Jun 092012

Despite the cliffhanger, Christian’s mother visiting is rather anticlimactic. Even though she’s perfectly pleasant, Ana feels self-conscious.

Christian switches into steel-hard business mode, and gives her a copy of the contract.

“This is the contract. Read it, and we’ll discuss it next weekend. May I suggest you do some research, so you know what’s involved.” He pauses. “That’s if you agree, and I really hope you do.” He adds, his tone softer, anxious.


“You’ll be amazed what you can find on the Internet,” he murmurs.

For a change, Christian is doing the right thing. He should let her read the contract, and give her time to process all of this new stuff, before going any further.

Then he gets jealous when he even thinks she’s thinking about Jose.

“I’ll just make a call,” I murmur. I just want to hear Kate’s voice. He frowns.

“The photographer?” His jaw clenches, and his eyes burn. I blink at him. “I don’t like to share, Miss Steele. Remember that.” His quiet, chilling tone is a warning, and with one long, cold look at me, he heads back to the bedroom.

This is, in itself, is a very bad sign. Combined with all of Christian’s other controlling, stalking, jealous and short-tempered actions, it’s a giant, blinking hazard indicator. This is when, at bare minimum, Ana should call him on this, explain that she doesn’t like it when he talks like this, and tell him she won’t stand for it. But really, this is when she should get the hell out of there, even if she is wearing his boxers under her pants.

That Ana takes this without a word, and considers it “aloof” instead of threatening, makes it all the worse.

A few pages later, Ana feels she has to ask permission from Christian to ask her friend Kate about sex and about this situation.

“Talk to her if you must.” He sounds exasperated. “Make sure she doesn’t mention anything to Elliot [his brother, who is dating Kate].”

I’ve been trying to take this book on its own terms, trying to understand the people who think it’s hot and erotic, or who even consider it romantic. But these exchanges have made me wonder if I can do that.

It isn’t even necessary to the premise. If EL James had dialed Christian’s controlling ways down to the level it wasn’t frightening, and dialed up Ana’s backbone up to the point where I wasn’t constantly worried about her, the story would still work.

The only way I can make sense of this is assume that this is a masochistic story, outside the constraints of BDSM. This story is targeted straight at a masochistic fantasy, without restrictions.

The principles of restraint, of negotiation, of consent, are fundamental to BDSM. They are what makes it possible, what makes it not abuse. That Fifty Shades of Grey keeps bringing these principles up and then ignoring them, is more worrying than if the book didn’t even bother.

And just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, we learn about Christian’s introduction to BDSM and sex in general.

“One of my mother’s friends seduced me when I was fifteen…. She had very particular tastes. I was her submissive for six years.” He shrugs…. “So I do know what it involves, Anastasia.” His eyes glow with insight… “I didn’t really have a run-of-the-mill introduction to sex.”

It’s bad enough that mainstream movies like Secretary perpetuate the idea that kinky people are necessarily messed up and the product of abuse as children. Then this comes along.

Just in case I need to say it: Fifteen is a minor. Minors cannot legally consent. Therefore whatever happened between young Christian and this woman was not BDSM. It was abuse. Christian says that, not only does his mother not know about this, but considers this woman a friend.

At least Ana calls it abuse, but it apparently makes him more attractive to her. She’s found the squishy heart inside the steel-hard man, or so she thinks; the master narrative that explains why Christian is the way he is.

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