Jul 152012
 

Ana continues to show her emotional maturity by teasing Christian via email, on the theory that an airplane in flight is one place where even Christian Grey can’t get to her. Her main objection to Christian’s upgrade is not the invasion of her privacy or intrusion into her life, but making her embarrassed at the airport.

More emails. Ana says everything in email that does she doesn’t say to Christian in person, and it’s hard not to read it as her being so intimidated or outright frightened by him that this is the only way she can express herself clearly. (If this story will be filmed, I bet a lot of the email communications will be converted into face to face dialog, if only to make it more visually interesting. )

I am completely caught up in your spell, considering a lifestyle with you that I didn’t even know existed until last Saturday week, and then you write something like that and I want to run screaming into the hills. I won’t, of course, because I’d miss you. Really miss you. I want us to work, but I am terrified of the depth of feeling I have for you and the dark path you’re leading me down. What you are offering is erotic and sexy, and I’m curious, but I’m also scared you’ll hurt me – physically and emotionally. After three months you could say goodbye, and where will that leave me if you do?

That would leave Ana where most of the human race has been at one time or another: at the end of a relationship that didn’t work out. She’s not in danger of becoming a “ruin’d maid” as in Pamela.

Ana’s use of “I want us to work” says that she is already thinking of this in terms of an ongoing relationship, showing once again that she and Christian are not on the same page. Ana is thinking in terms of “Can this marriage be saved?”

You were right when you said I didn’t have a submissive bone in my body… and I agree with you now. Having said that, I want to be with you, and if that’s what I have to do, I would like to try, but I think I’ll suck at it and end up black and blue – and I don’t relish that idea at all.

There’s a mixed message here, basically Ana saying, “I’ll make myself miserable trying to be what you want,” in hope that Christian will feel guilty enough to stop hurting her.

Once she’s in Georgia, she talks to her mother, or rather, tries to talk.

“So Ana… tell me about this man who has you in such a spin.”
Spin!  How can she tell? What to say? I can’t talk about Christian in any great detail because of the NDA, but even then, would I choose to talk to my mother about it? I blanch at the thought.

This confirms that the NDA (which Ana signed several chapters ago, without reading, and apparently has not read since) is a factor in this relationship. It is an indicator of Christian’s power that even on the other side of the country and with her own mother, Ana can’t bring herself to freely express herself. Her own sexual shame over her activities with Christian further isolate her; nice girls don’t.

We also get  a bit of back story for Ana.

My real dad, this mythical man I never knew, snatched so cruelly from us in a combat training accident when he was a marine.

I could armchair psychoanalyze, but I’ll skip it.

Another email from Christian. He addresses her points only to dismiss them, instead of accepting her point of view and changing his behaviour.

I apologize for frightening you. I find the thought of instilling fear in you abhorrent. Do you really think I’d let you travel in the hold? I offered you my private jet for heaven’s sake. Yes it was a joke, a poor one obviously. However, the fact is – the thought of you bound and gagged turns me on (this is not a joke – it’s true). I can lose the crate – crates do nothing for me. I know you have issues with gagging, we’ve talked about that and if/when I do gag you, we’ll discuss it. What I think you fail to realize is that in Dom/sub relationships it is the sub that has all the power. That’s you. I’ll repeat this – you are the one with all the power. Not I. In the boathouse you said no. I can’t touch you if you say no – that’s why we have an agreement – what you will and won’t do. If we try things and you don’t like them, we can revise the agreement. It’s up to you – not me. And if you don’t want to be bound and gagged in a crate, then it won’t happen.

We’re getting into a tricky area here. “The sub has all the power” is an often used phrases about BDSM, and it is, well, not exactly a lie, but an over-simplification of a highly complex situation. It’s particularly misleading in this situation for the following reasons.

First of all, Ana lacks the experience of even ordinary vanilla dating. She is just not emotionally equipped to handle this kind of intense relationship. She seems to fail to grasp that she has any power at all in this engagement, and power that is not recognized is not power at all.

Second, in a BDSM relationship between two people who are responsible and knowledgeable, the submissive has power to set limits and agendas, and if necessary to walk away. Ana apparently thinks Christian is her One True Love and if she doesn’t somehow get him into her idea of a proper relationship, her sexual/romantic life is over at age twenty-one.

Third, Christian is not playing fair. He uses high pressure manipulation, freely admits to getting her tipsy before they talk about their relationship, poo-poos her objections, tracks her whereabouts, has her signature on a non-disclosure agreement, ignores his own rules when it suits him, acts in threatening manner… do I need to go on?

A responsible and ethical dominant would realize that Ana is just not ready for this situation, and back off. But Christian can’t, or won’t. He wants Ana and he will do anything to get her, now. In this light, his claim that if Ana doesn’t want to do something, all she has to do is say so, sounds like bullshit. Now that Ana’s out of his control, at least for the moment, he’s trying to wheedle her back in.

This is a match made in hell: a man who doesn’t take “no” for an answer paired with a woman who doesn’t know how to say “no”.

Frankly I’m in awe of you, that one so innocent would be willing to try. That says more to me than you could ever know. You fail to see I am caught in your spell, too, even though I have told you this countless times. I don’t want to lose you. I am nervous that you’ve flown three thousand miles to get away from me for a few days, because you can’t think clearly around me. It’s the same for me Anastasia. My reason vanishes when we’re together – that’s the depth of my feeling for you.

The language of magic, of enchantment, is a strange choice. It suggests that Ana has some kind of power over him, something outside the scope of Christian’s mastery of the material world.  But Ana is the one who views Christian with something akin to awe, as a sublime being who is enticing precisely because he could annihilate her.

To be blunt, wealthy, powerful men have seldom had difficulty acquiring the attention of women. Men in Christian Grey’s position date models and actresses, and they often don’t have his looks or charisma. The only way that Christian could be “beguiled” by an aimless English Lit major who didn’t even shave her legs until two weeks ago, is if you believe that Ana has some kind of numinous quality that puts them on an even footing.

Maybe the sublime is what we’re looking at here, something that has very little with psychological realism, and everything to do with extremes of human emotion.

Let’s take the most innocent, virtuous and helpless women who could possibly exist in the modern world (virgins raised in convents being in short supply these days) and square her off with the most masculine, worldly, powerful man imaginable (he isn’t a sheik, but he’s close). We know what happens in the real world if you bring those two individuals together, but how can we rewrite this tragic story into romance? How, in 2012, can virtue be rewarded? You show that if the woman holds out long enough, the man will come around. The steelhard man will soften and reveal his squishy heart.

That’s what Richardson did in Pamela, and even he had second thoughts about it, which is why he wrote Clarissa as a follow-up, which explores the same equation but with a more cynical and pessimistic outcome.

(Sidebar: Christian writes, “…I shall try and give you the space you need and stay away from you while you are in Georgia.” Note this for later.)

Ana also thinks about Mrs. Robinson:

I press send, and immediately the image of that evil witch Mrs. Robinson comes into my mind. I just can’t picture it. Christian being beaten by someone as old as my mother, it’s just so wrong. Again I wonder what damage she’s wrought. My mouth sets in a hard grim line. I need a doll to stick pins in, maybe that way I can vent some of the anger I feel at this stranger.

(Bear in mind, Christian didn’t even mention Mrs. Robinson.) This sheer hatred towards another woman she’s never met indicates Ana’s basic misogyny and her misunderstanding of the BDSM relationship. People switch, and it isn’t at all unreasonable that Christian has been a submissive in the past. One could argue that would make him a better dominant. Ana’s horror at this seems to have less to do with Christian’s age at the time and more to do with some other woman seeing him in a vulnerable state.

I didn’t think Christian had any old friends, except… her.  I frown at the screen. Why does he have to still see her? Searing, green, bilious jealousy courses through me unexpectedly. I want to hit something, preferably Mrs. Robinson. Switching the laptop off in a temper, I clamber into bed.

[…]

Why can’t he see her for what she is – a child molester? I switch off the light, seething, staring into the darkness. How dare she? How dare she pick on a vulnerable adolescent? Is she still doing it? Why did they stop? Various scenarios filter through my mind: he had had enough, then why is he still friends with her? Ditto her – is she married? Divorced? Jeez – does she have children of her own? Does she have Christian’s children?  My subconscious rears her ugly head, leering, and I’m shocked and nauseous at the thought. Does Dr. Flynn know about her?

When Christian later confirms that he did have dinner with Mrs. Robinson, Ana is enraged. I’m not going to defend 16-year-olds having sexual (let alone BDSM) relationships with adults, but Ana’s response is wrathful jealousy, bordering on outright delusional paranoia.

Not all kinky people are polyamorous, but I’d say that very few of them are strict monogamists, and the serial monogamy Christian apparently practices is hardly unusual. Lots of people who might consider themselves monogamous will still play with other people, with various limits such as “underwear stays on” or “no genital touching”. Having lunch with a former play partner is not worth getting worked up about.

The chapter ends with Ana and her mother in a bar, and Ana freaking out at Christian via email. Then he makes a reference to what she’s drinking.

Holy fuck, he’s here.

I guess Christian didn’t try very hard to stay away.

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