Sunday, October 20, 2013

Let's Read Fifty Shades of Grey: Chapter 5!

When we last left Fifty Shades of Grey, a man had found a woman by tracing her cellphone and now was taking her unconscious body up to his hotel room.  Which would be fine, if this were a spy thriller.  Unfortunately, it's a BDSM romance.

Content warnings for this chapter: sexual assault, a LOT.  Plus stalking and general "you might not want to read this while eating" grossness.



I open my eyes, and for a moment, I’m tranquil and serene, enjoying the strange unfamiliar surroundings. I have no idea where I am. [...] Oh shit. I’m in Roll FizzleBeefs suite. How did I get here? [...] I’m wearing my t-shirt, bra, and panties. No socks. No jeans.
I think the detail about the underwear is meant to convey that he didn't rape her while she was passed out.  The question E.L. James should be asking herself is: why the hell did she write her characters into a situation where it was necessary to establish this?

It's like remembering to duck down when the truck you're highway-surfing on top of goes into a tunnel. Yes, it's the best thing to do at that moment, but you need to ask yourself how you got into this position in the first place.
He comes and sits down on the edge of the bed. He’s close enough for me to touch, for me to smell. Oh my… sweat and body wash and Chunky, it’s a heady cocktail - so much better than a margarita, and now I can speak from experience.
"I just threw up in my mouth" is sort of a snark cliche, so I've been trying to avoid it, but the idea of a sweat/soap/dude cocktail really did make me a little nauseous.

Ana's excessive pride in having margarita experience is sort of a charming character detail, albeit one I'd expect from a much younger character. I assume this is entirely unintentional and E.L. James just thinks margaritas are exotic.
“We didn’t,” I whisper, my mouth drying in mortified horror as I can’t complete the question. I stare at my hands. “Anastasia, you were comatose. Necrophilia is not my thing. I like my women sentient and receptive,” he says dryly.
That's not necrophila.  That's rape.  And good to know that he didn't rape her because he didn't find it sexy. I'd hate to think he gave a shit about her.

In the hands of a really sharp writer, one who had the chops to work with an unreliable narrator and amoral characters, this could be deliberately shocking.  Rip SteakFace's "I didn't rape you because it's hotter when you're awake" could be an unnervingly revealing moment, and when Ana finds it charming, the churning in the reader's stomach could be intentional.
“Firstly, the technology to track cell phones is available over the Internet. Secondly, my company does not invest or manufacture any kind of surveillance devices, and thirdly, if I hadn’t come to get you, you’d probably be waking up in the photographer’s bed, and from what I can remember, you weren’t overly enthused about him pressing his suit,” he says acidly.
That's right, how dare she argue with you when you saved her from... an attack you had no idea was happening when you decided to trace her phone and hunt her down in person.

(Which, by the way, is not something that you can just find instructions for on the Internet; unless you're Google or the NSA, you have to install an app on someone's phone to track it remotely, and he hasn't had the opportunity to do that.)
“You’re lucky I’m just scolding you.” “What do you mean?” “Well, if you were mine, you wouldn’t be able to sit down for a week after the stunt you pulled yesterday. You didn’t eat, you got drunk, you put yourself at risk.”
This whole thing where Slab BulkHead chooses inappropriate moments to insert "BY THE WAY I AM KINKY" into every conversation is slowly changing my mental image of him.  He's no longer Dracula.  He's now the dude that gets your munch kicked out of the restaurant because he shows up in an "I love anal" t-shirt and goes "ooh, I like that" when the server calls him "sir."
He’s the only man who has ever set my blood racing around my body. Yet, he’s so antagonizing too; he’s difficult, complicated, and confusing. One minute he rebuffs me, the next he sends me fourteen-thousand-dollar books, then he tracks me like a stalker.
Well, not like a stalker.

Did anyone edit this book?  There's a ton of malapropisms and basic grammar errors in here.  I can believe that E.L. James doesn't know what "antagonizing" means, but I'm amazed Vintage Books didn't have someone at least give this book a quick read-through before printing eighty gajillion copies.
He’s not a dark knight at all, but a white knight in shining, dazzling armor – a classic romantic hero – Sir Gawain or Lancelot.
Considering that Lancelot was involved in an affair that ended with several people dead and drove his lover to become a nun... that might be more accurate than she realizes.
He said he likes his women sentient. He’s probably not celibate then.
This fucking line, man.
Hastily, I dry myself, ignoring the pleasurable feel of the towel rubbing against my over-sensitized skin.
For someone who's never known desire before and never engaged in any kind of sexual activity, she sure is really fucking horny all the time.  And that's fine, in itself. But the idea that Slab PorkChunk's presence has somehow turned her from a meek little schoolgirl into someone who gets off on using a towel--that's the part I'm not okay with.
“Anastasia, I’m not a hearts and flowers kind of man, I don’t do romance. My tastes are very singular."
I hate hate hate hate hate hatey hate hate the idea that sex and romance are opposites.  That if you have kinky sex you must be cold and distant to your lovers, and if you're lovey-dovey you must have only slow gentle sex.  It's not true and the implications are cruel to both love and sex.

I do romance. I also do flogging and fisting and double penetration.  These things do not make me unlovable or emotionless.  Nor do they make me incapable of gentle cuddly affection.  They're just slightly higher-adrenaline versions of expressing my love.
“Have you applied to my company as I suggested?” I flush… of course not. “Um… no.” “And what’s wrong with my company?”
"The massive conflict of interest and sexual harassment situation this would create."
"I’m not going to touch you Anastasia - not until I have your written consent to do so.”
Well, except for when he took her pants off while she was unconscious.

The thing about written consent makes me wonder if E.L. James has a really confused view of what "consent" means.  (I mean, clearly she does, but in a specific way.)  Like, does she think it's some sort of legal action you have to take specifically to endorse BDSM activities?

"The record clearly shows that my client filed a Consent to Spank with the county clerk 48 hours in advance of all gluteal impact, your Honor."

"Once you’re enlightened, you probably won’t want to see me again.” Holy shit. What does that mean? Does he white-slave small children to some God-forsaken part of the planet? Is he part of some underworld crime syndicate? It would explain why he’s so rich. Is he deeply religious? Is he impotent? Surely not, he could prove that to me right now.
White slavery: the bad kind of slavery!

I have no idea what that last line means. I guess he could pull out his soft dick and she could, like, try to make it hard and then when it stayed soft she could go "ahhh, I see," and that would explain why he can never even date?
He puts the phone down. No please or thank you.“Do people always do what you tell them?” “Usually, if they want to keep their jobs,” he says, deadpan.
This is not "power" or "dominance."  This is just "dickhead."  I bet he throws a screaming shitfit if anyone ever tells him he has to wait in line like a regular person.

I also bet his employees wouldn't piss on him if he were on fire.
“Eat,” he says more sharply. “Anastasia, I have an issue with wasted food… eat.” “I can’t eat all this.” I gape at what’s left on the table. “Eat what’s on your plate. If you’d eaten properly yesterday, you wouldn’t be here, and I wouldn’t be declaring my hand so soon.” His mouth sets in a grim line. He looks angry.
So he won't touch her without written consent (except for all the times he did), but he's perfectly happy dominating her with no consent and with her clearly refusing. Whee.
“Not having… sex.” There – I said the word. I blush – of course.
For fuck's sake, she's 21.  She has a sexually active roommate and friends and she's read lots of classic literature.  It's a bit late for her to be all "S-E-You-Know-What" about the damn word.
I eye Christian’s toothbrush. It would be like having him in my mouth. Hmm… Glancing guiltily over my shoulder at the door, I feel the bristles on the toothbrush.They are damp. He must have used it already. Grabbing it quickly, I squirt toothpaste on it and brush my teeth in double quick time. I feel so naughty. It’s such a thrill.
oh my god ewwwwww
“Oh, fuck the paperwork,” he growls. He lunges at me, pushing me against the wall of the elevator. Before I know it, he’s got both of my hands in one of his in a vice-like grip above my head, and he’s pinning me to the wall using his hips. Holy shit. His other hand grabs my ponytail and yanks down, bringing my face up, and his lips are on mine. [...] He brings his hand up to grasp my chin and holds me in place. I am helpless, my hands pinned, my face held, and his hips restraining me. I feel his erection against my belly.
Well, so fucking much for even the slightest pretense of consent.

All I can think about when I read scenes like this is the smell.  I picture his breath being really bad and his chest really sweaty with sticky little hairs poking out of the top of his shirt, and Ana turning her head to the side not even to evade anything, just to try and get a breath of fresh air.

But once again, this isn't just poor taste; this is supposed to be the extra sexy and kinky part.  It's supposed to be the "yeah, we all give lip service to consent, but we all know it's hot when wild passion overrides that boring paperwork stuff, right?" part.  It's not sexual assault, you see. It's late paperwork.
Is he totally unaffected by my presence? He glances at me out of the corner of his eye, and he gently blows out a deep breath. Oh, he’s affected all right– and my very small inner goddess sways in a gentle victorious samba.

“What is it about elevators?”
Apparently this is one of the super sexy catchphrases of the book. It's on fan merchandise and stuff.  I am truly, deeply disturbed to realize that the answer is: elevators are a place someone can't run away.

85 comments:

  1. "he shows up in an "I <3 anal="" and="" calls="" goes="" him="" i="" like="" ooh="" p="" server="" sir.="" t-shirt="" that="" the="" when="">"
    He shows up in what? Sorry, i don't get that... can someone explain?

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    1. Bad formatting and something about Christian Grey advertising that he wants Ana's tender virgin buttmeats in inappropriate contexts.

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  2. Reasons why Fuckwanker has to pick up random women who fall into his office:

    The local kink scene wont tolerate his abusive, rapey, bigoted arse.

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  3. "and if you're lovey-dovey you must have only slow gentle sex."

    I hate this, and I love slow gentle sex. Rather, I hate this because I love slow gentle sex, and I can only get it in a relationship, thanks to this screwed-up idea. Sorry for the TMI (I figure this blog doesn't mind that sort of thing?) but I would love to pick up a hot stranger who doesn't strike me as a serial killer, only whenever I try, he acts like, "I would really like lots of kissing and foreplay, and please don't get rough" means "I am convinced we're in love and totally going to stalk you like Brisket McMuscles." Or maybe he's just using it as an excuse to be selfish? Whatever. Anyway, if you're not one of those lucky girls like Holly who can come just from his thrusting, in my experience there's a good reason (besides danger and definitely besides "I only date designated Alpha Males") to not have casual sex.

    "if you were mine, you wouldn’t be able to sit down for a week after the stunt you pulled yesterday"

    You know a lot more about kink than I do, but this strikes me as saying "I am abusive" rather than "I am kinky." If he meant "I am kinky" shouldn't he have said "If you were mine"- or hopefully something less possessive, like if we were dating - "I'd love to spank you for what you did, you naughty girl. You know, with your consent and all." Instead, it comes off like (to me at least) "if we were dating I'd beat your ass for that, bitch." And for what, by the way? Being naïve and foolish? How dare she endanger herself, she deserves to get beat for that.

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    1. Unless I'm really misunderstanding your comment, you're misgendering Cliff here, and that's not okay.

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    2. I think they must have come here from some really old posts.

      So, FYI: I'm Cliff now, not Holly, and not girl.

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    3. Hi, another anon. Cliff, what are your preferred pronouns?

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    4. I sort of say "oh whatever," because I'm kind of used to my pronouning being all over the place, but I prefer "he."

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    5. You may want to update your blogger profile page in that case - it still lists 'female' and it's possible commenters are going by that.

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    6. God, I so get this as well. Casual sex has never done anything for me, which is mostly just kind of annoying, but a lot of it comes down to that idea - that cuddly, affectionate, even loving sex must mean you're in, or want to be in, an exclusive, big deal relationship. Have sex like that with someone who's not looking for anything and more often than not, they'll think it means you're in love, or super clingy, rather than just enjoying sex more when it's like that.

      It's frustrating, and ends up with me just not bothering at all because going through the motions of casual sex does nothing, and misleading someone who wants a Big Deal long term relationship is obviously right out, because it's playing right into the hands of the Arseholean Empire.

      No, I'm not ~*~falling for you~*~, that's just how I have sex. It's fun.

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  4. Replies
    1. NOW I WILL SEND THAT GIF TO EVERYONE.

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  5. "Did anyone edit this book?" - Yes they did and I admire them a little. Seriously, I've looked at the original Master of the Universe after reading some of your posts on 50 shades and anyone who managed to turn that into actual sentences must have some kind of editing superpower. If only they could do something better with it...

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    1. I think one of the major edits that 50 Shades of Grey needs is a complete rewrite of the plot, characterisation, setting, a hell of a lot of research, and the addition of an actual conflict that isn't solved by Grey going "I AM THE LORD DOMLY PANTS AND YOU WILL OBEY ME" at Ana in a sufficiently loud voice.

      And writers aren't obligated to accept their editor's advice before publishing. Which means that if you wanted to publish:
      "Kristin Gary an Anistisia Steal wnt 2 da penthaos apratmnt an thn they had da sex wiv wipz"
      your editor couldn't force you to turn that into an actual coherent sentence, or an actual sexy sex scene.

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    2. And writers aren't obligated to accept their editor's advice before publishing.
      They are unless it's a vanity press. If a publisher is putting up their own money to print, distribute, and publicize a book, they're not going to do that if they aren't satisfied with the content. The author can (depending on their contract) walk away and just not publish if they hate the edits, but unless they're already incredibly famous, they can't force the publisher to put thousands of dollars into "an thn they had da sex wiv wipz."

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    3. I was exaggerating a little... but like, if they knew they had a future bestseller on their hands, they will be a bit more coddling of authorial tantrums.
      It's like how you can see the writing technique in Twilight go down the closer you get to Breaking Dawn.

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    4. Really, there was room for it to deteriorate? I only made it halfway through the first one

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    5. Cliff,
      Actually... as an author and an editor, I don't have to accept suggested changes, nor do the authors I edit. Particularly content edits. At least at my publisher (Lazy Day) if an author can explain why they want to keep something, the publisher will accept it.

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  6. lowbudgetspaceshipOctober 20, 2013 at 7:43 PM

    "This whole thing where Slab BulkHead chooses inappropriate moments to insert "BY THE WAY I AM KINKY" into every conversation is slowly changing my mental image of him. He's no longer Dracula. He's now the dude that gets your munch kicked out of the restaurant because he shows up in an "I love anal" t-shirt and goes "ooh, I like that" when the server calls him "sir.""

    This also nicely sums up a large part of my issues (there were so many issues...) with BBC Sherlock's Irene Adler.

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    1. Oh, good lord, the issues there, the issues.

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    2. so many issues. like a basement full of National Geographics.

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    3. I agree with that, but at the same time i don't :/
      Irene is always making declarations that make you roll your eyes, but, I think, she says those things because she wants to make Sherlock uncomfortable, say things that sherlock can't answer without flirting in some way. And that's the idea of the character, to torment him in a way.

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  7. I am brazilian (really) and my inner godness is swaing in a gentle vicarious samba

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  8. You know I originally thought this book was a textbook example of an abusive relationship, but I wasn't actually expecting flat out assault and rape.

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  9. Uuugh, the "consent" in this chapter is like TSA Consent Theater. Well, it's like that throughout the entire series, but it's especially evident in this chapter.

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  10. I think EL James literally thinks passionate, rough consensual sex is impossible. Either (in her mind) you negotiate like Cliff's famous Robot Lawyers, and he's all "could I please maybe kiss you?", or he just grabs you and fucks you and it's SO HOT.

    It would be so easy to have him just say, "Anastasia, I'd really like to pin you down and kiss you." He could even say, in keeping with EL James's "theme", "But I'm afraid it might be too much for a good girl like you." And then she'd be like "who says I'm good" (allegedly hot, more importantly consensual making out ensues).

    But no, she has to continue the shitty romance novel tradition of "a guy just fucked her without asking and while she was making no moves or speech that indicated she wanted it. But secretly she wanted it so it's totally hot and not rape!"

    Christ. Can't we get past the only bad/slutty girls actually say they want sex garbage yet? "I can totally tell she wants it, talking would ruin the mood" is such a rape culture trope.

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    1. I can relate to Anastasia in a way, because I stayed a virgin until my mid-twenties (and I've never drunk alcohol, but I'm okay with naming body parts and using a computer) and my first and current partner is a very dominant, strong man with a high sex drive. He probably could have raped me without me ever saying a word, because it would all be too fast and overwhelming for me to think clearly - but he *asked* me for everything. He's not the sharpest knife in the drawer, he doesn't have any formalized ideas about consent, he doesn't know anything about rape culture, and occassionally his opinions about women seem to lag behind the general population by about 150 years. He just knows "You only do it if you both want to do it." and since he's not a mind reader, that means asking partners what they want. You'd think that's an easy enough concept.

      Anyway, what I was trying to say was - all that alpha male powerful personality dominant behaviour stuff is ONLY hot when combined with caring about partners + clear, pressure-free communication. Like, the exact opposite of the shitty romance novel tradition.

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    2. Agreed! I'm even someone who gets turned on by being grabbed (although I doubt I've entered kinkyland), but really only with my partner. I trust him to stop if asked so I've told him, "If you get the impulse, PLEASE grab me and pin me down. I'll stop you if I'm not into it at that moment." Tada, consent and you don't have to have awkward words during if that's not your thing.

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  11. Comradde PhysioProffeOctober 20, 2013 at 8:43 PM

    What the fucken fucke is "Chunky" supposed to refer to?

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    1. I've been replacing Christian Grey's name with the MST3K fake names from "Space Mutiny," (they're all "Roll FizzleBeef" sort of Super Manly Names), because I've got to keep myself amused somehow.

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    2. They keep us amused, too. :D

      -Fishgoat

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    3. I thought you were talking about Chunky brand soup, the one that the football players used to sell. That stuff smells really awful, so it actually fit in really well with your bit about smells.

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    4. I too initially read it as being verbatim what was in the book and meaning Chunky soup! It was stomach-turning (and appropriate to my overall disgust). "OMG, this man smells like sweat, shower gel, coagulated beef broth, mushy carrots, bits of corn....? WTF?!" I then realized it was just a continuation of all the "Smash Lampjaw"-type names, but it threw me off because it was just a first name and so far they've pretty much all been full names.

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  12. "Ana's excessive pride in having margarita experience is sort of a charming character detail, albeit one I'd expect from a much younger character. I assume this is entirely unintentional and E.L. James just thinks margaritas are exotic."
    Well, in a lot of ways she's treated as really young, isn't she? I'd like your take on this article I read long ago: http://theulstermanreport.com/2012/08/16/50-shades-of-grey-pedophilia-hiding-in-plain-sight-letter-from-a-reader/
    Conflating age/sexual experience is kinda iffy but the article does raise troubling points and I'm kinda inclined to blame purity culture or something.

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    1. There's definitely a ton of purity-fetishizing in the book, but I'm reluctant to call it "pedophilia," because that would involve making a judgement call that an adult is really a child because of the way she acts, and I don't like that. Ana's "I'm so naive and innocent" act is annoying and creepy, but it makes her a naive adult; it doesn't make her an honorary child.

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    2. Aside from anything else, I dislike the implication in that article that for someone to become an adult without having had sexual experience (or experience with alcohol) is impossible. I am at university, and a number of my friends by the age of 19 or 20 (in the UK, where the drinking age is 18 and the age of consent is 16) don't drink, and have never had a drink, have never had sex, or sexual experiences. This is not impossible.
      Nor do I like the implication that spanking is an aspect of paedophilia, rather than a legitimately kinky activity if carried out between consenting adults.
      Now, clearly E.L. James can't write convincing characters, can't write sex scenes, and has serious issues regarding what counts as consent, what is romantic, and what is being a creepy stalker with control issues, but I think calling Christian and Ana's relationship paedophilic is unconvincing.

      SPOILER BELOW FOR THOSE WHO CARE:

      (besides, it later becomes clear that there are issues regarding EL James' portrayal of sexual relations between adults and minors which you don't have to read so tenuously between the lines to find.)

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    3. I don't think the issue here is saying that Ana has never had a sexual relationship at 21 (22? Can't remember) or even that she's never experienced sexual attraction. It's rare in this day and age, but not impossible. (As for alcohol, I personally have never been blackout- or puking-level drunk at 27.) Additionally, I don't think age play between consenting adults is inherently problematic. However, it keeps feeling as if James is saying this makes their relationship sparkly and special - that this is what True Love(tm) looks like, what makes Ana and Christian's relationship something everyone should aspire to, and what ultimately "heals" Christian*.
      *Spoiler: it doesn't.

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    4. I don't think not drinking alcohol or not having sex prohibit someone from becoming an adult - but it sure as hell makes society treat you like a child. Mid-twenties, no sexual experiences, never fallen in love, never had an alcoholic drink - people treat you like you're 14 all over again.

      Which doesn't mean I agree with the peadophilia angle, but if you read the critique as interpreting the text from society's view of women rather than what women should be viewed as if they don't perform the correct behaviours, I guess I kinda see their point.

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    5. While I can see where they're coming from, I disagree with the idea that the whole "purity" thing is necessarily a hint towards pedophilia. I mean, our culture generally values purity in women. It may not be a good thing, but, in that case, the book is just reflecting a lot of people's opinions. I do admit all the actual mentions of being childlike are kind of creepy, though.

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    6. RE: JustSomeone

      I don't think not drinking alcohol or not having sex prohibit someone from becoming an adult - but it sure as hell makes society treat you like a child.

      That HIGHLY depends on your society. I was raised in Southern Baptist land, and it wasn't uncommon to run into folks who didn't drink for religious reasons. It maybe made me a wet sock at parties, but I was never treated as a child, and a lot of people were very nice about offering me alternate drinks. (My buddies even made me mixed juice and cola drinks, so I wouldn't feel left out!)

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  13. I keep thinking the toothbrush thing was supposed to be an indirect kiss of sorts? Which is a thing I've never understood - like, yeah, you are essentially putting someone else's saliva in your mouth, but swapping body fluids is not the be-all end-all of kissing.

    Are you trying to avoid spoilers on this read-through? Because I have something to say RE: the food issue, but even being vague I'm worried I'll spoil stuff. So if you want to remain un-spoiled I can wait until you reach the relevant parts.

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    1. I am trying to do a relatively fresh read, so I can go "OH GOD I DIDN'T SEE THAT BULLSHIT COMING" with sincerity, but a few spoilers are fine. And I'm really curious what the hell is up with the food thing.

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    2. I don't know if this is what s/he's talking about, but a lot of people have the theory that Anna is using food to take back control of her life. When Christian Grey starts taking over everything she does (choosing what she wears, selling her car and buying a new one, telling her who she can and can't spend time with,) she starts getting weirder around food. If someone else is telling her to eat, she acts anorexic, refusing food and saying she's not hungry even when she is. But when she's making the decision for herself, she says it makes her feel better, and that the food is delicious and good. She's clearly not actually anorexic then; it's a coping mechanism to have control over some part of what's going on.

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    3. I've seen someone mention on another site the link between the food control and the shortening of Anastasia to Ana (single N) - which is often used on pro-anorexia websites.

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    4. Huh. It continues to be weird how... up-front this book is about the abusive dynamics.

      Like, using food to take back your life is a thing you'd expect in some real-life sufferers of abuse, but why would an author who thinks she's writing a romance put in that kind of detail? Honestly, it makes me worry a little bit about E.L. James's personal life.

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    5. You ever seen E.L.James interviewed? I swear, all the weirdness in the book makes sense when you see what she's like. I could only stand it for about 5 minutes - she's written this stuff which the media are touting as introducing BDSM to the 'nilla masses yet one mention of S-E-Y'know and she's giggling and coy. It's like a small child trying to be naughty by saying "boobies". She was asked if she & her husband are into spanking or whatever, and she blushed and got all "ooh no, I couldn't possibly talk about that sort of thing". You can see why Ana is incapable of using actual words for Ruuuuuude Body Parts.

      Doctor Reid to the Bajingo Ward...

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    6. Cliff, mostly I was just going to complain about the food thing. For some reason it's one of those recurring arguments in the book that just hits all of my "DO NOT WANT" buttons. Christian has understandable food issues (he has literally been starving before so he doesn't like seeing food go to waste), but then he makes his issues Ana's issues without stopping to consider her own needs. If she doesn't eat a lot, she doesn't freaking eat a lot. (And whether or not she's meant to have an eating disorder, she should not be forced to eat more than she's comfortable eating.) And it's wildly inconsistent, given that this breakfast scene in Chapter 5 has him growling at Ana to finish her plate when he ordered everything on the menu - more food than a person with a healthy appetite could be expected to eat. So it's hard to tell if he actually does have issues with wasted food, or he's just using this as another means to control Ana.

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    7. Maybe it's some kind of giant social experiment on her part? The more I read about her and this series, the more it feels like she can't possibly be sincere. She seems to be at once not self-aware enough about her writing in some parts and REALLY self-aware in others and idek.

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    8. Especially given that food is such a constant and uncomfortable topic in the book, it is really suspect and scary to me that Ana's name is, well, Ana. By itself, I might brush it off as a coincidence... but one of the other major female characters in the book is named Mia. It's just too much for me to believe that happened by chance.

      (As Anon above mentioned, "Ana" is the pro-anorexia community's nickname for anorexia; "Mia" is the analog for bulimia.)

      So when Ana constantly "forgets" to eat (apparently for days at one point), and constantly refuses food, and is described as pushing it around her plate and not really eating much of it, and at one point loses so much weight over 5 days that it is apparently noticeable just by looking at her, and frequently states that she is "hungry but not for food", and changes the topic/distracts with sex whenever McHunk tries to get her to eat, and we see multiple characters comment on/worry about how thin Ana is, but then as soon as Ana gains even a few pounds (and BeefNoodle expresses relief at this) she instantly freaks out about being "fat", even though the story makes it clear that she is apparently solidly underweight... yeah.

      And it's really a conundrum, because I want to cheer for Ana standing up to SteelSlab in at least one thing! I don't want to have any sympathy for IronSteak trying to get her to eat! (Well, that latter part is a bit easier, because he's not trying to supportively encourage her to eat - he's trying to pressure her into eating, in a way that seamlessly fits into his need to control every aspect of her.) But I cannot find any enthusiasm for Ana refusing to eat. It just seems like the only time she finds any will to resist Roll FizzleBeef is when he threatens her eating disorder.

      (And much like the abuse, I can see how this could be a case of really quite clever/eerily true-to-life writing if it were intended to show the insidious hold of an eating disorder over a character. But while the book offers an explanation for why FridgeBeef is so hung up on food, it never even addresses/acknowledges Ana's dysfunctional relationship to food. It's just presented as if the author thinks of it as normal. That plus the "Ana" and "Mia" character names dropped in there without comment/acknowledgement makes me wonder if this was maybe meant as some sort of not-really-subtle dog whistle, like it was intended to be missed by the general public but picked up on by the eating disorder community? And then I read every instance of Ana being pressured to eat and trying to get away with not-eating as the author basically going "wink-wink, don't you hate it what people keep trying to get you to eat, ugh," and then I get sad and worried about the author again.

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    9. (Oy, sorry, that got long-winded. And yet, I blather on.)

      Of course, using food as a mechanism to feel in control when all other parts of one's life feel out of control has been suggested as on of the possible contributing factors to eating disorders. So it would fit with that and with coping mechanisms in an abusive relationships, and all the lovely ways those two can interact. Ugh ugh ugh.

      Delete
    10. So, I actually noticed the thing about "her name is Ana and she doesn't want to eat," (and even spelled that way, when "Anna" is more common) but then I was like "noooo... it can't be," and now you guys are making me wonder again.

      I really want to see this as "she eats okay on her own, she just doesn't want to be forced to eat when she isn't hungry, and who would" (and she does mention enjoying food when she isn't being forced into it), but now I just don't know.

      Delete
    11. I really have to thank you for this assessment. I don't know if I've mentioned it here, but I fairly recently tried to read this damn book again after I found out that the boyfriend's mother, sister, and grandmother apparently love it. I still can't get more than a few chapters in, so I've been data hoarding since then, and this one may stick a bit more than the abuse thing that he was trying to argue (rebutted with "but all relationships contain varying degrees of abuse so this doesn't count")
      So, if I ever end up getting into the fray (unlikely) I'll at least have a new tool on my belt for it.

      Delete
    12. "but all relationships contain varying degrees of abuse so this doesn't count"

      That is the saddest statement. :(

      And Cliff, yeah, the "Ana" alone I could accept as a coincidence, but as soon as "Mia" also showed up... what are the odds?

      Delete
    13. "But all relationships contain varying degrees of abuse" ... I don't know whether to feel more pity for the life that created that mentality, or frustration over the wrongness.

      I suppose it could come from two different places; either abuse so rampant that it's become normalized, or a life so sheltered the difference between real abuse and an honest fight between two people on equal footing is actually unclear. My friends and I have had lots of talks about the difference, and we keep coming back to the idea that the difference is qualitative, not quantitative. Regular people are flawed, and so all relationships have ups and downs, and all people are complex, so even an abuser probably has enough good qualities to produce a few good moments, even if it's just "their sense of humor is enough to make me genuinely laugh sometimes." But when there's a feeling of unsafeness, a need to take steps to avoid "unleashing the dragon," an evidence based certainty that any apologies will not be followed by real effort to change and ultimately the responsibility for preventing bad behavior will be placed on you being somehow magically perfect, that's abuse. It doesn't matter whether the dragon comes out with blows or words or even neglectful non-action, that relationship is abusive.

      Delete
    14. When I heard about what had been said, I personally felt rather frustrated (though I wasn't there in person, I suppose I was technically there in spirit by having given the boyfriend some arguments that the relationship was abusive.) I suppose part of this is the fact that I do know her, and she can be...very frustrating at times.
      But, if the argument was that "abuse is normalized" then...even that shouldn't really fly because this book is normalizing abuse and therefore part of the problem.

      Delete
    15. RE: Lane

      You made something click in my head with your comment. Thank you.

      Delete
  14. Holy shit!
    I guessed this book was problematic from reading the blurb on the back so I didn't bother reading it but HOLY FUCKING SHIT.
    I don't think I can ever look a 50 shades fan in the face again :/

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    Replies
    1. There's "this is problematic," and then there's just plain "this is a problem."

      Delete
  15. Since this whole book is a scene-by-scene rewrite of Twilight, I think it's worth noting that this chapter (and a little of what happened in the last chapter) is a combination of two chapters in the Twilight book: 1) where Bella cuts her finger, faints and Mike and Edward fight over who will take her to the nurse and 2) when Bella goes shopping in Port Angeles with friends, then Edward saves her from men who were following her and forces her to go to a restaurant with him, making that their FIRST DATE!!!! :-(

    So James turned those two scenes into almost being sexually assaulted by a close friend, taken back to a hotel room while blacked out by a near-stranger, forced to eat, some weird toothbrush shit, and being sexually assaulted in an elevator...

    These books are a fascinating look at her psyche and I must say that I'm worried for her.

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    1. I thought it was the scene where werewolf boy tries to force a kiss on Bella and she breaks her hand trying to punch him? I think it was in the second book though. (Actually I only saw the films so it might be different)

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    2. Yeah, that was the second book. There aren't any werewolves in the first one. Plus, since this is Ana and Christian's first...something, maybe kiss or sexual encounter, it would have to correspond with Bella and Edward's first something. Ugh, fuck books about abusive relationships that make me call what happened in that elevator a first kiss.

      Delete
  16. .... Soo... Mister Rich ButtFace is essentially how my abusive ex probably saw himself, if he had had money and power and not been a shriveled little piece of a white-trash scum. Thank you for this read-along and the trigger warnings. I've stopped reading the italics to just skim them for content and then going right onto your comments. It helps keep the rage and flashbacks at bay.

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  17. Can't read word flush and not think of this: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_T-PEMSmKo3Q/SRfsAy6SntI/AAAAAAAAAxU/0dEnkiV2uAE/s400/flush.jpg

    Also, sweat-soap-mancheese = Frizzy Blowchunks uses Axe instead of showering?

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  18. All the other stupid and wrong things about this chapter have already been covered so I'm just going to add: how, exactly, did Christian grab Ana's ponytail when she was already completely pinned against the wall?

    It would've made more logistical sense for him to just tilt her head up by the jaw instead of scrabbling around between her and the elevator wall to pull her hair and then coming back around to hold her chin.

    It bugs the shit out of me when authors fuck up such totally rudimentary sex things. You don't even have to be super kinky to understand that the hair-pulling wouldn't work. You just have to fuckin' picture what you're describing for a second.

    Wait - was her ponytail on the top of her head à la Pebbles Flintstone? That would make the hair-pulling feasible. Though still sort of ridiculous.

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  19. > It's not true and the implications are cruel to both love and sex.

    ... I am in love with this line. Thank you for writing it.

    > Oh, he’s affected all right– and my very small inner goddess sways in a gentle victorious samba.

    I don't know the context, but is this an anatomical analogy?

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    Replies
    1. I've read little excerpts on other sites -- apparently this "inner goddess" phrase is all over the place, eg. "My inner goddess was doing the [insert Latin dance name]" and "My inner goddess was begging on her knees". So, not an anatomical analogy, just... some kind of anthropomorphic personification? I guess?

      Delete
    2. Basically, EL James has anthropomorphized Ana's Superego and Id, but because she is a bit confused about psychology terms, she calls them her Subconscious* and her Inner Goddess.

      *This is particularly irksome because Ana is explicitly conscious of everything this supposed "subconscious" says and does.

      Delete
    3. EL James can't write "and then I felt so horny I wanted to climb him like a tree and shag him til his dick fell off" because then Ana would be, I dunno, a 'slut'? So she gives all of Ana's arousal to the Inner Goddess, which is slightly creepy because the Inner Goddess also acts like a five year old child on Red Bull at times. And the Subconscious acts somewhere between a slut-shamer and a voice of reason. Like, I agree with the Subconscious in that not having sex with Christian is a very good idea, but I don't like how she calls Ana a 'whore' and stuff.

      Delete
    4. Yeah, I think so too. She's so anxious to stress that Ana is NOT, absolutely NOT a slut in any way. Therefore Ana can never think to herself something like "this BDSM thing actually sounds pretty exciting and turns me on", it's gotta be the inner goddess that dances around and waves pom-poms and what-not. Also Ana can't think something along the lines of "oh yeah I'm coming again!" when she has her Nth orgasm during the same sex scene, because that would be slutty or something, instead it's gotta be "oh NO not another orgasm!".

      Delete
  20. On an vaguely-related note, has anyone here been keeping up with the new show Masters of Sex? Semi-historical exploration of early sex research done in the 50s by William Masters and Virginia Johnson. It's been my latest mindless tv indulgence so I haven't yet formed coherent opinions on it other than "hey, this is pretty good," but it's definitely a brilliant alternative to what E.L. James proposes.

    Though she might swoon a little over the research consent forms and questionnaires.

    Myself, I swoon over the SCIENCE.

    --sionnach

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  21. In order to not freak out over how horrifying this is, I'm wondering how Abface can be holding Anastasia's arms *and* ponytail *and* chin. Does he have three hands?

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  22. On a lighter note, someone should do a sketch or YouTube vid or something about Christian Grey doing something totally normal like getting coffee at Starbucks (or wherever). He could be waiting in a really long line, creep on people indiscriminately but laughably, chat people up and make weird but G references to how kinky and evil he is, and flip out because the person in front of him won't just pick already. He wouldn't come off as scary in this (although he is in the book) so much as really annoying. He ends up getting kicked out or some shit.

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  23. “You’re lucky I’m just scolding you.” “What do you mean?” “Well, if you were mine, you wouldn’t be able to sit down for a week after the stunt you pulled yesterday. You didn’t eat, you got drunk, you put yourself at risk.”

    So as someone who reads a lot of CP stories: M/f CP stories where the excuse-plot is getting drunk/'putting yourself in danger' are like... the 90% Sturgeon's Law part of CP fiction.

    It's creepy and sexist and a *really bad set-up for CP* because most of these are meant to be pairing stories and not noncon stories so it's supposed to be a good thing - which it really, really isn't.

    Even if there's really a consensual power dynamic, and really a rule against drinking to excess, and someone really violated it - because there are 0 ways I can think of for that to happen without underlying issues, and hitting people is a terrible way of dealing with those.

    So um... good to know what EL was reading as research, I guess?

    ---

    Honestly, it makes me worry a little bit about E.L. James's personal life.

    I keep getting that with this book. Like with the beginning, where Ana is literally exhibiting the symptoms of social anxiety. But that's never explored as a thing, so it's not like EL thinks she really has it. She just seems to think this is a normal way of feeling.

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    1. "She just seems to think this is a normal way of feeling."

      You've identified exactly what's been bothering me about these books for a long time. A lot of these elements could've been very interesting in the hands of a good writer (albeit in a psychological thriller or something), but it doesn't seem like E.L. James recognizes what she writes - this is just how she thinks people are? I hope that's not the case, because poor woman if it is...

      Delete
    2. In light of Gil's post/link, you might want to clarify that CP means corporal punishment, not the other thing.

      Delete
    3. Thank you, I was really confused *phew*

      Delete
  24. Mind blown re: Ana and Mia. I had no idea. I wonder what other nuances I missed. Strangely, I didn't think the author would have that much intellect (oooh, I know that sounds really snarky, but I'm standing by my opinion) to weave subtle hints into the story, but maybe I'm just not smart enough to pick them up. Or maybe I was too quick to dismiss it as fluff. Damnit, EL are you trying to toy with my brain? (Self-depreciating humor, one of my stronger talents)

    I read the books a while ago and found them to be lacking in actual facts about BDSM and have been concerned that "vanilla folks" will use the 50 Shades books as their only reference point. However, they have opened up dialog in a lot of America's bedrooms and bored wives/girlfriends are finding new uses for their SO ties...

    One thought about the food/anorexia issue: Did Anastasia develop this eating issue once under MrMeatLoaf's tutelage or did she have it before meeting him? Is she using the "I'm not hungry" thing as a demure tactic; "girls/women only order salad" sort of stuff? Or is excessive food another display of MrEverythingInExcess's wealth, power, godlike-"I need to rescue this girl" qualities? Any thoughts?

    P.S. Just discovered your blog this morning, Cliff. I'm actually feeling a little glad that I'm recoop'ing from shoulder surgery. It gives me some time to read your past posts. Another perk of worker's comp. (Insert sarcastc snort here)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Umm, not a sarcastic snort about reading your blog; a sarcastic snort about being able to find anything good about only getting 60% of your paycheck...I think you know what I meant :)

      Delete
  25. omg I haven't laughed like this in a while!

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  26. When are the next Cosmocking posts coming out?

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  27. Superb blog...........!
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    ReplyDelete
  28. " “Anastasia, you were comatose. Necrophilia is not my thing. I like my women sentient and receptive,” he says dryly.

    That's not necrophila. That's rape. And good to know that he didn't rape her because he didn't find it sexy. I'd hate to think he gave a shit about her.

    In the hands of a really sharp writer, one who had the chops to work with an unreliable narrator and amoral characters, this could be deliberately shocking. Rip SteakFace's "I didn't rape you because it's hotter when you're awake" could be an unnervingly revealing moment, and when Ana finds it charming, the churning in the reader's stomach could be intentional."

    ^That's a great, insightful point. It's actually harder to read that line in the non-creepy way it was (presumably?) intended, than as something an abductor might say in a horror movie.

    As a possibly off-topic aside: this is also a real-life warning sign for paedophiles. When accused of sexually abusing children, their response tends to be 'but children don't turn me on!' rather than being horrified at the idea of sexually assualting someone who is unable to consent. Look up Jimmy Savile's police interview for a particularly sickening real-life example.

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  29. Thank you - my keyboard is full of tuna salad right now as I decided to read this while having lunch.

    In all honesty: Thanks for doing this. You made me read FSoG excerpts. And I bloody love your blog!!!

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