May 302012
 

After saving Ana from the vicious bicyclist, Christian holds onto her tight. Ana practically has some kind of stroke at his touch, silently begging her to kiss him. She does ask him to kiss her, and certainly doesn’t move to kiss him herself. “Kiss me damn it! I implore him, but I can’t move.”

Christian Grey responds, or rather says, as she has neither done nor said anything to respond to:

“Anastasia, you should steer clear of me. I’m not the man for you,” he whispers.

He rejects her. And what does he do to make her go away? Mails her a set of vintage books that cost five figures. This kind of mixed messages indicates either a high level of manipulation or a moderate level of schizophrenia.

After exams, Ana goes out with her friends, gets drunk for the first time in her life, and drunk-dials Christian. Under the influence of champagne, tequila and beer, she is assertive and even teasing to Christian, for the first time since she met her.

In Freudian psychology, there’s a long-standing bugaboo over women can have fetishes, based on old theories that only men have paraphilias (i.e. sexual arousal by nonsexual objects.) One school of thought says they do, another says they don’t, a third says that they do but they are so radically different from the fetishes manifested in men that they are illegible, unrecognizable. Louise J Kaplan, in her book Female Perversions, argues that fetishes are basically ways of escaping from gender roles while not being completely excluded from them. For men, in her theory, their arousal by a fetish (high heels, large breasts, diapers, what have you) is actually a kind of dodge or decoy. The man turned on by being in a maid’s uniform actually wants to be in the female servant gender role; his erection is proof, to himself and to the world, that despite this he is still a man where it counts. The man’s imperative to be virile, sexual is satisfied in spite of the lowered state he currently in, even if he choreographed the entire scene himself.

Kaplan says that female perverts do the same thing, but for them the imperative that must be satisfied is to be pure. The classic “rape” fantasy is a way of having it both ways: experiencing sex without the responsibility of being the sexual gatekeeper, without the shame of abandoning her imperative to maintain her purity.

By that theory, Anastasia Steele is a grade-A pervert. She just can’t come out and ask for what she wants (attention and physical contact from Christian) because that would violate her rule, her denial of her own desire, her own purity. Instead, she subconsciously creates convoluted situations to get what she wants, which always have an excuse (she’s clumsy so she falls and needs help, she’s drunk so it’s okay to call Christian).

Christian is, perhaps unfortunately, a perfect match for her. When she drunk dials him, he immediately assumes she’s in danger and rushes to her aid. To put the cherry on the sundae, Ana’s supposedly platonic guy friend is making a drunken pass at her just when Christian shows up. Ana gets another hit of “rescue” from this whole situation. “He notices my dizziness and grabs me before I fall and hoists me into his arms, holding me close to his chest like a child.”

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. BDSM is full of this kind of Rube Goldberg machinery of desire. TE Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia, had a very strong masochistic streak. In his later years, he re-enlisted in the British Army as a private and told friends in the service that he had been forced to do so because he had stolen money from a fictional uncle. Lawrence would write letters to his friends in the persona of the uncle (known as “R.” or “the old man”), describing in minute detail how he (Lawrence) was to be ritually beaten. In the same letters, Lawrence also begged Lawrence’s friends to persuade him (Lawrence) to stop doing this. (See A Prince of Our Disorder: The Life of T.E. Lawrence by John E. Mack, Harvard University Press, 1998) Masochists are, paradoxically, highly controlling people.

The problem with the kind of interaction is that Ana can’t just come out and express her own desires. She can’t acknowledge to herself or anywhere else that she wants to be desired, that she had tremendous difficulty saying what she wants, that she gets off on being rescued. She can’t say that to other people because she doesn’t know that about herself.

No wonder she’s 21 and never been kissed. Even if she’s not as plain as she believes herself to be, she’s never flirted with any man. No man has ever figured out what she is tacitly, secretly, unconsciously demanding, or maybe they have and decided she just isn’t worth the effort.

Luckily for her, Christian Grey is so into rescuing people that he interprets her drunk-call as a distress signal and comes to get her.This is either a match made in heaven or a folie a deux.

And then she passes out. Oh, Ana….

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