m wishing he was normal—
No, Ana, that’s not the first time you’ve wished that. But I’ll forgive the unreliable memory since you’re in a state of distress at the moment.
wanting a normal relationship that doesn’t need a ten page agreement
Well, according to the last chapter, it’s eleven pages PLUS whatever the prescribed food list was—
Ana then stares down at her hands again, which just makes me feel sad for some reason because kids do that when they’re feeling uncomfortable and guilty, and it’s yet another one of those utterly helpless, pathetic Ana-isms.
This is the first time I have ever had sex in my own home, and as sex goes, I think it was pretty damn fine.
This is the point where I stop feeling sad and just go back to rolling my eyes. Because, really, Ana, you don’t have much to compare this to, and I’d say that the aftermath was easily enough to kill the moment. Let’s look at the bigger picture here for a moment: the guy is a douche.
And it only gets worse when Ana’s then immediately thinking like this:
But now I feel like a receptacle– an empty vessel to be filled at his whim.
Spooky, Ana, because I think that’s what I implied, at some stage earlier, that he was using you as. (I’m reading this as I go, too, folks. Trust me, it’s hard enough reading it once, let alone more than that.) I’ve got a random tip for you, and I know I’m hardly an expert on awesome lovey-times relationships, but seriously? You should not be feeling like this after you’ve had sex with someone. Or, maybe the feeling is acceptable, but it’s not cool and not fair for you to be left feeling like this. This is not a promising and healthy start for a relationship. And the fact that you’re normally able to overlook all sorts of weirdness like this and deny it away and that this particular thing has you feeling miserable? This is a sign. A big fucking neon flashing one.
My subconscious shakes her head. You wanted to run to the Heathman for sex– you had it express delivered.
Yes, but fantasising about something and not doing it is very different from having a dude appear in your room and have sex with you, then basically treat you like a receptacle and tell you that some intimacy with him was a mistake because you were upset with him suggesting you meet his ex.
She crosses her arms and taps her foot with a what-are-you-complaining-about look on her face.
Your subconscious is a douche, Ana. At least it’s not the Inner Goddess, I suppose.
Christian then asks if she’s okay, which I’m sure is meant to be nice, but it just looks like he’s fucking with her head from this angle or realising that he’s pushed too far and she won’t be signing that contract if he doesn’t even pretend to show some concern about her. And for some reason, that’s when Ana has a revelation.
I know that if I do this thing with him, I will get hurt. He’s not capable, interested or willing to offer me any more… and I want more.
I think that’s enough for me, personally. She’s figured it out. Show’s over, kids, good game, we can pack our shit up and go home. Ana finally woke up to herself in a hideously fast and unbelievable moment of character development.
Hang on… wait. I’m not even at the end of the chapter. There are another 314 pages of this. I am feeling cheated.
He kisses her, agrees to “Wednesday,” and they kiss some more.
“Anastasia,” he whispers. “What are you doing to me?”
“I could say the same to you,” I whisper back.
Um. No. Fuck you with a fucking garden hose with barbed wire in it, Grey, you emotionally abusive shithead. Seriously, YOU were the one who started this shit. Yes, Ana is a complete fuckwit, but you’re an arsehole, and you’re essentially blaming HER for you being a shithead towards her? You are responsible for your own behaviour. Ana is not. You are horrible. You are like the high octane nightmare fuel of the BDSM community, not its godamned posterboy. You are an emotionally FRIED manchild who can’t take responsibility for his own actions and who preys on the emotionally stunted and delusional.
Ana then feels sad as he drives off, nothing is resolved, and the poor kid then has however long it is to dwell on this incident.
She runs back to her bedroom and starts sobbing. Let’s just say if these two were awful as a “healthy,” mushy, in-love couple, they’re even more awful like this. Maybe this would be a nifty break before Ana plans epic revenge which destroys his company, his reputation, his relationship with Shota Tiger and everything else he holds dear, but I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen.
Thankfully, Kate comes to the rescue, and while Ana cries, she tells her that the other Grey brother was a douche, too, and that the two of them were mixed up with arms dealings in Darfur like everyone suspected, though Kate’s been clever and blackmailed both of them and now has five billion dollars up her sleeve and that Ana could do WAY better than Grey and that she’s always liked her like that, and they have a Moment, and then the two of them drive off into the sunset and live happily ever after and the next three hundred pages is like Thelma and Louise but with a happier ending and—
No. Sorry to disappoint. Kate does appear, and she gives Ana a hug, and the rest of it is back to stunted dialogue and awkwardness. Kate has gone from being hatefully blonde into being Ana’s only friend again. She comments on Ana’s “dreadful sex hair” and they share a girlish laugh about that.
Anyway, Ana explains what happens, and I get bored and start thinking that this book probably fails the Bechdel test because despite how long it is, Ana and Kate only ever seem to have discussions about dudes one or both of them is sleeping with or would like to be sleeping with.
Kate, because– oh I don’t know why— says that she thinks Grey is smitten with her. Which, really? Kate always seemed brighter than that, but maybe she’s already over the drama and just wants to shut Ana up so she can go off to Barbados, so she’ll tell her anything– I don’t know, and I don’t care any more. There is only so much bad sex, stupid soap opera, creepiness-disguised-as-love and melodrama you can pack into one chapter before my interest starts to wane and I start feeling like a five-year-old with ADD.
Ana, for the first time ever, seems to have amazing clarity about the situation.
I frown. Christian smitten with me? Hardly. He’s just looking for a new toy– a convenient new toy that he can bed and do unspeakable things to. My heart tightens painfully. This is the reality.
“He came here to fuck me, that’s all.”
“Who said romance was dead?” she whispers, horrified. I’ve shocked Kate. I didn’t think that was possible. I shrug apologetically.
“He uses sex as a weapon.”
Um. This is like, the third thing this chapter that Ana has said or thought that suggests that she knows how scary and creepy he is. This is where Ana shouldn’t be crying, or agreeing to Wednesday, but having a seriously huge Dodged Bullet party for herself because having realised that he’s this creepy before he’s scarred her permanently is worthy of celebration if anything is.
Kate seems to get it, but then sort of minimises, suggesting that he has committment issues. Which is a bit like saying that strychnine is a little bit poisonous. Or that Fred Phelps is a little bit crazy. Or that E. L. James’ editor was a little bit AWOL.
They then change the topic, and Ana asks about Elliot, because asking about the brother of the guy who’s just treated you like a receptacle is totally going to stop you dwelling on him. It seems, from what Kate says, that Elliot is a nice guy, and he’s helping them pack their shit and move out.
You’d think Ana would be overjoyed for her friend. Nope. She’s jealous.
Ana, it is really hard to like you. Seriously.
Anyway, then Kate informs Ana that while she was being used as a receptable, Bob (who was Bob again? Oh, wasn’t that Ana’s stepfather who got mentioned, like, once, a hundred pages ago?) got injured and he and her mother can’t go to her graduation. But her dad will. (Hang on, I thought her dad died?)
Instead of doing what anyone normal would do, which is freak out about injured parentals, or feel bad about them missing one of the most important life events someone can have (sorry, but education is important. Moreso when it’s a fucking miracle that you graduated, and I think given Ana’s general lack of intelligence, this falls majorly under the fucking miracle umbrella) she decides to re-read the contract. Because even though she’s realised what Grey is, she’s fucking stupid and she’s making notes and deciding that she wants to do this.
Can we say guilted into BDSM, ladies and gentlemen?
Grey acts like nothing’s happened and has emailled to say that he’s looking forward to her notes on the contract. I swear, both of them are a match made in heaven with their capacity for denial and their inability to have a normal adult conversation about this.
Ana emails him back and surprisingly develops a spine through the written word. She points out a few things.
Not sure why this is solely for MY benefit– ie. to explore MY sensuality and limits. I’m sure I wouldn’t need a ten-page contract to do that. Surely this is for YOUR benefit.
And now things just got interesting.
Ana also points out that she’s being monogamous and not using drugs, and that she’s “probably” safe but asks a very reasonable “What about you?”
She also puts down some other rules: the food list goes or she does (YAY! Go Ana!), there’s a one-month trial period, she wants definition on his using her body “sexually or otherwise”, she points out that his wanting to hit her with stuff “for any other reason” is just mean and that he said he wasn’t a sadist, and asks some questions about his idiotic rules. She also defines some of her soft limits. Like “no fisting.” (I guess since it’s only a soft limit, we know she’ll change her mind on it and E. L. James will psych herself up to writing it. I suppose this is one of those times where the phrase “be prepared” actually is a good idea. Brace yourselves, people.)
Grey ignores all of this, says “That’s a long list” and asks why she’s still up. Let’s be avoidant, right?
Ana then points out that she was actually reading the contract before he turned up and “bedded her” and calls him a control freak.
Grey hits capslock and tells her to go to bed.
All this happens over email in the space of just under an hour, which at least makes it easy to summarise, though nothing is really resolved.
Oh… shouty capitals! I switch off. How can he intimidate me when he’s six miles away? I shake my head. My heart still heavy, I climb into bed and fall instantly into a deep but troubled sleep.
And we know it’s troubled because there
Protip, Ana, you shouldn’t be intimidated by a sexual partner. While it’s awesome that you finally grew one and stood up for yourself, it’s still really fucking worrying.
I mean, seriously, there’s risky sexy funtimes with an element of danger, but when there are epic emotions getting played with, when there’s an immense power imbalance, and when someone is WAY more invested in a relationship than the other party, and when someone is clearly not interested in a connection the other person is pretty much requiring… that’s not what I’d call lighthearted romantic fluff. And if I’m going to be reading about interesting and fucked up people destroying one another, I want it to be about people I’m interested in enough to care about, otherwise it’s all a bit pointless.