Book Review: Fifty Shades of Grey (part 12)
This chapter took me a long time to get through. I think if you read the review you’ll see why.
Major trigger warning for this chapter: there’s a rape scene (not presented as such, but that makes it worse in a way), and a lot of rape-related discussion throughout the review, especially towards the end.
Fifty Shades of Grey: Chapter Twelve
Ana decides to go for a run. This is apparently the first time in her life she’s decided to go on a run. One sentence into the chapter and I’m annoyed. Sure, plenty of people don’t go running. I don’t go running. Nothing wrong with that. But it seems that the author is determined to make Ana a completely stereotypical bookish introvert, and she’s avoiding any opportunity to further develop the character in ways that might be interesting. Y’know how Ana works at a hardware store? Would it be so bad if she actually liked DIY stuff? Would it be so bad if she was a bookworm who liked to go on the occasional run? Both of those would make her a bit more interesting and well-rounded as a character.
Whatever. Ana goes on a run. She bumps into a surprised Kate on her way out, because we need to further drive home the point that Ana does not exercise. Why am I expected to give a shit? Why am I expected to give a shit about anything that happens in this book, actually?
Ana is listening to Snow Patrol as she runs. I mention this because I only know one Snow Patrol song myself, and you can’t run to it.
While she runs, she thinks. First, she thinks that:
Quite frankly, I have a mind to run to the Heathman hotel and just demand sex from the control freak. But that’s five miles, and I don’t think I’ll be able to run one mile, let alone five, and of course, he might turn me down which would be beyond humiliating.
I’m not going to lie, that almost made me laugh.
Once she gets to the park, she’s apparently “pacing”, so either the author doesn’t know what pacing is (in more ways than one, heh) or Ana just gave up on the whole running thing.
More thinking. Ana decides she should go through the contract with Christian line-by-line and tell him what she likes and what she doesn’t like in it. Her research has told her that a contract like Christian’s isn’t legally enforceable, so she figures it’s just to illustrate what she can expect from Christian and what he can expect from her, if she signs it. She’s not sure she’s prepared to submit fully to him (or if she’s even capable of that), but she’s still interested in pursuing a relationship of some sort.
You know what? Go for it, girlfriend. As long as you know he can’t sue your ass for breaking the contract, and as long as you feel like you can negotiate things with him, and as long as you trust him not to hurt you (the important bit), there’s nothing wrong with wanting to try something new, out of curiosity if nothing else. You two go be responsible adults together now.
…and in the incredibly likely event that you two are incapable of being responsible adults, I won’t really care because I hate you both anyway.
Ana wonders if Christian is the way he is because he was “seduced” (the word you mean is raped, honey) at such a young age. I hope that isn’t the reason, because I have a nasty feeling that the book is going to give a reason for Christian’s kink and whatever the reason is is going to be stupid, offensive to real BDSM practitioners, and generally awful.
Ana heads back to the apartment having decided to email Christian telling him what’s on her mind, and then to discuss the contract in-depth on Wednesday. Okay, sounds like a decent plan to me.
Back in the apartment, Kate is trying on clothes she bought in preparation for her vacation (Ana calls it a “holiday”, which strikes me as being rather British) in Barbados. Watching Kate try on bikinis makes Ana feel insecure about her own appearance, so she heads to her room on the pretext of doing some more packing.
I’ve been holding in a rant about Ana’s insecurity for a while, so let me get it out of my system now. The idea that pretty women don’t know they are pretty is silly. Attractive people know perfectly well that they’re at least decent-looking, unless they’ve got serious self-esteem problems. We don’t expect attractive men to think they’re unattractive, so why do we expect attractive women to?
If Ana was average-looking, it’d be another matter. Our society has some really unrealistic beauty standards, especially for women, and if you don’t conform to those standards (slender but with distinct curves, white or lighter-skinned, tall but not too tall, long legs, feminine features, etc.) then it’s easy to feel bad about your appearance. Hell, if Ana was pretty in a way that didn’t fit that model, it’d also be another matter. She could be chubby or short or flat-chested or something else not considered conventionally attractive, while still being attractive (well, subjectively speaking; beauty’s all subjective anyway), and feel insecure because she lives in a society that tells her it’s not okay to be chubby/short/flat-chested/etc. Yet all evidence points to Ana being conventionally attractive, perhaps exceptionally so, which just makes this whole “doesn’t know she’s pretty” thing stupid. Either that or it points to some serious body-image issues.
Writing a very pretty character who doesn’t know she’s very pretty doesn’t make her relatable to average-looking women who have some insecurities about their appearance. It makes the average-looking women reading your book think your main character is an idiot. (It makes me think your main character is an idiot, too, in case I needed to clarify.)
Rant over. Ana decides to email Christian. This is the email she sends:
Okay, I’ve seen enough.
It was nice knowing you.
This is apparently Ana’s idea of a “little joke”. I fail to see the humor. It seems like a pretty straightforward statement to me.
A couple minutes later, Ana thinks better of her decision to send Christian the email. She thinks he probably wouldn’t get the joke. Yeah, I doubt it too, because if the book hadn’t told me it was a joke I wouldn’t have taken it for one either.
Several minutes pass and Christian doesn’t respond. He’s usually prompt with his replies, so Ana starts to get nervous that he might take it badly. Instead of doing the sensible thing and sending him a second email clarifying that she was kidding, she starts packing to distract herself from thinking about what Christian’s reaction might be.
Hours later, Christian still hasn’t replied. Ana sits down to read through the contract again (while listening to Snow Patrol again; it’s like the author is trying to help readers along with making FSTs). She looks up and sees Christian standing in the doorway to her bedroom. He greets her coolly. Ana has trouble discerning his emotions from his expression, which means he’s probably angry.
Ana’s first thought is to be annoyed at Kate for not warning her of Christian’s arrival. Yeah, come to think of it, that does seem a bit uncharacteristic of Kate, considering she doesn’t trust Christian. On the other hand, all the secondary characters exist merely as pawns to move the plot along, so in that sense it’s very characteristic of Kate. She then goes on to feel bad about her appearance again, because she still hasn’t showered or changed out of her sweatpants, and (in case you were wondering) Christian is still hot. We’re reminded of Christian’s hotness so often I wonder if the author thinks that, without these constant reminders, we’d think Christian suddenly became unattractive between chapters. (Or between paragraphs.)
Christian’s pants are “doing that hanging from the hips thing”. I don’t understand what this even means. Where else does one hang their pants from? The waist, maybe, but young men typically don’t wear pants that do that anyway. I don’t get why this is attractive, either. Wearing pants is just… sort of a normal thing, and doesn’t seem particularly noteworthy unless they’re very nice pants.
Christian explains to Ana that he felt her email warranted a reply in person. Well, I guess that’s sort of understandable if he took it literally as a breakup email, but he could’ve (and ought to have) called her or emailed her first to let her know he wanted to come over and talk.
Ana is surprised, not having expected him to show up. Christian asks if he can sit down, and when Ana nods he does. His eyes are “dancing with humor”, so Ana thinks maybe he got the “joke” in the email and isn’t mad after all. I doubt it.
Christian talks a bit about how he wondered what Ana’s bedroom would look like, which prompts some description of the bedroom. It’s sparsely furnished, but cozy. The furniture is white wicker, and her bed is a double bed with a white-iron bedframe (ugh, so is my bed, and it annoys me to have things in common with poorly written characters). Her bed also sports a blue-and-cream patchwork quilt made by her mother. Couldn’t we have gotten this description earlier on? Knowing what things look like is nice, and waiting to describe something important (like the setting your characters are in) until a character comments on it is the scenery equivalent of waiting until a character looks in the mirror to describe their appearance.
Ana asks how he’s there. He says he’s still staying at the Heathman. But he was at his apartment over the weekend. Did he check out and check back in? Why’s he still there, anyway? Still on business, or to be closer to Ana?
Ana offers Christian a drink. He declines, then asks:
“So, it was nice knowing me?”
His tone suggests he’s offended. Ana, unsure what to say, tells him she thought he’d reply by email. Ana, just tell him you were joking! If he’s still offended, it’s either because you make shitty jokes or because he’s a shitty person, and if he isn’t still offended it’s still a shitty story, so there’s shit involved any way you look at it.
Christian asks Ana if she’s deliberately biting her lip. She wasn’t aware she was, and immediately stops. Then we get this paragraph:
My heart is pounding. I can feel that pull, that delicious electricity between us charging, filling the space between us with static. He’s sitting so close to me, his eyes dark smoky gray, his elbows resting on his knees, his legs apart. Leaning forward, he slowly undoes one of my pigtails, his fingers freeing my hair. My breathing is shallow, and I cannot move. I watch hypnotized as his hand moves to my second pigtail, and pulling the hair tie, he loosens the braid with his long, skilled fingers.
This isn’t bad for this author, but it’s still too much telling and not enough showing. It’s definitely important to establish the sexual tension between these two, but this mostly reads to me as “omg look at all this sexual tension”. Actually, remove the sentence about “delicious electricity” and the whole paragraph improves a lot.
I’m also feeling less than comfortable with what’s about to happen. Yeah, Ana is pretty clearly aroused at this point, but she wasn’t when she bit her lip, and at any rate — lip-biting is not consent. She’s sitting there, mostly unresponsive, while he starts coming onto her. The signs we get that she is turned on — pounding heart, shallow breathing — are also fear responses. From Christian’s perspective, how does he know she’s into this? Even if he can tell she likes what he’s doing, he ought to make sure she wants to. Having a physical response to something sexual is different from consenting to it. Sexual response doesn’t mean someone likes what’s going on, either. It’s possible to orgasm from being raped, and that doesn’t mean the victim was enjoying it. Even if they were, without consent it’s still rape. Bottom line: always get consent. Always always always.
Back to the story. Christian asks why Ana decided to exercise. While doing this, he is rhythmically tugging on her earlobe. We are helpfully informed by Ana that this is “so sexual”. Thanks for telling me, never would have guessed. Ana says she needed some time to think, and Christian asks:
“And you decided that it was nice knowing me? Do you mean knowing me in the biblical sense?”
Christian seems determined to twist this situation into being sexual. I’m not sure how to feel about this. It’s all well and good if Ana also wants to have sex — which it seems she does — but, again, I only know that because I’m reading her narration.
Ana responds to this with a witty comeback:
“I don’t remember reading about nipple clamps in the Bible. Perhaps you were taught from a modern translation.”
That was sorta funny, or would be if I wasn’t so busy hating this scene and this chapter and this story.
“Well, I thought I should come and remind you how nice it was knowing me.”
Okay, this gives me a really bad vibe. If you receive what you take to be a break-up email from your lover, your response should not be “I’m gonna go over there and sex them good”, because if they’re actually breaking up with you why would they want to do you? It makes Christian’s motivations seem downright rape-y, in fact.
Ana stares at Christian, open-mouthed, then launches herself forward to kiss him. Immediately, he pins her to the bed beneath him, holding her arms above her head with one hand while his other grips her head as they kiss, and — no, stop.
Christian obviously doesn’t give a shit about what Ana wants. Oh, she clearly just expressed a desire to kiss him here, I’ll give him that. But, as with the elevator scene before, wanting to be kissed doesn’t equal wanting to be pinned down and kissed forcibly. Especially given the emphasis placed on the contract as necessary for Ana to consent to any kinky business, Christian shouldn’t be going ahead with something like this without making sure Ana wants what he does. That doesn’t just mean making sure she wants sex in general; that means making sure she wants to have the kind of sex he’d like to have. Haven’t we been over this?
Christian asks Ana to trust him, and when she nods he pulls a necktie out of his pocket and ties her wrists to her bed with it and no stop. No, STOP.
Christian had the tie in his pocket. He wasn’t wearing the tie. He brought it with him with the intention of using it to tie Ana up. This looks really bad. There is, of course, the possibility that he brought it with him “just in case” Ana wanted sex, and wanted to have her wrists bound during said sex, but, like I said before, he seems to have interpreted her email as an actual break-up email. He went over to her apartment intending to remind her how much she enjoys sex with him — hell, that’s practically explicitly stated! — and it’s quite probable he intended to tie her up as a way of “teaching her a lesson”. The author probably thinks that’s kinky, and it would be if it were negotiated and consensual. But it isn’t; none of this was negotiated beforehand (or even right now!), and Ana’s agreeing to “trust” Christian hardly counts as consent when she doesn’t know what he’s going to do.
Ana reminds the reader again that she is “so aroused”. No, really, I could have understood that without you stating it explicitly. Also, what happened to the Ana of a couple chapters ago who was oh-so-nervous over having vanilla sex with Christian? Why is she fearless in this situation, even though his behavior here is actually threatening?
Christian starts to undo the laces on Ana’s sneakers. She protests, because she’s just been running and her feet probably stink:
“No,” I protest, trying to kick him off.
“If you struggle, I’ll tie your feet too. If you make a noise, Anastasia, I will gag you. Keep quiet. Katherine is probably outside listening right now.”
THIS IS NOT OKAY BEHAVIOR. Sure, I know that Ana only means “leave my feet alone”, but Christian doesn’t know that. She could be revoking consent right here and his response is not “sorry, do you want to stop?” but “if you struggle or protest I’ll bind and gag you”.
If this was an agreed-upon scene, again, I would be fine with it! But without negotiation and without explicit consent, this is really not okay. Hell, even if Ana made it clear that she only meant “leave my feet alone”, he should respect that and leave her feet alone. This isn’t reluctance roleplay, it’s actual reluctance.
Christian takes off Ana’s shoes, socks, and pants, then gets up and takes off his own shoes and socks, undoes his pants, and takes off his shirt. He walks back to Ana and pulls her shirt up over her head, but rather than taking it off he rolls it up and covers her eyes with it, so she’s effectively blindfolded. Then he leaves the room.
Ana can hear Christian talking to Kate in the other room. Uh, isn’t he mostly naked? When he comes back, he’s got a drink in his hand. (She can hear the ice clinking.) He takes off his pants, straddles her, and asks if she’s thirsty. When she says she is, he takes a drink himself, then kisses her so he can pour the liquid from his mouth into hers. It’s white wine. Why is Christian always giving Ana alcohol after it’s been established she gets drunk easily?
Christian pours a bit of wine onto Ana’s stomach — her belly button, specifically, so it doesn’t spill onto the bed — and tells her not to move. He tells her if she spills the wine, he’ll punish her. This can’t be more than, like, three drops of wine we’re talking about here, right? How much wine is it possible to fit in your belly button?
By the way, Christian keeps saying shit like “Is this nice?” to Ana, clearly referencing her “it was nice knowing you” line in the email. It is so fucking blatant that he’s doing this as a way of punishing her, or else “teaching her a lesson”, and jesus christ no that’s not okay at all. There’s a difference between roleplaying a situation like this and actually being in a situation where your lover is punishing you for going against their wishes. The former could be pretty hot if you’re into that; the latter is scary as shit. Logically, I have no idea why Ana is okay with this. She’s treating it like this is an agreed-upon roleplay scenario rather than abusive behavior.
I’ve got more to say, but I’ll save it for later otherwise we’ll never make it through this chapter.
They do some more sex things (mostly Christian playing with Ana’s nipples; it’s boring) until Ana finally can’t keep herself from moving and the wine spills. Christian licks it off her stomach before it can get on the bed. Having previously told her he wasn’t going to let her come if she spilled the wine, he proceeds to finger her for a while, stopping every time she starts to climax. We’re told that he does this many times, but it’s only described once because apparently even the author is bored.
Ana finally begs “Please”, and Christian takes pity on her and decides to let her come anyway. Wait, it was that easy? That’s so anticlimactic. (Uh, no pun intended.)
Christian decides they’re going to have penetrative sex, and puts on a condom. He doesn’t enter her right away, though; first he gets in another comment about how nice this is. Jesus, this guy’s a creep. Ana finally explains that she meant the email as a joke:
“A joke?” His voice is menacingly soft.
“Yes. Please, Christian,” I beseech him.
“Are you laughing now?”
“No,” I mewl.
I don’t know what I can say to this that I haven’t said so many times already, but this kind of thing is fine if it’s a roleplay and scary if it’s actually happening to you. Why is Ana enjoying this? Why is this being presented as sexy?
And then, as if to drive my point home, Christian abruptly grabs Ana, flips her over, and slaps her hard across the backside.
WE HAVE NOT EVEN ESTABLISHED THAT ANA HAS A SPANKING KINK. SHE HAS NEVER BEEN HIT DURING SEX BEFORE. UNTIL IT’S ESTABLISHED THAT ANA LIKES TO BE SPANKED, OR AT LEAST LIKES THE IDEA ENOUGH TO TRY IT, AND UNTIL CHRISTIAN GETS HER CONSENT ON THE MATTER, HIS SPANKING HER IS NOT KINKY, IT IS ASSAULT.
Being spanked, and being penetrated by Christian a few seconds later, makes Ana come. Because fuck consent, that’s why. Actually, according to the story, it makes her come “again and again”, and then one last time right as Christian does. Ana is somehow completely unsurprised at having orgasmed multiple times in a row for the first time in her life.
Christian asks Ana “How nice was that?” immediately afterwards. Asks her through gritted teeth. I’m not sure if his teeth are gritted in anger or gritted because he says this like one second after coming, but given his behavior throughout this scene the former wouldn’t surprise me.
Christian dresses himself and unties Ana. She tells him that “that was really nice”. He tells her he doesn’t like the word “nice”. Was that what all this was about? Because if it was, that’s incredibly stupid on top of everything else bad about this scene.
They banter a little. It might be cute if, y’know, Christian hadn’t all but raped her in this chapter.
Ana asks Christian why he doesn’t like to be touched. It’s a bit of a non-sequiter. He says he just doesn’t, and asks if she’s still considering his proposition. She says she is, but she’s got issues with it. He seems relieved and says he’d be disappointed if she didn’t.
Christian cracks a joke. Ana says that she knew he had a sense of humor in there somewhere, and this is how he replies:
“Only certain things are funny, Anastasia. I thought you were saying no, no discussion at all.”
Oh, okay, scratch what I said earlier about Christian “all but raping” Ana. He basically did rape her, or tried to. Look at what he did here — he took her email as a “no”, and he responded to that “no” by coming over to her apartment, tying her up, spanking her, and having rough sex with her. Sorry, did I say “sex”? I meant rape. This is rape. I don’t care if she enjoyed it; Christian clearly had the mindset of a rapist during this scene, intending to teach Ana a lesson because she said no to him.
Any sympathy I might have had for this guy has just gone completely out the window, and we’re not even halfway through the book. Which, I might add, is only the first book in a trilogy.
I have more to say about this, but right now I feel kind of sick, so I’ll save it for the end.
She asks him if he ever collars his subs. He says he never has, but he’s been collared himself. I’m not sure why they are having this conversation, it sort of came out of the blue. Ana asks if he was collared by “Mrs. Robinson”. He thinks this is very funny, so I guess “Mrs. Robinson” is this book’s new Clever Nickname for Christian’s rapist.
It’s revealed that Christian still talks to Mrs. Robinson on a regular basis. This makes Ana incredibly jealous. Shouldn’t it, y’know, disturb her that he’s still on good terms with a lady who sexually abused him as a teen? Why is she jealous? Jesus, does everyone in this book have completely fucked-up morals or what?
Okay, it seems that part of her jealousy is that Christian gets to talk to somebody about BDSM, but she isn’t allowed to discuss it with Kate. He says he hadn’t thought about it like that before, since Mrs. Robinson is also a
rapist BDSM practitioner, unlike Ana’s friends (presumably). Christian offers to introduce Ana to one of his former subs if she wants to talk BDSM with somebody. This sounds like a decent idea to me, but Ana claims to be “appalled” by the suggestion. She gets really offended and changes the subject when he asks if she’s jealous.
Ana asks Christian if he’s staying. He says he’s going back to the Heathman, as he has a meeting there tomorrow morning, and, besides, he doesn’t make a habit of spending the night with his sexual partners. She tells him she’s tired, implying he should leave, and upon realizing that she’s telling him what to do Christian says he’d like to give her “a good hiding”.
Christian Grey thinks that disobedience of any sort is deserving of punishment. It’s not just that he likes control and punishment in a sexual context: he actually feels he needs to punish any sub who disobeys him. This isn’t an accurate representation of Dom behavior (I expect there are some out there who are like this, but this sort of behavior is hardly what should be presented as standard BDSM, because it isn’t), and it makes Christian a hell of a lot less sympathetic. He wasn’t sympathetic to begin with, so now I think he’s in the negative range.
Ana tells him he can’t say that kind of thing to her because she hasn’t signed the contract. Well, that sure as hell didn’t stop him from tying her up and spanking her a couple pages ago.
She pulls her clothes on and shows him to the front door. While doing so, we’re treated (note: not actually a treat) to Ana’s thoughts on the situation. She enjoyed the sex she just had, but wishes Christian wanted a standard vanilla relationship and wasn’t into all this kinky stuff. She also wants a more serious romantic relationship, which she thinks Christian isn’t able or willing to give her.
They kiss at the door. It’s supposed to be a tender romantic moment, but the tender romance is undermined a little by Christian having raped Ana a few pages back.
Christian leaves and Ana goes back inside. She feels suddenly melancholy and lays down on her bedroom floor to have a cry. Just then, Kate enters to ask what “that creepy good-looking bastard” did. Ana says “nothing I didn’t want him to”, which is just blatant lies.
Ana confesses to Kate that she doesn’t think her relationship with Christian is headed anywhere. Kate is confused, because she knows Ana and Christian have another date planned already for that Wednesday. She asks why Christian came over. Ana explains about the email. Kate thinks that sending someone a breakup email to get them to come over and have sex with you is “genius”. I want to break something.
Kate thinks Christian must be smitten with Ana, because she’s apparently under the impression that Christian came over to talk things out with Ana after receiving the email. Ana explains that he just showed up to fuck her, and that “he uses sex as a weapon”. See? It’s even being acknowledged in-story that he’s a rapist, so why the hell are us readers still expected to like Christian?
Kate disapproves of Christian’s fucking Ana into submission, as she puts it. I appreciate the sentiment, but I don’t think disapproval is a strong enough reaction to being told your best friend just got raped.
Ana explains to Kate that Christian “doesn’t do the love thing”. Kate says he has commitment issues. Yeah, or something.
Wanting to change the subject, Ana asks Kate about Elliot. Kate immediately goes all giggly schoolgirl. Ana’s jealous of Kate and Elliot’s happy rape-free relationship. (Ana, if that’s your reaction, dump Christian. There are loads of other guys on the planet. Some of them are actually nice and will not rape you.)
Kate tells Ana that Ana’s dad called, passing on a message from Ana’s mom. Ana’s mother’s current husband, Bob, is injured, so he and Ana’s mom won’t be able to make it to Ana’s graduation. Why can’t she go without him? How badly is he hurt?
Ana says good night to Kate (it’s late by now), but doesn’t go to bed immediately. She reads over the contract yet again, making some more notes, then turns on her laptop to write an email to Christian. He’s sent her one first, saying he looks forward to seeing what she has to say to the contract.
She replies with her list of issues, which I’ll try and summarize:
- Ana takes issue with the wording of one of the contract’s fundamental terms — the one that states that the contract is for her benefit. She thinks it’s really for Christian’s benefit, as she doesn’t feel she needs a ten-page contract to “explore her sensuality”.
- She tells him there’s no chance she could have a STD. Why is this an issue with the contract? It’s good to have that in there even if it doesn’t really apply in Ana’s case.
- She likes that the contract allows her to terminate at any time if she doesn’t think Christian is playing by the rules. (That is not an issue, Ana, it’s a statement.)
- She wants to talk about the part of the contract that says she has to obey him in all things and accept his discipline unquestioningly.
- She won’t agree to a three-month contract; she wants it to be one month instead. (Okay, that’s a much better idea than three months. I’m glad she said that. Let’s hope Christian goes along with it.)
- She wants to have a weekend off every month.
- One of the clauses states that Christian can use Ana’s body as he sees fit, sexually or otherwise. Ana asks that he please define “otherwise”.
- She doesn’t like the discipline stuff and doesn’t want to agree to that part of the contract.
- She isn’t sure why there’s a rule in there about not being allowed to masturbate without permission, since she doesn’t masturbate anyway. (Then it’s not an issue, Ana! If it’s not going to affect you anyway, who cares?)
- She wants to know why she can’t look Christian in the eye, and why she isn’t allowed to touch him.
- She’ll agree to six hours of sleep a night, minimum (the list of rules said seven, minimum), but won’t agree to eating food from a prescribed list only. (She’s very adamant about the food thing, more so than anything else in the contract. Priorities, girl!) She’s fine with wearing clothes Christian picks for her so long as she only has to do that when they’re together. She’ll only agree to three hours of exercise a week as opposed to four.
- She wants to go through all the soft limits with him. She says absolutely no fisting or genital clamps, and wonders what suspension is.
Christian replies to this email with “That’s a long list” and asks her why she’s still awake. At least have the courtesy to write an actual response, asshole. Ana writes back saying she was going through the list before, then he showed up to fuck her. Christian responds in all-caps, telling her to go to bed. Christ, what an asshole. Obediently, Ana switches off the laptop and goes to bed.
The chapter, thankfully, ends there.
Holy Cow! Alert:
Holy cow, is he offended?
Also, one “Holy crap!”.
And Now, A Word From Ana’s Subconscious Alert: Just once this time.
- [Ana’s not sure how to feel about her recent sexual encounter with Christian] My subconscious shakes her head. You wanted to run to the Heathman for sex – you had it express-delivered. She crosses her arms and taps her foot with a what-are-you-complaining-about-look on her face.
Oh My! Alert: Three times.
Ana’s Finally Figured It All Out Alert:
I frown. Christian, smitten with me? Hardly. He’s just looking for a new toy – a convenient new toy that he can bed and do unspeakable things to. My heart tightens painfully. This is the reality.
Coincidentally, I Feel The Same Way (About This Book) Alert:
I can’t sit in front of that marvel of technology and look at or read any more disturbing material.
Oh, I Doubt It Alert:
I hear him smile.
(Now, I can understand hearing that someone is smiling from the tone of their voice — that’s another matter — but in this instance Christian didn’t actually say anything.)
Boring Dirty Talk Alert:
- “Mmm,” he breathes appreciatively. “This just gets better and better. I’m going to get a drink.”
- “Ready for me so soon,” he says.
- “What do you want, Anastasia?” “You… now,” I cry.
Great Prose Alert:
- Oh, this feels good, cathartic. I can feel my resolve hardening. Yes. I need to tell him what’s okay and what isn’t.
- There are only so many ways one can say – you look fabulous Kate. She has a curvy, slim figure to die for. She doesn’t do it on purpose, I know, but I haul my sorry, perspiration clad, old t-shirt, sweat pants, and sneakers ass into my room on the pretext of packing more boxes.
- Taking the awesome free technology with me, I set the laptop up on my desk.
- I don’t know why I glance up, maybe I catch a slight movement from the corner of my eye, I don’t know, but when I do, he’s standing in the doorway of my bedroom watching me intently.
- Vaguely, I’m aware that I’m still in my sweats, un-showered, yucky, and he’s just gloriously yummy, his pants doing that hanging from the hips thing, and what’s more, he’s here in my bedroom.
- I’m all rabbit/headlights, moth/flame, bird/snake… and he knows exactly what he’s doing to me.
- His lips arch with a trace of a smile, and my eyes are drawn to his beautiful sculptured mouth.
- He reaches down, and from his pants pocket, he takes out his silver grey silk tie… that silver grey woven tie that leaves small impressions of its weave on my skin.
- It’s white wine. It’s so unexpected, hot, though it’s chilled, and Christian’s lips are cool.
- Leaning down, he kisses and tugs at each of my nipples in turn with cool, cold lips.
- It burns all the way down to the depths of my belly. Wow.
- His fingers slip into my panties, and I’m rewarded with his unguarded sharp intake of air.
- His tongue mirrors the actions of his fingers, claiming me. My legs begin to stiffen as I push against his hand. He gentles his hand, so I’m brought back from the brink. He does this again and again. It’s so frustrating… Oh please Christian, I scream in my head.
- I’m helpless, lost in an erotic torment.
- I shatter again into tiny fragments, and Christian stills, finally letting go, silently finding his release.
- He’s lying beside me, fully clothed, his head propped up on his elbow, and I am only wearing my bra.
- Katherine’s whole demeanor changes at the mere mention of his name, she lights up from within, beaming at me.
- She hugs the hairbrush, boy has she got it bad, and I feel a familiar faint stab of envy.
Thoughts So Far:
This chapter very nearly defeated me. I started reading it… oh, probably weeks ago, but had to keep giving up and doing something else to distract me from how godawful this chapter is. Finally, a few days ago, I finished the synopsis, but by that point any clever thoughts I had to say in this conclusion had been replaced by incoherent rage.
I’ve already detailed the numerous ways in which Christian’s behavior in this chapter was completely unacceptable, but I fear we’ve missed the forest for the trees. So let me go over the events of this chapter one more time, from Christian’s perspective:
Christian receives an email from Ana, which he interprets as a break-up email. She specifically says “I’ve seen enough,” implying she doesn’t want to see him again. His response is to show up at her apartment, unannounced, bringing along one of his neckties to tie her up with (and a condom for when he fucks her). He’s angry that she sent him that email, but instead of discussing it with her (if he’d done so, he’d have quickly discerned that she intended it as a joke) he pins her to the bed, ties her up, blindfolds her, removes her clothes, spanks her, and penetrates her. Throughout this, he keeps throwing her words from the email back at her, further indicating that he sees this as punishment/retaliation/revenge of some sort. When she reveals halfway through that she meant the email as a joke, his response is to ask her if she’s laughing now.
I don’t care that there’s a throwaway “Trust me?” line before he ties her up. “Trust me” doesn’t mean a goddamn thing in this situation if she doesn’t have the slightest clue what he intended to do, and she didn’t. Not to mention, I’m like 90% positive that the “Trust me” line was stuck in as an afterthought when somebody pointed out to the author that this is essentially a rape scene.
Oh, sure, afterwards he’s all nice and caring and gentle to her, but that doesn’t change what he did. And, sure, Ana enjoyed it, but that doesn’t change what he did either. A better-written Ana wouldn’t have enjoyed that scene, because any potential sexiness would be greatly outweighed by the fact that he did all of this to her without her informed consent, and that he did it to her to punish her. Not punishment as part of a roleplay, where both Dom and sub understand at the end of the day that the “offense” in question was negligible at best and the “sex as punishment” was as part of a game — actual punishment via sex, where Christian honestly believed that Ana needed to be taught a lesson. You know who thinks like that? Rapists.
Ana’s reaction afterwards is that of someone who feels they’ve just been used; regardless of the fact that she enjoyed it in the moment, once it’s over she feels “like a receptacle — an empty vessel to be filled at his whim”. That’s the reaction of a victim, not somebody who just had happy kinky sex.
Of course, there’s the question of author intention in all this. Is this meant to read as a rape scene? I doubt it. It’s more likely intended as “dubcon” (dubious consent, which is largely a fanfic concept; much of what would be called dubcon in fanfic would qualify as rape in real life), but the way the story is written doesn’t make that read right. I’m going to try and explain that by talking a bit about rape fantasies.
I’ve seen the question raised many times online as to whether or not it’s okay to have rape fantasies, or to enjoy fictional depictions of rape (or dubcon, for that matter). While I don’t think I can give a definitive answer on the subject, there’s some important distinctions between fantasy rape and actual rape that I’d like to point out. There’s obvious differences, of course; for one thing, people who fantasize about rape scenarios and imagine themselves as the victim are still in control of the fantasy, so they’re not actually being forced to do anything against their will; the imaginary rapist is usually someone the victim would find desirable anyway; etc. Perhaps the most important distinction, at least for the purposes of this post, is that rape fantasies don’t generally depict the repercussions of said rape. Sure, the victim may suffer physical harm, but the mental trauma experienced in the aftermath isn’t part of the fantasy. Rape fantasies reduce rape to the act itself, without depicting the hardships the victim may experience afterwards; being shunned by friends and family, having to deal with a legal system that rarely dishes out justice in rape cases (if they can take the case to court at all), and the possibility of pregnancy and/or sexually transmitted infections, to name a few. And that’s not to mention what the victim’s mental state may be after having suffered all that (or at least some of it, and possibly a good deal more).
If this chapter were a oneshot instead of part of a longer story, I’d have less of a problem with it. It’s still rape, or at least particularly dubious dubcon, but on its own it would just be a gratuitous fantasy rape scene written for people to get off to. The problem here is that this is a chapter in what’s supposed to be a romance story, and the female lead just got raped by the male lead. That should effectively kill the romance, and it doesn’t. Ana feels bad about what happened immediately after the fact, but who wants to bet that it’ll all be forgotten about by the next chapter?