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?
Christian starts to take off her shoes, to which Ana says, “No.”
Now, with a rookie sub who has not explicitly established a safeword, you do not just ignore a “No”, even if it is not a safeword. I’d say that you only disregard a “no” if you and your partner have explicitly established that they like to put up verbal resistance. Just as one of the principal precepts of medical ethics is “First, do no harm”, one of the principal precepts of BDSM ethics is, “When in doubt, don’t.”
When Christian says he’ll gag her if she makes a noise, Ana’s first thought is that her roommate Kate is listening outside. Instead of being concerned about her own physical safety or pleasure, she’s worried what Kate will think.
He also leaves her alone by stepping out of the room for a moment to get ice for temperature play. Again, questionable with an experienced sub, and really bad with a rookie, who might panic from being left alone bound and blindfolded.
We proceed with ice play, some teasing, a single spank to her ass, and then doggy-style, followed by one of Ana’s instant orgasms.
Need I mention that none of this has been negotiated? Ana and Christian have not just sat down and talked about this. There’s never been a chance for Ana to set her limits or express her desires or learn about anything. Doing it in the heat of the moment is a bad idea. It’s akin to the saying about not having sex with your partner while fighting.
Post-sex, they do a little bit of discussion, about whether he will collar her. Given the lead-foot pace Christian has been driving this whole relationship, it’s not surprising that he doesn’t tell her that’s a big commitment.
After everything that’s happened and all that’s been imposed on her, what makes Ana slam on the parking break? Christian offers to introduce her to one of his 15 former submissives. “Is this your idea of a joke? […] I’ll do this on my own, thank you very much,” I snap at him, pulling the duvet up to my chin. […] “I’m not offended. I’m appalled.”
Christian’s offer is a good thing. It would build trust between them for Ana to meet a former partner and show he’s okay (assuming he is), plus it would let her learn about BDSM from somebody she isn’t lust-struck about. Instead, she shuts down and comes as close as possible to throwing him out as she’s capable of.
I suspect that there’s an anti-polyamory subtext here. Ana can flirt with BDSM as an alternative to vanilla sexuality, but she violently rejects any alternative to monogamy, and doesn’t even like to be reminded that other people aren’t as virginal and monogamous as her. For Christian to be a serial monogamist who maintains friendly relations with former partners is unacceptable to Ana. She does not want to share at all, and in later negotiations finds the idea of him loaning her out to another dom, not just unappealing, but ludicrous. (Christian’s own jealous snits are another problem.)
Ana escorts Christian to the door.
For the first time, I’m wishing he was — normal — wanting a normal relationship that doesn’t need a ten-page agreement, a floggers, and karabiners in his playroom ceiling.
I feel a paradigm shift. I know that if I do this thing with him, I will get hurt. He’s not capable, interested, or willing to offer me any more… and I want more. Much more.
There’s a deeper, more subtle problem here that has only just begun to appear. It’s that seemingly innocuous word “normal”. The way it seems to be in Ana’s mind, and therefore this book’s paradigm, is that Christian is abnormal, wrong, bad, in need of correction, and Ana is normal, and her sexual and relationship needs are entirely reasonable. Is a 21-year-old complete asexual who suddenly flips a switch and turns into a passionate, multi-orgasmic and deep-throating lover any more “normal” than Christian?
Ana is powerfully attracted to Christian, but is not interested (at least, not yet) in BDSM, and wants a relationship of companionship, dating, and vanilla sex, leading to a committment-for-life. Christian, likewise, is attracted to her, but says he has no interest in vanilla relationships or sexuality, and wants a heavy D/s relationship, right now.
If you’re asking which one is right, who should adapt to who, you need to ask different questions. Christian’s very pushy, he has no respect for people’s boundaries, he has no idea how to let a situation breathe, and he has a lot of other problems, but being kinky and a top does not make him abnormal. That’s who he is and what he does.
Ana should accept that. Each person has their own sexual script. Sometimes that is partially compatible with another person’s script. There’s always a lesser or greater degree of compromise. And sometimes things just do not work, regardless of initial attraction. Ana realizes that Christian may never give her what she wants, but she does not realize that walking away is an option. There are vanilla men out there she could be with. There are even moderately kinky men out there who would play with her at a level she’s comfortable with.
But if Ana is not compatible with Christian because he wants BDSM and she doesn’t, that does not make him a monster, and that does not make BDSM a sickness.
There’s an additional annoyance in this whole arrangement: both keep breaking their own rules and making exceptions. Ana quails at BDSM, but doesn’t object to light bondage or spanking from Christian. Christian says he doesn’t have vanilla sex or sleep in the same bed with anybody, but he does with Ana. They could compromise, but the book instead sets up winner-take-all combat.
Back to the emails. Ana nitpicks details in Christian’s contract instead of tearing it up and starting over from scratch. There’s a negotiation tactic called anchoring, in which one side sets the terms first and negotiation proceeds back and forth from the point the first party chose. You know, submissives can write contracts too. She treats this as some ordeal she must endure to be with him, rather than something she has a say in or would enjoy. That’s a recipe for misunderstanding and resentment.