Book Review: Fifty Shades of Grey (part 7)
I expected there to be sex in this chapter. There is not sex in this chapter.
Fifty Shades of Grey: Chapter Seven
Ana takes a look around Grey’s playroom. There’s a lot of description which I’ll try to summarize in brief: It’s a big room, dark burgundy walls, varnished wood floors. Some sort of ambient lighting. Various kinky shit — large wooden cross with restraining cuffs fastened to the wall, iron grid with various ropes, chains, and shackles hanging from it on the ceiling, a very large assortment of paddles, whips, riding crops, etc, a whole rack full of canes — how many canes do you need? I’m no expert, but I was sort of under the impression that a cane is a cane is a cane, at least when it comes to whacking people on the rear with it.
The entire room seems a bit… showy? Maybe Christian likes showy, I don’t know. It’s just that it feels like it was lifted straight from a porn set. Everything’s on display; there’s no sense of an underlying logic to how the room was arranged.
There’s also a very large bed in the room, with a red leather mattress. Gross, man, do you have any idea how sweaty that shit would get? I have a leather chair and it is downright disgusting in the summer, and that’s with the AC on and everything.
Ana feels as though the room is “Christian’s version of soft and romantic” due to all the moody lighting and dark, warm colors. I’m not sure how to react to this. First of all, I don’t think “soft and romantic” has been a part of Christian’s sex life. Sounds like he’s mainly just had women who sub for him on weekends, or something like that; no actual romances. Second, I think the author is trying to make us feel better about the situation by having Ana think the playroom is “romantic” when, really, it’s a playroom. A positive reaction to this room would be Ana getting excited by all the various things in the room and what they might be used for. Instead, she’s ignoring that part and trying to romanticize it. I… yeah, this isn’t giving me a good feeling.
Ana walks around the room a little more, observing various things, running her hands over them. She’s shocked and not sure what to say. She’s starting to feel freaked out, and, in her own words, afraid, though not of Christian — more of the BDSM stuff itself, I guess.
Honey, if you don’t want to do this, tell him and get out.
Christian asks her to say something — no, he “commands” her to say something, actually. She asks him if he’s the dominant or submissive partner and who he does this stuff with. The way she phrases it is much more awkward than I just made it sound. Christian answers that he’s the dominant one and that he does this with consenting female partners.
Ana has a thought:
I wander to the far corner of the room and pat the waist high padded bench and run my fingers over the leather. He likes to hurt women. The thought depresses me.
Ana, if this is your reaction, then leave. This obviously isn’t your kink, and, as much of a shithead as he is, I doubt Grey is enough of a shithead to force you into this if you said no to him. You just gotta stand up for yourself for once in the book and tell him you’re sorry, but you’re not interested in having this kind of sex.
I’m sure the author’s intention is to make Ana not totally down with Grey’s kinks, but she’s made Ana so not-even-a-little-bit down with his kinks (like, she doesn’t seem the slightest bit excited by any of this) that it’s really not okay that they’re going to have sex anyway a few pages from now.
Ana asks Christian what being a Dominant means. He explains that he wants her to willingly surrender herself to him. She asks why, and he replies, “To please me”. Sure, that’s valid, except you’re not exactly selling her on it if you’re not telling her “and also because you’d enjoy it too, hopefully, if that sounds like your idea of a good time”.
Ana’s response to being told Christian wants her to please him is “yes I would like to do that”, but… that’s a pretty normal human reaction, that doesn’t mean she’s submissive.
Christian explains how he’d like this to work: He has rules he’d like her to follow, and if she does follow his rules she’ll be rewarded. If she doesn’t, she’ll be punished. That is the vaguest piece of shit explanation I have ever heard, Christian Grey. What’s the reward here? What’s the punishment? What are the rules? What is Ana going to get out of this?
Actually, Ana exceeds expectations by asking what she’s going to get out of this. Christian tells her, “Me”. Oh, come on now. Way to make this all about yourself, Grey.
I’ll just copy+paste the next bit, because… well, because:
He’s dangerous to my health, because I know I’m going to say yes. And part of me doesn’t want to. Part of me wants to run screaming from this room and all it represents. I am so out of my depth here.
Okay, if you want to run screaming you should either a) do that or b) say something to the effect of “Wow, this is kind of overwhelming, could we take things a lot slower? I don’t have any experience with this kind of thing.” It’s fine to be a little overwhelmed your first time trying something. It’s not fine to be so overwhelmed that you want to run for the hills.
This next quote almost made me laugh:
“I’m not going to hurt you, Anastasia.” His gray eyes implore, and I know he speaks the truth.
Except that he basically just admitted to getting off on hurting others.
Yeah, I know BDSM practices don’t necessarily have to be painful, but it looks like this guy’s brand of BDSM is. Why else would he have twenty different canes or whatever?
Of course, that’s pain in a very specific context, and pain that the sub would (hopefully) enjoy receiving. But Ana doesn’t know that. If I were as clueless as her and a guy who had just shown me his room full of canes and whips told me that he wanted to use them on me, then added that he wasn’t going to hurt me, I would be very suspicious. (And if I were actually a masochist, I think I would be equally suspicious of that statement, for different reasons.)
Christian leads Ana out of his playroom and into another room; a sparsely furnished bedroom with a glass wall looking out over the city. He tells her that if she were to agree to be his sub, this would be her room when she stayed with him (weekends).
Hold up a sec. They haven’t even discussed the sexual part of this arrangement — which is kind of the main part — and they’ve already moved on to sleeping arrangements?
In addition, it sounds like this is a long-term relationship we’re talking about. Reminder: this is Christian and Ana’s second date. They haven’t had sex yet. Christian doesn’t even know yet that Ana’s a virgin, and he hasn’t even told her much about what he likes in the bedroom other than that he likes to be in control. Christian’s made it clear that he doesn’t want a romantic relationship, which means that the first thing he should do is see if he and Ana are compatible as sexual partners. That’s just common sense.
Then if it’s going to work long-term, they really need to make sure they can just plain tolerate each other for long periods of time. Even if their non-sexual interactions don’t go beyond that of roommates, it’s still important that they don’t drive each other crazy.
tl;dr For a guy who supposedly has some experience with this, Christian seems to be going about this entirely wrong.
Ana asks about she and Christian not sleeping together. He explains that he doesn’t sleep with anyone. I get the feeling that this is going to be important, mostly because this book possesses all the subtlety of a bullet to the skull.
Christian leads Ana back downstairs for some food. As he arranges a tray with all the “I’m-trying-to-impress-people” foods — grapes, cheeses, a baguette — he explains that he and Ana need to agree on a contract. He’s kind of vague about what this contract actually entails, but I take it that it’s a set of guidelines for how their scenes will go — limits, etc. — as well as what Christian expects of his subs in general both in the playroom and outside of it. (I’m 99.99% sure that he’s the sort of Dom who likes to have control over his subs in all situations, not just sexual ones.)
Ana asks him what happens if she says no. He says it’s fine if she does, but that they can’t have any other type of relationship. She asks why. He answers:
“This is the only sort of relationship I’m interesting in.”
I think you mean interested in, though interesting in is perhaps more accurate.
Ana asks him how he became this way — her phrasing, not mine. He shrugs and says that that’s kind of hard to answer, which is a good response because it’s true (I’m no scientist, but I would expect that there are multiple factors which determine a person’s kinks). It’s just that… well, I get the uncomfortable feeling that Christian’s kink is traceable back to one event, or several related events, which were traumatic to him (hence his need for control and his dislike of emotional intimacy), and that Ana is going to eventually try/succeed at “curing” him of his kink. Which is a really lousy way to portray a character who’s into BDSM. I mean, just because you enjoy certain things in a sexual relationship with a consenting partner doesn’t mean you’re suffering from the effects of some horrible past trauma and need to be “cured”.
Ana refuses to eat but has another glass of wine. What a fucking brilliant strategy; getting drunk because she’s uncomfortable with a situation. Especially after it was recently established that Ana doesn’t handle alcohol well, and after Christian reprimanded her for drinking on an empty stomach, why is he even offering her wine right now?
I hate this book.
Ana asks Christian how many subs he’s had previously (fifteen), if he’s been in long-term relationships with any of them (yes, some of them), if he’s ever hurt a sub (yes), badly (no), and if he’ll hurt her. The last question is a little harder for Christian to answer; he tells her that if she breaks the rules he lays out for her, he’ll punish her, and that the punishment will be painful. He does not tell her that this pain is for her enjoyment as much as his. I don’t know if that’s an oversight on his part or if he just doesn’t give a fuck what his subs are feeling as long as they don’t tell him no, but I’m starting to get uncomfortable with how he hasn’t once made it clear to her that a relationship like this is supposed to be enjoyable for both partners. The sub is supposed to like being submissive. May seem obvious, yes, but not to someone like Ana, who clearly knows little to nothing about BDSM.
Feeling faint, Ana takes another sip of wine. Book, no.
Ana asks if Christian’s ever been beaten. He tells her yes, but changes the subject before she can ask a follow-up question.
Christian takes Ana to his study and hands her a sheet of paper. The paper contains a list of rules, all of which are in the book because… I don’t know, it looks like we’re just padding the length here.
Brief summary of the rules: The sub (I’ll use Ana’s name for convenience) is supposed to obey any instruction she receives from Christian, and to agree to any sexual activity he’d like unless that activity is a hard limit for her. Ana is supposed to get at least seven hours of sleep a night on days she isn’t with Christian. There’s a list of foods (thankfully not detailed here) that she’s allowed to eat from — I assume healthy foods, because it’s also mentioned that she’s only allowed fruit as snacks. When Ana is with Christian, she’s only allowed to wear clothes he “approves”; he’ll provide a clothing budget for her and go clothes shopping with her. Ana will meet with a personal trainer four times a week for hour-long exercise sessions. Ana is expected to keep herself shaved/waxed (it’s not specified where; I’m going to assume legs and armpits, maybe crotch as well), and to visit a beauty salon of Christian’s choosing when Christian decides she needs to. Ana is not allowed to drink to excess, or to smoke, or to take recreational drugs, or to put herself in unnecessary danger. She’s not allowed to have any other sexual partners, is supposed to behave modestly and politely, and should remember that her behavior is a reflection on Christian. Failure to comply with any of the rules will result in punishment, the nature of which will be determined by Christian.
Okay, before we get to Ana’s reaction to this, how about my reaction? You guys like me more than her anyway, right?
There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of this if both partners decide it’s what they’d like to do. It’s just that Christian basically handed her this list of rules and told her that if she wants to be his sub, this is what she has to do. Does she get to negotiate on any of this? What if there’s something not in this contract at all that she’d like added, or something she wants removed entirely? This book doesn’t seem to recognize that, regardless of the agreed-upon dynamics in a D/s relationship, both partners are supposed to be equals. The sub really has as much power as the Dom, because the sub is also doing this of their own free will.
If the two of them sat down together and came up with this list of rules, I would have no problem with it. It’s just that Christian handed a list of rules to Ana and told her “this is what I expect of my subs”, and didn’t even make it clear that they’re open to negotiation.
Ana tries to negotiate anyway. First she takes issue with the “accepting money for clothes” bit, because it would make her feel like a “ho”. Really? We’re gonna go there? Christian says that he’d like to spend money on her, and that she probably can’t afford the kind of clothes he’d like her to wear. He also clarifies that she can wear what she wants when she isn’t with him, at which point she agrees to the rule.
Then she tries to get her exercise sessions bumped down to three a week. Christian argues with her about it but eventually gives in. (If you’re wondering, the rule is there because Christian apparently needs his subs to be in shape — I guess some of the kinky stuff he likes to do requires stamina and/or flexibility.)
They don’t go over the rules too exhaustively, though, because after the argument over exercise (Christian doesn’t get angry with Ana during the negotiations — thank god. I was half expecting him to, though) Christian changes the subject to hard limits. He hands Ana another piece of paper detailing his own hard limits, which are:
- No fire play
- Nothing involving urination, defecation, or the products thereof
- Nothing that could cause bleeding (needles, knives, etc.)
- No gynecological instruments
- Nothing involving children or animals
- Nothing that will leave permanent marks on the skin
- No breath control
Christian asks Ana if she’d like to add anything to the list. Naturally, she has no clue, and is speechless for a minute while she thinks it over. He prompts her again by asking if there was anything she didn’t like doing when she had sex in the past, at which point she finally admits to being a virgin. Christian, angry, asks Ana “Why the fuck didn’t you tell me?” End chapter.
Holy Cow! Alert: Not this time, but there’s one “Holy crap!”, one “Holy shit!”, and one “Holy fuck!” It’s the Holy Trinity!
And Now, A Word From Ana’s Subconscious Alert: Only one, shockingly.
- [After Ana sees Christian’s playroom] My subconscious has emigrated or been struck dumb or simply keeled over and expired.
Padding Alert: This chapter is eight pages long. One and a half pages are devoted to Christian’s list of rules and his list of hard limits.
Thoughts So Far:
I’m not sure what there is to say that hasn’t been covered already. Christian needs to tell Ana exactly what he’d like to do with her, and, if she’s okay with it, they need to do a few scenes before she agrees to anything. Ana needs to be more assertive and to tell Christian what she wants and doesn’t want, and, if she’s really so freaked out by his kinks that she wants to run, she needs to just give up on him and get out of there. Basically, these two need to start communicating with each other.
On the positive side, the prose in this chapter isn’t nearly so bad as in previous chapters (hence why I didn’t bother doing a “Great Prose Alert” this time around — nothing jumped out at me as outstandingly bad, other than the typo I already pointed out), and both Ana’s “subconscious” and “inner goddess” are being remarkably quiet.
Next chapter: sex. (Probably.)