“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.
Christian keeps sending more mixed messages:
“The ownership thing, that’s just terminology and goes back to the principle of obeying. It’s to get you into the right frame of mind, to understand where I’m coming from. And I want you to know that as soon as you cross my threshold as my submissive, I will do what I like to you. You have to accept that and willingly. That’s why you have to trust me. I will fuck you, any time, any way, I want – anywhere I want. I will discipline you, because you will screw up. I will train you to please me. But I know you’ve not done this before.
Initially, we’ll take it slowly, and I will help you. We’ll build up to various scenarios. I want you to trust me, but I know I have to earn your trust, and I will. The “or otherwise” – again it’s to help you get into the mindset, it means anything goes.”
He also brings up the subject of pain. As there’s a difference between “punishment” and punishment, there’s a difference between “pain” and pain. Humans experience physical sensations in various ways, depending on the individual and the circumstances. A sensation that one person finds unpleasant, another might find enjoyable, and a third is indifferent. Also, a person who feels rested and secure experiences physical sensations in a different way from a person who feels tired or anxious.
When people in BDSM talk about pain, what they usually mean is “pain”, or what Patrick Califia called “body stress”. Think of slipping into a hot bath, or a muscle relaxing after a vigorous massage, or the burn after intense exercise. This is a different flavour of pleasure than most people imagine, and BDSM is in large part the art of employing an expanded pallet of sensations to achieve enjoyment.
The stroke of death is as a Lover’s pinch,
Which hurts, and is desir’d.
Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra
Pain, as most people define it, has a place in BDSM play but that’s a psychologically and physically risky act, with the aim of emotional catharsis rather than punishment. It’s definitely an advanced form of play.
At this point, Ana’s entire SM experience is two sessions of light bondage and one spank. Neither she nor Christian knows how she handles intense sensations. She might like it. She might develop the ability to enjoy certain things and not others. For example, she might delight in impact play with “thuddy” implements, like floggers or paddles, and also learn that she can’t handle “stingy” implements like canes or single-tail whips. She might also be a kind of person who has no capacity to enjoy intense sensations, and bondage and submission are enough for her.
How Ana could figure this out involves cautious experimentation, introspection, and basic gut-checking. This is a process of self-exploration that she must be actively involved in. Again, a submissive must paradoxically be assertive.
Instead, Christian tells Ana that he will take all of the control and the responsibility of this vital process from her.
“Christian. You use sex as a weapon. It really isn’t fair,” I whisper, staring down at my hands, and then looking directly at him. He raises his eyebrows, surprised, and I see he’s considering my words. He strokes his chin thoughtfully.
“You’re right. I do. In life you use what you know, Anastasia. Doesn’t change how much I want you. Here. Now.”
The moment Ana tries to call process on their interaction, Christian deflects it by agreeing and goes back to pressuring her.
I flush and stare down at my hands. That’s what I’m hindered by in this game of seduction. He’s the only one who knows and understands the rules. I’m just too naïve and inexperienced. My only sphere of reference is Kate, and she doesn’t take any shit from men. My other references are all fictional: Elizabeth Bennett would be outraged, Jane Eyre too frightened, and Tess would succumb, just as I have.
Christian’s aggression and manipulation are bad enough, but combine it with Ana’s ignorance, dependency and lack of backbone, and the interaction is a car careening at full throttle towards a cliff.
“Christian. You just don’t fight fair.”
“I know. I never have.”
This is a serious problem. If you’re not playing fair, you’re not doing BDSM.
Ana attempts to assert some control over the situation, but not by stepping back or calling him on his manipulations. Instead, she decides to “play this sex god at his own game” by seductively eating an asparagus.