Nov 022012
 

Reading this chapter brought me to a whole new level of hatred and loathing for these characters, and this book.

The mere possibility of Ana leaving him, even temporarily, drives Christian into some kind of nervous breakdown. He drops into submissive mode, kneeling before Ana and asking permission to speak.

“What would you like me to say?” he says softly, blandly, and for a moment I’m relieved that he’s talking, but not like this—no. No.
Tears begin to ooze down my cheeks, and suddenly it is too much to see him in the same prostrate position as the pathetic creature that was Leila. The image of a powerful man who’s really still a little boy, who was horrifically abused and neglected, who feels unworthy of love from his perfect family and his much-less-than perfect girlfriend . . . my lost boy . . . it’s heartbreaking.

Ana is of course horrified by this. (Male submission “breaks” her gender system.) Seeing Christian like this can only make her think of his relationship with Elena. The steelhard man has softened, but too much.

Compassion, loss, and despair all swell in my heart, and I feel a choking sense of desperation. I am going to have to fight to bring him back, to bring back  my Fifty.
The thought of me dominating anyone is appalling. The thought of dominating Christian is nauseating. It would make me like her—the woman who did this to him.
I shudder at that thought, fighting the bile in my throat. No way can I do that. No way do I want that.

Parsing out this scene, and particularly Ana’s reaction, shows that several things are going on here. First, she is repulsed by the idea of dominating anybody, which she can’t separate from the Elena-Christian relationship and its issues of consent and age-appropriateness. The combination of Ana’s revulsion at the idea of kink with her enjoyment of Christian’s controlling ways makes for serious cognitive dissonance.

Christian is attempting to top Ana from the bottom, acting submissive in order to get her to do what he wants, which is to stay. This is explicitly likened to Leila’s earlier behaviour when confronted by Christian. Perversely, by threatening Ana, Leila got what exactly she wanted: she got Christian to top her. This worked because this is what Leila wanted and because she was a clear danger.

Christian’s submission in this case is just ridiculous. He knows perfectly well that Ana is at best reluctantly kinky and she certainly isn’t dominant. This is something that a complete rookie sub would do out of desperation.

Ana finally acts by sinking to her own knees so they’re both kneeling.

Like this, we are equals. We’re on a level. This is the only way I’m going to retrieve him.His eyes widen fractionally as I stare up at him, but beyond that his expression and stance don’t change.

Ana starts talking, and in between the stammerings and disavowals, sounds a little bit like an intelligent adult. She brings up the facts that they barely know each other, that Christian has a lot of relationship baggage,

“This is about me not being good enough for you. It was an insight into your life, and I am so scared you’ll get bored with me, and then you’ll go . . . and I’ll end up like Leila . . . a shadow. Because I love you, Christian, and if you leave me, it will be like a world without light. I’ll be in darkness. I don’t want to run. I’m just so frightened you’ll leave me . . .”

Ana’s narcissism comes to the fore. Instead of dealing with Christian’s fear of her abandoning him, she shifts the conversation to being about her fear of him abandoning her. Then she brings up her low self-esteem.

What we have here are two people in an emotional blackmail duel, both playing the “Love me or I kill myself” game.

Ana vaguely touches on the real underlying problem here, that these are two people with almost nothing in common who have radically different relationship scripts. Even disregarding the moral issue of the Elena situation, they clearly have very different views about that. So why persist in this? Because we have a book and a half to go, that’s why.

Christian finally talks:

“She might have harmed you. And it would have been my fault.” His eyes drift off, filled with uncomprehending horror, and he’s silent once more.
“But she didn’t,” I whisper. “And you weren’t responsible for her being in that state, Christian.”

Ana is far too ready to exonerate Christian for Leila’s condition. When a dominant’s former sub shows up toting a gun and stalking the new girl, it’s due diligence to ask a few pointed questions about what happened. Did she have a history of mental illness or violence before? How did the relationship end? Did Christian go over her limits, as he seems wont to do? Add these questions to the long list of things any halfway intelligent person would have done that Ana didn’t do.

Then it dawns on me afresh that everything he did was to keep me safe, and perhaps Leila, too, because he also cares for her. But how much does he care for her? The question lingers in my head, unwelcome. He says he loves me, but then he was so harsh, throwing me out of my own apartment.

It finally hits Ana that there was a mentally disturbed, self-harming person with a gun stalking her, and that everything Christian did was to keep her safe, not so that Christian could top a woman without all of Ana’s passive-aggressive bull.

“I wanted you away from the danger, and . . . You. Just. Wouldn’t. Go,” he hisses through clenched teeth and shakes his head. His exasperation is palpable.
He gazes at me intently. “Anastasia Steele, you are the most stubborn woman I know.”
He closes his eyes and shakes his head once more in disbelief.
Oh, he’s back.  I breathe a long, cleansing sigh of relief.

In transactional analysis terms, Christian has stopped being the Parent and has started being the Child. Rather than be the Parent or Adult, Ana responds by becoming a bigger Child than he is, forcing him to be the Parent again. Thus, Ana manipulates him back to the same Parent/Child dynamic she prefers, not unlike what Leila did earlier.

Of course, Christian manipulates her back, getting her to promise to stay instead of leaving, even temporarily. He actually lets her touch him in the forbidden zone on his body.

Then we get to Christian’s big Gothic secret.

“What is this secret that makes you think I’ll run for the hills? That makes you so determined to believe I’ll go?” I plead, my voice tremulous. “Tell me, Christian, please . . . ”

[…]

He takes a deep breath and swallows. “I’m a sadist, Ana. I like to whip little brown-haired girls like you because you all look like the crack whore—my birth mother. I’m sure you can guess why.” He says it in a rush as if he’s had the sentence in his head for days and days and is desperate to be rid of it.
My world stops. Oh no.

Christian’s problem isn’t that he’s kinky. It’s that he hates himself for being kinky, attributing it to hatred of his birth mother.

“You said you weren’t a sadist,” I whisper, desperately trying to understand . . . make some excuse for him.
“No, I said I was a Dominant. If I lied to you, it was a lie of omission. I’m sorry.”

This is where EL James changes the rules on us. The difference between sadist and dominant (and top) can be fuzzy, but we were lead to believe that Christian’s primary interest was control, but now it seems to be inflicting pain, and all the rules and regulations of the Contract are just excuses for sadism. Of course there can’t be a good relationship here if Christian can’t articulate what he wants. If he wants control, he might enjoy micromanaging Ana’s life. If he wants to see her in extreme sensations, then just ordering her around won’t be enough.

Then it hits me like a wrecking ball. If he’s a sadist, he really needs all that whipping and caning shit. Oh fuck. I put my head in my hands.

EL James also seems to attach a value judgment that dominance is necessarily better than sadism.

“So it’s true,” I whisper, glancing up at him. “I can’t give you what you need.” This is it—this really does mean we are incompatible.

One can only hope, but we still have a book and a half to go.

To be continued.

 

  2 Responses to “The Curious Kinky Person’s Guide to Fifty Shades Darker: Chapter 14, part 1”

  1. “Then it dawns on me afresh that everything he did was to keep me safe, and perhaps Leila, too, because he also cares for her. But how much does he care for her? The question lingers in my head, unwelcome. He says he loves me, but then he was so harsh, throwing me out of my own apartment.”

    Another problem with this is that she claims to understand on the one have that everything he did was for her safety, them immediately doubts his reason for telling her to leave the apartment. It can’t go both ways. In the middle of this is the lingering question about him loving her.

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