Dec 112012
 

I have a half-baked theory that the E.L. James we see in interviews is actually a J.T. Leroy-like front for the real author of Master of the Universe/Fifty Shades: a 15-year-old girl with serious mood and identity disorders. That’s the only way I can explain these books.

This chapter opens with the Expander flipping out because Ana took her top off on a French beach.

“I was on my front. I must have turned over in my sleep.” I whisper weakly in my defense.
His eyes blaze with fury. He reaches down, scoops up my bikini top from his sun lounger and tosses it at me.
“Put this on!” he hisses.
“Christian, no one is looking.”
“Trust me. They’re looking. I’m sure Taylor and the security crew are enjoying the show!” he snarls.

Never mind that many or most of the women around her are already topless, or that they’re her breasts and it’s not really his business.

“Yes,” Christian snarls. “And some sleazy fucking paparazzi could get a shot of you, too. Do you want to be all over the cover of Star  magazine? Naked this time?”

Christian in a foul mood makes Ana meek and subservient.

He’s bristling with tension and anger. My heart sinks. Every other woman on the beach is topless—it’s not that big of a crime. In fact I look odd with my top on. I sigh inwardly, my spirits sinking. I thought Christian would see the funny side . . . sort of . . . maybe if I’d stayed on my front, but his sense of humor has evaporated.
“Please don’t be mad at me,” I whisper, taking his book and BlackBerry from him and placing them in my backpack.
“Too late for that,” he says quietly—too quietly.

[…]

He remains silent, brooding and bad-tempered, and it’s all my fault.

Ana’s treatment by her husband and his security team borders on infantilization. When they take a jet-ski back to their yacht, Ana has to wear a lifejacket while she clings to Christian’s back, and Christian doesn’t even let her put it on or take it off herself.

Worse, Ana goes along meekly with all of it, raising nary a peep as she is handled by Christian and his security team like a child or invalid. She even meekly apologizes for letting anybody see her breasts.

On the boat:

“You think I’m going to punish you?” Christian’s voice is silky.
“Do you want to?”
“Yes.”
“How?”
“I’ll think of something. Maybe when you’ve had your drink.” And it’s a sensual threat.

The lack of clearly defined boundaries in this relationship is disturbing. As we’ve seen before, Ana is genuinely frightened of Christian, constantly trying to guess his mood and intentions, and hoping that his mood will change in her favour.

This kind of thinking has no place in a vanilla or a kink relationship. Ana’s real fear should not lead into a BDSM scene. There should be a clear distinction between play “punishment” and real punishment, and there is no indication that these people have negotiated a relationship in which she has consented to letting him have that kind of authority over her. Christian just assumes he has it, and Ana accepts it without a second thought.

“You want to be?”
How does he know? “Depends,” I mutter, flushing.
“On what?” He hides his smile.
“If you want to hurt me or not.”
His mouth presses into a hard line, humor forgotten. He leans forward and kisses my forehead.
“Anastasia, you’re my wife, not my sub. I don’t ever want to hurt you. You should know that by now. Just . . . just don’t take your clothes off in public. I don’t want you naked all over the tabloids. You don’t want that, and I’m sure your mom and Ray don’t want that either.”

E.L. James keep using these categories, “wife”, “sub”, “dominant”, “sadist”, as if they are mutually exclusive. She doesn’t seem to grasp that a wife can be a sub part of the time, within a limited time and space. It’s also strange that Christian says Ana is not his sub, even though she definitely submits to him in the bedroom, and in general. Being a sub does not mean being a total doormat 24/7.

Also, here’s where Christian talks to her like she’s his naughty daughter instead of his wife and a grown woman. Christian even shames her into obedience by saying, “What would your mother and father say?” Ana immediately thinks of what her step-father would say and “mentally castigates” herself. It’s not surprising, really. Not only is Christian older than Ana, he’s had a life. Ana hasn’t: she’s constantly impressed and flustered by things. She even had next to zero sexual experience before she met Christian.

In a negotiated relationship, this degree of control could be quite enjoyable, but this is not negotiated. Add the lack of clear boundaries in this relationship, and it’s a big problem. Add in the fact that being Mrs. Christian Grey means living in a fishbowl, and it’s a disaster. Is this the mythical Alpha Male of romance novels? If so, he needs mood stabilizers and a restraining order.

We flash back to Christian and Ana discussing their upcoming wedding. (For these characters, “discuss” doesn’t mean what it means for most people.) Surprisingly after the non-disclosure agreement in the first book, Christian doesn’t want Ana to sign any kind of prenuptial agreement.

“No prenup!” Christian almost shouts at him and broodingly goes back to reading his paper, ignoring everyone else at the table. They look alternately at me then him . . . then anywhere but at the two of us.
“Christian,” I murmur. “I’ll sign anything you and Mr. Grey want.” Jeez, it wouldn’t be the first time he’s made me sign something. Christian looks up and glares at me.

Why do I feel like every conversation, no matter how trivial, with Christian Grey goes like this?

Christian gazes at me, his eyes bleak. “Anastasia, if you leave me, you might as well take everything. You left me once before. I know how that feels.”
Holy Fuck! “That was different,” I whisper, moved by his intensity. “But . . .
you might want to leave me.” The thought makes me sick.
He snorts and shakes his head with mock disgust.
“Christian, you know I might do something exceptionally stupid—and you . . .” I glance down at my knotted hands, pain lancing through me, and I’m unable to finish my sentence. Losing Christian . . . fuck.
“Stop. Stop now. This subject is closed, Ana. We’re not discussing it any more. No prenup. Not now—not ever.”

In the first book, their relationship was all about rules and contractual obligations. Now, it is all about feelings. Christian relies on emotional blackmail to keep Ana from walking off with half of his empire, and the possibility that he might not live happily ever after with Ana never occurs to him, despite that he probably has sexual needs that Ana may never satisfy.

Back on the yacht, Christian and Ana are in their fight-followed-by-sex cycle. They go belowdecks and Christian breaks out the handcuffs and blindfold.

We’ve never used handcuffs. I glance quickly and nervously at the bed. Where the hell is he going to attach those? He turns and gazes steadily at me, his eyes dark and luminous.
“These can be quite painful. They can bite into the skin if you pull too hard.”
He holds up one pair. “But I really want to use them on you now.”
Holy fuck. My mouth goes dry.

Christian lets Ana handle them, and doesn’t immediately pounce on her with them, but I would still prefer for him to get a definite, unequivocal “Yes” before proceeding. Introducing a new toy to a novice should be done with a bit of delicacy.

Also, despite their ubiquity in BDSM imagery, handcuffs are an advanced toy. They’re much less safe than a pair of leather cuffs. As Christian correctly points out, they can pinch nerves and blood vessels, and losing the key can be embarrassing at least. I should also mention that good handcuffs should have the locking mechanism that prevents the cuff from tightening; don’t skimp and get the cheap ones that don’t double-lock.

“Do you want to play?” he says, his voice low, and everything in my body heads south as desire unfurls deep in my belly.
“Yes,” I breathe.
He smiles. “Good.” He plants a featherlight kiss on my forehead. “We’re going to need a safe word.”
What?

After more than two books, now he brings up safewords.

To be continued…

***

Postscript: I recently received a review copy of Fifty Writers on Fifty Shades of Grey. I intend to do a deep read of it and post my review, but I want to blog through the trilogy itself before I tackle the commentary. I don’t want my thinking influenced by other writers on the same text.

 

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

  1. I’ve never read the Shades of Grey trilogy and after reading your guide, I don’t think I ever want to. Except out of morbid curiosity, maybe.

    How can anyone read the part about Ana being topless and not think of it as abusive? As unpleasant as she can be, every time Christian gets angry at her I just want to scream at her to get out. For some reason, I have this pervasive feeling that all these scenes are leading up to something, and the climax of the book will be about Ana finally trying to leave and Christian then poisoning her and keeping her in his bed so they can be together forever.

  2. I keep expecting this to turn into an episode of CSI…….

  3. The lack of a prenup is less about trust than it is about him being so used to getting his way that he can’t imagine things not working when his whim at the time is for things to be fine forever.

    Also gotta love how love meant not needing a safe word, and now it does. Considering his history of ignoring her when she has said no, none of it matters anyway.

  4. “I have a half-baked theory that the E.L. James we see in interviews is actually a J.T. Leroy-like front for the real author of Master of the Universe/Fifty Shades: a 15-year-old girl with serious mood and identity disorders. That’s the only way I can explain these books.”

    I definitely agree. That’s sound as the only explanation to me as well. Wich makes this books even more creepy.

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