Nov 052012
 

See part 1.

I keep thinking I’ve hit bottom with this book series, but it keeps on surprising me.

As I mentioned before, EL James makes a distinction between being a dominant and being a sadist, with Christian saying he was a sadist pretending to be a dominant. Why this matters is not clear. It may be that, in EL James’ mind, Christian’s relentless campaign to control every aspect of Ana’s life without her consent is an acceptable sign of love and not perverse, whereas giving and receiving intense sensation (i.e. sadism and masochism), even when consensual, is pathological and perverse. If that doesn’t make sense to you, join the club.

“When you said you loved me, it was a revelation. No one’s ever said it to me before, and it was as if I’d laid something to rest—or maybe you’d laid it to rest, I don’t know. Dr. Flynn and I are still in deep discussion about it.”
Oh.  Hope flares briefly in my heart. Perhaps we’ll be okay. I want us to be okay. Don’t I?  “What does that all mean?” I whisper.
“It means I don’t need it. Not now.”
What?  “How do you know? How can you be so sure?”
“I just know. The thought of hurting you . . . in any real way . . . it’s abhorrent to me.”

This is where things get dicey, particularly Christian’s qualification about “hurting you… in any real way” . Does this mean that before he has been hurting her and the other 15 submissives in a “real way”?

In BDSM, there’s a difference between “hurt” and “harm”, as I’ve discussed previously, and even “hurt” doesn’t generally mean what people think it means. There is also a difference between “sadism” as people usually say it and “sadism” as it is used in BDSM.

It’s possible that up until now, Christian’s involvement in BDSM has been driven by anger and genuine cruelty, and that with somebody he actually cares about, he doesn’t need to do that anymore. It doesn’t follow that he needs to give up BDSM entirely. However, EL James seems to view BDSM as necessarily driven by pathology; Ana’s magic hoohoo removes Christian’s need to punish his mother-surrogates, so he has no reason to do BDSM anymore. If this is Beauty and the Beast, then was the BDSM his beastliness? (This erases all of Christian’s other beastly qualities.)

“I don’t understand. What about rulers and spanking and all that kinky fuckery?”
He runs a hand through his hair and almost smiles but instead sighs ruefully. “I’m talking about the heavy shit, Anastasia. You should see what I can do with a cane or a cat.”
My mouth drops open, stunned. “I’d rather not.”
“I know. If you wanted to do that, then fine . . . but you don’t and I get it. I can’t do all that shit with you if you don’t want to. I told you once before, you have all the power. And now, since you came back, I don’t feel that compulsion, at all.”

I had hoped that Ana and Christian’s relationship might settle into some equilibrium, and that Ana could learn to enjoy some forms of BDSM play, but now seems that we’re moving towards the idea that BDSM is not only the obstacle to Christian and Ana’s relationship (disregarding everything else that is wrong with it), and that Christian needs to be cured.

EL James seems to say that BDSM, up to a certain level of intensity, is acceptable, mere “kinky fuckery”, and beyond that level is pathological. Magically resolve Christian’s mother issues, and he feels no need to go beyond that point. There are several problems with this thinking.

First, it draws an arbitrary distinction between healthy and unhealthy BDSM. This is the flaw with the Safe, Sane and Consensual (SSC) philosophy, which was partially superceded by RACK (Risk Aware Consensual Kink), which says that what is and isn’t acceptable varies with the situation and the parties involved. You can’t draw a line in the sand and say, “Spanking is always SSC. Ageplay or breathplay are never SSC.”

That Christian wanted to do what he considers “hard stuff”, things Ana presumably doesn’t want to do, doesn’t make him a bad or sick person. It just means his desires are not compatible with Ana. Instead of working out a way they can relate with mutual enjoyment, we get this weird struggle to coerce the other person into what they think is the right way to be.

Christian is also being disingenuous about Ana having all the power, given his compulsion to push her limits on every front. He, and this book, operate on fundamental bad faith.

“You’re still here. I thought you would be out of the door by now,” he whispers.
“Why? Because I might think you’re a sicko for whipping and fucking women who look like your mother? Whatever would give you that impression?” I hiss at him, lashing out.He blanches at my harsh words.

This is Ana being unfair and prejudiced, and Christian’s inability to accept his own kink means he can’t disagree with her.

Ana’s misogyny kicks in, and she takes the easy route of blaming Christian’s mother:

And unbidden I recall the photograph in his childhood bedroom, and in that moment realize why the woman in it looked so familiar. She looked like him. She must have been his biological mother.
His easy dismissal of her comes to mind: No one of consequence . . .  She’s responsible for all this . . . and I look like her . . . Fuck!

[…]

This is all so fucked-up. He’s reassured me about Leila, but now I know with more certainty than ever how she was able to give him his kicks. The thought is wearying and unpalatable. I am so tired of all this.

You and me both, honey.

Ana tries to exert control over the conversation.

This is all so fucked-up. He’s reassured me about Leila, but now I know with more certainty than ever how she was able to give him his kicks. The thought is wearying and unpalatable. I am so tired of all this.
“Christian, I’m exhausted. Can we discuss this tomorrow? I want to go to bed.”

Ana, and the book itself, can’t tell the difference between leaving forever and leaving temporarily to think about things.

“Don’t leave me,” he whispers.
“Oh, for crying out loud— no!  I am not going to go!” I shout and it’s cathartic. There, I’ve said it. I am not leaving.

And then Christian proposes marriage.

Recall that this chapter opened with Ana thinking about taking a break from Christian, so she can think things out in the aftermath of the Leila situation (which happened only a few hours ago). The last thing Christian wants Ana to do is actually think about any of what’s happened. Submitting to her didn’t work, neither did begging, so he plays the trump card. Like Lovelace in Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa, he believes that marriage solves all problems by wiping the slate clean and pardoning everything that happened before.

Do I need to remind you that Ana has known Christian for less than a month, and they have only been back together for at most a week? And that Ana has almost zero sexual experience before meeting Christian? And that these people don’t act like any sane person?

Ana reacts with laughter, acknowledging the absurdity of the situation. Thankfully, she doesn’t agree to this, but she doesn’t turn him down either. Then we’re back to Christian’s food issues.

Just when they’re acting like normal people, Ana asks what Christian did with Leila in the apartment. With most people this would be a reasonable question, but with Ana it’s probably driven by jealousy.

Christian’s mouth flattens into a line, and he hesitates. “We talked, and I gave her a bath.” His voice is hoarse, and he continues quickly when I make no response. “And I dressed her in some of your clothes. I hope you don’t mind. But she was filthy.”
Holy fuck.  He bathed her?
What an inappropriate thing to do.

(Note that many of Christian and Ana’s most intimate moments have involved bathing.)

When Christian went into dominant mode, Leila had a gun and had invaded Ana’s apartment. This was a method of getting control of Leila and getting Ana out of danger. Going beyond that, and especially bathing her, went over the line. It’s topping from the bottom, like rewarding a child for throwing a tantrum. It suggests that Christian is more easily manipulated than you might think, and that he still had feelings for Leila, or at least regards her as his responsibility.

Ana flips out, and for once I’m on her side.

“Don’t. It doesn’t mean anything. It was like caring for a child, a broken, shattered child,” he mutters.
What the hell would he know about caring for a child? This was a woman he had a very full-on, deviant sexual relationship with.

There’s that word “deviant” again. Ana’s prejudices are still clouding the issues.

Ana doesn’t leave him, but she does go to bed alone in a huff. Remember, this chapter started with her wanting to get some perspective away from Christian, but now, even after all these revelations, she still can’t just walk away, even temporarily.

 

 

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

  1. The bath in the apartment is odd. I suspect Christian did something to Leila that would result in jail, and he was trying to find a way to keep her from spilling the truth. He had control before Ana was out of the apartment, and not only did he not call the cops, but he bathed her and put her in Ana’s clothes. Considering Ana is as small as a child next to him, I’m bothered about him going for women who are practically children in size. In the spite-fic I’m writing, I insult his “manhood” in the second chapter, just in passing.

  2. I’m at the point where I want to swat the author’s hands with my psychology degrees and scream “No!”

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