Dec 302012
 

We get the backstory on Christian and Elena, and it’s straight out of a Penthouse letter.

“It was a hot summer day. I was working hard.” He snorts and shakes his head, suddenly amused. “It was backbreaking work shifting that rubble. I was on my own, and Ele—Mrs. Lincoln appeared out of nowhere and brought me some lemonade. We exchanged small talk, and I made some smart-ass remark . . . and she slapped me. She slapped me so hard.” Unconsciously, his hand moves to his face and he caresses his cheek, his eyes clouding at the memory.

[…]

“And you know something, Ana? My world came into focus. Sharp and clear.
Everything. It was exactly what I needed. She was a breath of fresh air. Making the decisions, taking all that shit away from me, letting me breathe.”

I can sort of understand that, a poorly socialized young man hooking up with an older woman. He may have also found the structure of a dom-sub relationship appealing compared to the unspoken assumptions of his adoptive family.

He nods. “And it’s put everything into perspective for me. When I was younger, Elena was the center of my world. There was nothing I wouldn’t do for 482/551
her. And she did a lot for me. She stopped my drinking. Made me work hard at school . . . You know, she gave me a coping mechanism I hadn’t had before, allowed me to experience things that I never thought I could.”

[…]

“If you grow up with a wholly negative self-image, thinking you’re some kind of reject, an unlovable savage, you think you deserve to be beaten.”

This is an idea that needs to be shot dead once and for all, that masochists are driven by guilt or self-loathing or abuse.

“For her that side of our relationship was about sex and control and a lonely woman finding some kind of comfort with her boy toy.”
“But you like control,” I whisper.
“Yes. I do. I always will, Ana. It’s who I am. I surrendered it for a brief while. Let someone make all my decisions for me. I couldn’t do it myself—I wasn’t in a fit state. But through my submission to her, I found myself and found the strength to take charge of my life . . .  take control and make my own decisions.”

Being submissive does not mean letting someone else make all the decisions for you. This seems to underlie EL James’ view of submission, that Christian’s relationship with Elena was total surrender, and that Leila and the other subs’ relationship with Christian is the same.

At the same time, this sounds like Elena had a positive influence on Christian, though only by helping him towards his goal of being a dominant, and his very normative relationship with Ana. Still, the narrative persists in painting her as a monster. We learn that, when Christian followed Ana all the way to Georgia (arguably the most intrusive and threatening thing he’s ever done), it was Elena’s idea, hoping to sabotage their relationship.

“That I was head over heels in love with you. She encouraged me to go down to Georgia to see you, and I’m glad she did. She thought you’d freak out and leave. Which you did.”

This plays into the misogyny that drives this story: every woman who is not already locked into a heteronormative relationship (or a lesbian) is competing with Ana for Christian.

“She thought I needed all the trappings of the lifestyle I enjoyed.”
“The Dom?” I whisper.
He nods. “It enabled me to keep everyone at arm’s length, gave me control, and kept me detached, or so I thought. I’m sure you’ve worked out why,” he adds softly.

Dominance, or BDSM in general, need not be an obstacle for intimacy or emotional connection.

“Do you miss it?” I whisper.
“Miss it?”
“That lifestyle.”
“Yes, I do.”
Oh!
“But only insofar as I miss the control it brings….”

Does this mean that Christian has been de-kinked, or vanilla-fied? That he has no more BDSM desires? We’ll see.

Christian also says that Elena made a pass at him when he was drinking with her, and he recoiled from her. The rules of heteronormative and monogamy-normative romance say that the male lead must never even think about another woman once he and the female lead have had sex. It’s not enough for Christian to be committed to Ana. He has to find proximity to Elena or any other woman repulsive.

This is the second big epiphany Christian has had, and it seems to have removed his libido. Ana actually has a chance to get sexually frustrated. Christian is still a patronizing control freak, refusing to let Ana go to work and staying in to keep her out of trouble.

After all that high (melo)drama, we’re back to Lifestyles of the Rich and Formerly Kinky. More class porn as we see their new home, and I can’t help noticing that there are metal gates and a keypad at the entrance. Looks like Blip or Junior or whatever will be raised in a high-security environment with carefully screened friends. Dr. Flynn is going to be well paid for a long time.

We get some more deranged backstory. Elena’s husband put up the bail to get Jack Hyde out of jail, and Christian retaliates by buying his company. Also, Elena’s husband also beat her. EL James has been making Elena out as a monster for several books, but now we’re supposed to have sympathy for her? And we’re supposed to view a guy who’s only been mentioned a few times as the real master villain of all this?

He brushes his lips against mine. “I will do anything to keep you safe. Keep my family safe. Keep this little one safe,” he murmurs and splays his hand out over my belly in a gentle caress.

As I said before, it’s all there in Godfather II.

Another vanilla sex scene. They talk about kink.

“You know, you’re very bossy when we have sex.”
“Are you complaining?”
“No. I’m just wondering . . . you said you missed it.”
He stills, gazing at me. “Sometimes,” he whispers.
Oh. “Well, we’ll have to see what we can do about that,” I murmur and kiss him lightly on his lips, curling around him like a vine. Images of us together, in the playroom; the Tallis, the table, on the cross, shackled to the bed . . . I love his kinky fuckery—our kinky fuckery. Yes. I can do that stuff. I can do that for him, with him. I can do that for me.  My skin tingles as I remember the riding crop.
“I like to play, too,” I murmur, and glancing up, I’m treated to his shy smile.

So is Christian de-kinked or not? That “Sometimes” leaves a lot unsaid.

Back home, Ana initiates a BDSM Scene with Christian.

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