Dec 152012
 

Ana is shocked when she discovers that Christian deliberately left hickeys all over her breasts, in order to discourage her from showing her breasts to anyone other than him.

I gape at my reflection. My wrists have a red welt around them from the handcuffs. No doubt they’ll bruise. I examine my ankles—more welts. Holy hell, I look like I’ve been in some sort of accident.

That’s what can happen when you wear handcuffs while doing something strenuous. (I suspect this is a nod to a scene in Twilight when, after consummating her relationship with Edward, Bela awakens covered in bruises.)

Instead of talking about this like adults, Ana responds in kind.

I seethe as fury spikes through me. I can behave like an adolescent, too! Stepping back into the bedroom, I hurl the hairbrush at him, turn, and leave—though not before I see his shocked expression and his lightning reaction as he raises his arm to protect his head so that the brush bounces ineffectively off his forearm and onto the bed.

They fight about this later.

“I don’t like you leaving marks on me. Well, not this many, anyway. It’s a hard limit!” I hiss at him.
“I don’t like you taking your clothes off in public. That’s a hard limit for me,” he growls.

EL James has her characters use the language of BDSM negotiation, but she really doesn’t get it. A hard limit is something that sets off a panic reaction or something else that is intolerable. When you say something is a “hard limit”, this isn’t an excuse to bully or manipulate your partner. If Christian doesn’t want her going topless in public, he should say so, not shift the blame to hypothetical third parties. If the possibility that someone else might see Ana’s nipples provokes that kind of reaction in Christian, that means that he is far more unstable than he appears.

This is also not a good way to negotiate, angrily yelling ultimatums at each other.

Christian apologizes, and Ana recalls that Dr. Flynn told her that Christian is basically an adolescent, emotionally. If Twilight is the fantasy of an adolescent girl in a romance a boy with the maturity of a forty-year-old man, FSOG is apparently the fantasy of a post-college woman meeting an adult man with the maturity of an adolescent.

They exchange more cutesy chitchat over dessert.

Will I ever understand this man? Hmm—this crème brulée  is delicious.

That’s our Ana.

Later, she thinks:

I’ll take a punishment fuck followed by makeup sex any day. I marvel what it is to go to bed with two different men—angry Christian and sweet let-me-make-it-up-to-you-in-any-way-I-can Christian. It’s tricky to decide which of them I like the best.

Anger, I believe, has no place in a BDSM scene, or even in vanilla sex. Ana and Christian’s relationship now sounds unpleasantly like an abuse cycle: periods when Ana is on edge, constantly trying to figure out what Christian wants from her; sudden outbursts; makeup periods, with the lavish gifts; and brief period of calm until the tension starts again. Unfortunately, Ana gets off on both the outbursts and the make-up periods. It’s actually the first period of rising tension that is the problem, with Ana walking on eggshells around Christian, testing his boundaries and then meekly apologizing. Christian is such a ball of ticks and compulsions that it is inevitable that something she does will set him off.

We get another flashback of Ana showing Christian her shaved pubis, hearkening back to the contract and the rules about her personal grooming. Christian shaves her again to his own standards. It’s a little baffling that these books are supposed to be so shocking when so much of the sex scenes are kind of vanilla and pedestrian.

Then it’s back to the class porn as Ana and Christian bum around Europe. Ana’s discomfort at the expensive jewellery and art Christian is buying for her sounds a little like token protest, part of her “I’m just an ordinary humble girl.” I miss Leila and Jack; at least they added some edge to the story. Even Elena would be welcome right about now.

Another cutesy conversation is cut off when Christian gets a call about a suspicious fire in his company’s server room back in Seattle. Yay class warfare! Eat the rich!

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