Book Review: Fifty Shades of Grey (part 18)
Sorry for the delay, I was out of town. You’re getting two posts in as many days to make up for it.
Fifty Shades of Grey: Chapter Eighteen
Ana meets with Dr. Greene, the ob/gyn, who is a hot blonde woman in her early forties. What is this book’s fetish for blonde women? Every pretty female character but Ana is blonde — Kate, Christian’s mother Grace, Christian’s numerous young female employees, and now this doctor.
Honestly, it’s starting to freak me out a little.
It’s mentioned that Christian is paying “a small fortune” for this checkup. Huh? I assume having the doctor make a house call isn’t cheap, especially considering she’s very well-respected in the area and it’s a Sunday, but… she’s making a house call. That means Ana isn’t being given any tests or subjected to any procedures that would require special equipment. I’ve never been to a gynecologist and I’m not entirely sure what goes on at a gynecology appointment, but I’d assume that in this case Ana is just being given a brief check-up before the doctor can write her a prescription. Why would that cost a small fortune? The good doctor is ripping you off, Grey.
We skip over the appointment itself. Ana is given a prescription for birth control and lectured about taking it at the same time every day.
Actually, hang on. I never gave much thought to this, but the contract Ana agreed to said that she had to use oral contraceptives (as opposed to, say, an IUD), and I’ve got no idea why that was specified. Shouldn’t the decision on what kind of birth control to use be up to Ana, as she’s the one using it? Not to mention, birth control pills work by altering your hormones, and the decision to alter your body chemistry ought to be (and is) a highly personal decision. Ana’s never been on birth control; she doesn’t know how her body reacts to it.
Just another example of the female main character’s rights being handed over to her male love interest, I guess.
Dr. Greene seems very curious about Ana and Christian’s relationship. Why does she care? Is Christian, as a public figure (and a young, attractive one at that), a topic of gossip? That seems the most likely option, but the book doesn’t tell us that, just acts like of course the doctor is curious as to exactly what kind of sex Ana and Christian are having.
They return to the living room, where Christian is reading and listening to music. He looks up when they approach:
“Are you done?” he asks as if he’s genuinely interested.
Why “as if”? He should be genuinely interested, and the fact that Ana is assuming by default that he isn’t makes me sad.
Dr. Greene tells Christian to look after Ana, because she’s a “beautiful, bright young woman”. And apparently she needs a man to look after her, no matter how intelligent she is! Yay, feminism!
After the doctor leaves, Christian asks how it went and Ana jokes that Dr. Greene said she had to abstain from sex for a month. Christian looks shocked until he realizes she’s joking, at which point he pretends to be angry, also apparently as a joke. Except he doesn’t pretend to be angry in an “I’m obviously joking” way, he actually scares her when he puts on his angry face because she thinks she’s gonna be spanked again.
Nothing about this relationship is healthy, book.
During a brief and mostly uninteresting conversation, which I’ll spare you, Ana asks Christian if he only wants her for her body. He responds with “That and your smart mouth”. I’m not surprised that he answered Ana’s question in the affirmative, but I am surprised (and more than a little disturbed) that he thinks Ana’s got a smart mouth. This woman possesses all the spunk of a dead worm. Her “talking back” to Christian is actually just her asking basic questions pertaining to their relationship, and it’s often too little too late.
Have Christian’s past submissives been so lifeless they didn’t even ask him questions, and that’s why he thinks Ana’s giving him attitude?
They go to the kitchen, where Christian serves Ana some chicken caesar salad. Oh, and wine, because these characters apparently can’t be in each other’s presence without wanting to get drunk. For what is probably the first time in the book, Ana finishes her meal.
Afterwards, they talk about what they’re going to do. Ana wonders if Christian is going to try and hurt her this time. He says he’s not, but then he talks to her a bit about BDSM and pain:
“Don’t let anyone try and convince you otherwise, Anastasia. One of the reasons people like me do this is because we either like to give or receive pain. It’s very simple. You don’t, so I spent a great deal of time yesterday thinking about that.”
THINK A LITTLE HARDER, FUCKFACE. Here we have Christian acknowledging that Ana has no interest in anything sadomasochistic, yet his reaction is not either “I can’t do this with you” or “How about we reach a compromise where we do only stuff we both like?”. It seems they’re just going to carry on their merry way, with Christian causing Ana pain even though he knows she doesn’t enjoy it, and the book is going to pretend that that’s okay.
They go into Christian’s playroom, which the book likes calling “the Red Room of Pain”. Christian snaps into full Dom mode and tells her that, in this room, she’s got to obey his every command. Okay, fine. She’s already consented, she can still safeword, this actually isn’t problematic.
Ana is ordered to take off her shoes, and, once she’s done so, Christian undresses her the rest of the way. He tells her he wants her to be comfortable with her body and not to be ashamed of her nakedness, which is probably the only decent thing he’s done in several chapters.
And then he braids her hair. I don’t even know. Told you this book was weird.
Grey tells her that when he calls her to the playroom in the future, he wants her to undress down to her underwear (not including bra) and kneel by the door to wait for him. He leaves, then comes back dressed in ripped, faded jeans and carrying a riding crop.
Okay, hold up. I know Ana told him about her wet dream, but all she told him is that he had a riding crop in it. She didn’t mention the jeans. Is Christian suddenly psychic?
Christian swats the riding crop against Ana’s palm and asks her how it feels. She says it doesn’t hurt, just stings slightly (which she doesn’t appear to mind).
He leads her over underneath this grid thing he’s got hanging from the ceiling, and shackles her to it. The grid is designed so that the shackles move in tracks across it. That’s… sorta cool. actually.
Once she’s shackled up, Christian starts hitting her with the crop. It apparently doesn’t hurt. I’m willing to buy that, I guess. Wait, no, I’m not, because he hits her in the clitoris.
Fun fact about clits: they contain an estimated 8000 nerve endings. Eight thousand. That’s more than any other part of the human body. Some people don’t like any sort of direct stimulation there because of how sensitive it is. And yet this book expects us to believe that Ana, who strongly dislikes receiving pain, is deriving enjoyment from being hit in the most sensitive part of her body?
Also, consider the position she’s in. She’s just standing upright. How is he managing to hit her directly on her clitoris? Her labia/pubic hair/pubic mound should all be in the way. The head of the clitoris (which is the only external part) is, on average, only about pea-sized. There is no way he’s hitting her directly on it while she’s standing in this position. Maybe that’s why it isn’t painful, but… “clitoris” is the only specific word Ana ever uses to describe her genitals. Everything else is just “down there”. Why use a specific term if what she really means is something nonspecific?
I’m done thinking about this, my brain is breaking. On the positive side, I guess it’s nice that Christian has chosen something Ana fantasized about for their first real scene together. I still don’t know how he knew all these details, though, like the ripped jeans and being whipped in the clit. All Ana told him was that she dreamed about him with a riding crop.
Throughout the scene, Ana uses terms like “assault”, “shock”, and “bite” to describe being hit with the crop, but it’s clear she’s enjoying the pain this time. So I guess we’re now drawing a distinction between erotic pain and punishment pain? That’s good, but at this point it’s a bit too little, too late. (And by a bit, I mean a lot.)
After Christian makes her come once with the crop, he puts on a condom and braces her against the large wooden cross (which I believe is called a Saint Andrew’s Cross, though the book doesn’t use that term) on the wall. But he doesn’t shackle her to it, so it’s basically the same as fucking against a regular wall. Then they have penetrative sex, because every sex scene so far has ended with penetrative sex.
Afterwards, Ana is really tired and wonders why. Because sometimes sex wears you out, you numbskull. Seriously, you fell asleep immediately after losing your virginity, and you haven’t figured out that sexual activity can lead to exhaustion?
She sits on Christian’s lap, where she notices for the first time that Christian has a few small, round scars on his chest. She wonders if they’re from chicken pox. Idiot. Idiot.
Christian asks her if what they did hurt her (it didn’t), and if she’d like to do it again sometime (she would). He then tells her he isn’t done with her yet. She’s instructed to kneel while he binds her wrists together with a cable tie. Ana finally realizes that he was shopping for bondage gear at Clayton’s. (Was he with a sub at the time, or just stocking up on supplies?)
Incidentally, from what I’ve heard, cable ties are lousy for bondage. They have no give to them; they’re hard plastic, and they can bite into the skin and injure you.
Anyway, Christian leads Ana over to the four-poster bed and instructs her to brace herself against one of the bedposts while he fucks her from behind. It only lasts a couple paragraphs and is really, really dull.
Have I mentioned that every time they have penetrative sex, both of them come at the same time? It’s true. And also quite boring.
Afterwards, Christian cuts the cable tie, cuddles Ana a bit (he doesn’t seem to mind this kind of physical contact so long as she doesn’t make a move to touch him anywhere, particularly his chest), then dresses her in a bathrobe, pulls his jeans back on, and carries her to the room she’ll be staying in. They have some surprisingly decent dialogue during all this; playful, but a little bittersweet. It’s cute, even.
The chapter then ends with Ana falling asleep. Haven’t a lot of chapters ended this way? For that matter, haven’t a lot of chapters begun with Ana waking up?
See, this is what an editor would help you fix, author.
Holy Cow! Alert: Thrice this time. Thrice.
- Holy cow – the doctor.
- Holy cow. He wants to hurt me… how do I deal with this?
- Holy cow. These jeans are hot.
Also, two “Holy Moses!”s, two “Holy shit!”s, one “Holy fuck!”, and one “Holy hell!”.
And Now, A Word From Ana’s Subconscious Alert: Just once, surprisingly.
- [Christian pretends to be angry, which freaks Ana out] My subconscious quails in the corner as all the blood drains from my face, and I imagine him putting me across his knee again.
Does “Inner Goddess” Mean What I Think It Means? Alert:
- [Ana is excited for her first scene with Christian] My inner goddess is spinning like a world-class ballerina, pirouette after pirouette.
- [Ana is exhausted after sex] My inner goddess has a ‘do not disturb’ sign on the outside of her room.
Boring Dirty Talk Alert:
- “You smell as divine as ever, Anastasia,” he whispers as he places a soft kiss beneath my ear.
- “I like your hair braided in here,” he whispers.
- “You can sit back on your heels.”
- “You look mighty fine trussed up like this, Miss Steele. And your smart mouth, quiet for now. I like that.”
- “I have scissors here.” He holds them up for me to see. “I can cut you out of this in a moment.”
- “That’s better. After this, I’ll let you sleep.”
Oh My! Alert: Twice.
Great Prose Alert:
- A breathtaking aria is playing on the music system, swirling round him, cocooning him, filling the room with a sweet, soulful song.
- One minute we’re joking and the next… I fan my heated face. He’s just sex on legs, and now I have to recover my equilibrium and eat something.
- He’s so at ease with his body on one level, but then he doesn’t like to be touched… so maybe deep down he isn’t. No man is an island, I muse – except perhaps Christian Grey.
- And as he stares down at me, I feel the atmosphere between us slowly shift, evolve… charge. His look goes from dark to smoldering, taking me with him.
- “Yes,” I breathe as everything in my body tightens at once… wow. [Everything? Toes, eyes, spinal column, appendix?]
- It’s the same, the smell of leather, citrus, polish and dark wood, all very sensual. My blood is running heated and scared through my system – adrenaline mixed with lust and longing. It’s a heady, potent cocktail. Christian’s stance has changed completely, subtly altered, harder and meaner. He gazes down at me and his eyes are heated, lustful… hypnotic.
- I nod, my mouth dry, my heart thumping for a way out of my chest.
- He’s standing behind me, so close that I feel the heat radiating from him, warming me, warming me all over.
- This is beyond fascinating, beyond erotic. It’s singularly the most exciting and scary thing I’ve ever done.
- The shock runs through me, and it’s the sweetest strangest, hedonistic feeling.
- Jeez, it’s deep this way.
- I feel the build up again. Jeez no… not again… I don’t think my body will withstand another earth-shattering moment.
- I’m leaning against his chest, my eyes are closed, and he’s wrapped around me – arms and legs – and I feel… safe, and oh so comfortable. Will he let me sleep, perchance to dream? My mouth quirks up at the silly thought, and turning my face into Christian’s chest, I inhale his unique scent and nuzzle him, but immediately he tenses… oh crap.
- I want to run my tongue through the hair, kiss him, and for the first time, I notice he has a few random and faint small, round scars dotted around his chest.
- I try to pull my wrists apart, testing my bonds, and as I do, the plastic bites into my flesh – it’s sore, but if I relax my wrists they’re fine – the tie is not cutting into my skin.
- Christian continues to move roughly against me, in me, his breathing harsh, moaning, groaning. My body is responding… how? I feel a quickening. But suddenly, Christian stills, slamming really deep.
- He’s on the floor, and I’m lying on top of him, my back to his front, and I’m staring at the ceiling, all post-coital, glowing, shattered.
Thoughts So Far:
Aside from the parts that didn’t make sense (Christian somehow knowing all the details of Ana’s wet dream, Ana enjoying being hit in the clitoris, etc.), this first scene wasn’t too bad. That is, not too problematic — the sex is still boring and poorly written, but at least we didn’t run into any consent issues.
I wanna talk a bit about the sex scenes in this book. While the author’s prose is sometimes passable, and occasionally even decent, when describing non-sexual situations, throw sex into the equation and she’s suddenly trying to spruce everything up with as many flowery adjectives as possible. Take a look at the “Great Prose Alert” section above. (Also, notice that her grammar gets even worse when writing sex scenes.)
The sex scenes read like E.L. James is trying way too hard. She’s no doubt got all these scenes playing out in glorious detail in her head, but she doesn’t have the skill to convey her vision to an audience, so she takes refuge in adverbs and ellipses. It’s really, really amateurish writing. I’ve read better porn written by teenagers.
Ana’s narration, annoying as it is, only serves to make the sex scenes worse. Really, all things considered, I’m surprised anyone can get off to this book. Dreadful stuff.