Book Review: Fifty Shades of Grey (part 15)
In case anyone was wondering how far we’ve got to go, we’re almost 200 pages into a 356-page book. There are twenty-six chapters, all told. So we’re more than halfway. The finish line still seems depressingly far away, though.
Fifty Shades of Grey – Chapter Fifteen
Christian shows up. Ana feels shy because, guess what, he’s still hot! He’s brought champagne, because apparently these two can’t hang out without alcohol being involved. They head to the living room, where Christian sees the books Ana’s wrapped up for him. He says he’ll “go easier” on her if she accepts them. Okay, that’s like the expensive present version of blackmail.
Ana explains that the gift is too expensive for her to accept. Christian tells her:
“You see, this is what I was talking about, you defying me. I want you to have them, and that’s the end of the discussion. It’s very simple. You don’t have to think about this. As a submissive you would just be grateful for them. You just accept what I buy you because it pleases me for you to do so.”
There was nothing about this in the contract. Seriously. The only part of the contract that concerns gifts is the part that says Ana has to wear the clothes Christian picks out (and buys) for her. General gift-giving wasn’t mentioned. Ana didn’t sign away her right to refuse presents when she agreed — not that she’s actually signed the contract yet, anyway.
Also, the “you don’t have to think about this” part… have to is the operative phrase there. One of the nice things about being a sub is letting the Dom handle decisions for you, but it doesn’t mean Ana relinquishes her right to have an opinion.
Ana tries another tactic and says that if they’re hers, she’d like to give them to a charity so they could be auctioned off. He’s disappointed by her decision but doesn’t argue with her. Seeing his disappointment, Ana tells him she’ll think about it. No. Bad Ana. If you don’t stick to your guns on things, he’s going to think you’re a pushover, and, what’s more, he’d be right.
Christian tells her not to think again. This is getting creepy. The part of being a sub where you don’t have to overthink things because your Dom will handle that for you is only fun/sexy/whatever if you still have a right to think if you want! Just like submitting to somebody in general is only fun/sexy/whatever because you’re doing it of your free will!
Christian says that, since he’s rich enough to afford it, he’d like to buy her lots of things. Ana explains that she feels “cheap” when Christian buys her stuff. Christian says:
“It shouldn’t. You’re over-thinking it, Anastasia. Don’t place some vague moral judgment on yourself based on what others might think. Don’t waste your energy. It’s only because you have reservations about our arrangement, that’s perfectly natural. You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into.”
On the one hand, yeah, this “cheap” thing is stupid. But she has a right to feel however she feels, and being told how to feel by Christian isn’t any better than being told how to feel by society.
Christian reassures Ana that she isn’t cheap and that he just bought her the books because he thought they’d mean something to her. Too little, too late, pal! If buying her the books wasn’t a big deal, then you shouldn’t have made a big deal of her trying to give them back. You get to express disappointment that she doesn’t want to keep your present, but you certainly don’t get to pressure her into accepting it.
They start in on the champagne because we’re now on page 2 of the chapter and even the characters want to get drunk.
They make small talk. Ana drinks more than Christian and suspects that he’s trying to get her tipsy when he offers her more. Then don’t take more, you idiot.
During the small talk, it’s revealed that Ana is going to try and get an internship at some publishing house or another. I only mention this because it’ll probably be important later. (I’ve actually interned at a publishing house myself. I worked with editors and got to review the “slush pile” — unsolicited manuscripts — and… well, it was surprisingly similar to what I do on this blog, actually.)
Christian asks Ana if she ate anything. She says she and Ray had a three-course meal (I don’t know if this is true, and I’m hesitant to buy it, given Ana’s terrible eating habits), and rolls her eyes at him. Christian tells her that next time she rolls her eyes at him, he’ll take her across his knee. Ana thinks this sounds hot. You know what? Good. If she’s gonna be with this guy, she might as well have some fun. I’ll still hate it, but it’s better if she doesn’t.
Finally, they start in on the soft limits. First on the list are what sexual acts are acceptable to Ana. She rules out fisting and says she doesn’t want to do anal, either, but Christian says:
“I’ll agree to the fisting, but I’d really like to claim your ass, Anastasia. But we’ll wait for that…”
Fuck you straight to hell, sir. If she says it’s off-limits, it’s off-limits. You cannot just tell her, “oh, but I want to, so we’re going to do it”. It’s her body. She gets to set the limits. Fucking rapist.
It’d be fine if he’d just said something like “but I’d really like to, would you maybe think about it a little more?” or “what exactly is your reservation here? Maybe you have some misconceptions I could clear up,” or “would you be okay with giving it a try, just once, and if you don’t like it we can stop?” He’s allowed to express enthusiasm for anal, or disappointment that she doesn’t want to try. What he’s not allowed to do is disregard what she wants and tell her that, too bad, we’re going to do it anyway.
Christian tells Ana he’s had anal sex before, with Mrs. Robinson, and that she penetrated him. Ana wonders how this is possible because, at nearly 22, she somehow has never heard of a strap-on.
They move onto the next item on the list — sex toys. Ana asks what’s covered under “other”. He tries explaining, but of course she doesn’t know what some of the toys are just from their names. Eventually, he starts laughing at her inexperience. I’m not really sure how it’s funny. She didn’t say anything hilariously naïve.
Next on the list is bondage. Ana asks about gagging — she’s not sure how she’d be able to safeword while gagged. Christian tells her they’d use hand signals. She still feels nervous about it, so she tells him that. He says he’ll take note. Wait — they’re actually having a logical discussion, communicating their feelings to each other, and respecting each other’s wishes! This has got to be a first!
On the bad side, Ana’s starting to get drunk.
Ana asks Christian if he likes tying his subs up so they can’t touch him. He’s surprised, but tells her that’s one of the reasons. Called it.
To change the subject, Christian asks Ana if she’d like another drink, because “it’s making [her] brave”. Wait. No. Bad book. Bad.
When you’re drunk, you’re in a chemically altered state. You’re not thinking the way you would normally. It may loosen your tongue; you may say things you wouldn’t normally have the courage to say; but you may also say things you wouldn’t normally say at all, because you wouldn’t feel that way sober. Drunk!Ana isn’t the real Ana. (Drunk!Ana is a much more entertaining character, from what little we’ve seen of her, but that’s besides the point.)
The next item on the list is discipline. This, for Ana, is the scary part.
Christian asks her if she was ever physically punished as a child, to see if she has a frame of reference. She wasn’t. He assures her that it’s not as bad as she might think, and that her imagination is her worst enemy in this. Okay, he’s probably right. But, regardless, if she says it’s a hard limit, he needs to respect that.
Ana asks if he has to do it. He says yes, and that it “goes with the territory”. It doesn’t, though; not necessarily. I wish the book would quit presenting Christian’s kinks as if they’re what all BDSM is like. BDSM encompasses a very wide range of practices. You certainly don’t have to be into all of them. Just because sadomasochism is part of the acronym doesn’t mean you have to do it or else you’ll be, I dunno, kicked out of the kinky club.
Ana had previously said no to genital clamps, which Christian says is fine. (Like he has to give his goddamn seal of approval when she says no. Asshole.) He tells her caning hurts the most, but that they can work up to that. She doesn’t want to do it at all, but he tells her it’s part of the deal.
Hang on — caning, specifically, is part of the deal? Why can’t they stick to milder pain if Ana says she doesn’t want to be caned? I don’t get it. According to the list, he’s still got spanking, paddling, whipping, biting, nipple clamps, ice, hot wax, and “other” as options.
Not to mention, how the fuck is this a negotiation if he doesn’t listen when she says no?
Christian agrees to keep caning off the list for now and to take the punishment stuff slow in general. That’s not a bad idea except she doesn’t want to do it at all, save for maybe the spanking (I’m assuming based on her showing enthusiasm at the idea earlier in the chapter).
Then Christian tells Ana he’d like to try having a romance of sorts with her, and maybe they could try meeting up once a week to do something romantic. Like what? Go out to dinner? Cuddle on the couch watching movies? That’s cute and all, but it doesn’t make their relationship romantic. You can do all that stuff with a platonic buddy. It’s just affectionate stuff. It doesn’t change the actual nature of their relationship.
Still, it’s what Ana wants, so it’s nice that he’s giving it a shot, I guess.
Christian tells her he has one condition: that she accept his graduation present. I take back everything I said about this being nice of him.
The graduation present, unsurprisingly, is a car; a red, two-door compact Audi. Ana’s pissed that he bought her another expensive gift. He tells her he’d never forgive himself if she got hurt in her old car when it would be so easy for him to make sure she had a new one, and that Ray also thought it was a good idea. She’s even more pissed that she mentioned it to Ray. After a bit, she calms down, figuring that since he’s used to having so much money it’s different for him. She tells him she’s happy to accept the car if it’s a loan, like the laptop. He gets pissed and then they start making out because BDSM and angry sex are the same thing, right? /facepalm
“It’s taking all my self-control not to fuck you on the hood of this car right now, just to show you that you are mine, and if I want to buy you a fucking car, I’ll buy you a fucking car,” he growls. “Now let’s get you inside and naked.” He plants a swift rough kiss on me.
This isn’t kinky dirty talk because it’s not roleplay, he’s actually so pissed he wants to fuck her on the hood of the car. I don’t get this book. It’s like the author figured that since something is hot if it’s roleplay, it must be even hotter if it’s not roleplay.
They go back inside. Ana pleads with Christian not to be angry and he makes a slightly-less-angry face at her. She characterizes this as mercurial. Ana, honey, “mercurial” means “subject to sudden or unpredictable changes of mood or mind”. That does describe Christian’s behavior in general, but not what he did just now.
Christian takes off Ana’s dress and asks her if he should make her come by playing with her breasts again. I don’t get the feeling that that’s something that would happen twice. The first time it happened was also the first time Ana’d been touched sexually in her life, and it happened after a lot of anticipation and build-up.
Anyway, then she says yes and he says on second thought, since she’s displeased him, maybe he isn’t going to let her come. Isn’t this the point where you go “okay, in that case, I guess you don’t get to come either”? (I guess not if you’re in a D/s relationship. Reading this is making me realize that I’d be a horrible sub.)
Christian tells Ana to undress him. She does. Actually, she pushes him onto the bed, because he said she could take charge. Hey, it’s fun to switch things up and all, but it seems odd to switch things up immediately after she agreed to be his sub.
So then she starts giving him a blowjob but he stops her before he comes so they can have vaginal intercourse because so far it seems vaginal intercourse is a requirement of every sex scene. They do it with Ana on top. Right after they both come, the chapter ends because I guess the author got bored too.
Holy Cow! Alert:
Holy cow… my mouth drops open, my subconscious is in shock, Christian Grey is up for more!
Plus, three “Holy crap!”s, two “Holy shit!”s, one “Holy fuck!”, and one “Holy Moses!”.
And Now, A Word From Ana’s Subconscious Alert:
- [Ana doesn’t want to accept gifts from Christian because it makes her feel like a…] ‘Ho’ my subconscious mouths at me.
- [The list of disciplinary methods is freaking Ana out] My subconscious runs, screaming, and hides behind the couch.
- The above-quoted line where Ana’s subconscious is in shock about Christian being “up for more”
- [Ana can’t believe Christian is willing to try being romantic with her] My subconscious peeks out from behind the couch, still registering shock on her harpy face.
- [Christian is angry with Ana] My subconscious is behind the sofa again, head hidden under her hands.
Does “Inner Goddess” Mean What I Think It Means? Alert:
- [Christian reminds Ana of the first time she gave him a blowjob] I flush, and my inner goddess smacks her lips together glowing with pride.
- [The two of them look over the list of types of bondage] I examine the list, and my inner goddess bounces up and down like a small child waiting for ice cream.
- [Ana is turned on because Christian’s just said he’d like to have sex] My inner goddess is panting.
- [Ana is excited because Christian says she gets to be in charge] Oh the possibilities... my inner goddess roars, and from somewhere born of frustration, need, and sheer Steele bravery, I push him on to the bed.
- [Ana pushes Christian down onto the bed] My inner goddess is going to explode.
- [Christian tells Ana he doesn’t want to come yet; she’s surprised that he’s back to telling her what to do, even though he isn’t, really] My inner goddess looks like someone snatched her ice cream.
Thoughts So Far:
Well, I’ve already complained enough about the negotiation not being an actual negotiation since Ana apparently doesn’t get a say, so how about we talk about the car thing instead?
I’m okay, in theory, with Christian giving Ana expensive presents. This story is a fantasy about being in a relationship with someone who’s very rich, after all; it’d be pretty surprising if Christian wasn’t lavishing Ana with pricey gifts. Problem here is that Ana clearly doesn’t like him spending lots of money on her, and instead of respecting that and backing down, Christian continues to give her expensive presents and then gets mad when she doesn’t want to keep them.
Like everything else in this book, author intention is key. Maybe this is supposed to read as unnecessarily controlling behavior; Ana seems to see it that way, at least, but (as is typical for Ana) she doesn’t actually do anything about it. This book’s already proven itself to have no concept of subtlety (see: Christian’s food issues), so you’d expect author intention to ring through loud and clear; it’s just that the writing sucks so much that you can’t tell how she intended it to read. Is it supposed to be sexy that Christian spent this much money on Ana and then threatened to punish her when she didn’t eagerly accept the gift? Given that everything Christian does is either supposed to be sexy, kinky, or “feel bad for me and my tragic backstory”, probably.
Lastly, the sex scene in this chapter. I actually have a positive thing to say about it: it was better than the previous ones. I think I’ve figured out why, too; Ana was taking some initiative in it, which made her enjoyment of the sex much more obvious. Despite her narration blabbing on about “omg so hot love this so much” in every sex scene, it’s when she actually does something that demonstrates enthusiasm that I’m convinced. (I told y’all that “show, don’t tell” is a super important concept.)
However, that positive thing is outweighed by the sex scene not logically following at all from the events preceding it. They spend most of the chapter talking about the ways Grey is going to sexually dominate Ana, since she’s finally agreed to be his sub. This talk is what’s turning them both on (Christian more so than Ana, naturally, but she gets turned on just from looking at him, so…), and the lead-in to the sex is Christian getting angry with Ana and wanting to fuck her on top of the car to establish his dominance/possession of her. But then, when they do have sex, Christian decides to let Ana take the lead; he himself takes a surprisingly passive role. More than that, he lets her undress him after it’s been established many times — including in this very chapter — that he doesn’t like to be touched. How does this make any sense?
I swear, it’s like the author just wrote this scene independent of the rest of the story and stuck it in regardless of the context.
Wouldn’t surprise me, actually. God, what a shitty book.