Readthroughs and Random Thoughts

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50 Shades of Grey, E. L. James; Chapter Seventeen

Ana dreams that she’s a moth, being drawn to and burned by a candle flame. Because clearly if there’s one thing this book needs, it’s more Captain Obvious metaphors. The best bit about the dream sequence is that it goes for a paragraph– and then she wakes up, “draped in Christian Grey.”

He’s wrapped around me like a victory flag.

Pretty hollow fucking victory, if you ask me, but hey.

He’s fast asleep with his head on my chest, his arm over me, holding me close, one of his legs thrown over and hooked around mine.

I’m trying hard to imagine this. It sounds like he’s even clingier than Ana, and that he’s played Twister with her in his sleep.

He’s suffocating me with his body heat, and he’s heavy.

This quite seriously sounds nightmarish to me. I realise that YMMV with stuff like this, but I having slept in beds with people who are all grabby like that, and waking up amongst them and their sweat just… doesn’t appeal. I’m also wondering why Grey, who apparently has so many issues with being touched, is doing this.

Anyway, Ana runs her fingertips over him, waking him up. I’d like to point out that E. L. James could have gone to town with some character reveal about how he looks when he’s sleeping: seeing someone sleep is an intimate thing, and when someone truly is off-guard– but instead Ana is oblivious to this. Anyway, he wakes up, telling her he’s drawn to her even in his sleep. And he’s got a morning glory. Ana’s all surprised about it, but he says it should wait til Sunday because he only wants her to do things with his erections when they’re doing the TPE thing, I suppose.

I flush, but then I feel seven shades of scarlet from the heat.

Yet again, we get this tie-in to the title.

They talk about feeling hot and wake up, and when Grey realises the time, he comments that he’s running late and that he doesn’t do late, and that this is another first for him.

“Sunday,” he says, and the word is pregnant with an unspoken promise. Everything deep in my body uncurls and then clenches in delicious anticipation. The feeling is exquisite.

Really? It doesn’t sound pleasant. It sounds like labor pains.

Promising that Taylor will deal with the Beetle, and that he’ll email her with a time for Sunday, Grey then nicks off, leaving Ana to feel smug that she’s slept with him three times after he’s said he doesn’t sleep with anyone. One of those times involved her being passed out, though, and I think the other time was when she was highly distressed and he was being manipulative. But it makes Ana feel optimistic.

Ana then gets up and emails him, explaining why she felt confused about the spankage. She titles the email “Assault and Battery: The After-Effects,” which is either a) a joke that doesn’t translate well to print (especially after some of the decidedly unfunny things of an abusive nature which have already happened between them) and b) Ana really not feeling that the spanking was consensual funtimes.

I’m not typing out the whole email because I’m lazy, but will highlight the bits that stood out:

“Well, during the whole alarming process, I felt demeaned, debased and abused.”

Abused. Since her inner monolgue has also talked about “never having been hit before” and now we get these little insights, I’m just failing to see happytimes consensual BDSM here. Especially when I present this gem from the email:

“What really worried me was how I felt afterward. And that’s more difficult to articulate. I was happy that you were happy […]”

So… you’re doing something that makes you feel abused in order to make him feel happy?

This isn’t about your pleasure, Ana. This is skirting on abuse, to put it mildly and to be as open-minded as I can about it. Combined with your fear that he’ll leave if you don’t go along with the sex stuff he wants…

And okay, she admits that the spanking wasn’t as bad as she thought it would be, but what happens when he starts wanting other stuff? I’ll be honest: even if something isn’t painful, if someone just plain isn’t into it, and you’re still either reckless to their consent, you outright don’t have it, or you’re manipulating the person into providing that consent under duress… you know what? A healthy relationship that don’t maketh.

At the end of the email, Ana says, “Thankyou for staying with me,” which probably isn’t meant to be analysed much, but given the evidence we already have, it just comes across as really sad and pathetic.

Grey emails her back and basically shits all over her feelings about feeling abused, and then says of her confusion:

Do you really feel like this or do you think you ought to feel like this? Two very different things. If this is how you feel, do you think you could just try to embrace these feelings, deal with them, for me? That’s what a submissive would do.

Once again, dismiss and invalidate feelings she’s explicitly stated having, and THEN telling her how she should be behaving. YUCK YUCK YUCK.

Another point: I thought submissives came in all different varieties of human, and that there wasn’t one set way of dealing with, or doing things. This is another one of those “Not my scene,” things that’s still managing to piss me off because, you know, seeing a whole group of people get boiled down to one thing based on what toasts their marshmallows is off. It’s like saying that all doms are twisted abusive fuckwads, but wait, E. L. James has pretty much done that, too.

I’ll say this, too: as someone who writes some rather disturbing characters, and some kink… this is far too close to how, say, I’d write a manipulative and abusive Kristoph Gavin who is decidedly not meant to be the romantic hero. (Actually, this is pretty much how I’ll write Kristoph trying to headfuck his assistant into sexual activities and claim innocence and normalisation of what’s happening. It’s fucking creepy.) As Ms. Manna said in a comment, being a sexual sadist doesn’t equal BDSM, and fucking with someone’s head to get them to do what you want isn’t part of it. It disturbs me that this is meant to be “erotic romance.”

Then, we get true horror from him.

I am grateful for your inexperience. I value it, and I’m only beginning to understand what it means. Simply put… it means you are mine in every way.

Holy god. He likes that he can convince her that this is normal and how she should be thinking.

He then goes on to say that erotic spanking is different to punishment and that if she commits “some major transgression” (like what? Getting drunk? Making a sarcastic comment?) he’ll use “some implement” to punish her.

Hang on. I thought she’d put caning as a hard limit. But… limits schmits, I guess.

More gaslighting pads out the end of the email.

Don’t waste your time on guilt, feelings of wrongdoing, etc. We are consenting adults and what we do behind closed doors is between ourselves.

Remember when family violence was considered “business that happens behind closed doors” and “not something for the community to meddle with”?

You need to free your mind and listen to your body.

Yeah. Because clearly all that’s wrong here is the way Ana is perceiving the situation.

And then Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines starts playing and everything is all peachy.

Jesus fuck.

Anyway, at the end of the email, all Ana can think is

Holy crap… mine in every way. My breath hitches.

Ana emails him back to say that if she listened to her body, she’d be in Alaska.

Since this is a looooong chapter, I shall attempt to move on quickly.

Grey emails her back, pointing out that she didn’t safeword (because she was scared of losing you, you dick), that she’s an adult with choices, and then that if she went to Alaska, he’d track her down.

Grey sounds like an ex of mine, who would threaten to break up with me (or point out that if I didn’t like it, I could leave) whenever I’d criticise the behaviour of his children towards me. When I finally had enough and went, “You know, I’m leaving,” he cracked the shits and attempted to make it incredibly difficult to reclaim my property that was in the house. (The story ends happily: I got most of my stuff back and I have nothing to do with the guy. But the control-freakish behaviour was completely disturbing and Not Cool.)

Ana considers nicking off and asks him if he’s sought therapy for his stalker tendencies. Grey replies that he is seeing a therapist (I wonder if he plays headgames with the therapist too) and tells her to go to work. Ana then points out that the therapist isn’t very effective. The therapist is probably just relying on a lifetime of Grey appointments to put his/her kids through college. Grey says that this therapist is the second opinion and that it’s none of her business and tells her to go to work. There’s a bit more banter over the email, and then Ana drives to work in the Audi, with a description of its power steering that makes me wonder if someone just Googled a car review, and she thinks about Grey and his Pain and how she wants him without all his baggage, and blah blah blah and she goes to work.

Grey has sent her a BlackBerry (do people still use those?) via courier to her work. Ana just switches it on and starts using it to tell him he’s a stalker (don’t they need twelve hours of charging up first? EVERYTHING I’ve bought, from my laptops to my phones to my Kobo to my DSXL has needed a few hours, at least, to charge up prior to use) and there’s some more banter.

Ana hates it already, but that doesn’t stop her from, you know, pulling out the battery, and because she’s special and it’s her last day at work, and everything is always about Ana (unless it’s her being all about Grey) she gets a wonderful send-off from her employers as she thinks about the entire past three weeks.

Scene change! Kate’s coming home, and she asks about the car, and notes that he stayed the night. Grey emails Ana to tell her that her doctor’s appointment is at 1:30 on Sunday.

Taylor comes along and picks up the Beetle.

Jose joins them for Chinese takeaway after Kate and Ana have packed everything up, and they all reminisce about things over beer. Apparently everything is back to normal with regard to Ana and Jose.

Well, it’s been swept under the rug that my inner goddess is lying on, eating grapes and tapping her fingers, waiting not so patiently for Sunday.

What the fuck else is under that rug?

Anyway, Elliot turns up and gives Kate a hug, and Ana gets all weird about seeing them being affectionate together because apparently a hug equals “get a room.”

Jose and I stare at one another. I’m appalled at their lack of modesty.

I’m appalled at Ana’s hypocrisy, personally.

Anyway, Ana and Jose walk down to the local bar, which makes me think that the whole denial-of-what-happened-last-time-there-was-Jose-and-alcohol has taken a turn for the inability to suspend my disbelief (I’m not going to FORGET, even if I do FORGIVE someone who’s pulled shit like he did) and all that happens between them is Jose asks if Ana’s going to his photography exhibition thing.

Ana gets home to hearing Kate and Elliot are making sexy noises, and goes to thinking about how Jose now has a show and how awesome that is, and about how Jose doesn’t know that the Beetle is gone, and then she checks her email. There’s a rather ominous one there, asking her to call Grey lest he call Elliot (wow, being a bit of a cockblocker, much?) and then she checks her phone. Five missed calls.

I think you need to learn to manage my expectations.

Yes, Grey actually says that. And… fuck. No, Mr. Cockblocking Stalker, you need to learn to manage your expectations.

If you say you are going to contact me when you finish work, then you should have the decency to do so. Otherwise, I worry, and it’s not an emotion I’m familiar with, and I don’t tolerate it very well.

Jesus fucking Christ. Maybe she went out for a celebration with her workmates after work? It amazes me that in spite of all the stuff Ana has going on, Grey is still acting like she has to drop everything for him.

Anyway, she rings him, even though she’s feeling suffocated. They talk about their evenings. If I were the editor of this book, I’d have red-penned the whole section because absolutely nothing happens barring him talking about punishing her for disobeying him and neither of them wanting to hang up.

Scene change again– which makes me think that E. L. James is as bored with this chapter as I am– and Elliot’s hooked up their satellite TV in the new apartment. Funny: Elliot has pretty much the same speech patterns and terms of affection for Kate as Grey does for Ana. Ana shifts away from them when they’re being lovey dovey because

They are going to get icky.

Icky. Other than sounding like a ten-year-old boy, I wonder what the fuck she thinks her sitch with Grey is. That’s “icky.”

Anyway, Elliot can’t hang around, and gives Kate a “Laters,” and Ana has this reflecton.

Elliot is adorable and so different from Christian. He’s warm, open, physical, very physical, too physical, with Kate. They can barely keep their hands off each other– to be honest it’s embarassing– and I am pea green with envy.

All aboard the good ship Katana! I think she’s meant to be jealous of how normal their relationship is, but methinks there’s so jealousy towards how much he’s getting to get physical with Kate. Wouldn’t a good friend be happy for Kate? She’s sounding more like a jealous girl who’s had a thing for Kate rather than a good galpal here.

Anyway, there’s a brief description of them chowing down on some pizza and then a delivery boy arrives at the door, mesmerised by Kate’s appearance. He brings champagne and there’s a helicopter shaped balloon attached to the bottle. Guess who sent it?

“Why can’t he just write ‘from Christian’? And what’s with the weird helicopter balloon?”
“Charlie Tango.”
“What?”
“Christian flew me to Seattle in his helicopter.” I shrug.
Kate stares at me openmouthed. I have to say I love these occasions– Kate Kavanagh, silent and floored– they are so rare. I take a brief and luxurious moment to enjoy it.

Yeah, bitch, my man has a helicopter. When’s the last time you could say that about anyone you’ve dated? Seriously, I’m over this whole female fantasy thing of “relish other women’s envy.” It’s boring and insecure.

Anyway, Kate wants to know how Christian has the new address (as though Elliot wouldn’t have told him?) and Ana says that stalking is one of his specialties. Charming.

“Somehow I’m not surprised. He worries me, Ana. At least it’s a good champagne and it’s chilled.”

Warm champagne would have made him WAY more suspicious.

Anyway, cut to the next morning, and Ana’s thinking about how she should be packing, and her subconscious is annoying her about it, but… she’s got a date! With Grey’s doctor.

Anticipation hangs heavy and portentous over my head like a dark tropical storm cloud. Butterflies flood my belly– as well as a darker, carnal, captivating ache as I try to imagine what he will do to me… and of course, I have to sign that damned contract, or do I?

Hang on, who’s she talking about? The doctor, or Grey? Is this going to lead into medical fetish play? I love the way she thinks about the contract like it’s an afterthought, like, “Must get milk on the way home.”

Grey sends her the security code to get into the underground garage at his place, as well as the elevator code, and Ana sends a thankyou for the champagne. She’s started calling him “sir.”

Ana drives to his place, realising she can drive in high heels, and as she gets into the place, starts describing her outfit. She’s wearing that plum dress of Kate’s again, makeup, and the underwear that Taylor bought for her. I mean… who doesn’t dress up to go see a doctor?

Anyway, Taylor welcomes her at the door, and Grey is there lounging around in casual clothing that gets described piece-by-piece.

He rises and strolls toward me, an amused appraising smile on his beautiful sculptured lips.
I stand immobilised at the entrance of the room, paralysed by his beauty and the sweet anticipation of what’s to come.

What, an IUD?

She says hello, they kiss, he remarks on the dress, and then he tells her he has something to show her. Instead of getting a pornoriffic scene, we instead get him showing off about the fact that they’ve been featured in the Seattle Times in a thing about Grey being at her graduation.

There’s some more nondescript conversation, and I’m momentarily distracted because I’m about a page away from the end of the chapter, and he asks if she’s eaten, chastises her for not eating, and advises that the doctor will be there soon.

“What can you tell me about Dr. Greene?” I ask to distract us both.
“She’s the best ob-gyn in Seattle. What more can I say?”

Hang on: why the fuck does Grey have a gynaecologist? I thought the doctor was his doctor: at least that’s what he said last chapter.

Grey explains himself, believing it’s more appropriate that Ana see a specialist for some reason. Ana wonders about how much it’s costing him, and then Grey springs on her that his mother’s invited her to a family dinner along with Kate and Elliot. He seems to think it would be odd for him to introduce her to his family, despite the fact that she’s already met his mother.

Taylor advises that the doctor is in, and Grey of course gets his creep on again.

“Ready for some contraception?” he asks as he stands and holds his hand out to me.
“You’re not going to come as well, are you?” I gasp, shocked.

Nothing would shock me from him any more.

He laughs. “I’d pay very good money to watch, believe me, Anastasia, but I don’t think the good doctor would approve.”

Thankfully the doctor has some professional ethics.

The chapter ends with his pulling her into an embrace, kissing her and saying that he can’t wait to get her naked.

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