The Curious Kinky Person’s Guide to Fifty Shades of Grey, Chapter 11
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.
I was going to attempt to parse out the contract and see if there are any loopholes that might get Ana in trouble, for example, can she actually get out of the terms of the contract, but it ultimately doesn’t matter. It’s a mutual agreement between them that either party can break any time. However, I’m not sure that Ana understands this.
Again, Christian has his foot epoxied to the accelerator of the car and accelerator welded to the floor. For a person whose entire BDSM experience consists of 20 minutes of light bondage (i.e. Ana), going direct to three months of heavy D/s is way, way too much. Why not start slow? Why not structure the book around Ana’s gradual initiation? Obviously, this parallels the source text, Twilight, in which sex between Bella and Edward is an all-or-nothing proposition.
See also my earlier posts about the difference between “punishment” and punishment.
Finally, we get to safewords, something that has been conspicuously absent so far in this relationship. Safewords are words people in BDSM use to give unambiguous statements that something is wrong. In this case, Christian specifies two safewords: Yellow and Red, to indicate different levels of problem. This is actually fairly common.
IMHO, safewords have a symbolic or conceptual value in addition to their practical utility. They represent the sacred trust between people within the BDSM scene, and the power each person has to stop it. You don’t question a safeword. You also don’t take it as blaming or criticizing. A top/dominant who does everything right can still have a bottom/submissive safeword, and that is not anybody’s fault.
After that, it’s mostly Christian’s picky details about Ana’s sleep, diet, clothing, etc. Some submissives would find this kind of thing gratifying; others, annoying.
One point that caught my attention is that Ana must be sexually monogamous with Christian, but Christian is under no such restriction. It seems to be an unspoken assumption in this book that Ana does not have to deal with any sexual competition from other woman, which requires that many men be interested in her and only her. This gets back to the indirect exertion of power discussed previously.
In the appendix, there’s the kind of checklist of sexual activities that are common in these kinds of agreements. This is something that any person involved in BDSM should write out. If you poke around on the Internet, you can dig up lists to guide you through the process. However, Ana just doesn’t have enough experience or BDSM, or of sex in general, to know how to fill this out properly.
This becomes more or less moot because Ana, finally, puts on the brakes and decides she doesn’t want this. Moments later, she’s getting aroused just thinking about him.
This book presents Ana with a false dilemma: either she can submit to Christian’s intimidating demands and be with him, or she can be alone. (Actually, her “inner goddess” semi-seriously says that it’s either this or grow old and be a cat lady.) She never considers there are other options. She can negotiate her BDSM relationship with Christian down to something she’s comfortable with. She can walk away and find somebody who isn’t so demanding. This is not a Jane Austen novel in which she has only so many years and so many eligible men before she is condemned to a life of spinsterhood.
Ana wakes up to find Christian has sent her another expensive gift of a laptop. So much for letting her stop and think about this. Technically, this is a loan, so it isn’t really hers, but his. If I was Ana, I’d be worried that it’s full of spyware.
Christian and Ana start emailing each other, though short, cute communications are more suitable for IM chat. He also has to tell her how to research BDSM. (Isn’t she a literature student, who would know how to research things on her own?)
Ana realizes she needs to think.