50 Shades of Grey, E. L. James; Chapter Thirteen
Trigger warnings for victim-blaming rape-culturey nastiness in this one, folks. I won’t lie: it took me a while to get through this because life went hectic on me again and I couldn’t handle more depressing stuff for a bit. But I’m back.
The next day, Ana rings her mother. Finally! A character in this book who must have SOME sort of redeeming feature, with the added bonus that she doesn’t want to have sex with Ana… right?
Before we get any intel on mom, we get to hear Ana’s inner monologue:
I’m restless, nervous about my showdown with Mr. Control Freak tomorrow, and at the back of my mind, I’m worried that perhaps I’ve been too negative in my response to the contract.
Yeah, Ana, because it’s perfectly acceptable for a dude to essentially tell you consent to doing whatever he wants to you, whenever he wants, while he controls every aspect of your life, while you aren’t even able to touch him or look him in the eye and when you have absolutely no understanding or real life comparison for what he wants… right? Asking questions or even the slightest bit of negotiation isn’t on, right?
Um… I don’t think this is what BDSM is about. This is to BDSM what SpongeBob SquarePants is to sex education.
Perhaps he’ll call the whole thing off.
We can only wonder if that’s your subconscious doing the ol’ wishful thinking thing, right? All I can say is that this doesn’t sound like Ana is really into this whole deal, which is saner than Ana’s sounded for most of the book.
My mother is oozing contrition, desperately sorry not to make my graduation. Bob has twisted some ligament, which means he’s hobbling all over the place. Honestly, he’s as accident prone as I am. He’s expected to make a full recovery, but it means he’s resting up and my mother has to wait on him hand and sore foot.
I’m not surprised that the person who gave birth to this moron hasn’t figured out that you can hire wheelchairs and Bob could go to the graduation in one of them. For fuck’s sake, it’s your only child’s graduation. This shit doesn’t happen all the time. Then again, think about it: you have one kid. And it turns out to be Ana Steele. I’d be feeling pretty damned ashamed of myself if my only genetic heir turned out to be as thick as her. But… still… I’d feel like an even bigger failure as a parent if I missed the graduation.
“Ana, honey, I’m so sorry,” my mom whines into the phone.
“Mom, it’s fine. Ray will be there.”
“Ana, you sound distracted—are you okay, baby?”
Oh god. This conversation flows like tar through a blocked up sink. Honestly, I wrote better conversations between characters when I was a kid.
Anyway, Ana thinks about Grey, because no, she’s totally not distracted, and then Ana’s mom asks the question about the only thing important concerning her daughter.
“Have you met someone?”
YOUR DAUGHTER IS ABOUT TO GRADUATE AND MOVE TO THE CAPITAL CITY AND ALL YOU GIVE A FUCK ABOUT IS IF SHE’S GETTING DICK. OMG. Anyone else stopped wondering why Ana might have such disgustingly awful self-esteem and only really view herself in the context of the men she has in her life?
I’m finding it amusing that I’m posting this on Mothers’ Day (Happy Mother’s Day, people!) because seriously, Ana’s mother SUCKS.
Fortunately, that conversation dies in the arse because really, it’s clear that Ana’s mother has said everything important, and there are far more pressing subjects to return to, like Grey, who hasn’t been mentioned for at least a few lines now.
Ana switches on her computer and opens “her email program” (PLEASE, E. L. : if you can detail the specs of a computer, find out what the iOS uses for email and just refer to that… or just say that Ana opens her email).
There’s an email from Christian from late last night or very early this morning depending on your point of view.
What? I looked at that and wondered why Ana had broken the fourth wall in a way she hasn’t before, and if she was implying that the email came from Australia or something. No, it didn’t. The header says it arrived at 1:27am. That’s very early in the morning.
Christian titles the email “Your Issues” as though he doesn’t seem to have any, and in a passive-aggressive way that makes me want to scream because he’s doing that creepy projection thing again, and copypastes a definition of “submissive” into the body of the email and signs off. Because he’s so good at actually communicating with someone who has only just become aware of the kink he’s insisting on if she wants into his reality. He is a fucking jerk, yet again.
Ana is fucking oblivious, yet again.
My initial feeling is one of relief. He’s willing to discuss my issues, at least, and he still wants to meet tomorrow.
Ana, this isn’t discussion. This is him being a passive-aggressive bully. The fact that you accuse Kate, who has been nothing but nice to you so far, of being a bully, yet you’re completely ignoring this crap and acting like it’s healthy communication is fucking ridiculous.
Ana titles the email “My issues… what about your issues?” and replies pointing out that when he copypasted, he even included the date of origin, and that it’s now, like 430 years later and that times have changed. Mirroring his demonstration of healthy and mature conversation, she copypastes the definition of “compromise” and signs off.
Thankfully we don’t get another page and a half of her inner turmoil about doing this, but we do get another email from Grey titled “What about my issues?”
He congratulates her on making her point well like he’s judging a high school debate, and says he’ll collect her at 7:00 tomorrow. Ana then titles an email “2011—Women can drive” and says she’ll meet him at the hotel.
Grey then sends her back an email titled “Stubborn Young Women” which sounds like something that would end up in one’s spam filter and tells her to refer to the definition of submissive again and asks if she’ll ever do what she’s told. Something he fails to recall she’s pretty much done since he started telling her to do stuff. Ana then emails him back saying “[she] would like to drive. Please” because apparently, even without a signature on the hokey Readers Digest competition contract, she’s now got to ask for permission to drive. More emails and it’s settled, she’ll meet him in the hotel bar.
Ana then rings Ray, just because, and even though she attests they have a special bond, absolutely nothing significant happens in the paragraph where he gets a brief mention. After this, Ana hits the cheap red wine with Kate and they go back to packing. Have you heard about chick lit books which are about shopping and fucking? This is like the chick lit book about drinking and packing. That’s all they do besides men stuff, and to be honest, since the men are such abysmal specimens, I honestly look forward to the Kate and Ana lesbian subtext while they’re drinking wine and packing and having memorable moments.
Nothing happens there, either, but physically exhausted, Ana goes to bed and sleeps.
All these meaningless paragraphs are like when you start playing Persona 4 and for the first, like, hour, while the storyline unravels, you can’t actually do anything, so you just get told “You’re tired and you go to bed” or “You decide to go to school” and you don’t really control the action and nothing except brief character mentions happen. The difference is, Persona 4 is awesome, so you play through it. This, however, is not.
Next paragraph, and we’re back to Paul. Paul was that dude in Twilight who kept annoying Bella for a date only now he’s a Princeton prep and he works in a hardware store. Like ever other man in this book, he wants to get into Ana’s knickers.
He follows me around the store all day asking me for a date. It’s annoying.
“Paul, for the hundredth time, I have a date this evening.”
“No you don’t, you’re just saying that to avoid me. You’re always avoiding me.”
Hmmm. I wonder why, you passive-aggressive pindick? OMFG. This is MEANT to be the bit where Ana goes into the hand tools aisle and grabs a demonstration nailgun and holds it to Paul’s crotch and says, “I have told you a bazillion fucking times, jerkoff, this is sexual fucking harassment and I don’t have to justify my decisions to anyone. You have one chance to apologise and demonstrate that your apology isn’t just an attempt to butter me up or you might as well ship off to Europe and join the Vienna Boys’ Choir.”
Instead, it’s the bit where Ana justifies that no, she’s not just being mean, she’s actually dating Christian Grey. After offering a bunch of other reasons why dating him would be a bad idea (none of which include that he’s a fucking creep) and after he’s assumed that she’s dating Jose. Because every girl wants romances with the guy who attempted to rape them, right?
Paul looks positively crestfallen, stunned even, and a very small part of me resents that he should find this a surprise. My inner goddess does, too. She makes a very vulgar and unattractive gesture at him with her fingers.
I cannot believe that E. L. James can describe a penis as a fucking popsicle, yet she cannot name, or accurately describe a fucking hand gesture most three year olds can make.
After that, Paul ignores her. Woot. One loser down, two to go.
Kate has lent me two dresses and two pairs of shoes for tonight and for graduation tomorrow.
Hang on… I thought Kate had a completely different figure to Ana. Oh: this is just that whole lack of continuity thing happening again. (I realise Kate HAS loaned Ana clothing before, but a suit for an interview and a top and some shoes? If they’re both, say, the same sort of size and wear the same size shoes, I can buy this for suits and shoes. But dresses—especially dressing-up type dresses for evening and formal events? No. Those get a bit more personal. Kate apparently has cleavage and curves and is skinny at the same time, and apparently this is vastly different to Ana’s body shape. NOW: maybe I’m over thinking this, but you know what? This is meant to be aimed at women, and chick lit always makes references to the protagonist’s body shape. It’s one of those THINGS women are meant to be obsessing about (even if they’re not attracted to said women’s bodies) like stupid designer label shoes and handbags and that sort of crap. Personally, I hate this stuff, and I tend to skim like hell when reading chick lit because, well, no interest, but I realise it’s a frequent trope, and I gather it does interest the average reader.
So seriously, E.L? Get it right. An evening dress designed for someone busty and skinny is going to look horrendous on someone who has massive shoulders and a brick-shaped body with no definitive curves (example used because I know about this from experience). Either Ana has a very similar to Kate body and nothing to complain about or be jealous of, OR they’re not sharing evening dresses.
I wish I could feel more enthused about clothes and make an extra effort, but clothes are just not my thing.
Which explains why everyone’s outfits get described in detail all the time, right?
Shaking my head and endeavouring to quell my nerves, I decide on the plum-coloured sheath dress for this evening.
Now, I didn’t even know what a sheath dress was until I googled it just then. Ana is more into clothing than I am.
It’s demure and vaguely businesslike—after all, I am negotiating a contract.
A contract which is not legally enforceable, remember. Furthermore, Ana, it shouldn’t matter if you rock up to see him wearing a fucking clown suit: if clothes mean he’s going to take you seriously—or otherwise—when you’re discussing some Pretty Important Stuff surrounding your relationship, he’s a jerk. Seriously. This isn’t too far from implying that women “ask for” acts of violence committed against them because of what they’re wearing. You are talking about a fucking relationship… this isn’t a job interview or dressing to impress the inlaws for the first time.
I shave my legs and underarms, wash my hair, and then spend a good half hour drying it do it falls in soft waves to my breasts and down my back. I slip a comb in to keep one side off my face and apply mascara and some lip gloss.
Why ANY of this needs mentioning is beyond me.
I rarely wear makeup—it intimidates me.
What. The. Fuck.
Seriously. What the everloving fuck was that? This is a woman who is wanting to jump into a serious relationship from a guy who’s a habitrail set short of being Patrick Bateman and she’s saying she’s scared of makeup. After applying *gasp* lip gloss (which is pretty much the non-makeup-iest makeup ever) and mascara (which is pretty much the second most non-makeup-iest makeup ever).
Is this Ana showing that she’s a tough feminist who doesn’t need makeup to feel pretty or something? (To this, I roll my eyes. I have grown up around people who use makeup. I have been working since I was fourteen in roles where makeup was considered just a part of basic grooming. I have met women who are epic feminists who wear more makeup than I do. I have met women who come out with the most hideous anti-woman, slut-shaming go-back-to-the-fucking-dark-ages crap [some of which gets directed at women who wear makeup] who are anti-makeup. There is nothing good or bad about makeup. If you are wearing it because it makes you feel good, power to you. If you are not wearing it because that makes you feel good, power to you. There is nothing inherently bad—or scary—or anything else—about makeup per se.)
Ana’s thing against makeup is based around the fact that
None of my literary heroines had to deal with makeup—maybe I’d know more about it if they had.
Dafuq? Ana your literary heroines had to deal with arsehole men, and you’re kind of crappy at dealing with them, too, so I’m thinking that your argument doesn’t hold. Furthermore, my literary heroes have had to deal with the supernatural, firearms, various illnesses, problems which are well off in the future, some batshit crazy American stuff we don’t see to the same degree in Australia, very intense moral and psychological issues and seriously fucked up parents. I know nothing of what to do about any of these things in real life.
“Well?” I ask Kate.
She grins. “Boy, you scrub up well, Ana.” She nods with approval. “You look hot.”
Nope. No subtext at all there.
“Hot! I’m aiming for demure and businesslike.”
“That too, but most of all hot. That dress really suits you and your colouring. The way it clings.” She smirks.
Even I understand this to look like fairly blatant flirting.
“Kate!” I scold.
Once again, um… the only reason you’d knock back compliments like that is if they were embarrassing, right? Why be embarrassed, unless someone’s secret crush had started becoming a bit less secret…
“Just keeping it real, Ana. The whole package—looks good. Keep the dress. You’ll have him eating out of your hand.”
My mouth presses in a hard line. Oh, you so have that the wrong way around.
“Wish me luck.”
“You need luck for a date?” Her brow furrows, puzzled.
“Well then—good luck.” She hugs me, and I am out the front door.
Yes, I only included that because there was subtext for AnaKate, the Greatest Ship That Never Sailed, and other than the sex contract and hearing things in George Takei’s voice, that’s the most fun I’m having with this book. (I probably would be having fun with the drinking game, but then I’d probably be spending most of my pay on grog, and I’d be having to worry about things like liver transplants in a few months, so it’s probably safer that I steer clear of the drinking game.)
Ana drives to the hotel in Wanda, her beetle which I don’t remember being mentioned prior to now (because Ana’s always been borrowing mean horrible blonde Kate’s Beemer for all her car-related things or getting Charlie Tangoed around town—random aside—doesn’t “getting Charlie Tangoed” sound like a euphemism for something X-rated?) and pulls up in hideous Blu-ray levels of detail and goes into the hotel.
Christian is leaning casually against the bar drinking a glass of white wine. He’s dressed in his customary white linen shirt, black jeans, black tie, and black jacket.
Ana isn’t very into clothes, remember. Also, the description has me trying to visualise Grey in black jeans, and I just can’t. What I am getting is the whole black jacket, white shirt, black tie, black slacks OMFG he’s just wandered off the set of Reservoir Dogs thing and I spent half a second wondering what his name would be. Duh: he’d be Mr. Grey. Except for the fact that
His hair is touselled as ever.
and those guys in Reservoir Dogs were totally slick motherfuckers and Edward Cullen and his touselled hair would have been laughed at.
Anyway, they look at one another across the room and Ana makes a concerted effort not to bite her lip because that makes Grey go scary, and she’s aware that she’s clumsy and in stilettos (something else I wrote off as being continuity fail, so points for actually picking that one up, E. L.) and he walks over to her and tells her she looks stunning and leads her over to a booth and signals for a waiter.
When he asks her what she wants to drink, she says she’ll have what he’s having, and he finds this amusing and orders another glass, and then he gets visibly nervous. And asks if she’s nervous. The whole thing comes off like a really awkward teenage first date, but with more legal booze. The waiter returns with small dishes of nuts and olives.
“So how are we going to do this?” I ask. “Run through my points one by one?”
“Impatient as ever, Miss Steele.”
Huh? So far he’s been the one who’s pretty much pushed like all hell for her to just hurry up and sign her fucking life away, so it’s more than slightly hypocritical of him to criticise her for being impatient. But then again, I guess hypocrisy and him getting to carry on however he feels like it are things she’s supposed to get used to as well.
There’s some filler, and then Ana tells him
“You know, this contract is legally unenforceable.”
TOUCH-DOWN! TOUCH-DOWN! WHOOOOOOO!
High five, Ana! That’s sticking it to da man.
And we have our moment of glory because we know that conniving prick is going to somehow turn it around and make her sign it and agree to it anyway, because that’s what this book is all about.
“I am fully aware of that, Miss Steele.”
“Were you going to tell me that at any point?”
Yeah, that was exactly what I was wondering too. Because, I dunno, I just got more than a slight inkling—especially since he didn’t actually mention that to her and allowed her to discover that for herself—that he would have been perfectly content if she’d just assumed it was a legal thing.
He frowns. “You’d think I’d coerce you into something you don’t want to do, and then pretend I have legal hold over you?”
Fuck yes. You’ve already shown her that you’re capable of manipulating her, ignoring her wishes, bullying her and passive-aggressively controlling her, so why not this? Also, you didn’t answer the question, Grey.
“You don’t think very highly of me, do you?”
“You haven’t answered my question.”
OMFG. People, this guy is a certifiable shithead. Seriously, this is classic abuser behaviour already: when called out on wrongdoings, to then put it all onto the victim with something amounting to “You don’t like me and that hurts/you should feel bad about it.”
Ana is actually asking questions, trying to negotiate something she’s being expected to devote a significant portion of her time and attention to—and you’re basically bullying her about this? You are a fucking douche, Grey.
“Anastasia, it doesn’t matter if it’s legal or not.
I’m pretty damn sure that you’re the only person in the world who actually thinks this, Grey. I’m pretty sure the judge presiding over The People v Grey when you get done for various domestic violence-related offences will agree with me.
It represents an arrangement that I would like to make with you—what I would like from you and what you can expect from me. If you don’t like it, then don’t sign.
You nasty, horrible, entitled little fuck. I thought part of the stupid contract was about agreement, not about her just signing something.
If you do sign and then decide you don’t like it, there are enough get-out clauses so you can walk away
Um, like the one where she has to ask you permission to leave, you nasty-arsed piece of shit?
Even if it were legally binding, do you think I’d drag you through the courts if you did decide to run?”
Well, fair call. I’d be more inclined to suspect you’d send an assassin after her to make sure there was no risk of that other fucking thing—the non-disclosure agreement—which she did sign—being broken.
Ana sips her wine and has a think about this.
“Relationships like this are built on honesty and trust,” he continues. “If you don’t trust me—trust me to know how I’m affecting you, how far I can go with you, how far I can take you—if you can’t be honest with me, then we really can’t do this.”
Hang on: firstly: she’s the one being upfront and honest, Grey, and you’re attacking her for it or using shitty little passive-aggressive turn around moves on her. Secondly, asking her to know what she’s okay with when she doesn’t know SHIT is ridiculous. It’s like asking a blind person to watch and judge a figure skating contest. She has NO IDEA and your stupid contract—which you’re now getting shitty about now that she’s said it’s not legally enforceable—was meant to be all about ensuring her safety and ability to explore things safely. Now you’re putting the hard word on her.
The only thing that’s going to make you even more unlikeable, Grey, is if they get John Howard to play you when this travesty winds up on the silver screen.
Oh my. We’ve cut to the chase quickly. How far he can take me. Holy shit. What does that mean?
Folks, I present to you the statement from the plaintiff. Clearly she has no understanding of the lifestyle Mr. Grey is trying to pressure her into agreeing to.
“So it’s quite simple, Anastasia. Do you trust me or not?” His eyes are burning, fervent.
Oh, because you’ve given her SO many reasons to trust her implicitly in the past, right?
And my eyes are burning, too. That’s because I just tried to remove them with a spoon after seeing the word fervent used yet again.
Ana then asks if Grey’s had similar discussions with the fifteen, and he tells her that no, he did not because—and I wait for the BDSM community to start grabbing the nearest, most painful and brandishable goods and start storming in the direction of E. L. James’ house—”they were established submissives.” Apparently established subs don’t need things like agreements and merely some rich dude saying he’s a dom means that they have to trust he’ll not abuse his power. Because, yep, it’s not like Grey’s not an entitled little fuck when it comes to women or anything like that, is it?
Grey then explains it was just an issue of fine-tuning the soft limits with them. I wonder what his definition of “fine tuning” is. Does it mean the general apathy he’s shown in regards to Ana’s boundaries an yet-to-be-established trust?
Frighteningly, we then get this:
“Is that what you want to discuss? Or shall we get down to the nitty-gritty? Your issues, as you say.”
Wow. Not as all condescending and vaguely scary. Nope. I’d TOTALLY trust this guy… to do something that’ll land him in jail, most likely after a 50-hour siege and tear gas being deployed by the cops.
I swallow. Do I trust him? Is that what all this comes down to—trust? Surely that should be a two-way thing. I remember his snit when I phoned Jose.
Except that you didn’t phone Jose—Jose was continually harassing you after you were ignoring him after attempted sexual assault. And Grey then did some epic victim-blaming and resorted to ignoring you and switching on the frost treatment until you bit your lip and he decided he wanted to molest you some, Ana. The fact that you’re remembering yourself as the instigator to all of this is really fucking horrifying.
Grey then does his feeder thing where he annoys Ana about needing to eat, and
“You have to eat, Anastasia. We can eat down here or in my suite. What would you prefer?”
“I think we should stay in public, on neutral ground.”
He smiles sardonically.
“Do you think that would stop me?” he says softly, a sensual warning.
QAHFFHFAFHJGHJJ what the FUCK was that I just read? Did he just threaten to rape—or otherwise do something to her? Was this him arguing that being in public wouldn’t stop him? Because that is awfully what it sounded like.
That wasn’t a sardonic smile, Ana, that was one of those faces video characters like http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMQKGMS_Df4 Damon Gant or Kristoph Gavin (whose creepy expression I can’t find independent of a whole bunch of Ace Attorney stuff which won’t make sense to non-fans, so I’ll spare you and you’lll just have to trust me yourselves) who have turned into memetic molesters thanks to their expressions— make. It is not a happytimes expression. It is a creepy, scary, get-the-fuck-AWAY expression.
Worse yet, now that he’s not only asked Ana if she wants to stay in public, and has implied that that’s not even neutral safe ground—and remembering that this is all following on from a “do you trust me? You NEED to trust me” conversation he’s had, he then does the following
“Come, I have a private room booked. No public.” He smiles at me enigmatically and climbs out of the booth, holding his hand out to me.
Gee. I’d totally trust a dude who’s given me the Gant Rape Smile and then implied that he would rape me in public if he wanted to after EXPRESSLY going against my wishes precisely after asking me what I felt comfortable doing.
Ana isn’t me, though, and she’s Disney princess levels of mesmerised and she goes along with it, swept up in a magical hotel world full of decadence and glamour and wonder. And her consent and limits being ignored, but hey, why quibble over a minor detail like that?
There’s a whole bunch of description of his private room which is all chandeliers and glamourous old-world sparkly shit and it sounds so clichéd you’d be forgiven for thinking he’d whisked her off into a themed room in a Japanese love hotel.
I’m actually so disgusted and angry now that I’m skimming. Seriously, this has hit a new low. This is sexual liberation in the same sort of way that Anne Coulter is about feminism. The fact that this fucking hideous rape culture crap is not only being marketed as romance but it’s sold umpteen bazillion copies—and that it’s being hailed as some sort of great sexual liberator makes me want to curl up in a ball in bed with my cats and stay there forever.
Grey, of course, has already ordered food, and they’re waiting on it. He turns back into Dr. Jekyl and tells Ana he’ll redraft the bit in the contract which says stuff about it being all for Ana’s benefit, which is kind of inconsequential anyway since it’s all a big scary fucking headfuck and if this little incident didn’t demonstrate that even if Ana says she wants something, he’s going to completely ignore that and bully or sweet talk her into doing something else.
Now do you guys see why I would dearly LOVE to see Toreth dealing with him?
Anyway, Grey then discloses stuff about how he’s disease free and anti drugs (and honestly, who gives a FUCK about his stance on drugs? I would feel safer with a pot-smoking hippie who’s demonstrated that he believes women aren’t just potential sex toys than an avid anti-drug arsehole who seems to think that having money entitles him to everything including raping people). To the point where he drug tests everyone at his work, because his workplace policies have everything to do with what’s going on here right now. ANA, HE IS TRYING TO BLINDSIDE YOU WITH DISTRACTIONS.
He then gives Ana this charming ultimatum
“Your next point I mentioned earlier. You can walk away any time, Anastasia. I won’t stop you. If you go, however—that’s it. Just so you know.”
And that, kids, is how you do emotional blackmail.
It’s also, come to think of it, the sort of thing I want to impart to my own kids: that if they ever hook up with someone who puts these sorts of ridiculous ultimatums on them, they’re bad fucking news. Telling someone it’s all or nothing like that at the start of things, that my-way-or-the-highway shit? NOT cool. Also, I thought Grey remained on great terms with his exes and that this had been enough to cause previous upset to Ana. Continuity? What continuity?
And folks, if I ever, EVER see anyone attacking fourteen year old slashfic writers ever again, I will advise them to read this book, an then, if that hasn’t humiliated them into apologising, to insert this oversized, underedited piece of drek somewhere quite painful and unsuited for the purpose of storing said material. Because even if you’re writing about the guys from Fallout Boy sexing one another up on stage and using audio equipment for shagadelic purposes, or you’re writing hideous Oz fic with 733t speak and terrible, hideous OOC dialogue, or you’re writing about Don and Charlie from Numb3rs simultaneously coming out to their dad and then telling him that they’ve been at it like bunnies for the last ten years—hell—even if you’re writing Care Bears fic where they’re all human variants of the Care Bears and they’re all emos and they have magic powers and they form a rock band which gets world famous and they fight crime and go to Hogwarts and I don’t fucking know what else… even if you did that, it would still be a bazillion times better than this. Trust me on this: I’ve read a lot of slash fic. None of it has been quite this bad, and even the stuff that’s come close has been written by people who can’t help but not know any better, and it hasn’t been professionally edited and published.
After this, the waiter arrives with oysters, and he eats them and tells her how to eat them and I think there’s meant to be a reference to Ana sucking off Grey many chapters ago but I always thought oysters were one of those wink-wink-nudge-nudge sorta-family-friendly references to ladyparts. And all through the oyster thing I keep remembering that line (at 00:58 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJ0VSmkebwk) which got cut out of Spartacus.
“I’ll have another,” I say dryly.
“Good girl,” he says proudly.
“Did you choose those deliberately? Aren’t they known for their aphrodisiac qualities?”
“No, they are the first item on the menu. I don’t need an aphrodisiac near you. I think you know that, and I think you react the same way near me,” he says simply. “So where we we?”
I’m really confused about the detail that went into this as well as the hints at innuendo if this wasn’t meant to be at all suggestive. Unless it’s Grey just gaslighting her a bit more.
He reads from her printed-up email, continuing to respond to her “issues.”
“Obey me in all things. Yes, I want you to do that, I need you to do that. Think of it as role play, Anastasia.”
But… “All things” isn’t “all things limited to sexual role play” and if he gets into her head any more—something she cannot even fathom happening, I’m guessing—he could play her like a fucking fiddle, and she would be obeying him in, um all things. (Then again, shit might get interesting and he might train her to be an assassin or something. But he probably won’t.)
“But I’m worried you’ll hurt me.”
“Hurt you how?”
“Physically.” And emotionally.
The fact that Ana is realising this and not actively pushing him on these points is grrr worthy. I’m torn between being glad that she’s not stupid enough to have not considered this, and already pitying her for being so sucked in this early by this creep.
“Do you think I would really do that? Go beyond any limit you can’t take?”
Um, YES. And not without reason, Grey. The fact that you’re in a private suite now is all about you ignoring Ana’s limits and desire for safety. This is a bit like Tony Abbott bleating about how he’s not a misogynist after the fact that he’s said several times in interviews that women belong in the kitchen and that a woman’s virginity defines her. Furthermore, dude: unless you get consent: you’re not a mindreader. Finding out where someone’s limits are after crossing them unintentionally is not responsible BDSM stuff.
Or has something changed in Grey that we, the readers are supposed to have picked up on? Does he suddenly give a fuck about Ana’s limits? I’m voting “no” since she pointedly stated that she wanted to stay in public and he dragged her off to his private suite anyway.
Ana then points out that Grey actually has admitted to hurting someone before (while ignoring the fact that she could be mentioning his complete disregard of her boundaries) and asks about that. Turns out it involved something going wrong when he suspended a submissive from the “playroom” ceiling. He says, suspiciously, “One of the ropes was tied too tightly.” Ana asks him not to elaborate. Which is a bit dim, because there are levels of “hurt” when things get tied too tightly. One one end of the scale, we have rope burn. At the other end, there’s a dead body for Taylor to dispose of. Somewhere in the middle are limbs and extremities coming off due to limited blood supply to the area.
But Grey just says that if Ana doesn’t want to be suspended, she can make that a hard limit.
“So, obeying, do you think you can manage that?”
He stares at me, his gaze intense. The seconds tick by.
“I could try,” I whisper.
“Good.” He smiles. “Now term. One month instead of three is no time at all, especially if you want a weekend away from me each month. I don’t think I’ll be able to stay away from you for that length of time. I can barely manage it now.”
What the hell? Firstly, a trial period is just that. Secondly, three weeks is more than enough time to work out if BDSM play is your thing or not. And presumably she can still leave at any time, according to him (even though the stupid contract says he needs her permission to) so this should be a non-issue for him. Thirdly, he was the one who insisted upon only seeing her on the weekends like he’s some dude having an affair when his wife’s gone out the door for whatever she does on weekends.
It’s like every time Ana decides to do something reasonable, sensible and mature, Grey takes issue with it. In the context of this book, it’s stupid and annoying. In the context of real life though, when you’re dating someone who does this? SCARY FUCKING SHIT. Repeated attacks on someone like that can get them to stop trusting themselves when they’re doing basically smart, self-preservation-ish things. The fact that he’s doing this so early into the relationship is awful.
Ana is blindsided by the fact that he said he can’t stay away from her which is both sad and stupid all at once, and then Grey’s manipulating and controlling, I mean, bargaining powers, come out in full force:
“How about one day over one weekend per month you get to yourself—but I get a midweek night that week?”
Or how about you go freefall bungee jumping, shithead.
“And please, let’s try it for three months. If it’s not for you, then you can walk away any time.”
How about I totally ignore what you wanted, Ana, and just impose what I suggested on you from the first time I mentioned it. I hate people who “negotiate” by stating what they want, pretending to listen to an opposing idea, and then just saying “let’s do what I initially stated.” That is not negotiation or discussion.
Ana doesn’t feel very good about it, either.
“Three months?” I’m feeling railroaded.
This is not negotiation at ALL.
“The ownership thing, that’s just terminology and goes back to the principle of obeying. It’s to get you into the right frame of mind, to understand where I’m coming from. And I want you to know that as soon as you cross my threshold as my submissive, I will do what I like to you. You have to accept that, and willingly. That’s why you have to trust me. I will fuck you, any time, any way I want— anywhere I want. I will discipline you, because you will screw up. I will train you to please me.”
So, in other words—“The minute you consent to this, you’ve consented to everything, and you’d better get used to getting raped a lot. And I’m going to set you up to fail so I can punish you and even though we haven’t experimented with anything beyond light bondage and up until now my punishment has been orgasm denial, once you say yes to this, I’m going to start hitting you.”
Fuck you, Grey. You haven’t shifted an inch on this stuff you’ve supposedly listened to and taken into consideration from Ana. You’ve pretended to listen and then juts steamrolled ahead with what you want, reckless to her concerns. And you’ve told her it’s all or nothing.
Then Grey—being reasonable and understanding, I assume—comes out with this
“But I know you’ve not done this before. Initially we’ll take it slowly, and I will help you. We’ll build up to various scenarios. I will want you to trust me, but I know I have to earn your trust
NO YOU DON’T GREY. Earning trust doesn’t mean demanding it and then threatening to leave someone high and dry if they don’t acquiesce.
and I will. The ‘or otherwise’—again, it’s to help you get into the mindset; it means anything goes.”
Hang on: telling her “anything goes” isn’t just there for dramatic mood-setting, it’s telling her that anything goes, something you have just re-stated.
He’s so passionate, mesmerising. This is obviously his obsession, the way he is… I can’t take my eyes off him.
It’s like we break up the awful with little bits of Ana being all stupidly gushy. Which, by the way, doesn’t stop the awful bits being horribly awful.
“Still with me?” he whispers, his voice rich, warm and seductive. He takes a sip of his wine, his penetrating stare holding mine. The waiter comes to the door, and Christian subtly nods, permitting the waiter to clear the table.
“Would you like some more wine?”
“I have to drive.”
Yeah, Grey; you’re concerned about her safety and her alcohol intake until she’s driving around by herself. Bravo, fuckchaps.
Grey then rambles on about discipline and how this somehow factors into a pleasure-and-pain thing, and how he can show her this and how she needs to trust him. Then he says there will be pain, but apparently nothing Ana can’t handle.
Which is fascinating, since he has absolutely no idea of her reaction to pain and she’s never done this before and she’s not exactly chomping at the bit for him to start hitting her with stuff.
Then he asks if she trusts him. Basically, he’s corralled her into this, but apparently this is what passes for negotiation nowadays.
“Yes, I do.” I respond spontaneously, not thinking… because it’s true—I do trust him.
“Well, then,” he looks relieved. “The rest of this stuff is just details.”
Ana thinks she should have brought Kate’s digital recorder with her so she can record all this stuff and then mull it over afterwards, which kind of seems like getting insurance after your house has been burned to the ground, but hey, Ana’s thought processes are kind of stupid. All this gets interrupted by the waiter who brings back a whole heap of seafood and other stuff, and they talk about the food rule.
Grey amends his stupid Weight Watchers Safe List to “you have to eat three times a day” and even that’s a dealbreaker for Ana because apparently him fucking her whenever he feels like it is no issue, but telling her to eat three meals a day is ridiculous. I suppose this is chick-lit, which has the obligatory mention of a crash diet slotted in somewhere, but still.
“Why can’t I look at you?”
“That’s a dom/sub thing. You’ll get used to it.”
“Why can’t I touch you?”
“Because you can’t.” His mouth sets in a mulish line.
“Is it because of Mrs. Robinson?”
Didn’t they have this conversation last chapter when she asked about his dislike of being touched?
He looks quizzically at me. “Why would you think that?” And immediately he understands. “You think she traumatised me?”
“No, Anastasia. She’s not the reason. Besides, Mrs. Robinson wouldn’t take any of that shit from me.”
HUH? This is just a roundabout way of saying that yes, Mrs. Robinson fucked him up about sex to the point where he thinks that physical contact is “that shit,” isn’t it?
Like I said in the last chapter when this subject arose: I’m not big on the touchy-feely stuff. But I realise that that’s a me-thing, and that it’s not at all abnormal or shameful for other people to like physical contact with other people. And if I was wanting relations with someone, I wouldn’t talk about something harmless that they want in such disgusted and dismissive tones.
Grey then goes on to tell her there’ll be no masturbation for Ana, either, which seems like the easiest of his stupid conditions since she didn’t exactly go doing that before she met him anyway, and when she asks why…
“Because I want all your pleasure.” His voice is husky but determined.
“I want all your pleasure” sounds like another one of those awful Babelfish disasters, doesn’t it? Like something you’d see printed on a blowup doll for sale in a Daiso store.
Now that I’ve left you with that charming thought, back to the program: they have some non-conversation about eating in which Grey reveals he’s been keeping an inventory of every bite she’s taken, and she protests that she’s eaten enough and he explains the obsession with her food intake by means of “I need you fit and healthy, Anastasia.”
Is anyone else annoyed at the way he constantly uses her name? It’s like he’s scared he’s going to forget it.
He then states that he wants to peel Ana out of the dress she’s wearing (peel? What’s it made out of? Latex?) and then Ana decides that isn’t such a good idea (god knows why, since she seems to go along with everything else Grey says) and they talk about dessert.
“You could be dessert,” he murmurs suggestively.
“I’m not sure I’m sweet enough.”
“Anastasia, you’re deliciously sweet. I know.”
And this is the point where I start laughing because all this terrible innuendo just makes me think of that Lana del Rey song with the opening line of “My pussy tastes like Pepsi cola…” and I have a crazy gigglefit.
“Christian. You use sex as a weapon. It really isn’t fair,” I whisper, staring down at my hands, and then looking directly at him.
He raises his eyebrows, surprised, and I see he’s considering my words. He strokes his chin thoughtfully.
I’m not convinced. He hasn’t seriously listened to anything Ana’s said prior to this. He’s probably just relishing the idea of being Sexman, the superhero who fights for justice and needs no weapons or typical superhuman ability because he has sex. And to be honest, the idea of Sexman, Master of the Universe… even though it sounds like a terrible 70s porno, could actually make a half-way decent graphic novel now that I think about it. Think about it: perfect setting: he’s rich, he’s got stuff happening all around the world, he’s got a tortured past, and he is full of mystery. He could be Batman with a James Bond edge. And his weapon… is sex. Bestseller material. Right there.
“You’re right. I do. In life, you use what you know, Anastasia. Doesn’t change how much I want you. Here. Now.”
I think he’s got more at his disposal than sex. He has money. He has power. He has influence. He probably has blackmail. If E. L. James is insinuating that he fucked his way to being CEO, I’d say she’s watched too much yaoi along the lines of My Sexual Harassment. (Which is the most ridiculous movie ever. It’s also hilarious and the characters—even the creepy chloroform rapist—are better than these ones. NB: if anyone does go and search for this film courtesy of my mentioning it, I won’t be responsible for anything that happens, including but not limited to you deciding never to drink bourbon—or hang around Japanese businessmen— or listen to Richard Claydermanesque movie soundtracks—again.)
Apparently this is all Ana needs to go to swoon town, and he says he’d like to try something. I assume, of course, that Grey saying he wants to “try something” is a really unsubtle lead-in to a sex scene. But weirdly enough, it’s not. He’s just pulling out a different approach to his whole attempt at headfucking Ana some more: she’s all flustered because she’s now got lots of stuff to think about, so he digs his heels in and reminds her that if she was his sub, she wouldn’t have to think for herself and that all that pesky decisionmaking would be taken care of for her. Apparently this is meant to be a comforting thought.
Hey, on that note: has it occurred to anyone else that while Ana talks about inquisitions from Kate, she’s perfectly oblivious to what Grey’s doing here? If Kate asking her how a night out was is an inquisition, what the fuck is this?
Apparently, he’s also got Charles Xavier mind reading abilities (or he’s trained as a para-investigator) and he knows she actually wants him, and that as a dom, he will read her mind and anticipate everything. This is all bullshit, of course: this is Grey just trying to talk Ana into believing that so when she’s thinking, “Not sure if I want,” she’ll automatically go to thinking that if Grey’s doing something to her, it’s obviously because deep down, she wants it because he knows her mind better than she does.
This is high-level, nightmare-fueltastic gaslighting going on here. Toto, we ain’t in fucking Kansas anymore. The love boat has set sail. This is now officially a book about psychological violence and victim-blaming, NOT romance. To be a bit serious… this sort of thing makes me think about cult survivors, who essentially get taught that because the belief system is infallible, obviously their problems with it or living up to it are their failings.
This shit takes people years to unfuck, if they’re able to. It can majorly damage people.
By the way, I think it should go without saying that this is not BDSM. Other people aren’t mind readers, which is why things like communication and safewords and consent and limits are so fucking important. If this was Ana fantasising about that (though I’d be more likely to believe that someone like Grey, who is in a position of power in his 9-5 day-to-day life and who would likely relish getting to relax and give that up for awhile with someone else taking care of his needs and decisionmaking—which is what Ana would be doing in a healthy BDSM relationship by having limits he’d have to abide by, or what he’d be doing as a submissive) I would be more inclined to just shrug and go, “Not my cuppa tea, dude” but this is a depiction of it happening in reality, AND this stupid book has been hailed as some kind of manual on sexytimes (a notion which the writer has encouraged herself, from the articles about her I’ve read: again, I wouldn’t be so critical if she’d said, “No, people, this is not how it works IRL, if you want to do this stuff, please do your fucking research and research your fucking”… she didn’t) so I have some fairly big fucking problems with it. (I also, btw, wouldn’t have a problem with this guy being a sociopath and the girl having some comprehension issues and a mental age of twelve… but I wouldn’t think of that as belonging in the romance category… more in the with crime thrillers instead.)
But no, Grey can read her body language and he says that’s giving her away because he felt the tablecloth move, and he explains that was a calculated guess after years of experience.
Doing what? Working in intelligence? Oh, wait: he’s Sexman, man of sex… this is his superpower.
This is also fucking ridiculous.
I flush and stare down at my hands. That’s what I’m hindered by in this game of seduction.
This isn’t seduction, it’s a hostile takeover, Ana. This isn’t romance, this is psychological warfare.
He’s the only one who knows and understands the rules.
They’re pretty simple, Ana: you’re fucked, no matter what you do. Allow me to be philosophical here: the only way to win is to not play the game.
I’m just too naïve and inexperienced.
And stupid. You forgot stupid. I wouldn’t call myself especially intelligent, but even I can see through this shit. And might I add, too: if Ana was playing games back with him, this would be a whole lot more interesting, and possibly might be sexy.
My only sphere of reference is Kate, and she doesn’t take any shit from men. My other references are all fictional: Elizabeth Bennett would be outraged, Jane Eyre too frightened, and Tess would succumb, just as I have.
Oh god. Firstly, you need some more heroines, Ana. Secondly, you really are naïve. Thirdly, you grew up in an era of gaming awesomeness, when it wasn’t completely unheard of for girls to play games. It makes me sad that Lara Croft isn’t on that list. But Lara would be all “I have more important stuff to do than hook up with dudes and I have my own hobbies and interests and I want adventures!”, wouldn’t she?
To demonstrate my point about the game being unwinnable for Ana, Ana tells him she hasn’t finished her food.
“You prefer cold cod to me?”
I would prefer week-old cod to you, Grey, and I pointedly don’t eat meat. That’s how utterly vile you are. But I’m not Ana.
My head jerks up to glare at him and his eyes burn molten silver with compelling need.
Insert reference to The Host in here, because isn’t that what people’s eyes do in that? I don’t know, but its a Stephanie Meyer book and E. L. James hearts Stephanie Meyer.
Ana points out that he’s always on at her to clear her plate, but suddenly—because Grey’s changed his stupid fucking rules—he “couldn’t give a fuck about [her] food.”
“Christian. You just don’t fight fair.”
“I know. I never have.”
And this, Ana, is where you tase him between the legs under the table and go, “Neither do I.” But alas, nothing like that happens, and instead Ana’s inner goddess frowns at her and convinces her—despite her own admissions earlier—that she can beat him at this game.
So she picks up a piece of asparagus and starts being suggestive with it.
I can’t even be bothered writing about the asparagus scene because it’s about as sexy as a pap smear and doesn’t even last as long. I think it’s meant to be about Ana showing him that she’s willing to take back power, except she doesn’t. She does, however, have another uncharacteristic moment of clarity.
I have to go. Our meeting will only end one way if I stay and I need some boundaries after such an intense conversation. As much as my body craves his touch, my mind is rebelling.
It is not rebelling, it is being very very sensible, Ana.
I need some distance to think about all he’s said. I still haven’t made a decision, and his sexual allure and prowess doesn’t make it any easier.
To be fair, I guess being suggestive with asparagus and then having a random moment of clarity with absolutely nothing to indicate a shift in thinking is probably making him a bit confused, too.
Anyway, Ana says she’s going. Then Grey gets whiny about that because he doesn’t want her to go. Ana points out that she’s got graduation happening tomorrow and tells him she needs some space.
“I could make you stay,” he threatens.
WHAT THE EVERLOVING SHIT WAS THAT? He threatened her. Because he doesn’t want her running off and doing her own stuff on the night before graduation. Damn, this guy is a dick.
It doesn’t end there, either.
“You know, when you fell into my office to interview me, you were all “yes sir,” “no sir.” I thought you were a natural born submissive. But quite frankly, Anastasia, I’m not sure if you have a submissive bone in your delectable body.”
Um, let’s break this down: she’s said she doesn’t want to do something, and now he’s bluffing and going, “Maybe this whole shebang isn’t for you.” That’s fifty shades of fried. Submissive people do have the right to say “no”… just like anyone else does, Grey. She hasn’t even signed this stupid sex contract and you’re already controlling her—only this time, it’s not a theatrical piece of paper to get people into the right headspace: this is emotional abuse.
Also, she was nervous in an environment she wasn’t used to and flusteringly apologetic and worried about fucking up an interview which was for some still unexplained reason, a big fucking deal for her best friend. That doesn’t say sweet diddly-fuck about her sexual proclivities.
“You may be right,” I breathe.
“I want to explore the possibility that you do,” he murmurs, staring down at me.
Oh, I don’t believe this.
He reaches up and
Whoa there: he’s staring down and reaching up at the same time? I realise this book defies the laws of so many other things, but now we can add physics to the list as well, I guess.
caresses my face, his thumb tracing my lower lip. “I don’t know any other way, Anastasia. This is who I am.”
I was a kid when Disney’s Beauty and the Beast hit the big screen, and I went and saw it because, well, big pretty Disney movie. But I’ll admit: I was a bit skeezed out—and I could never quite pinpoint what bothered me about the story—and why it continued to bother me until later on when I was older. I think it actually had to be pointed out to me that the whole idea of some dude being a shit and being scary and abusive— and a woman having to endure that and love the mean out of him while being abused—was really disturbing. Especially when you consider that Belle was probably one of the smarter Disney princesses who’d previously rejected oafish toolbags because she wanted to read and imagine and help her inventor father. Belle wasn’t stupid. But Belle fell for the idea that this was what love was—that’s how pervasive this stupid fairytale is.
Ana is a reader, like Belle from Beauty and the Beast. Taking off my snark hat for a moment, and trusting the reliability of at least some of the narrative here, I’m going to suggest that if Ana managed to get into college and graduate, she’s not entirely stupid. But she’s fallen for the fairytale idea like whoa.
And anyway, going back to the bit I quoted, no, Anastasia, Grey is not just his sexual proclivities. He’s lots of other things. He’s also alive, therefore his brain is capable of learning and unlearning things. “I’m just like this” is a shitty, childish, irresponsible way of trying to excuse his douchebaggery.
They tentatively kiss, then Grey tries yet again to get her to stay, pulling out the emotional weapons again, and Ana tells him that she will need to think about “this kind of relationship.” Pfft. We know what’s going to happen.
Ana starts mentally panicking that this is going to be the last time that she ever sees him, and commits his face to her memory and has this inner monologue stuff going on which sounds so desperate and crazy that it’s just sad, and then there’s a whole bunch of stuff the editor didn’t red-line about her getting into her car and putting on his jacket, and he criticises her car, and implies he’s going to buy her a new one.
So on one hand, we have Ana internally freaking out about not seeing him again, in the next paragraph, he’s implying that he wants to buy her a car.
Driving back to Seattle (I’m completely lost on the geography now, but I’m pretty sure I’m not actually meant to be noticing these sorts of details) she starts crying and having more moments of clarity suggesting she wants more than what he’s able to offer and she’s aware of this. Remember, not long ago she was saying she felt like a receptacle after he’d had sex with her.
Ana starts thinking about how she wants nice dates with fun-filled activities… and how she can’t even touch him or sleep next to him. And about how in three months time, he mightn’t be satisfied with her as a sub and he might ditch her anyway, and that she’s not sure how she’ll cope with that rejection.
This is like the calm, rational eye of the storm, isn’t it? While she’s sounding sensible now—and even though she’s already been through this stuff so many times now that it’s like Groundhog Day, we all know what’s going to happen.
Anyway, Ana goes back home (I thought she was graduating or something?) and cries, and thankfully Kate isn’t there because writing girly convos is boring for E. L. James, and Ana’s abouot to go to bed but…
Grey emails her again. Now he’s telling her that he wants to take it slowly and he wants to make this work. Of course he does… but he only wants it to work on HIS terms. And now he’s scared Ana’s figured him out and is going to fuck off. Can we say “This looks an awful lot like those domestic violence cycle charts, kids?”
His email makes me weep more. I am not a merger. I am not an acquisition. Reading this, I might as well be. I don’t reply. I just don’t know what to say to him.
I do! *raises and waves about hand* I do! And the first word rhymes with “duck” and the second rhymes with “stew.”
I fumble into my PJs and, wrapping his jacket around me, I climb into bed. As I lie staring into the darkness, I think of all the times he warned me to stay away.
So this is some sort of weird victim-blaming thing where she can now convince herself that she should have known better and that anything awful he does to her is her fault because she was asking for it, right?
(There are a heap of excepts from the book of Grey telling her he’s not good for her and that she should stay away, ending with “This is all I know.”)
And as I weep into my pillow silently, it’s this last idea I cling to. This is all I know, too. Perhaps together we can chart a new course.
Which renders all her thinking on this completely moot and a total waste of my time, but hey: incoming Jerry Springer Show madness, I suppose.