Book Review: Fifty Shades of Grey (part 11)
This chapter is fifty shades of boring. No, I haven’t been waiting to make that joke for ten chapters.
Fifty Shades of Grey: Chapter Eleven
The first seven and a half pages of this chapter are entirely devoted to Grey’s BDSM contract.
Let me try and cover what it says as briefly as I can.
The contract begins with some fundamental terms:
- that the purpose of the contract is to allow the sub to explore her sexuality while respecting her needs, limits and wellbeing
- that everything done under the terms of the contract has to be consensual, confidential, and safe
- that if either partner is diagnosed with or becomes aware of having a serious/infectious/sexually transmitted/life-threatening illness, they must inform the other party
- that any breach of the fundamental terms voids the entire contract immediately
- that nothing in the rest of the contract can be interpreted as conflicting with the fundamental terms
On to the rest of the contract:
- Christian is to be responsible for Ana’s wellbeing, training, guidance, and discipline. He gets to decide the nature of said training/guidance/discipline and the time and place when it is to occur.
- If Christian fails to adhere to the agreed-upon terms/limits/safety procedures/etc., Ana is entitled to immediately terminate the contract.
- So long as no fundamental terms are being violated (that is, everything’s consensual, no one has an STD, etc.), Ana is to go along with whatever Christian wants to do without hesitating or questioning him.
- The contract is effective for a three-month period after the date on which both parties sign. Once the contract expires, Christian and Ana can discuss whether they’d like to renew it, or change any aspects of the contract they found unsatisfactory. Alternately, they can just not renew the contract and go back to living separate lives.
- Ana is to “make herself available” to Christian on the weekends (Friday evenings through Sunday afternoons). They can spend time together outside of that if both parties agree on it.
- When Ana and Christian are together, Christian can “dismiss” her from “his service” at any time, for any reason. Ana, on the other hand, can put in a request for “release”, but Christian has to grant her request before she can leave (again, as long as she consents to being treated this way; if she revokes her consent she gets to leave freely).
- Christian will determine where he and Ana meet up. He’ll cover the travel costs.
The next section, apparently, is for both of them to discuss together. (And the rest somehow isn’t?) It’s divided into two lists of rules, one for the Dom and one for the sub. Christian’s list first:
- Ana’s health and safety is to be a priority to Christian at all times. If either party deems an activity unsafe, Christian can’t request they do it.
- During the weekends/whenever other times they meet up, Christian can do pretty much as he pleases with Ana (again, so long as it’s safe and she consents).
- Christian is to provide Ana with any BDSM-related training she might need. (Haven’t we been over this?) He is also to provide a safe environment for training/sexytimes to take place.
- Christian is permitted to discipline Ana as he sees fit. The discipline can take the form of flogging, spanking, whipping, or “corporal punishment”, and Christian doesn’t have to tell Ana why he’s disciplining her.
- However, Christian can’t hurt Ana badly enough to leave permanent marks, or badly enough that she’d need medical attention.
- If Ana is sick or injured, Christian is to care for her, including seeking medical care for her if she needs it.
- If Christian is sick or injured, he needs to seek medical care for himself to avoid risk to Ana.
- Christian can’t “loan” Ana to another Dom.
- Christian can restrain (handcuff/bind/etc.) Ana as he sees fit during the times when they’re together, for extended periods of time if he wants, as long as he doesn’t harm her in the process.
- Christian’s responsible for making sure all the equipment he and Ana use is clean and safe.
And as for Ana’s set of rules:
- Ana is to accept Christian as her “master”, with the understanding that she is his “property”.
- She is to obey the rules defined in Appendix 1 (which we haven’t gotten to yet. Goody).
- Ana is to serve Christian in any way he sees fit and to endeavor to please him at all times, to the best of her ability.
- Ana should take all necessary measures to keep herself healthy; if she does become sick or injured, she is to request or seek medical care and inform Christian.
- Ana needs to be taking oral contraceptives.
- Ana is to remember that her role is to be subservient to Christian. (We fucking get it, book.)
- She’s not allowed to masturbate unless Christian gives her permission.
- Ana is to submit to any sexual activity Christian wants; likewise with any discipline (spanking, whipping, etc.)
- Unless she’s specifically instructed to do so, Ana’s not allowed to look Christian in the eyes, or to touch him.
- In Christian’s presence, Ana is supposed to conduct herself quietly and respectfully and to address him as “Sir” or “Mr. Grey”.
There’s some stuff about safewords (finally):
- They’ll be using the standard safewords: that is, green, yellow, red. Like stoplights. I don’t think I need to explain the concept, right? Green means everything’s fine, yellow means “I’m reaching my limit”, red means stop. If the “red” safeword is used, the other partner has to stop immediately, no questions asked.
Finally, there’s a place for them to sign. By signing, they indicate that they have read the contract and understand it fully.
Then there are the appendices. Oh no.
Wait… actually, we’ve seen the next bit before. It’s the list of rules Christian gave Ana in chapter 7. I won’t summarize that again.
The next appendix is in the form of a questionnaire. Essentially, it asks Ana what sexual acts she’s comfortable with (masturbation, oral sex, vaginal/anal intercourse, vaginal/anal fisting, etc.), if she minds swallowing ejaculatory fluid, if she’d be alright with using sex toys (and, if so, what types of sex toys), and if she’s okay with bondage (and, if so, what kinds of bondage). She’s then asked to rate her general attitude towards receiving pain on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being “likes intensely” and 5 being “dislikes intensely”, and how much pain she’d want to receive on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being “none” and 5 being “severe”. After that, there’s one more question asking Ana what types of pain/punishment/discipline she finds acceptable (choices include: spanking, paddling, biting, whipping, hot wax, nipple clamps).
And now for Ana’s reaction to this:
Can’t say I blame her.
To describe Ana’s reaction a little more thoroughly: Ana doesn’t want to be subservient and obedient to Christian, thinks seeing him every weekend is too often (because it’ll give her no time to spend with her friends), doesn’t want to be flogged or whipped (though she thinks spanking might be okay, and is open to the idea of being tied up), doesn’t like not being allowed to look Christian in the eye or touch him, and feels that, overall, this is just too many rules and too overwhelming.
Let’s hope she actually manages to tell Christian this so that they can negotiate something better. (Though my hopes aren’t high.)
Ana feels worn-out from the past couple days, both physically and mentally, so she starts getting ready for bed. While doing so, she thinks some more about what to do — or, rather, her subconscious and inner goddess do the thinking for her. Ana’s subconscious thinks Ana’s crazy for even considering signing the contract, while Ana’s inner goddess wants to sign it lest Ana end up a lonely old lady with too many cats and classic novels. (That doesn’t sound too bad to me. At least, not when the alternative is Christian Grey.)
Also, let me point out that, while fear of being alone forever kind of makes sense as a motivator for Ana’s character (seeing as she’s never felt attraction to anyone before Christian), it’s a terrible reason to choose to be with somebody. Being single beats being with someone who you’re sexually incompatible with.
Ana wonders if she’s submissive or not. She thinks maybe she comes off that way because she’s shy, but questions the idea that she’s actually a submissive person. This is an excellent thing to be questioning and I’m glad it’s being brought up. Ana doesn’t come to any conclusion on whether or not she’s submissive, just finishes washing up and goes to bed.
She dreams of Grey. Her dreams are vaguely described, as always, and not worth relating as they don’t even take up a full sentence.
Ana wakes up the next morning and is surprised to discover she’s slept for nine hours. Girl, please. Nine hours of sleep isn’t that long.
Kate tells Ana she has to sign for a delivery. Ana goes down to see what it is. It’s a MacBook Pro, sent by Christian, of course. Apparently this is the latest model, not even in stores yet. For some reason, the delivery fellow has to set it up and show Ana how to use it. (Probably Christian requested that he do so, but it seems unnecessary. Your average college kid should have no difficulty figuring out how to use a laptop, even if it’s an unfamiliar brand/OS. Which we don’t know that it is, in Ana’s case.)
Apparently this laptop has a 1.5 terabyte hard drive and 32 gigs of RAM. I just got a new MacBook Pro myself, and the tech specs are significantly more modest (256GB hard drive, 8GB RAM). Granted, I don’t have the top-of-the-line model, but the actual top-of-the-line model still doesn’t come close to the tech specs of the one in the book, and this book is set in 2011 while my laptop is a 2013 model. So, yeah, the author didn’t even bother to go to Apple’s website and check to see what the tech specs of their most impressive laptop were. (It’s not really important, but it’s a good example of this author failing to do even the most basic of research. Especially when anyone familiar with computers would be easily able to spot her error — what the hell do you even do with 32 gigs of RAM on a laptop?)
There’s about a page of blathering about the laptop, which mostly serves to establish that the author likes brand-name dropping and Ana knows nothing about computers. (How is she so clueless? She’s a 21st-century college kid.)
When Kate sees the laptop, Ana tells her Christian’s just loaning it to her, so she can “try it out”. She actually intends to give it back to him, probably because she feels it’s too expensive a gift for her to accept.
Ana opens “the email program” (uh, it’s called Mail) and sees that Christian has sent her an email. (Most of the rest of the chapter is devoted to their email exchanges, actually.)
Christian says he’d be happy to answer any questions Ana has via email. Ana says she has a lot of questions, but none suitable for email. There’s a bit of additional banter not really worth summarizing. It’s meant to be friendly and playful, but it’s hard to accurately convey “friendly and playful” in poorly-written fictional emails.
Ana goes to take a shower, grinning like an idiot over the email banter. For some reason, she feels totally fine about all that contract stuff now. No, bad author. Don’t try and make us think that whole contract thing is resolved just because Christian and Ana had a friendly email exchange. Christian could be the nicest man in the world and the contract would still be an issue if Ana had no interest in engaging in BDSM with Christian.
While Ana’s at Clayton’s working, José phones to confirm that they’re meeting up for coffee. They have a super brief conversation. He shows up at twelve, and as soon as Ana sees him smiling at her she stops being angry. Because as long as you’re reasonably good-looking and male you can get away with anything, I guess.
God, this book is such rubbish that I honestly can’t tell if us readers are supposed to forgive José or not. On the one hand, Ana could grant him forgiveness and then he could carry on being a jealous shithead whenever Christian’s name comes up, eventually leading to more conflict between José and Ana (or between José and Christian). On the other hand, maybe the author has decided she’s milked the situation for enough drama already and just wants Ana to forgive José so she can forget about him and move on with the story.
Bottom line, I can’t tell if I should be annoyed that Ana forgave him so easily or not, and that itself annoys me.
We don’t get to read about José and Ana having coffee, we just get to know that they did. Fine, whatever. I didn’t care anyway. It makes their reconciliation even less interesting, though, which makes me think the author was bored with having conflict between Ana and José and decided to resolve the conflict as quickly as possible.
More emails. It’s super boring. The amount of glee Ana derives from receiving such emails as “I do hope you had a good day at work” is rather sad.
Christian advises Ana to start her BDSM research on Wikipedia. Ana types “submissive” into Wikipedia, and:
Half an hour later, I feel slight queasy and frankly shocked to my core.
We’re not informed as to where her wiki walk led her. Probably safe to assume she made it through several wiki pages on BDSM-related topics.
Despite feeling “slight queasy” and “shocked to [her] core”, Ana’s also pretty turned on by some of the stuff she’s read about. Good, I guess?
And then the chapter ends. Okay.
Holy Cow! Alert: One “Holy fuck!”, two “Holy shit!”s, one “Holy Moses!”
And Now, A Word From Ana’s Subconscious Alert:
- [Ana thinks about whether or not she should sign the contract] You can’t seriously be considering this… My subconscious sounds sane and rational, not her usual snarky self.
Does “Inner Goddess” Mean What I Think It Means? Alert:
- [Again, Ana thinks about whether or not she should sign the contract] My inner goddess is jumping up and down, clapping her hands like a five-year-old. Please, let’s do this… otherwise we’ll end up alone with lots of cats and your classic novels to keep you company.
- [Ana thinks that at least she got to have sex with Christian that weekend] My inner goddess stops jumping and smiles serenely. Oh yes… she mouths, nodding at me smugly.
- [Ana wishes she’d never met Christian] My inner goddess shakes her head at me. She and I know it’s a lie. I have never felt as alive as I do now.
Oh My! Alert: Three times.
Great Prose Alert:
- He has beautiful eyes – captivating, intelligent, deep and dark, dark with dominant secrets.
- And mentally… oh man, this is so much to take on board. As José would say, a real mind-fuck. [Really? He would say that? Because that isn’t the right term for this at all.]
- Closing my eyes, I feel the familiar delicious pull of my muscles from deep, deep down.
- He smiles in a charming but professional he’s-not-taking-any-crap way.
- He points to an icon on the screen and continues to talk at me but it’s like white noise. I haven’t got a clue what he’s saying, and in all honestly, I’m not interested.
- Kate whistles, impressed when she sees it.
- “Most women get flowers or maybe jewelry,” she says suggestively, trying to suppress a smile.
- We both burst into a fit of giggles, and computer man gapes at us, bemused.
- My heart leaps into my mouth. I have an email from Christian Grey.
- He sounds like the old José. José my friend, not a – what did Christian call him? Suitor. Ugh.
- José is punctual. He comes bounding into the shop like a gamboling dark-eyed puppy. “Ana,” he smiles his dazzling toothy all-Hispanic-American smile, and I can’t be angry with him anymore.
- I sit staring at the screen, and part of me, a very moist and integral part of me – that I’ve only become acquainted with very recently, is seriously turned on. Oh my, some of this stuff is HOT.
Thoughts So Far:
Okay, let’s talk about the contract.
Most of the contract is, honestly, not that bad, provided one keeps in mind that Ana’s always free to revoke consent and to terminate the contract if Christian abuses his power in any way that violates said contract. However, I doubt someone as clueless as Ana is going to read it in that light — to someone like her, it would be (and is) overwhelming and scary. Why couldn’t the two of them read it together so that Christian could answer any questions Ana might have right there, in person, as well as clarify anything that might be hard to decipher through all the legalese?
A few things about the contract, though, just don’t seem to make any sense. For instance — the contract appears to be working under the assumption that the sub enjoys certain activities (bondage/spanking/whipping/flogging/etc.), then later goes on to ask Ana how she feels about those activities. If she says she doesn’t like most or all of them, do the parts of the contract that say Christian is permitted to do those things to her get written out? Is the deal off if Ana isn’t into being beaten or tied up?
The contract is also pretty vague about whether it applies at all times during the three-month period or only when Christian and Ana are together. I can’t tell if this is a 24/7 arrangement or a “just on the weekends” arrangement. What’s more, the contract is full of that sort of vague language. For example, take a look at this quote:
The Submissive accepts the Dominant as her master, with the understanding that she is now the property of the Dominant, to be dealt with as the Dominant pleases during the Term generally but specifically during the Allotted Times and any additional agreed allotted times.
All that “master” and “property” shit? That’s supposed to be a game. Just a kinky little game two consenting adults play with each other. I’m sure that, for some people, the idea of being literally the property of their lover is a huge turn-on; I’m just questioning why this language needs to be in the contract, as it doesn’t actually mean anything other than “we’re going to pretend like I own you”, and the contract doesn’t word it in a way that makes the “pretend” bit obvious. A newbie like Ana would see this and be rightly freaked out at the idea of being somebody’s slave.
Also, I’d like to point out that you don’t need a contract to engage in BDSM with somebody. It’s a way of getting written consent, defining limits, etc., and it’s useful to that end. However, contract or no contract, the most important thing is for the couple to sit down together and work out an arrangement in person, rather than one person just handing the other some pre-written, impersonal sheets of paper for them to sign.
Bottom line: Christian and Ana really need to discuss this contract, in depth and in detail, and I would have much preferred that they drew up a contract together rather than Christian just handing Ana the same contract he’s (presumably) used with all his previous subs and assuming she’ll like all the same things they did.
Apart from that? Eh. This was just another lame chapter. I have a feeling the author’s going to be writing a hell of a lot more email exchanges between Ana and Christian, and that’s disheartening.