Nov 112012
 

In this chapter, aliens abduct Christian Grey, remove his brain, replace it with the brain of a competent and responsible dominant and return him to his penthouse. That’s my only real explanation for the change in character. For nearly two books, Christian Grey has been a textbook example of the overly aggressive male dominant, constantly pushing inexperienced Ana into a heavy duty relationship, not to mention waging a campaign to control every aspect of her life.

Now, suddenly, he’s tender, passionate, considerate, patient and reassuring.

Christian pauses outside the playroom.
“You’re sure about this?” he asks, his gaze heated yet anxious.
“Yes,” I murmur, smiling shyly at him.
His eyes soften. “Anything you don’t want to do?”
I’m derailed by his unexpected question, and my mind goes into overdrive. One thought occurs. “I don’t want you to take photos of me.”
He stills, and his expression hardens as he cocks his head to one side and eyes me speculatively.
Oh shit.  I think he’s going to ask me why, but fortunately he doesn’t.
“Okay,” he murmurs.

Weird, isn’t it?

“What do you want to do, Anastasia?” he murmurs, planting a soft chaste kiss at the corner of my mouth, his fingers still grasping my chin.
“It’s your birthday. Whatever you want,” I whisper. He traces his thumb along my lower lip, his brow creased once more.
“Are we in here because you think I want to be in here?” His words are softly spoken, but he regards me intently.
“No,” I whisper. “I want to be in here, too.”

Ana’s still a bit reluctant and nervous, which is understandable. However, a bottom/sub should never say, “Whatever you want” to a top. That’s what Ana said to Christian at the end of book 1, and look how that turned out.

This time, thankfully, Christian exercises restraint and judgment.

“I think you’re underdressed, Miss Steele,” he murmurs. He places the tie around my neck, and slowly but dexterously ties it in what I assume is a fine Windsor knot. As he tightens the knot, his fingers brush the base of my throat and electricity shoots through me, making me gasp. He leaves the wide end of the tie long, long enough so the tip skims my pubic hair.
“You look mighty fine now, Miss Steele,” he says and bends to kiss me gently on my lips. It’s a swift kiss, and I want more, desire spiraling wantonly through my body.
“What shall we do with you now?” he says, and then picking up the tie, he yanks sharply so that I’m forced forward into his arms.

I’ll nitpick and say that a silk necktie around a neck is not a good leash, as there is nothing to prevent it from getting tighter, and the silk is likely to get thinner and present a choking hazard. I understand the symbolic value of such an object, but be mindful of practicalities.

“You just have to say stop. You know that, don’t you?” he whispers against my throat.
I nod, my eyes closed, and relish his lips on me.

I’d prefer a full verbal assent, but this is far better than anything we’ve seen before. In a situation like this, a veteran should frequently check in with his or her rookie. That applies regardless of who is the veteran and who is the rookie.

“Anastasia, these objects.” He holds up the butt plug. “This is a size too big. As an anal virgin, you don’t want to start with this. We want to start with this.” He holds up his pinky finger, and I gasp, shocked. Fingers  . . . there?  He smirks at me, and the unpleasant thought of the anal fisting mentioned in the contract comes to mind.
“Just finger—singular,” he says softly with that uncanny ability he has to read my mind. My eyes dart to his. How does he do that?
“These clamps are vicious.” He prods the nipple clamps. “We’ll use these.” He places a different pair of clamps on the chest. They look like giant black hairpins, but with little jet jewels hanging down. “They’re adjustable,” Christian murmurs, his voice laced with gentle concern.
I blink up at him, wide-eyed. Christian, my sexual mentor. He knows so much more about all this than I do. I’ll never catch up.

Again, here’s Christian doing the right thing, by starting his rookie sub with the light stuff instead of the heavy stuff. Calling them “objects” is a little strange.

“Clear?” he asks.
“Yes,” I whisper, my mouth dry. “Are you going to tell me what you intend to do?”
“No. I’m making this up as I go along. This isn’t a scene, Ana.”

This si where EL James stumbles again. A Scene is basically any BDSM interaction. It doesn’t have to be scripted or planned. There is room for improvisation. Christian can and probably should say, “I’m going to try this with you, okay?”

“How should I behave?”
His brow creases. “However you want to.”
Oh!
“Were you expecting my alter ego, Anastasia?” he asks, his tone vaguely mocking and bemused at once. I blink at him.
“Well, yes. I like him,” I murmur.

This is just confusing. Is there a difference between Christian the dominant and Christian the sadist? One does not exclude the other. When Ana says, “I like him,” does she mean she likes the guy who has been stalking, terrorizing, and non-consensually tormenting her for nearly two books? If Ana is excited by that guy, she’s more messed up than I thought.

“I’m your lover, Anastasia, not your Dom. I love to hear your laugh and your girlish giggle. I like you relaxed and happy, like you are in José’s photos. That’s the girl that fell into my office. That’s the girl I fell in love with.”

This makes no sense at all. Christian can be Ana’s lover and her Dom. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. It’s particularly confusing when Christian says he’s not her Dom, right when they’re in the playroom, with her naked, and he’s picking out the toys to use on her. If he’s not her Dom right now, what is he? EL James seems to think that a Dom’s function is to make his Sub unhappy, but that’s not the case at all.

“But having said all that, I also like to do rude things to you, Miss Steele; and my alter ego knows a trick or two. So, do as you’re told and turn around.” His eyes glint wickedly, and the joy moves sharply south, seizing me tightly and gripping every sinew below my waist. I do as I’m told.

So, is Christian still disassociated from his BDSM impulses? Is it possible that Christian can do “rude things” to Ana and she would still be “relaxed and happy”? This is just incoherent.

There was a time, not very long ago, when I would have been subdued by this threat. I would never have had the nerve to kiss him, unbidden, while he was in this room. I realize now, I’m no longer intimidated by him. It’s a revelation. I grin mischievously, and he smirks at me.

A lot of newbies have the idea that a scene has to be deadly serious, and that if the sub isn’t intimidated by the dom, they aren’t really submissive. Not so. There’s room for joking, fun and pleasure in a scene. Intimidation is something to be avoided. Is EL James saying that real BDSM is dysfunctional and built around cruelty and fear, and if you’re doing what looks like BDSM, but in a fun, pleasurable way, it isn’t BDSM?

Christian proceeds with some bondage, a blindfold and nipple clamps. So far, so good.

“So beautiful,” he murmurs and suddenly he gently pushes an anointed finger inside me . . . there!  Into my backside. Fuck.  It feels alien, full, forbidden . . . but oh . . . so . . . good.

He even gives her some anal stimulation so she has one of those gigantic orgasms.

“All the canes have gone,” I murmur, recalling my distraction from earlier. He tucks my hair behind my ear for the umpteenth time.
“I didn’t think you’d ever get past that hard limit.”
“No, I don’t think I will,” I whisper wide-eyed at him, then find myself glancing over at the whips, paddles and floggers lining the opposite wall. He follows my gaze.
“You want me to get rid of them, too?” He’s amused but sincere.
“Not the crop . . . the brown one. Or that suede flogger, you know.” I flush.
He smiles down at me.
“Okay, the crop and the flogger. Why, Miss Steele, you’re full of surprises.”

This is the negotiation process. Ana likes some things, not others. Shes finally developing the ability to say what she wants and doesn’t want, an essential skill for a sub.

It doesn’t last, though.

“Ana?” He interrupts my thoughts. “Why did you ask me not to take your photo?” His question startles me all the more because his voice is deceptively soft.
Oh . . . shit.  The photos. I stare down at my empty plate, twisting my fingers in my lap.
What can I say? I’d promised myself not to mention that I’d found his version of Readers’
Wives.
“Ana,” he snaps. “What is it?” He makes me jump, and his voice commands me to look at him. When did I think he didn’t intimidate me?
“I found your photos,” I whisper.

And we’re back to Ana flip-flopping between ecstasy and terror. As I’ve said before, it’s not the people who are 24/7 assholes who are the problem, it’s the people who are sweet and charming and exciting until you look at them funny and they explode.

It turns out that Christian’s collection of photos is actually insurance against exposure, though the other subs do know about this. Christian admits this sounds cold, while Ana thinks is “fucked up”.

It isn’t quite clear what this means. If Christian’s concern is his former subs exposing him, then those photos would only support their claims. If he’s trying to defend against accusations of sexual assault or abuse, then I don’t see how those pictures would make a difference either. If Christian is holding these pictures as leverage to make his former subs keep silent, then he’s basically blackmailing them. We’re back to seeing just how controlling and selfish Christian is. Step into the Christian Grey zone, and you might never get out again. (Shades of Persephone and Hades.)

It also underlines just how deeply in the closet Christian is about his kink. He’s not part of any kink scene because he fears exposure, and at least some of that is his own self-loathing. This raises the question of how he met  Leila and his other subs. Presumably they didn’t all stumble into his office like Ana did.

Congratulations, Ana, you’re marrying a paranoid closet case.

We also learn that Leila must have gotten into Christian’s safe and moved the photos. Christian says he will destroy them (what about copies and negatives?).

Christian also has a jealous snit when Ana pops out to the store wearing a short dress he bought for her. Guess the aliens decided they didn’t want his brain and put it back.

Oh, that was exciting. Adrenaline is pounding through my veins, and my heart feels like it wants to exit my chest. But as the elevator descends, so do my spirits. Shit, what have I done?
I have a tiger by the tail. He’s going to be mad when I get back. My subconscious is glaring at me over her half-moon glasses, a willow switch in her hand.

Well, that was a short honeymoon. We’re back to Ana living in fear of Christian. After her trip to the store, she slinks back to Christian and apologizes for going out in public in a short dress.

Instead of the formal contract in book 1, which was restricted to certain periods of time, Ana is now being trained to accept Christian’s control over her 24/7, based on his capacity to reward and punish her. Ana actually has less autonomy, less agency than if she signed that contract back in book 1. Once they are legally wed, Christian will have even more, legally sanctioned authority over her. Right now, the kink is the least troubling aspect of this relationship.

  3 Responses to “The Curious Kinky Person’s Guide to Fifty Shades Darker: Chapter 21”

  1. Hard to believe it gets much worse.

    Why the hell did he buy her certain articles of clothing if he was going to have a problem with her wearing them? It’s like he’s setting her up to fail so he can justify beating her.

    • It’s a minute detail, but Christian didn’t personally pick out the clothes. He used a personal shopper. I think there also may have also been a line in the book about Christian mockingly making a note to himself to give the personal shopper better instructions in the future.

  2. Btw, I think Ana deliberately intended to push his buttons with the short dress. She put it on and commented on how short it was and she speculated that Christian might not approve. She goes to his study in it (…to show it off, really) and when he comments on it, she gets a thrill out of running out of the apartment before he can stop her. It’s all very childish and immature on both of their parts.

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