Jun 212012
 

Before we go any further, I want to go on record about a few things.

First, I don’t like the term “mommyporn” that is being applied to the Fifty Shades trilogy. Mommies have as much right to sexual pleasure as anybody else, and they don’t need snobs looking down at them for their interests.

Second, I don’t like the judgment that, because this series was originally Twilight fanfiction, it is automatically and obviously subliterate trash. I’ve enjoyed reading fanfiction, and written and posted it too. Lots of fanfiction writers have graduated to writing professional fiction.

The relationship between original fiction and derivative fiction is a complex one, and worthy of at least a few posts, but isn’t really in the purview of this blog. Suffice to say, if a writer alters his or her fan work enough to not be blatant plagiarism, I say go ahead and publish  it (or at least try). If by some fluke the work becomes a bestseller, well, ride that train.

If I could say anything to the millions of people who have bought millions of copies of these books, it is that there are BDSM erotica/romance books out there that are so much better in every way than this, and please give the authors and publishers of those books some of the financial support you’ve given to EL James.

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Jun 192012
 

Alone in Ana and Kate’s duplex, Christian and Ana have a face to face. They squabble over the antique books (like they’re the problem), and Ana begins to stand up for herself by saying she’ll donate them to charity. Then she immediately backs down.

“I’ll think about it,” I murmur, I don’t want to disappoint him, and his words come back to me. I want you to want to please me.
“Don’t think, Anastasia. Not about this.” His tone is quiet and serious.

Christian’s constant urging for Ana to stop thinking wouldn’t so troubling if she had ever started thinking about her sexuality or her relationship.

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Jun 182012
 

EL James opens this chapter with Ana and Christian finally getting to it, then pulls the “it was all a dream” scam. Clearly, Ana fantasizes about kink, and has at least some degree of interest in BDSM. This does not, however, mean that she should accept Christian’s proposal.

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Jun 172012
 

Earlier in this book, I was intrigued by the possibility that Christian is unwilling or unable have vanilla relationships, and that the consent principles of BDSM might actually provide a structure that would contain his controlling and obsessive-compulsive tendencies. Christian’s controlling tendencies would be the problem, and the consent and negotiation ethics of BDSM would be the solution, letting Ana and Christian work out a way they could have a relationship.

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Jun 162012
 

“And please, let’s try it for three months. If it’s not for you then, you can walk away anytime.”

“Three months?” I’m feeling railroaded. I take another large sip of wine and treat myself to another oyster. I could learn to like these.

That’s because Ana is being railroaded. The all-or-nothing offer and the display of his wealthy lifestyle and constant flattery are all high-pressure sales tactics. Ana, unfortunately, seems to be falling for all of them.

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Jun 152012
 

There’s an obscenely rich guy I’ve just met and he wants some kind of strange kinky sexual relationship, in which I don’t get a say in things.

That’s how Ana thinks of her relationship, and it completely misreads the situation. It continues this book’s systematic erasure of Ana’s knowledge, dignity, intelligence, agency and responsibility. It’s what she thinks of saying to her mother, but doesn’t. She doesn’t even mention she’s met someone.

More emails. Christian sends her the dictionary definition of “submissive”. (Even if Ana doesn’t own a computer, wouldn’t an English Lit major have access to a dictionary?) Ana responds with the definition of “compromise”. They then argue over the logistics of their dinner date, such as whether Ana drives her own car. She thinks, “I need a means of escape.” Not a good thing to think when you’re meeting someone for dinner.

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Jun 132012
 

After thinking things over a bit, Ana semi-seriously sends Christian an email breaking things off.

As if Ana chanted his name into a mirror five times, Christian Grey just appears in her room, and short-circuits any discussion with Ana by moving directly to sex and light bondage. This time he actually ties her to the headboard.

Do I need to repeat that silk neckties are not good for bondage?

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Jun 122012
 

At long last we get to the infamous contract. It’s pretty lengthy, and I suspect that like a lot of legalese, such as website terms of service, the readers of this book just breeze through it.

The problem with BDSM contracts is that they aren’t legally binding (unlike the NDA which Ana signed earlier). They’re social agreements, not legal documents. Like a lot of BDSM, master/slave contracts are about the trappings, or signifiers, of authority, but divorced from real authority. A person may be addressed by a title, but that title doesn’t matter to anybody except the submissive. Quite literally, the power of the government depends on the consent of the governed. All of this legalese is interesting, and adds to the mise en scene of the interaction between Ana and Christian, but it isn’t really necessary.

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Jun 092012
 


The morning after, Christian’s hangups about wasted food come up over breakfast with Ana. Kate calls and checks up on Ana.

This is another worrisome moment. Because of the non-disclosure agreement she signed without reading, Ana isn’t sure how much she can tell Kate about her night with Christian. It’s hard not to feel that there is a subtle process of isolation at work, with Christian introducing Ana to this new world with new rules, and Ana being legally prohibited from talking about them with anybody else and getting a second opinion or reality check. Again, there’s a creepy sense that Ana just doesn’t know enough to be at all concerned about the patterns of this relationship.

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Jun 012012
 

Christian flies Ana in his private helicopter to his private building in Seattle. Christian keeps dangling his Gothic secret before Ana, who keeps batting at it like a not-terribly-bright cat pawing at a string.

They also talk about Thomas Hardy’s novel Tess of the D’Urbervilles, which is supposed to be familiar to both of them. Not only do I not think either of them have actually read it, I wonder if E.L. James the author has read it either.

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