Book Review: Fifty Shades of Grey (part 10)

Well, in the end there were two votes for Fifty Shades, four for Being in Love with a Fictional Man, and one for Beyond Aperture (which I promise to update soon). However, at the time when I first counted the votes there were two for Fifty Shades and one for Being in Love with a Fictional Man, so you get more Fifty Shades tonight. Soon (tomorrow? Monday?) there’ll be some Being in Love with a Fictional Man, and hopefully I’ll get a chapter of Beyond Aperture MSTed sometime this week.

Trigger warning for this chapter of Fifty Shades: mention of sexual abuse involving an adolescent.

Chapter 1

Previous chapter

Fifty Shades of Grey: Chapter Ten

Though Grey’s closing line at the end of the last chapter was “Shit! It’s my mother”, he now seems very excited to have Ana meet her. Now, to be fair, the line at the end of the last chapter was accompanied by a look of “humored horror”, so maybe the negative reaction to his mother’s arrival was merely that she’d showed up when Ana and Christian were in bed together. Nonetheless, it makes the ending of the last chapter read like a cheap attempt at a cliffhanger.

(This story was a fanfic before it was a published novel, and fanfics tend to be sporadically updated, making end-of-chapter cliffhangers more important to keep a reader’s interest. I have a feeling that what we’re seeing here is a leftover from when Fifty Shades was a fanfic.)

Christian gets up and pulls on his jeans, telling Ana to get dressed too. He unties her wrists and Ana stares at the marks the tie has left on her skin. She finds it sexy. Which, okay, perfectly valid, but given that Ana is so new to finding things sexy in general, you’d think her narration would have a few more thoughts on the matter than just “that’s hot”.

Ana has no clean clothes, so she suggests that it would be better for her to stay in the bedroom and not go out to meet Christian’s mother. Christian forbids her to do so and tells her she can wear some of his clothing:

“Anastasia, you could be wearing a sack and you’d look lovely. Please don’t worry. I’d like you to meet my mother. Get dressed. I’ll just go and calm her down.” His mouth presses into a hard line. “I will expect you in that room in five minutes, otherwise I’ll come and drag you out of here myself in whatever you’re wearing. My t-shirts are in this drawer. My shirts are in the closet. Help yourself.” He eyes me speculatively for a moment, then leaves the room.

Okay, so it’s nice of him to tell her she’d look pretty in anything she had on, particularly given that Ana’s so insecure about her looks. But then he follows that up with “if you aren’t out there in five minutes I’ll drag you out no matter what you have or haven’t got on”?

I get the feeling that the sudden swing in tone from complimentary to commanding is meant to be sexy. And, if they’d worked out some arrangement where Christian has complete control over Ana — that is, a D/s relationship that extends outside of the bedroom — I’d be fine with it. But they haven’t negotiated the terms and conditions of their relationship yet. They’re not even doing D/s stuff in the bedroom yet. That means that when Christian threatens Ana like this, it’s not sexy, it’s just plain old abusive behavior.

Christian leaves the room. Ana gets dressed in her clothes from the night before, but puts on a pair of Christian’s boxer briefs rather than her own underwear. (She hates not wearing “clean panties”, she says.) After straightening herself up in the bathroom, she makes her way into the living room, where Christian and his mother are sitting on the couch.

Christian’s mother — her name is Dr. Grace Trevelyan-Grey — is a sandy-haired, well-dressed, well-groomed, attractive woman. (We’re not told her age.) Ana “die(s) a little” inside when she sees how well put-together Dr. Grace is. Ana, honey, I know you’re wearing last night’s dirty clothes and this woman is in some probably very expensive outfit, but could you please stop focusing on appearances quite so much? Jesus.

Dr. Grace is very polite to Ana and greets her warmly. She seems surprised that Christian has a girlfriend. Again, I have to wonder, did her visits never coincide with Christian’s time with his submissives? I know they weren’t girlfriends, but Christian would have had to pass them off as such to his mother anyway.

They have some small talk until Ana gets a phone call. She goes into the next room to take it and picks up without looking at who the caller is, thinking that it’s probably Kate. It’s not; it’s José, as becomes immediately apparent from the “Dios mio!” he opens the conversation with. (Author, can you not?)

José has been trying to get in touch with Ana since the incident at the bar because he wants to apologize. Ana tells him it’s not a good time for them to talk — she means because she’s over at Christian’s place, not because she needs time to think about what happened with José or anything like that. In fact, there’s no clue in her narration that she’s even upset about his misconduct from the other night, which is… weird. I can understand why she’d forgive him — he was really drunk, and he does seem to be genuinely sorry — but I would think that her feelings on the subject would be a little stronger than “whatever, José, we’ll talk about it later”.

His apology also seems a little less genuine a few lines later when he asks Ana “Are you with him?” after she says she’s in Seattle. Really, dude, it’s none of your fucking business where she is and who she’s with. You’re on thin ice already. Don’t push it.

Ana returns to the living room. Christian and his mother are mid-conversation. She tells him she showed up hoping they could have lunch together, but won’t intrude if he has other plans. Christian explains he has to drive Ana back to Portland. Grace collects her things, shakes hands with Ana, and is escorted out of the room by Taylor.

As soon as she’s gone, Christian glares at Ana and asks what José wanted. Ana explains that he called to apologize. Christian still seems pissed off. Jesus, this guy and his jealousy issues.

Taylor shows up to tell Christian there’s a problem with some shipment of his. Boring blah blah. We get it, he has a business and that’s great because businessmen amirite.

(I still don’t know what it is that Christian’s business actually does.)

Christian goes into his study and retrieves a manila envelope containing the contract. He hands it to Ana, tells her to read it so they can discuss it the next time they get together, and suggests she do some online research on BDSM so she can better understand the contract.

Okay, no. How long is this contract that they can’t read/discuss it together, instead of Ana reading it at home on her own time?

Ideally, of course, Ana and Christian would be coming up with a contract together — Christian may be more experienced, and he may be the Dom, but D/s relationships are about roleplaying power imbalances, not actual power imbalances. The sub has as much power in the relationship as the Dom does. Of course, the book isn’t going to acknowledge that because this author’s idea of BDSM probably comes from reading bad Twilight fanfic.

(Yeah, I’m no BDSM expert either, but apparently I have a better idea of what I’m talking about than this author, because half the time her ideas about BDSM don’t even make sense.)

Ana’s internet research into BDSM would probably be of very little help. Sure, there are sites on the internet which have very good information on such topics, but I doubt someone as clueless as Ana would know about said sites, or even recognize them if they saw them. She’d probably be just as likely, if not more likely, to stumble across misinformation or thinly disguised porn sites in her search for objective information on the topic.

I’ve said this before, but Christian needs to tell Ana what he personally would like to do in the realm of BDSM, and really go into some detail explaining what he means. She’s new to this stuff, yeah, so some good information on BDSM in general would be of use to her. But what’s most important is that she knows what exactly it is Christian wants to do. I mean, sex is a very personal thing, and a lot of different practices fall under the BDSM umbrella. It would also be important for Ana to know what this stuff means to Christian, what about it is enjoyable for him, etc. That’s not the kind of stuff she can learn through reading a contract.

Moving on. Ana says she doesn’t have a computer. That’s… odd. She’s a college student, and I was very much under the impression that you need a computer for college. Even if she doesn’t have one of her own, she should have regular access to one; either she uses computers on campus (in a library or computer lab or something), or she borrows Kate’s laptop, or something.

Christian offers to lend Ana a computer. Oh, don’t tell me, Ana doesn’t have a computer so that Christian can give her one, right? Probably something real fancy and top-of-the-line, too, right?

Before heading back to Portland, Ana wants to make a call. Christian is angry when he hears this:

“The photographer?” His jaw clenches, and his eyes burn. I blink at him. “I don’t like to share, Miss Steele. Remember that.” His quiet, chilling tone is a warning, and with one long, cold look at me, he heads back to the bedroom.
Holy crap. I just wanted to call Kate, I want to call after him, but his sudden aloofness has left me paralyzed. What happened to the generous, relaxed, smiling man who was making love to me not half an hour ago?

Ana. Word of advice here. If your lover’s mood swings leave you “paralyzed”, that is a BAD SIGN and you should probably RUN AWAY FAST. That’s a sign of an abusive relationship — whether physically or emotionally — right there.

I don’t know what Christian means by not liking to share, either. Though José has romantic interests in Ana, Ana is uninterested in him, and I think Christian knows that (or ought to, anyway). The other possibility is that he’s jealous at the mere idea of Ana having male friends, which is just over-the-top ridiculous in a way that isn’t at all funny.

They take the elevator down to the garage, which is underground. Christian at one point threatens to fuck Ana in the elevator if she doesn’t stop biting her lip. I think he may have meant it playfully because he’s smiling a bit when he says it, but with this guy, who even knows? Maybe I should start doing alerts for every time Christian threatens to do something to Ana without her permission.

…actually, scratch that, if I did alerts for that we’d be here all day.

Ana tells Christian she needs to talk to Kate about sex because she has so many questions. He tells her that’s alright on the condition that Kate doesn’t say anything about it to Elliot, and that they don’t talk about anything kinky Christian would like to do with Ana — just about the stuff the two of them have already done. Okay, sounds reasonable.

Then this happens:

“The sooner I have your submission the better, and we can stop all this,” he murmurs.
“Stop all what?”
“You, defying me.”

Really? Ana wanting to talk to her friend is somehow defying Christian? She doesn’t give up her right to have friends and talk to them by becoming his sub. (Right?)

To be fair, Ana herself wonders how exactly she’s defying Christian. Then again, she doesn’t actually ask him about it.

Lots of talking about how cool Christian’s car is. Not gonna bother relating it here because it’s boring.

After driving for a while, they stop at a restaurant for lunch. The waitress is clearly attracted to Christian, which somehow surprises Ana. Really? After all the talk about how Christian is the sexiest thing on two legs, Ana’s surprised to see other women checking him out?

Christian orders two glasses of Pinot Grigio for them, despite the fact that Ana did not want Pinot Grigio. His reasoning is that it will “go well with the meal”. I have a bad feeling that he’s actually trying to get her a little drunk, considering how poorly Ana holds her alcohol.

The subject turns to Christian’s mother:

“My mother liked you,” he says dryly.
“Really?” His words make me flush with pleasure.
“Oh yes. She’s always thought I was gay.”

Really? Really? We’re gonna bring homophobia into this? Out of all the potential reasons Christian’s mother could have had for liking Ana, the author had to go with the homophobic one?

I hate this book.

Ana asks Christian why his mother thought he was gay. He explains that she’s never seen him with a girl. Okay… so has she seen him with guys, then? If you’re gonna jump to conclusions about his sexuality based on who he hasn’t been seen dating, the logical conclusion here would be that Christian is asexual. (Of course, this is all crazy-person logic anyway.)

Christian goes on to explain that this weekend has been a weekend of firsts for him as well. He’s never taken a date in his helicopter, never slept with somebody (in the sense of literally sleeping with them), never had sex in his bed, never introduced a sexual partner to his mother. He also tells Ana he’s never had vanilla sex before. She asks him why, and…

…ugh, this is bad. Turns out he was raped at fifteen by a friend of his mother.

Christian doesn’t say he was raped, of course, “seduced” is the word he uses. However, when we’re talking about a fifteen-year-old being pushed into a sexual relationship with someone who is probably about forty, I think “raped” is a more fitting term than “seduced”.

This relationship apparently went on for six years. Christian was the sub to this woman’s Domme. (Figures; when we have a female Dominant, she’s a rapist. Great.)

Ana’s shocked, particularly at how young Christian was when he was first “seduced”. She asks a few more questions. Apparently, Christian never dated in college because he was content with his relationship with a child rapist, and “besides, she would have beaten the shit out of me”. He then “smiles fondly” at this memory.

This is getting seriously fucked-up.

Christian doesn’t reveal the age of his “seducer”, but says he’s still friends with her, though they’re no longer sexual partners. His mother never found out about all this.

Ana has a hard time processing the idea of Christian as a submissive. Rape victim is the phrase you’re searching for here, Ana.

(Yes, I know we don’t know exactly how things went down between this woman and Christian. However, he was fifteen, she was most likely middle-aged. That in itself is creepy. Even if he was attracted to her, she was clearly out-of-line in acting on her desires towards him. Given that he was so young, I don’t think he could have properly consented to such a relationship  — at least, not in the eyes of the law — especially since it was clearly a pretty intense one. It’s statutory rape and highly inappropriate conduct on her part at the very least, and she was likely quite manipulative of him on top of that.)

By the time the waiter brings the food, Ana’s lost her appetite. She feels like she needs some time alone now to think about what he’s told her. Probably not a bad idea, although she says it’s because he’s “so overwhelming, so Alpha Male”, and once again I have a strong urge to set every copy of this book on fire.

Christian urges Ana to eat even though she’s not hungry. She asks him if their relationship would be like this (him ordering her around, that is). Even though the answer is completely obvious, I’m glad she actually asked him about it, because she still knows pretty much nothing about what being with Christian would entail. He says yes, it would be, “and what’s more, you’ll want me to”.

Well, on the one hand, yeah, hopefully she would want to be ordered around by him if she consents to the relationship. But the way he states it like it’s a given is… not good. How about saying something like, “Well, yes, I would be ordering you around a lot, but the idea is that it’d be fun for both of us. Does that sound enjoyable to you?”

It doesn’t sound enjoyable to Ana, by the way, but of course she doesn’t tell him that, just starts in on her food. Good god I hate these characters and this book and this story.

Christian tells Ana:

“Anastasia, you have to go with your gut. Do the research, read the contract – I’m happy to discuss any aspect. I’ll be in Portland until Friday if you want to talk about it before then.” His words are coming at me in a rush. “Call me – maybe we can have dinner – say, Wednesday? I really want to make this work. In fact, I’ve never wanted anything as much as I want this to work.”

I’m glad he’s making himself available for her to discuss things with, and I’m glad he told her to trust her instincts in making her decision, but when he keeps ordering her around before they’ve established that Ana would like to be ordered around and telling her what she likes instead of letting her tell him what she likes I have trouble being glad about anything that happens in this story.

Also, what makes Ana so damn special?

Ana wonders the same thing, actually, and asks Christian what happened to his fifteen previous submissives. He says there were various reasons why those relationships didn’t work out, but it all boiled down to incompatibility, and he thinks he might be compatible with Ana. Okay, except she has given no indication of being interested in doing BDSM with him (because she isn’t interested), and also given no indication that she likes him for any reason other than appearance, which he must get all the time.

Ana asks him if he’s still seeing any of the fifteen. He says no, he’s monogamous. This surprises her. Dunno why; most people are monogamous. Maybe she equated kinkiness with polygamy?

Christian tells her again to “do the research”. Coming after the last thing that was said, it sounds like he’s telling her it should be obvious to anyone educated in BDSM that he’s monogamous, which… doesn’t make sense.

They finish their meals — well, Ana doesn’t finish hers, but Christian doesn’t give her much crap over it, just scowls at her. Ana starts thinking about how Christian must work out to stay in such good shape despite how much he eats, and thinking about how in-shape Christian is gets her all hot and bothered. He takes notice:

“I’d give anything to know what you’re thinking right at this moment,” he murmurs. I blush further.
He smiles a wicked smile at me.
“I can guess,” he teases softly.
“I’m glad you can’t read my mind.”
“Your mind, no, Anastasia, but your body – that I’ve got to know quite well since yesterday.” His voice is suggestive. How does he switch so quickly from one mood to the next? He’s so mercurial… It’s hard to keep up.

The characterization of Christian as a guy subject to sudden and abrupt changes of mood isn’t bad at all, and actually makes him a more interesting person (and god knows he could stand to be more interesting; this book’s full of boring two-dimensional characters). However, do we really need Ana to keep telling us how mercurial he is? The author does a perfectly decent job (impressive for her) of showing us Christian’s mood swings; there’s no need for her to constantly point out it.

Telling instead of showing really is a beginner’s mistake. It betrays lack of confidence in your ability to make your readers understand your characters/plot/themes/etc. Any decently skilled writer can convey their message without stating it outright; it’s hacks like this author who try to hit their readers over the head with it instead.

Anyways, on with the show. Christian pays for the meal and he and Ana walk back to the car holding hands. Ana thinks:

This contact, flesh to flesh, it’s what is so unexpected from him, normal, intimate. I can’t reconcile this ordinary, tender gesture with what he wants to do in that room… The Red Room of Pain.

Being kind and loving (not that Christian is, though he’s probably intended as such) and being into BDSM aren’t mutually exclusive in the slightest. I’d take this as just a sign of Ana’s inexperience, except that I have a feeling the author herself thinks BDSM is typically incompatible with normal human affection and that Christian is an oh-so-special snowflake for craving both.

They’re quiet on the ride home. When they reach Ana and Kate’s apartment, at around five, Ana invites Christian in but he declines, saying he has work to do. He kisses her hand, thanks her for being with him that weekend, and says he can pick her up from work for their date on Wednesday. Ana feels a little emotional over leaving but doesn’t want Christian to see, so instead she climbs out of the car, tells Christian that by the way, she’s wearing his underwear (and pulls up the waistband of said underwear so that he can see), and saunters into the house, leaving Christian standing outside with his mouth hanging open.

Okay, so that actually made me like Ana a little bit more, except that she had to mention her “inner goddess” immediately afterwards.

Kate is in the living room packing. She anxiously asks Ana if she’s okay and if Christian’s still there, but two seconds later changes her tune and asks how “it” was, grinning mischievously. Uh-oh, looks like Christian’s not the only mercurial one.

Ana doesn’t want to talk about her time with Christian; partly because of the contract she signed, partly because she’s feeling shy about revealing such private information, so she just tells Kate that it was “very good”, then adds “I think” because she’s got nothing else to compare it to. Kate — blunt as always — asks if Ana came. Ana blushes and says yes.

Kate talks about her first time having sex, which was awful in the standard sort of first-time way — that is, it was high school, after prom, they were both drunk, etc. She’s impressed that Ana had such a good first time. Ana is so pleased with herself for having a good first time that she starts talking about her inner goddess again.

They talk a bit more. Ana tries to tell Kate that, though she likes Christian, she isn’t sure if she has a future with him because “he inhabits a very different world” to hers. Kate interprets that as being about money, and Ana doesn’t correct her because of the NDA.

Ana wonders what the penalty for breaching the NDA would be. Maybe you’d know that if you actually read it, dumbass.

Kate and Ana talk about how sore they are from the night before:

“…Men,” she says in mock disgust. “They’re animals.” We both laugh.

Even though they’re joking around, this rubs me the wrong way. The implication seems to be that sex is something that men want and women just go along with. Which is so, so cliché, besides being inaccurate, sexist, rape-culture-y, and generally awful.

Ana asks Kate to tell her about Elliot, and Kate goes all blush-y and giggly, so obviously she and Elliot are going to be the beta couple. According to Ana, Kate’s never acted that way about anybody before. It does irritate me a bit that Kate basically becomes Ana 2.0 when she likes a guy instead of, you know, having a distinct personality, particularly because the implication is “love/infatuation makes all women giggly and tongue-tied regardless of how they typically behave”.

Ana is glad Elliot and Kate are going to be seeing each other more, because she’d like to get to know Elliot better (partly in hopes that he’ll provide some insight into Christian’s weirdness).

Kate asks Ana if she’s okay, because she looks “kind of overwhelmed” . Ana explains that Christian is “very intense”, though she explains that he was good to her. Yeah, sure he was.

Ana says she’s going to return the books Christian gave her to him, as they’re too expensive a gift to accept. I bet this will go well.

They talk about internships. Ana has two interviews coming up in a couple weeks, for two different publishing houses (not specified which). Kate’s already got one set up at the Seattle Times, because her dad knows someone who knows someone. I’m not sure if the book is trying to shame Kate for having connections or not.

More talk about future plans. Kate’s going to Barbados with her family for two weeks, leaving Ana alone in their new apartment. Ana seems a bit bitchy about having never left the States. Ana, guess what? I don’t care.

The phone rings. It’s José. He asks Ana if he can see her and apologizes again for what he did, asking Ana for her forgiveness. She tells him she forgives him so long as he doesn’t do it again, because she doesn’t feel that way about him. He replies:

“I know, Ana. I just thought, if I kissed you, it might change how you feel.”

That’s incredibly stupid reasoning.

Ana tells José she loves him, but in a platonic way, and that that isn’t going to change. José immediately goes into jealous mode:

“So you’re with him now?” His tone is full of disdain.
“José, I’m not with anybody.”
“But you spent the night with him.”
“That’s none of your business!”
“Is it the money?”
“José! How dare you!” I shout, staggered by his audacity.

Wow, Ana, good for you. This must be the first time in the story you’ve actually stood up for yourself.

José backs down, and Ana says that maybe they can meet for coffee or something the next day. He agrees, and she hangs up.

Kate asks what José wanted and Ana explains that he “made a pass” at her at the bar on Friday. Kate says:

“José? And Christian Grey? Ana, your pheromones must be working overtime. What was the stupid fool thinking?”

Wow, good job implying it’s Ana’s fault because of her pheromones! That isn’t victim-blame-y at all!

Ana and Kate take a break from packing to eat dinner (lasagna and cheap wine) and watch TV:

This is normality. It’s so grounding and welcome after the last forty-eight hours of… madness.

If being with Christian makes you that uncomfortable, Ana, just tell him you’d like to take things a hell of a lot slower, or whatever it is that you actually want out of this because I’m honestly not even sure anymore. Bottom line is, if you would actually communicate your desires to him instead of just going along with whatever he says, you’d be a lot more comfortable with this relationship.

Ana’s also glad to not be nagged about eating, and wonders what Christian’s deal with food is. Author, seriously, we get it, he has an issue with wasted food. You don’t need to keep reminding us of it.

More packing. Yawn.

The phone rings. It’s Elliot. Kate grabs the phone and skips off to her bedroom, leaving Ana alone with her thoughts. She continues watching TV and drinking wine for a while, not wanting to read the contract.

Ana thinks about her relationships with José and Christian. Both of them are attracted to her, but she figures that José will be “easy to deal with”. Christian, not so much. Uh? She’s treating Christian as if he’s a problem that needs fixing, instead of her love interest. And yeah, I would consider Christian a problem, but I thought Ana was supposed to consider him her One True Love, so what the hell? I swear, one of the biggest problems with this book is that it can’t decide how it wants to portray its characters.

Ana thinks about Christian some more, which eventually leads to this:

He’s not even here, and I’m turned on.

Uh, congratulations?

Ana finally acknowledges that what happened to Christian was sexual abuse — she mentally calls Christian’s abuser an “evil Mrs. Robinson figure” — but it’s a throwaway line and she apparently has nothing more to say on the subject. She is using it as a justification for why Christian is the way he is, though, so… great.

I want to point out something important. You’re allowed to feel bad for people who have been through horrible things, even if they later went on to do horrible things themselves. The horrible things those people went through, however, do not excuse any future horrible deeds they commit. Christian was raped as a teenager, and that’s tragic and horrifying, but it does not in any way excuse his mistreatment of Ana or anything else bad he does. He doesn’t get a free pass on committing misdeeds because he himself was abused in the past. That’s not how it works.

Ana briefly wonders if she’d be happier were she still as innocent, naïve, and virginal as she was at the start of the book, but decides she wouldn’t be. Well, actually, she doesn’t decide, her subconscious and inner goddess decide for her.

Kate comes back into the living room, grinning, and tells Ana she’s going to bed. Ana says she is too. Blah blah.

Before they head to bed, Kate tells Ana this:

“I’m glad you’re back in one piece. There’s something about Christian,” she adds quietly, apologetically.

Ah yes, the magical Kate intuition. For someone who has seen very little of Christian (and he’s behaved himself quite well around her, if I recall correctly), she’s awfully suspicious of him, isn’t she?

The problem is that this author writes her secondary characters as little more than cardboard cutouts there to influence Ana’s thoughts and behavior in one direction or the other. She isn’t thinking of Kate as someone with her own personality and agenda, someone who’s as legitimate a character as the main characters despite having a smaller part and fewer lines. Any decent writer can make even their minor characters believable as people. This author, on the other hand, can’t even write a believable main character slash first person narrator.

Ana goes back to her bedroom and takes the envelope with Christian’s contract out from her purse. She deliberates for a second before ripping open the envelope, then the chapter ends. Ooh, a cliffhanger!

Holy Cow! Alert: No cows, but there are two “Holy shit!”s and six “Holy crap!”s.

And Now, A Word From Ana’s Subconscious Alert:

  • [Ana wonders if she should take Christian up on his offer of lending her clothes] My subconscious purses her lips and mouths the word ‘ho’. [Seriously? We’re gonna go there? That doesn’t even make sense, anyway.]
  • [After Christian confesses to having been sexually abused in his adolescence] I stare at him, unable to articulate anything – even my subconscious is silent.
  • {Ana’s voice rises several octaves when talking to Kate about Christian; she’s worried she might be close to giving away information the NDA prevents her from talking about] Too obvious, Steele! My subconscious glares at me, wagging her long skinny finger, then morphs into the scales of justice to remind me he could sue if I disclose too much. [For god’s sake, why do we need all these elaborate images? They add nothing to the story.]

Does “Inner Goddess” Mean What I Think It Means? Alert:

  • [After Ana shows Christian that she’s wearing his underwear and he reacts in shock] YES! My inner goddess is thrilled.
  • [Ana is pleased that she was able to orgasm her first time having sex] My inner goddess sits in the lotus position looking serene except for the sly, self-congratulatory smile on her face.

That’s Too Many Inner Voices For One Sentence Alert:

  • [Ana wonders if she should give up on sex and sexuality] No! Screams my subconscious… my inner goddess nods in silent zen-like agreement with her.

Great Prose Alert:

  • If I’m not mistaken, there is wonder and maybe stunned relief in her voice and a warm glow in her hazel eyes.
  • I walk as nonchalantly back to Christian and his mother.
  • He certainly doesn’t look like the multi-multi millionaire, billionaire, what-ever-aire, in these clothes.
  • He opens the door for me and I climb in. Whoa… it’s low.
  • The traffic is light and we’re soon on the I-5 heading south, the wind sweeping over our heads.
  • I thought it was chocolate fudge brownie sex that we had, with a cherry on the top. But hey, what do I know?
  • The memory of the way his PJ’s hung from his hips comes unbidden to my mind. The image is totally distracting.
  • Why do I feel suddenly bereft? A lump forms in my throat.
  • What is it about the Grey men? What is it that makes them totally distracting, all-consuming, and irresistible? I take another slug of wine.
  • It just can’t be about sex, can it? I recall his gentle banter this morning at breakfast, his joy at my delight with the helicopter ride, him playing the piano – the sweet soulful oh-so-sad music.
  • My heart fills with sadness at the thought of what he must have been through. I’m too naïve to know exactly what, but the research should shed some light.
  • My mind drifts to last night, and this morning… and the incredible, sensual sexuality I’ve experienced.
  • I am weary from all our carnal exertions of the last day and from the complete and utter dilemma that I’m faced with.
  • Do I really want to know the extent of Christian’s depravity? It’s so daunting.

Thoughts So Far:

Let’s talk about Christian’s, uh, “relationship” with his mother’s friend, shall we?

The book seems like it isn’t quite sure whether to treat what happened to Christian as abuse or not. On the one hand, I’m fairly certain the author’s trying to drum up sympathy for Christian by giving him some sort of Freudian excuse. On the other hand, the book barely acknowledged that Christian was actually sexually abused/raped rather than just “seduced”. Ana’s shocked by the revelation, but only, it seems, because a) Christian was so young when it happened and b) she can’t imagine Christian as someone’s sub.

Now, to be fair, the views of the main character don’t necessarily indicate the views of the author, but Ana’s meant to be a stand-in character for the reader anyway, so I’m assuming by default that views she espouses are the views of the author (or close enough). At the very least, her views are meant to be relatable to the average reader.

Ultimately, this serves to blur the distinction between abuse and BDSM, which this book has been doing already. By not drawing a clear line between consensual BDSM practices and sexual abuse, Fifty Shades is trivializing abuse while demonizing BDSM. And that’s legitimately terrible.

This book has a terrible stance on consent in general; its unspoken rule seems to be that a no is a yes that just needs some convincing. Christian seems pretty confident that Ana will come around to seeing things his way and that she’ll enjoy the stuff he’s into, even though she’s given no indication of being interested in any of that (in fact, most of it seems to be disturbing to her). The worst thing about it, though, is that Christian’s probably right. Ana has so little backbone that she’ll go along with whatever he says, whether she wants to or not.

Maybe further into this book — or at some point during the rest of the trilogy, at least — Ana will finally start standing up for herself. After all, at this point she’s still pretty clueless and in way over her head. Right now, though, it’s not looking good, and I don’t have enough confidence in the author’s skill to assume that Ana’s not standing up for herself because she’s feeling overwhelmed or because that’s just part of her character. It’s quite possible the author thinks all women are just natural-born subs, that they’re all timid and blushing (or else giggly and tongue-tied) when faced with attractive men, that they ultimately want a man to take charge and tell them what to do, etc.

The other thing I’d like to bring up in regards to this chapter is José. While Ana’s of course allowed to forgive him for what he did (or tried to do) to her, in forgiving him she removed all drama from the situation. Where’s the conflict now? He’s still jealous of Christian, but the tension between Ana and José is gone. (Okay, so his attraction to her is still an issue. But his misconduct towards Ana isn’t anymore, which makes the entire scene seem rather pointless in hindsight.)

I could say more, but I’ve already said enough. Next time: we finally get to look at the dreaded contract! Whoopee.

Next chapter

17 Responses to “Book Review: Fifty Shades of Grey (part 10)”

  1. right, so did ya know that the author of Fifty Shades is writing a book on writing? I’m sure it will be a masterpiece like the rest of her work.

  2. (I still don’t know what it is that Christian’s business actually does.)

    I don’t know why, but I found that to be one of the funniest things I’ve read all day! Congratulations on The Half World being back in business!

  3. Ugly kid Says:

    I still don’t know what it is that Christian’s business actually does.

    Maybe he sells boxes with boxes inside of them.

  4. GrayGriffin Says:

    To be fair, it seems the default to assume when you aren’t seen with members of the opposite sex IS “gay” instead of “asexual.” Also that last sentence was convoluted but I hope it makes sense.

    • I know it’s the default, it’s just very poor logic and a holdover from a time when gay people were afraid to be openly gay (still the case in some places, of course, but it’s much better than it was).

  5. T_T Oh lord, my double standard senses when it comes to abuse are tingling…

    On a more pleasant note, how was Italy, Skep?

  6. Progeny Ex Machina Says:

    After reading this, all I have to say is that you’ll fit in perfectly at Mount Holyoke.

    I figure you might know all this already, but there are three major all-girls schools around here. I go to Simmons, and I have friends at Smith and Holyoke, and I can tell you that feminism is a huge thing at all of them. If you have this much to say about it, I think you’ll be great there.

    (I hope I don’t come off as implying that that’s a bad thing, because it’s totally not.)

    • I was actually considering majoring in gender studies, because when I visited MHC I was with a couple gender studies majors and sat in on classes with them and… man, that stuff is really interesting to me.

  7. “Trigger warning…”

    Skep, have you been hanging around a troll by the name of Kankri Vantas?

      • Idrislady Says:

        Oh, Skep, you aren’t Homestuck yet? It’s a brilliant web comic which starts out slow but funny and becomes fast and mindblowing. I highly recommend it, but only if you want to give up all your free time!

      • I’ve read a couple acts but I’m nowhere near being caught up, thus not part of the fandom.

        Sometime I’ll probably sit down and read the rest.

      • Okay then.
        If this confused you, Kankri is a character from Homestuck who often goes off on social justice rants and warns people about certain subjects that may arise by saying “Trigger warnings include…”
        Yeah I was just being kinda unfunny.

  8. The Light in the Dark Says:

    Ugh, how many chapters does Fifty Shades have anyway?

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