Book Review: Fifty Shades of Grey (part 5)
I thought maybe you guys needed a break from the horrible, completely-devoid-of-chemistry pairing of the Once-ler and some girl’s OC, so today we’ll instead be discussing the horrible, completely-devoid-of-chemistry pairing of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey! Doesn’t that sound exciting?
On a more serious note: I debated putting a trigger warning for the last chapter because of José’s attempted kissing of Ana without her consent, but decided it wasn’t bad enough to merit one. However, I do feel I need to warn you guys that this chapter contains sexual assault. The author doesn’t present it as such, but that’s what I’m calling it because that’s how it reads.
Fifty Shades of Grey: Chapter Five
Ana wakes up feeling better than one would expect considering all the drinking she did the night before. She doesn’t seem to have a hangover at all. Go figure. She doesn’t know where she is. Her surroundings look vaguely familiar, and she struggles to remember where she remembers them from. Then she realizes she’s in Christian Grey’s suite at the Heathman, and—
okay, no, stop right there, book.
I don’t know a thing about bars. I’m too young to legally drink. But I figure that if a customer passes out at a bar, the bar has some responsibility to call an ambulance. Even if they don’t, did no one witnessing Ana’s collapse think to call one? Why didn’t Christian take her to the hospital, for that matter? If she drank enough to pass out, that shit is serious.
Even disregarding the medical attention Ana should have received, she should not have been taken to Christian Grey’s apartment. Christian sent her a gift, so he knows her address; he doesn’t even have the excuse of “I didn’t know where she lived”, which still wouldn’t be an excuse in any case as he could have asked Kate (or done some more privacy-invading — hey, he tracked her cell phone, how hard would it be for him to find her address?). Why didn’t he take her home?
I seriously doubt that Christian Grey raped Ana while she was passed out or anything of the sort, but this still looks bad, and if Ana has any damn sense this’ll freak her the fuck out. She doesn’t have any damn sense, of course, but if she did she’d be disoriented and scared, because she’s in unfamiliar surroundings belonging to a man who’s still practically a stranger and she’s been unconscious for a good long time. Putting somebody in this situation, especially if there are several alternatives, is just plain inconsiderate.
Oh, hell, it gets worse. Ana’s socks and pants have been removed. She is in bed wearing her t-shirt and underwear.
THIS LOOKS REALLY FUCKING BAD, AUTHOR. IT’S NOT SEXY OR EXCITING. IT MAKES CHRISTIAN LOOK INCONSIDERATE AT BEST AND LIKE A RAPIST AT WORST. NO PART OF THIS SITUATION IS IN ANY WAY OKAY.
There’s a glass of orange juice and two Advils on the nightstand. Ana thinks that Grey is a control freak for thinking to put those there. Oh, for god’s sake. The one nice thing Christian’s done so far in this chapter, and you class it as control-freak behavior? Fucking hell, Ana.
Christian knocks on the door, then enters anyway when she doesn’t respond. Okay, he might have figured she was asleep still, I’ll let this slide. Ana gets turned on because… he’s sweaty and is wearing pants “that hang, in that way, off his hips”. I don’t know where else he’d be hanging his pants from, Ana. Anyway, dude has clearly just been working out. He asks her how she’s feeling; she says she’s feeling better that she deserves, then asks him how she got there. Christian tells her:
“After you passed out, I didn’t want to risk the leather upholstery in my car taking you all the way to your apartment. So I brought you here,” he says phlegmatically.
First of all, what? Second of all, he’s rich enough to get his car cleaned if she vomits on it or whatever he thought she was going to do while out cold. This isn’t an excuse.
Ana asks if he took her pants off. He did. She finally gets freaked out, but he assures her he didn’t do anything while she was unconscious and she apologizes for freaking out. No, bad Ana. You don’t have to apologize for getting rightfully disturbed by this situation. You’ve got a right to ask questions. Grow a fucking backbone.
Ana finally gets annoyed at Christian (thank you, Ana!) for treating the whole thing like it’s funny:
“You didn’t have to track me down with whatever James Bond stuff you’re developing for the highest bidder,” I snap at him. He stares at me, surprised, and if I’m not mistaken, a little wounded.
“Firstly, the technology to track cell phones is available over the Internet. Secondly, my company does not invest or manufacture any kind of surveillance devices, and thirdly, if I hadn’t come to get you, you’d probably be waking up in the photographer’s bed, and from what I can remember, you weren’t overly enthused about him pressing his suit,” he says acidly.
Firstly, no. I can track my own phone over the internet, because it’s an iPhone and I have the Find My iPhone service enabled. There are likely comparable services on other smartphones, and maybe even on some not-so-smart phones, but they still require you have a specific type of phone and sign up for/enable a service that allows you to track your own phone’s location. That is how one tracks a phone legally over the internet. I’m not saying there aren’t other ways, but saying something is on the internet doesn’t justify using it. Child pornography is also on the internet.
As for José, he was as drunk as Ana, and we don’t really know how that situation would have played out if Christian hadn’t intervened. Ana might have managed to push him away successfully, or he might have realized she wasn’t interested and stopped on his own, or he might have just been too drunk to continue. Also, Christian didn’t know what was going on with José, so it’s not an excuse for him to track Ana’s phone.
Ana starts laughing over Grey’s use of the term “pressing his suit” and tells him he sounds like a courtly knight. He shakes his head and says he’s more of a dark knight. Please no more metaphors, author.
Christian starts scolding Ana over all the things she did wrong last night — like not eating before going to the bar, and then drinking too much. It’s frankly insulting, because even though he has a point and Ana didn’t make the smartest choices, she’s a grown woman, not a naughty child. If he was her parent, or if they were close friends or partners, he’d at least have the excuse of caring about her deeply, but he barely knows her, so it just comes off as controlling and condescending. He also says that if she were his (author’s phrase, not mine), she wouldn’t be able to sit down for a week. We get it, author, he’s kinky.
Ana defends herself to some extent, which is good, I guess, even though he still wins the argument and her points are pretty weak. The argument finally ends with Christian saying someone ought to teach José some manners, then grinning wickedly at Ana’s comment that he’s “quite the disciplinarian”. Ana goes back to being all ladyboners as soon as Christian smiles (I’ll give her this one, because wicked smirks are very nice things), and of course Christian notices. He says he’s going to take a shower, runs his thumb down her cheek and over her lips (what), tells her to breathe, and leaves the room.
Ana finally acknowledges that what she’s feeling is desire. Congrats, honey, you’re like ten years late to this one. She entertains some slightly-naughty thoughts about Christian for a little while. The comparison to a knight is brought up again. Also, the comparison to a literary hero. Author, no, stop.
Christian reenters the room as Ana is searching for her jeans. He tells her they’re in the laundry — he took them off because she threw up on them — and that he sent Taylor (remember him?) out to buy Ana a new pair of jeans and some shoes. Ana takes the bag with the shoes and jeans and heads off to take a shower.
While in the shower, Ana does some thinking:
He said he likes his women sentient. He’s probably not celibate then. But he’s not made a pass at me, unlike Paul or José. I don’t understand. Does he want me? He wouldn’t kiss me last week. Am I repellent to him? And yet, I’m here and he brought me here. I just don’t know what his game is? What he’s thinking? You’ve slept in his bed all night, and he’s not touched you Ana. You do the math. My subconscious has reared her ugly, snide head. I ignore her.
What? Saying that he likes his women sentient doesn’t mean he isn’t celibate. That makes no sense at all. What also makes no sense is that Ana doesn’t realize Christian’s obvious attraction to her. On top of that, Ana’s “subconscious” is expressing a truly disturbing opinion here: that Christian would have made a move while Ana was unconscious if he really liked her. Goddamn but that’s fucked up.
Also, there are some totally unnecessary question marks in there.
And then Ana starts washing herself with Christian’s body wash and imagines it’s him doing it. So I guess she’s just discovered masturbation? Sorta? The weird/sad/slightly alarming part is that she appears to have no idea what she is doing. It’s not really a surprise at this point that she doesn’t masturbate, seeing as she’s apparently never had any sort of sexual feelings, but does she not even know what masturbation is?
Maybe I’m dwelling on this a bit much, but I’m a little freaked out by exactly how innocent the author has decided to make her main character. Sure, she’s 22 and a virgin, I can buy that. But she’s never felt attracted to anyone but Christian, and knows so little about sexual stuff in general that she can’t figure out her own feelings/reactions towards him. I guess in a way this is just fetishizing innocence and I shouldn’t be too bothered, but hell, I am bothered. By making her this clueless and innocent, the author is setting her up to be completely dependent on Christian when it comes to her own sexuality, since he’s the only thing that turns her on. I do not like where this is headed.
It’s also a totally unrealistic portrayal. Just because someone is a virgin doesn’t mean that they don’t know where their naughty bits are and how they work.
Rant over, moving on.
Christian knocks on the door and tells Ana that breakfast has arrived. Ana quickly gets out of the shower and dresses. Taylor has, for some reason, not only bought her a new pair of pants and some sneakers (the only thing he was asked to do), but a new shirt and new underwear. Uh… okay, that’s a little creepy. Ana rhapsodizes about the underwear for a little while because it’s some kind of fancy lingerie. I fully expect this underwear to figure into the first sex scene because otherwise what is the point?
After dressing, Ana finds Christian in the living area of the suite. She suddenly realizes she’s forgotten to contact Kate and let her know she’s okay. Christian tells her not to worry, he texted Elliot (Christian’s brother, remember, the one Kate was dancing with).
Ana realizes Kate must have had a one-night stand with Elliot and gets kind of upset. Because… well, I’ll just let you read what she says:
Oh no. I remember her fervent dancing of the night before. All her patented moves used with maximum effect to seduce Christian’s brother no less! What’s she going to think about me being here? I’ve never stayed out before. She’s still with Elliot. She’s only done this twice before, and both times I’ve had to endure the hideous pink PJs for a week from the fallout. She’s going to think I’ve had a one-night stand too.
This is all kinds of bad and I hate it. First of all, the slut-shaming. What the fuck? Second, way to make this all about you, Ana. Your main concern here should be for Kate, since it’s clear that Kate always gets down in the dumps after one-night stands. But no — instead, Ana’s complaining about having to look at Kate’s ugly pajamas and worrying that Kate might think that she had a one-night stand, too. And look at that, we’ve come full circle back to slut-shaming.
I will rant more about this later.
They eat breakfast. Christian scolds Ana about her hair being damp. Um… she just took a shower. This wouldn’t bother me except that he seems genuinely upset over Ana’s damp hair. Ana thanks Christian for the clothes. He says it’s a pleasure and that the color suits her. She’s embarrassed by this, so he scolds her again on how to take a compliment. Good lord.
Ana offers to pay Christian back for the clothes, and he glares at her as though offended. She presses on regardless, pointing out that he’s already spent a lot of money on her by sending her those books (which she plans to send back anyway). He tells her he can afford it. She says that’s not the issue and asks why he would buy her clothes and refuse to be paid back for it. He tells her “Because I can”. Christ, what an asshole.
Ana then asks about the books again. Christian tells her that:
“Well, when you were nearly run over by the cyclist – and I was holding you and you were looking up at me – all kiss me, kiss me, Christian,” he pauses and shrugs slightly, “I felt I owed you an apology and a warning.” He runs his hand through his hair. “Anastasia, I’m not a hearts and flowers kind of man, I don’t do romance. My tastes are very singular. You should steer clear from me.” He closes his eyes as if in defeat. “There’s something about you, though, and I’m finding it impossible to stay away. But I think you’ve figured that out already.”
This is still really stupid reasoning, though. You do not warn someone away with a gift that expensive, apology or not. A guy with as much money as Christian should realize the effect that his wealth has on people. Having that much cash grants him a pretty enormous amount of power, and for this to be a healthy relationship Ana has to be able to trust him to not abuse his power. And yes, I know, power’s hot and all — but Ana doesn’t think it’s sexy that Christian would spend that much on her, she feels indebted to him. And if she doesn’t think it’s sexy, how are we expected to? Ana’s the character the reader is supposed to identify with.
As for the “I don’t do romance” bit, this isn’t surprising given that it’s a variant on the Edward/Bella dynamic. Edward was afraid to get involved with Bella because he’s a vampire, and Christian is afraid to get involved with Ana because he doesn’t think she’d be into the kind of stuff he’s into (and the reverse). Sure, okay, that’s valid, but he is doing a terrible job of staying away from her. I don’t even think he’s trying.
If she were actively pursuing him, it would be one thing. But there are inanimate objects less passive than Ana. She doesn’t drive the plot, the plot drives her. Christian should have no trouble avoiding her, except that she has inexplicable Sue magnetism.
Anyway. Ana tells Christian that if he doesn’t want to stay away, then he shouldn’t. (She says it a lot more timidly than I just made it sound.) Christian literally gasps at this and tells Ana that she doesn’t know what she’s saying. She asks him to enlighten her. I think this scene is supposed to be hot, but it’s really just silly.
When Christian doesn’t respond, Ana asks him if he’s celibate. What the hell, Ana? Where did you get that from? Just because he says he doesn’t do romance doesn’t mean he doesn’t have sex. Christian is rightly amused by the question and tells her he’s not celibate, then asks her about her plans for the next few days. Ana tells him she’s going to pack for her move to Seattle with Kate. He asks her what she’ll do for work there. She tells him she applied for some internships and is waiting to hear back. Christian asks if she applied to his company. She says no. He asks why not, and she makes what I’m pretty sure is a clever comment about working for his company vs. being in his company. Actually, I know for a fact that she thinks it’s clever, because she smirks when she says it. I do not like you, Ana.
Christian asks Ana if she’s smirking at him, and she looks down and bites her lip because he is so hawt omg. He then tells her, and I quote:
“I’d like to bite that lip,” he whispers darkly.
Ana thinks this is the sexiest thing she has ever heard in her life. Oooookay.
She asks him, “Why don’t you?” He tells her that he’s not going to touch her until he has her written consent. She’s puzzled, understandably, and asks him what he means. He says he needs to show her. They arrange to meet after Ana finishes work.
Then… oh, god, I need to quote this part:
“Why can’t you tell me now?” I sound petulant.
“Because I’m enjoying my breakfast and your company. Once you’re enlightened, you probably won’t want to see me again.”
What the fuck. No. All kinds of no. This is not how you go about discussing your kinks with a potential sexual partner. He’s basically luring her in, inviting her to stay a little longer and get more attached to him, even though he believes that she would never be into the same things as him and that their relationship could never work.
Christian calls Taylor and says he’s going to need “Charlie Tango”. Ana wonders who that is because she is dumb enough to think that Charlie Tango is someone’s actual name. As is revealed shortly, Charlie Tango is Christian’s helicopter. He plans to take her to Seattle by helicopter that night for their date.
Christian makes a big fuss about Ana finishing her meal. The book has all the subtlety of an axe to the head, so I know this is going to be a plot point later. Probably Christian was poor and hungry as a kid or something like that.
Ana asks Christian where he slept last night. He tells her he slept in bed with her. She’s surprised, and he says it was a novelty for him too. She’s not sure what he means, so he clarifies that “sleeping with someone” was a first for him. Ana takes this to mean he’s a virgin. For christ’s sake, idiot.
Ana decides she’d like to brush her teeth:
I eye Christian’s toothbrush. It would be like having him in my mouth.
No, it wouldn’t.
Ana brushes her teeth with Christian’s toothbrush and describes the experience as “naughty” and “a thrill”. Well, whatever gets you off, I guess, but…? This scene is just so weird.
They leave the hotel room together and get in the elevator. As it’s heading down, Christian suddenly turns to Ana and… this happens:
“Oh, fuck the paperwork,” he growls. He lunges at me, pushing me against the wall of the elevator. Before I know it, he’s got both of my hands in one of his in a vice-like grip above my head, and he’s pinning me to the wall using his hips. Holy shit. His other hand grabs my ponytail and yanks down, bringing my face up, and his lips are on mine. It’s only just not painful.
NO. NO NO NO NO NO.
The paperwork Christian is referring to is almost certainly some sort of BDSM contract that he and Ana would use to define their limits etc. If he doesn’t want to draw up a contract, that’s cool. No one is making him. But you know what? He still needs to fucking get consent before getting rough with Ana in the elevator. Yeah, she expressed an interest in being kissed earlier in the chapter, but not just now, and she never said “I’m fine with you pinning me against the wall and pulling my head back”. This isn’t sexy. It doesn’t read as kinky. It reads as assault.
If Ana had expressed a desire for him to kiss her right there in the elevator, and if it had been previously established (or even implied!) that she’d like him to be rough with her, I would be okay with this. But that isn’t how it’s written.
Ana, of course, enjoys this anyway. Because fuck consent, that’s why.
Christian lets go of Ana as soon as it stops for more people to get on. When the others exit and they’re alone again, Christian asks about Ana brushing her teeth and she tells him he used his toothbrush. What the fuck am I reading?
They leave the Heathman. End chapter.
Holy Cow! Alert: None this chapter, but we’ve got two “Holy crap!”s, three “Holy shit!”s, and one “Holy hell!”
And Now, A Word From Ana’s Subconscious Alert:
- [After Christian uses the phrase “If you were mine” when talking to Ana] I flush at the waywardness of my subconscious – she’s doing her happy dance in a bright red hula skirt at the thought of being his.
- [As previously quoted, Ana wonders if Christian is attracted to her] You’ve slept in his bed all night, and he’s not touched you Ana. You do the math. My subconscious has reared her ugly, snide head. I ignore her.
- [Ana wonders what Christian means by her not wanting to see him again once he “enlightens” her about himself] Don’t lie to yourself – my subconscious yells at me– it’ll have to be pretty bloody bad to have you running for the hills. [Yes, in the original this was entirely italicized, even the part not spoken by Ana’s “subconscious”. Did anyone proofread this garbage?]
- [Christian tells Ana that she needs to finish her meal] I’m too excited to eat, Christian. Don’t you understand? My subconscious explains.
Does “Inner Goddess” Mean What I Think It Means? Alert: In addition to Ana’s non-subconscious subconscious, she also begins talking about her “inner goddess” in this chapter, during the scene in the elevator:
Oh, he’s affected all right – and my very small inner goddess sways in a gentle victorious samba.
The reference to “very small” in particular makes me feel as if we’re dealing with something other than a purely mental entity here.
Great Prose Alert:
- Oh my… sweat and body wash and Christian, it’s a heady cocktail – so much better than a margarita, and now I can speak from experience.
- My heartbeat has picked up, and my medulla oblongata has neglected to fire any synapses to make me breathe. [This is the second time in the book her medulla oblongata has been referred to. Odd.]
- Oh my – what would I do to be his? He’s the only man who has ever set my blood racing around my body.
- Wow. I am in awe and slightly daunted by this underwear.
- “You. Are. So. Sweet,” he murmurs, each word a staccato.
- I struggle to keep pace with him because my wits have been thoroughly, royally, scattered all over the floor and walls of elevator three in the Heathman Hotel.
Oh My! Alert: Six times in this chapter alone is the phrase used. Generally in italics.
Thoughts So Far:
This was another godawful chapter. In fact, it was even worse than the last one, because the last one contained drunk!Ana and drunk!Ana was genuinely amusing.
I already covered a lot of the bad things about this chapter in the summary, but I’d like to say a few things — first about Ana’s character, then about Christian’s character.
Remember the part where Ana thinks about Kate and how Kate always gets upset after one-night stands, but somehow manages to make the whole thing all about herself? Well, I’ll tell you why that is. It’s because the entire story is all about Ana. The other characters exist to orbit her like satellites, nothing more. They don’t have wants and needs of their own, and Ana knows it.
Ana is orbiting someone herself, though, and that someone is of course Christian Grey. Notice that, although Ana is the main character, she never drives the plot herself? Of course not. She’s just being tugged along by the magnetic force that is Christian.
And now that we’re onto the subject of Christian, here’s what bothers me the most about the elevator scene. It’s not that he forced himself on an unwilling Ana; indeed, Ana was clearly enjoying herself during that scene. But note that I say “clearly” because, since it’s first-person, I as the reader am privy to Ana’s thoughts. From Christian’s perspective, nothing Ana did indicated that she wanted him to grab her, force her against the wall, and kiss her, and yet he did it anyways just because he felt like it.
Combined with all the various hints that Christian is a man who goes after (and is accustomed to getting) what he wants, always, this is setting up to be a really unhealthy dynamic in his and Ana’s relationship. We got no sense in this scene that she could have stopped him had she wanted to. They haven’t even discussed safewords. Even if she had been able to stop him, he almost certainly would not have taken it well. This isn’t normal dom behavior. This isn’t kinky behavior. This is just straight-up disregard for the importance of consent.
I’m now actively dreading the part where the actual sex scenes begin, and I know that part can’t be long off.