Jul 292012
 

Ana has a dream about Christian in a cage, offering her a phallic strawberry. The real Christian wakes her up.

She gets dressed, including borrowing a pair of his underwear (identified by brand name, of course.) I get the impression that Ana thinks this is being deliciously wicked, whereas Christian probably thinks this cute, at best. Remember, Christian’s been in kink since he was a teenager, with 15 prior submissives, and owns a private dungeon. Wearing your lover’s underwear or going commando is training-wheels compared to what he’s done.

Ana actually lists the stuff Christian has given her so far (some of which she rationalizes as loans), which indicates one of the three leashes Christian has on her, her love of the high life and pretty things. (The other two are lust and fear.) Though I’m sure Ana would deny it, she’s starting to look like a kept woman with a sugar daddy.

Over breakfast, Ana teases Christian (and us).

 “Well a spanking would wake me up, I suppose.” I purse my lips in quiet contemplation.
Christian’s mouth drops open.
“On the other hand, I don’t want you to be all hot and bothered, the climate here is warm enough.” I shrug nonchalantly.
Christian closes his mouth and tries very hard to look displeased, but fails hopelessly.
I can see the humor lurking in the back of his eyes.
“You are, as ever, challenging, Miss Steele. Drink your tea.”

Again, why would Christian find this appealing? Has he never had a smart-assed bottom before? EL James seems to think that submissives must be doormats who follow orders blindly, and never talk back, or even have conversations with dominants.

Also, teasing can be fun, but it’s hazardous to tease a guy who’s used to getting what he wants when he wants it.

While talking about Christian’s prior relationships, he brings up “Mrs. Robinson” and mentions her name, Elena. Ana has an absurdly jealous, paranoid and even xenophobic response to this.

Elena! Holy Fuck. The evil one has a name and its all-foreign sounding. A vision of a glorious, pale-skinned vamp with raven hair and ruby-red lips comes to mind, and I know that she’s beautiful. I must not dwell. I must not dwell.

I’m pretty sure there are American women named Elena.

Ana learns a little about Christian’s prior relationships.

“So the other four, what happened?” I ask.
“One met someone else. The other three wanted – more. I wasn’t in the market for more then.”
“And the others?” I press.
He glances at me briefly and just shakes his head.
“Just didn’t work out.”

This conversation occurs when he’s driving her to an airfield where he plans to take her up in a glider. He introduces her as “…this is my girlfriend Anastasia Steele.”

For a guy who “fucks hard” instead of “making love”, Christian’s been very boyfriend-y with Ana. Well, if you discount the stalking, surveillance, emotional manipulation, threats, and so on. But here he is doing date-type stuff with her. The contract hasn’t been mentioned for several chapters. It’s an abrupt about face, and hasn’t been justified by the actions. What is it about Ana that makes Christian break his patterns? Again, you have to believe there’s something numinous and indefinable about her.

They go up in the glider, and Christian even lets Ana hold the control stick for a while. In Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, one of the sections of the meta-story is the Magic Flight, in which the hero and his/her companions travel through a magical realm. Obviously, that’s where we are in this story. I should also mentioned that Freud saw dreams of flying as an expression of sexual desire.

The funny thing is how vanilla is, for a scene in a book ostensibly about BDSM. This is what Ana wants life with Christian to be like. In fact, how Ana’s feeling during this experience, simultaneously secure and free, still yet moving, is the kind of beautiful feeling that a bottom can experience in a BDSM scene. This is what kink can be like, if Ana was wired right for it, and if Christian wasn’t such a headcase.

After landing, there’s a quick makeout session

“What’s that?” Christian asks, curious, glancing at me.
I fumble in my purse for the packet.
“Alarm for my pill,” I mutter as my cheeks flush.
His lips quirk up.
“Good, well done. I hate condoms.”

Ahem, Mr. Grey, ever heard of STDs?

“I like that you introduced me to Mark as your girlfriend,” I murmur.
“Isn’t that what you are?” He raises an eyebrow.
“Am I? I thought you wanted a submissive.”
“So did I, Anastasia, and I do. But I’ve told you, I want more, too.”
Oh my.  He’s coming round, and hope surges through me, leaving me breathless.

It occurs to me that if Christian wanted to manipulate Ana, or rather, manipulate her in a way different from the ways he’s used so far, he could just dangle the possibility of a vanilla companionate relationship in front of her. This is playing into the idea that Christian would change for her. It also perpetuates the fallacy that “BDSM submissive” and “girlfriend” are mutually exclusive, and they need not be.

Over breakfast, after Christian stuns their server just by looking at her, Christian tells her:

“You disarm me totally, Miss Steele. Your innocence. It cuts through all the crap.”

If only we lived in a world in which innocence counted for anything, where there was an even balance of power between Ana’s innocence and Christian’s worldliness. But we don’t. For that matter, Ana isn’t really all that innocent. She’s merely ignorant, a lack of knowledge and understanding, and equipped with  prejudices. A true innocent would say the emperor has no clothes, be unimpressed with Christian’s absurd wealth and his Ayn Rand-style view of the world. Instead, Ana is uncritically infatuated with him.

“I don’t think I’ve changed my mind per se. We just need to re-define our parameters, re-draw our battle lines, if you will. We can make this work, I’m sure. I want you submissive in my playroom. I will punish you if you digress from the rules. Other than that… well, I think it’s all up for discussion. Those are my requirements, Miss Steele. What say you to that?”
“So I get to sleep with you? In your bed?”
“Is that what you want?”
“Yes.”
“I agree then. Besides, I sleep very well when you’re in my bed. I had no idea.”

Again, a false dichotomy which both Ana and Christian subscribe to: that BDSM is incompatible with emotional intimacy.

“I was frightened you’d leave me if I didn’t agree to all of it,” I whisper.

“I’m not going anywhere, Anastasia. Besides… ” He trails off, and after some thought, he adds. “We’re following your advice, your definition: compromise. You emailed it to me. And so far, it’s working for me.”

This unfortunately sounds like the entire plot hinges on a misunderstanding, and Ana didn’t understand that Christian was willing to compromise. She still doesn’t really understand. Nor do I buy that Mr “I fuck… hard” is suddenly capable of compromise.

Later, Ana’s paranoia kicks in. Now that Christian is coming around to what she wants, she obsesses over Mrs. Robinson again.

There seems to be tidal shift in Christian’s attitude. He denies it but – he admits he’s trying for more. What could have changed? What has altered since he sent his long email and when I saw him yesterday? What has he done? I sit up suddenly, almost spilling my Dr. Pepper. He had dinner with… her.  Elena.
Holy Fuck!
My scalp prickles at the realization. Did she say something to him? Oh… to have been a fly on the wall during their dinner. I could have landed in her soup or on her wine glass and choked her.

By the way, the word “her” is in bold italics in the original text. I get the impression that whatever fear and anger Ana feels towards Christian is being split off and projected onto Elena, that she is the narrative scapegoat, the source of the problem, one of the two bad women who kept Christian from being what he is supposed to be. (That Ana has nothing good to say about her own mother supports this.)

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