Book Review: Fifty Shades of Grey (part 13)
No trigger warnings and no sex in this chapter, but, god, it’s still terrible.
Fifty Shades of Grey – Chapter Thirteen
The next day, Ana gets home from work and calls her mother. Her mother is all apologies over not being able to make it to Ana’s graduation. Apparently her husband Bob has twisted a ligament. Wait — that’s it? That’s what’s preventing Ana’s mother from going to Ana’s graduation? Bob is a big boy, he can take care of himself for a couple days when she’s out of town, surely. Twisted ligament or no. (He twisted a ligament in his foot, by the way, so he’s limping about. Big deal. As long as he can limp his way to the kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom, he’s set for a couple days. Ana’s mom is his wife, not his fucking waitress.)
I feel like I should be mad about this because outdated gender roles, but it’s the least reprehensible thing this book has done in a while, so I’ll let it slide.
Ana refuses to talk about her relationship with Christian to her mother, or even to acknowledge that there is a relationship. Okay, whatever.
After the phone call, Ana fires up the laptop and checks her email. Apparently she uses this thing solely for email and Wikipedia. Christian should’ve just given her an iPod touch instead.
Christian has emailed her the definition of “submissive”, and synonyms of such. That seems passive-aggressive and dickish to me. Ana doesn’t seem to mind, but, then again, she wouldn’t know to be bothered by something if it took a shit on her face.
Ana writes back saying that the origin of the word “submissive” comes from the 1500s. So what? She also sends him the definition of the word “compromise”. Ooh! Witty banter!
Christian says he’ll pick her up at 7 pm the following evening. She says she can drive herself, and would prefer to meet him somewhere. He says he wants her to do what she’s told. She says she wants to drive, please. He decides to let her. How fucking generous.
Ana calls Ray, who is about to watch a soccer game. He’s going to come to her graduation. There’s some random exposition about how much she loves her stepdad. Great. I’m not sure why this chapter feels it’s so necessary to name-drop characters that haven’t been mentioned since chapter two. It establishes nothing and no one cares anyway.
By the way, why is her dad so great, and why does her mom suck? More internalized misogyny?
Kate and Ana do some more packing and drink some more cheap wine before Ana calls it a night and goes to bed. Was any of what happened so far in this chapter necessary information to relate? I just read four pages of random filler garbage.
The next day, Ana is being followed around Clayton’s by Paul because we need to establish that, despite her insecurities, Ana is Very Attractive and Desirable to Young Men. He keeps asking her out, she keeps telling him she has a date. He won’t believe her because she’s always making up excuses to get out of dates with him. Okay, you two — Paul, learn to take a hint, and Ana, grow a backbone and just tell him you’re not interested.
Finally Paul asks who Ana’s going on a date with. She tells him Christian Grey, and he slinks away crestfallen. Why was this scene necessary either? Apart from how it establishes further that Ana is Very Attractive and Desirable to Young Men?
Ana goes home and gets dressed up. She whines a bit first about how clothes aren’t her thing and she doesn’t like getting dressed up. Fair enough, so don’t. Find a guy who doesn’t mind your dressing casually. Alternately, quit the whining, because it isn’t really that big a deal.
In case you’re wondering, Ana is wearing a plum-colored “sheath dress” (I don’t know what the hell that is and don’t care enough to look it up), matching stiletto heels, lip gloss, and mascara. She spends a really long time getting her hair to look nice. Oh, also she shaves her legs and armpits. Kate is quite pleased and tells Ana she looks hot. Okay.
Ana drives to the hotel and meets Christian at the bar. He’s dressed in a suit and, in case you’re wondering, is still hot. He greets her with a kiss on the cheek and tells her she looks stunning and that he “approves” of her wearing a dress. They go and sit at a booth away from the other diners, where they order some wine and then begin discussing the contract.
Ana begins by asking Christian if he’s aware the contract is legally unenforceable. He says of course he’s aware and that the arrangement is meant to just be between them, for their benefit. She is, of course, free to call it off if she wants. Pretty talk from a rapist.
More pretty talk. Christian talks about how BDSM relationships depend on honesty and trust, and if they can’t have that then they can’t have a relationship. Again, you raped her in the last chapter.
Ana asks him if he had similar discussions with his past submissives. He says no. She asks him why not. He answers:
“Because they were all established submissives. They knew what they wanted out of a relationship with me and generally what I expected. With them, it was just a question of fine-tuning the soft limits, details like that.”
Uh… but they’re all individual people with individual needs, and unless Christian has a very specific type he’d have to do a hell of a lot more than “fine-tune the soft limits” with each new sub.
Christian changes the subject and asks Ana if she’s hungry. She says she’s not. It’s revealed that she hasn’t eaten all day. He tells her she has to eat, and they can do this either at the restaurant or at his suite. She says she’d prefer to stay on neutral turf, in public, to which he responds “Do you think that would stop me?”
Fucking rapist asshole.
He leads her to a private dining room he’s booked for the occasion. If they have sex in the private dining room I quit the blog.
Once in the private room, Christian pulls out a piece of paper. He’s printed out Ana’s list of issues. I’d give him credit for at least doing this except that it’s the bare minimum and he is also a rapist.
He begins going through her points. He agrees with what she said about the contract being for his benefit too, and says he’ll redraft to reflect that. (Does that particular bit of wording really matter?) The next issue is of his sexual health; Christian says he gets tested for STIs every six months and all his recent tests have been clear. He also tells her he’s never taken recreational drugs, and, in fact, has a strict zero-tolerance drug policy for his employees. Ana mentally calls this “control freakery gone mad”. I fail to see how that is control freakery at all.
Christian reiterates that Ana is free to cancel the contract at any time, but tells her that if she does so, that’s it. No more relationship.
The waiter shows up then, bearing oysters. I don’t remember anyone ordering oysters. There are several paragraphs about Ana trying her first oyster. I don’t care. Moving on.
Christian says he needs Ana to be obedient if she’s going to be his sub, and tells her to “think of it as role-play”. As opposed to telling her that it is roleplay, because, you know, that’s what it actually is.
Ana says she’s worried he’ll hurt her. He asks how. She says physically, though she’s also worried about him hurting her emotionally. He says:
“Do you really think I would do that? Go beyond any limit you can’t take?”
Yeah, because you fucking raped her last chapter, asshole.
Ana asks him about the time he hurt a previous sub (beyond what they wanted/were able to take — he mentioned it before). He says he’d tied her up with some ropes and accidentally tied one too tightly. He also tells her she can make rope play a hard limit if she likes.
Back to the obedience thing. After thinking about it, Ana says she could try being obedient. It’s clear she’s not enthusiastic about the idea.
The next issue is of the length of the term. If you remember correctly, the contract says three months. Ana wanted one month instead. Christian insists on three months, especially because she wants a weekend off every month and he, quote, doesn’t think he’ll be able to stay away from her for that length of time. Fucking creepy stalker rapist asshole.
I don’t get what the problem is with Ana wanting a one-month trial period, because, as laid out in the contract, after the term is up the couple meet to decide if they want to keep going or not. This is just a question of when they’re going to have that discussion — four weeks from now or twelve weeks from now. Four weeks seems like it makes more sense, given Ana’s inexperience.
Ana is “feeling railroaded”, so she takes a large sip of wine. Book, no.
Christian agrees to the weekend off each month, but proposes they meet during the middle of the week once a month to make up for it. Ana agrees to that, but I don’t know if anything she says counts for shit anymore because she seems to be trying to get drunk.
Christian goes into a long speech about obedience:
“The ownership thing, that’s just terminology and goes back to the principle of obeying. It’s to get you into the right frame of mind, to understand where I’m coming from. And I want you to know that as soon as you cross my threshold as my submissive, I will do what I like to you. You have to accept that and willingly. That’s why you have to trust me. I will fuck you, any time, any way, I want – anywhere I want. I will discipline you, because you will screw up. I will train you to please me. But I know you’ve not done this before. Initially, we’ll take it slowly, and I will help you. We’ll build up to various scenarios. I want you to trust me, but I know I have to earn your trust, and I will. The “or otherwise” – again it’s to help you get into the mindset, it means anything goes.”
I pointed out the problem with not making it clear that “ownership” is just terminology in a previous chapter. We won’t go over that again. A few other things about this bother me, though; the way Christian acts like it’s a given that Ana will agree to this and like it, the way he doesn’t clarify that the whole thing is a game and is as much for her enjoyment as for his, and the fact that, well, he’s a rapist, so this reads in a whole different light than if he were just your average Joe with a kinky streak.
I don’t think Ana paid attention to any of that because all she does is mentally comment on how “mesmerizing” Christian is.
The waiter shows up and clears away the oysters. Christian asks Ana if she’d like more wine. She opts for sparkling water instead, but, I think, only because she has to drive home afterwards.
They discuss discipline next. Christian explains that there’s a fine line between pleasure and pain, and the discipline type of pain is aimed at being pleasurable. He says that’s hard to understand without experiencing it, which is probably true. Then he goes on another speech about how none of this can work unless she trusts him. Dude. You raped her.
Ana tells him that she does trust him, further cementing that she is an idiot.
The waiter reappears with their food. Hold on a second, nobody ordered anything. The food is black cod, asparagus, and crushed potatoes with hollandaise sauce. Ana isn’t hungry (is she ever?) but digs in anyway. She takes a sip of her water and wishes it were wine. See? She wants to get drunk so she doesn’t have to deal with Christian. What about this relationship is the slightest bit positive or healthy? Why are we supposed to root for these two to get together and stay that way?
They discuss the contract some more. Christian is a little pushy on the subject of food (remember, Ana doesn’t want to eat from a prescribed list); he wants to change the rule to say she has to eat three meals a day, because he “need[s] to know that [she’s] not hungry”. This puzzles Ana because she is an idiot and has not realized that Christian has some obvious issues surrounding food and people not eating, probably because he’s had experience with not getting enough food himself.
Okay, here’s a quick rant on the subject, because I’ve been meaning to talk about this for a while. The author has been constantly dropping hints about Christian’s food issues, to the point where I think she’s going out of her way to make sure we get the point. This is called insulting the intelligence of your readers. It is not a nice thing to do. Quit it, E.L. James.
If your main character hasn’t figured out something obvious, that doesn’t prevent your audience from figuring out that thing. The audience is not literally inhabiting your narrator’s head. You’re not creating mystery this way, you’re making the audience think your main character is daft.
Christian eventually backs down about the food and the sleep. Ana asks why the contract says she can’t look at him. He says it’s a D/s thing (is it?), and she’ll get used to it. She asks why she can’t touch him. He says “because you can’t”. Ana wonders if it’s because Mrs. Robinson traumatized him, but Christian says that’s not the reason. I’ll take his word on that for now.
As for the clause that says Ana can’t masturbate, Christian explains that it’s “because [he] want[s] all [her] pleasure”. Ana thinks this is hot but also selfish. She’s never masturbated in her life anyway. Who cares? (Also, how does one enforce such a rule?)
Ana says she doesn’t want to go over the soft limits while they’re still eating. Christian points out she’s barely touched her food. She claims it’s the conversation making her lose her appetite. He says he needs her fit and healthy, and then out of nowhere starts talking about how much he’d like to have sex with her right now. Ana gets super turned on and starts breathing heavy. Christian tells her:
“If you were my sub, you wouldn’t have to think about this. It would be easy.” His voice is soft, seductive. “All those decisions – all the wearying thought processes behind them. The – is this the right thing to do? Should this happen here? Can it happen now? You wouldn’t have to worry about any of that detail. That’s what I’d do as your Dom. And right now, I know you want me, Anastasia.”
I guess it’s important that he brought this up, because this is, for some subs, a pretty great thing about being a sub; entrusting control to the Dominant. However, that all depends on the sub being able to trust the Dom, which in this case shouldn’t be possible because Christian raped Ana in the previous chapter.
Ana wonders how Christian can tell she’s turned on. It’s not that hard to do, Ana. You said you were literally panting from arousal a couple sentences ago. You’re probably flushed, maybe you’re squirming in your seat, your pupils are dilated — it’s a safe guess, anyway.
Christian explains how he can tell and Ana reacts as though he is a magician instead of someone with a basic understanding of human body language. She thinks she’s at a disadvantage here, being too inexperienced to pick up on these cues the way Christian can. Yeah, except you’ll catch up to him in experience soon and then the floor will level out — or it ought to, anyway, but who wants to bet this book will do everything in its power to keep them uneven anyway?
And then Ana starts seductively eating her asparagus. Seriously. I don’t even know what to expect from this book anymore.
The waiter shows up and clears their plates even though last I checked Ana was still pretending to fellate her asparagus. This interruption clears Ana’s head, and she decides she should leave. As much as she’d like to have sex with Christian right now, doing so won’t help her make her decision on whether or not to sign the contract, and she needs some distance to think things through.
Ana tells Christian she thinks she should go, pointing to the graduation ceremony they both have to attend tomorrow as an excuse. Christian says he doesn’t want her to go, and she admits it’s because she needs some distance to think over what he’s told her. He says he could make her stay. She says she doesn’t want him to do that. Then Christian says:
“You know, when you fell into my office to interview me, you were all yes sir, no sir. I thought you were a natural born submissive. But quite frankly, Anastasia, I’m not sure you have a submissive bone in your delectable body.” He moves slowly toward me as his speaks, his voice tense.
You’re bad at this, Christian. Just because someone is shy or polite during an interview doesn’t mean they’re sexually submissive. Also, quit being so threatening. You’re not helping your case, rapist.
Ana says he might be right, and he says he wants to explore the possibility that she can be his sub. Okay, dude, if you yourself are admitting that Ana isn’t naturally submissive, then you need to either a) give up on her or b) take things a hell of a lot slower, make sure she trusts you completely (and you’d better earn that trust, too), and keep checking in with her to make sure she’s okay with the direction things are headed in. That’s all providing she’s as eager and willing to try it as you are. I don’t care who’s the Dom and who’s the sub in this relationship; her comfort and safety is as important as yours, and she has as much say in this as you do.
They kiss. It’s very angsty. I guess the implication is that this may be the last time they’ll get to see each other, but… come on, author. You can’t spin this for drama when there’s no chance in hell Ana and Christian are going to call it quits. We’re not even halfway through the book, and Ana’s already established that she’ll go running back to Christian no matter what he does, anyway.
Christian escorts Ana out. They say goodbye to each other formally. It’s cold and Ana doesn’t have a jacket, so Christian gives her his. She thinks it’s super exciting because the jacket smells like him. Great.
When the valet pulls up Ana’s car, Christian is appalled and tells her “we can do better than this”. Ana tells him he is not buying her a car (emphasis in the original), and he glowers at her in a way that suggests he’s going to buy her a car anyway. Why is this fucker always preaching about mutual trust when he doesn’t listen to a goddamn thing Ana says?
Ana starts crying on the way home because she wants to have a cutesy standard romantic vanilla relationship with Christian and doesn’t think she’ll ever be able to. Yeah, but, honey, do you want to have a relationship with Christian or just with anyone who looks like Christian? She doesn’t seem to like anything about his personality (not that I can blame her for it), so I can only assume that this is all based on appearance.
She’s also worried about the possibility that, if she agrees to the contract, Christian will decide not to continue with her as his sub after the three months are up.
Ana gets home and checks her email. In one of the most improbable moments in the book thus far, she refers to her laptop as “the mean machine” for the second time in this chapter. There’s an email from Christian, predictably; he says that:
I don’t understand why you ran this evening. I sincerely hope I answered all your questions to your satisfaction. I know I have given you a great deal to contemplate, and I fervently hope that you will give my proposal your serious consideration. I really want to make this work. We will take it slow.
Ana, reading this, starts crying harder because she feels like he’s treating the whole thing like a business deal. Still crying, she goes to bed, where she continues crying into her pillow. End chapter.
Holy Cow! Alert: No sacred bovines this time. But there are three “Holy crap!”s, three “Holy shit!”s, and one “Holy Moses!”.
And Now, A Word From Ana’s Subconscious Alert:
- [Ana takes a sip of wine] My subconscious taps me hard on the shoulder. You must keep your wits about you. Don’t drink too much.
Does “Inner Goddess” Mean What I Think It Means? Alert:
- [Paul is surprised that Ana is dating Christian Grey; Ana resents this] My inner goddess does too. She makes a very vulgar and unattractive gesture at him with her fingers.
- [Christian is blatantly teasing Ana during dinner] My inner goddess frowns at me. You can do this, she coaxes – play this sex god at his own game.
Oh My! Alert: Twice.
Great Prose Alert:
- Holy crap… perhaps he’s said no – that’s it – maybe he’s canceling dinner. The thought is so painful.
- My heart swells talking to Ray, and a huge lump knots in my throat. He has been my constant through all mom’s romantic ups and downs. We have a special bond that I treasure.
- His quiet fortitude is what I need now, what I miss.
- Taking a deep breath and mentally girding my loins, I head into the hotel.
- His hair is as tousled as ever. I sigh. Of course he looks gorgeous.
- Making a supreme effort not to bite my lip, I move forward aware that I, Anastasia Steele of Clumsyville, am in high stilettos.
- And there it is… that familiar pull and charge from him, it connects somewhere deep inside me. I shift uncomfortably under his scrutiny, my heart palpitating.
- He pops it in his mouth, and my eyes linger on his mouth, that mouth, that’s been on me… all parts of me.
- He takes a sip of his wine, his penetrating stare holding mine.
- My head is swimming with all his words.
- Muscles that I’m now more acquainted with clench at his words. But I can’t have this. His most potent weapon, used against me again. He’s so good at sex – even I’ve figured this out.
- The waiter chooses this moment to knock and, unbidden, enter. He glances briefly at Christian, who frowns at him but then nods, so the waiter clears our plates. The waiter’s arrival has broken the spell. And I grasp this precious moment of clarity.
Out of Context Text Alert:
It slips down my throat, all seawater, salt, the sharp tang of citrus, and fleshiness… ooh.
Thoughts So Far:
Though it isn’t terribly relevant to this chapter, I want to talk about Ana’s sexuality — specifically, how she apparently goes from having no sexuality at the beginning of this book to having a fully-fledged, albeit single-target, sexuality now.
I’ve had some readers suggest that Ana is somewhere on the asexuality spectrum. This comes, I think, from their interpretation of Ana as someone who had never experienced sexual attraction until meeting Christian Grey, which definitely does seem to have been the case. Though it might certainly come off as clichéd to have Christian be Ana’s one and only object of lust, it’d be better than how it was actually written, because the way the issue of her sexuality is actually handled makes things a hell of a lot weirder.
First, it’s not that Ana experiences attraction for Christian and thinks “That’s strange, I’ve never felt that way about somebody before.” It’s that she literally has no idea what it is she’s experiencing. People on the asexual spectrum are still capable of sexual feelings; they just don’t get those feelings because of other people. Unless Ana has an exceedingly low sex drive (not the case, as demonstrated in later chapters), she should know enough about her body to recognize her own arousal even if she’d never experienced it as being connected to anyone before. Basically, Ana’s reaction is closer to “what is this Earth thing you call sexuality?” than to the reaction of somebody who’d previously thought they were asexual.
The other thing one could say is that maybe Ana is an exceedingly late bloomer, but that still doesn’t explain Ana’s weirdness. Children have sexualities; they just haven’t developed yet. Ana literally has no sexuality until she meets Christian for the first time and then BAM she has one. Although it takes her a while to work out what she’s experiencing, because Ana is apparently new to not only sexuality but Planet Earth, her sexuality itself goes through no transitional phase. At this point in the story, the only issue surrounding her sexuality is her relative lack of experience, not the fact that, y’know, a couple weeks ago she didn’t have one.
Now, on the subject of Christian Grey. Lemme explain something about characterization:
Characters can be likable and/or sympathetic while still being deeply flawed people. The thing is, they need to have good qualities that outweigh, or at least balance out, their bad ones. Christian Grey has very few good qualities at all. Let’s see — he’s nice to Ana occasionally, he compliments her on her appearance even when she’s not all dressed up, and that’s about it.
The fact that most of his issues likely stem from trauma doesn’t excuse those issues, as I’ve discussed before. The fact that he’s good-looking does not count as a positive character trait. As it stands now, Ana has little to no reason to be with Christian and every reason to leave him, and yet she stays. It’s clear the author intends Christian to be a character with a “good side” and a “bad side”, but she couldn’t even manage to do that properly. God, what a shitty piece of writing.
Also, one last thing. Take a look at these two quotes — both from Christian, said within pages of each other:
“You can walk away any time, Anastasia. I won’t stop you.”
Then, after Ana says she wants to leave:
“I could make you stay,” he threatens.
I believe that speaks for itself.
Again: God, what a shitty piece of writing.