Dec 232012
 

I didn’t sign on for this. I thought I would be reading what amounted to a romantic comedy with kink. Instead I’ve been drawn into something more like a Gothic psychodrama about a weak-willed, not terribly bright woman who married a psychopathic billionaire, with a sprinkling of BDSM scenes here and there.

Well, nobody put me up to this, so I can’t really complain, and it is too late to quit now anyway. Onward.

We open on Ana returning home from work and Christian sex-ambushing her.

“I understand you have issues, Mrs. Grey,” he says silkily, and he pulls something from the back pocket of his jeans. I can’t tear my gaze from his, but hear him unfold a piece of paper. He holds it up, and glancing briefly in its direction, I recognize my e-mail. My gaze returns to his, as his eyes blaze bright with anger.
“Yes, I have issues,” I whisper, feeling breathless. I need distance if we’re going to discuss this. But before I can step back, he leans down and runs his nose along mine. My eyes flutter to a close as I welcome his unexpected, gentle touch.

To paraphrase the Canadian band Pursuit of Happiness, “Sex is a weapon/but only he’s allowed to use it.”

It’s said that a couple shouldn’t go to bed mad. They shouldn’t do BDSM either. As I said before, real feelings like anger or fear, or real power imbalances, have no place in a BDSM scene either. Christian is giving Ana a huge mixed message, dressed for seduction, but speaking about obedience and expressing anger.

“You know why.” His tone carries a warning ring.
“Because I went out with Kate?”
“Because you went back on your word, and you defied me, putting yourself at unnecessary risk.”
“Went back on my word? Is that how you see it?” I gasp, ignoring the rest of his sentence.

We could talk about regimes of dom/sub discipline and what happens when real-world contingencies interfere, whether it is being stuck in traffic or an attempted kidnapping, but none of that really applies to this situation because Ana never explicitly put herself under such a regime.

Words fail me. I realize I don’t know what to say. I am momentarily catapulted back to the argument over our vows. I never promised to obey you, Christian.  But I hold my tongue, because deep down I’m glad he came back. In spite of his fury, I’m glad he’s here in one piece, angry and smoldering in front of me.

Christian just can’t stop using the high pressure tactic of acting as if their relationship is the way he wants it to be. Ana is just too meek to say directly that she doesn’t want that. Both assume that if they stay in their current position, the other will eventually give up and come around. Christian may also be using this situation as a trumped up a justification to play harder than Ana wants as punishment, because he’s tired of training wheels BDSM. Ultimately, he’s using a combination of actual threats and emotional blackmail to get what he wants.

Christian turns on a dime and says he’s angry, but doesn’t know how to deal with it.

“I don’t know how to deal with this anger. I don’t think I want to hurt you,” he says, his eyes wide and wary. “This morning, I wanted to punish you, badly and—” He stops, lost for words I think, or too afraid to say them.
“You were worried you’d hurt me?” I finish his sentence for him, not believing that he’d hurt me for a minute, but relieved, too. A small vicious part of me feared it was because he didn’t want me anymore.
“I didn’t trust myself,” he says quietly.
“Christian, I know you’d never hurt me. Not physically, anyway.” I clasp his head between my hands.

What a lovely couple. The only way Christian’s actions make sense is that he’s trying different tactics to retain control of Ana. That he was in seduction mode at the beginning of this scene suggests that he really intended to punish her, and that he was looking forward to it. It’s worth noting that Christian’s first paternal figure was his mother’s exploitative pimp.

“Do you?” he asks, and there’s skepticism in his voice.
“Yes. I knew what you said was an empty, idle threat. I know you’re not going to beat the shit out of me.”
“I wanted to.”
“No you didn’t. You just thought you did.”
“I don’t know if that’s true,” he murmurs.

That’s an awfully big gamble for Ana, assuming that Christian is a paper tiger. This entire scene is hopelessly confused, as if EL James herself can’t figure out a way out of this situation she created. Christian seems fully intent on punishing Ana, even eager, but then she says he doesn’t really want to do that. So which is it? The simplest explanation is that he’s angry about the situation, about the threat he can’t control, and he’s used to being able to vent his anger at submissives. Ana’s the closest thing he has to a submissive right now, so he perversely justifies venting his anger by wanting to punish her for her disobedience, but she’s not masochistic or submissive in that way.

Is this what’s been worrying him? That he’ll hurt me? Why do I have more faith in him than he has in himself? I don’t understand, surely we’ve moved on.

The problem isn’t Christian doesn’t want to hurt her. He obviously does want to hurt her, but he’s constantly bumping up against the fact that Ana doesn’t want to be hurt, and that leaves him with no way to vent.

I just want to repeat that submissives are not, or at least should not be, punching bags for dominants who need to vent anger. (There’s a gag in the James Bond film Die Another Day: a bad guy is kicking the crap out of a boxing heavy bag before he is called away. He says, “I need a new anger counsellor.” A flunky unzips the heavy bag and pulls out an unconscious man.) Anger throws off empathy, judgment and control, and dominants need all three.

Christian goes back to seduction mode, while Ana tries to get him to talk. He grudgingly reveals that Jack had information about the entire Grey family on his hard drive, then switches to his other obsession, food, to distract Ana. This works.

Christian takes her into the kitchen and feeds her blindfolded. (Somebody’s seen Nine and a Half Weeks, another story of a woman in a sadomasochistic relationship with an unstable man.) As kink play goes, this is pretty mild, harmless stuff. My only problem with it is that it continues the “the infantilization of Ana” theme. In itself, that is just fine, but it is part of Christian’s ongoing campaign to reduce her to a dress-up doll that encompasses her entire life, not the bounded circle of a BDSM scene.

Christian blindfolds her with “a plum-colored silk scarf out of the back pocket of his jeans. It matches my dress.” I strongly suspect that EL James does not know about hankie flagging, a custom that originated in gay leathermen. Colors indicated particular sexual kinks (black is heavy BDSM, red is fisting, and plum or purple is needle play, which has not appeared in this book). Wearing them on the right side of the body indicates you are a bottom/submissive, on the left that you are a top/dominant. Hankie codes are still used these days, and not just by gay men, but more as a tradition than for any practical purpose.

Ana still objects to being forcefed over having a long, long overdue conversation, but just gives in when Christian steamrollers over her.

I realize that this is his game—the slow seduction of his wife. I thought he was mad, and now . . . ? This man, my husband, is so confusing. But this is how I like him. Playful. Fun. Sexy as hell. He’s given me some answers, but I’m greedy.

Way to stand your ground, girl.

So, several pages of foodplay later, he takes her to the playroom.

I comply, and he pulls my dress over my head and discards it on the floor, leaving me in my sandals, panties, and bra. His eyes blaze as he grasps both my hands and raises them over my head. He blinks once and tilts his head to one side, and I know he’s asking for my permission. What is he going to do to me?  I swallow, then nod, and a trace of an admiring, almost proud, smile touches his lips. He clips my wrists into the leather cuffs on the bar above and produces the scarf once more.

I would appreciate these moments of asking for consent in the BDSM scenes, if it weren’t for the fact that Christian has no respect for Ana’s boundaries or preferences in any other context.

Christian has her blindfolded and her ankles and wrists bound to the St. Andrew’s cross and starts teasing her. Ana’s never felt a vibrator before. This is Christian’s new form of punishment for her alleged disobedience, bringing her to the brink of orgasm, stopping and building her up again.

I can’t help but feel I’m being punished. I’m helpless and he’s ruthless. Tears spring to my eyes. I don’t know how far he’s going to take this.

“Please,” I whisper once more.
But he gazes down at me, implacable. He’s just going to continue. For how long? Can I play this game? No. No. No—I can’t do this.  I know he’s not going to stop. He’s going to continue to torture me. His hand travels down my body once more. No . . .  And the dam bursts—all the apprehension, the anxiety, and the fear from the last couple of days overwhelming me anew as tears spring to my eyes. I turn away from him. This is not love. It’s revenge.
“Red,” I whimper. “Red. Red.” The tears course down my face.

Whoa! Ana actually safeworded?!?! Will Christian honor this?

  One Response to “The Curious Kinky Person’s Guide to Fifty Shades Freed, Chapter 11, part 1”

  1. “I turn away from him. This is not love. It’s revenge.”

    That is heartbreaking.

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