Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Let's Read Fifty Shades of Grey: Chapter 14!

When we last read Fifty Shades of Grey, our hero was threatening our heroine with rape and furiously badgering her any time she disagreed with him over petty little things.  ...That could describe any chapter in the book.  You don't have to read this one too closely to keep up.

I like this picture. It was originally illustrating a guy going "wow, I can never live up to this amazing Christian Grey fella, I'm just an ordinary man."  But it is also, for very different reasons, the exact face I make when I read this book.


Content warnings for this chapter:  The force-feeding thing, the child sexual abuse thing, the adult sexual abuse thing, the continuous rampant emotional abuse thing... boy has this book numbed me out.  You know, the thing, with the horribleness.



I’m panting, squirming, pulling against my restraints that are biting into my wrists and my ankles. He swirls the tip around my navel then continues to trail the leather tip south, through my pubic hair to my clitoris. He flicks the crop and it hits my sweet spot with a sharp slap, and I come, gloriously, shouting my release.
It's the best sex scene in the book so far.  Okay, the "coming from one slap on the clit" is a bit much, but he isn't passive-aggressively whining about what a manly domly man dom he is, and she's actually enjoying herself!
I sit bolt upright, shocked… wow. It’s morning. I glance at my alarm clock – eight o’clock. I put my head in my hands. I didn’t know I could dream sex. Was it something I ate? Perhaps the oysters and my Internet research manifesting itself in my first wet dream. It’s bewildering. I had no idea that I could orgasm in my sleep.
...And it's a dream sequence.

Not only that, it's a dream sequence inserted specifically to once again make the point that meeting Stomp FlashBang has completely rewired her sexuality without her having any say in it.  Some people have their first wet dream because of hormones or discoveries or fantasies of their own.  She has hers because of proximity to this preternaturally sexy guy who she doesn't actually like.


Anyway, then it's Ana's graduation day.  Kate asks her some innocuous questions about her date, Ana responds with a bunch of nervous "nothing happened... nothing... oh no what if I get sued," and then Ana's dad comes and takes her to graduation.  Her dad keeps observing that she seems nervous and asking if she's okay.  It's just how you'd expect someone who was newly in a relationship to seem, assuming they were in a relationship with a poorly-fed tiger.
Christian. Christian stands out in his bespoke gray suit, copper highlights glinting in his hair under the auditorium lights. He looks so serious and self-contained. As he sits, he undoes his single-breasted jacket, and I glimpse his tie. Holy shit… that tie! I rub my wrists reflexively. I cannot take my eyes off him – his beauty as distracting as ever – and he’s wearing that tie, on purpose no doubt.
What a miserable asshole.  It's her goddamn graduation and he had to make it all about him with that little move.  Let her have memories of her graduation, dude, let her think about what she's accomplished over the last four years and where her life is going from here.  Don't show up wearing what amounts to a sign reading "HEY, REMEMBER MY DICK?"
As the Chancellor gets to his feet and kicks off the proceedings with his speech, I watch Christian subtly scanning the hall. I sink into my seat, hunching my shoulders, trying to make myself as inconspicuous as possible. I fail miserably as a second later his gray eyes find mine. He stares at me, his face impassive, completely inscrutable. I squirm uncomfortably, hypnotized by his glare as I feel a slow flush spread across my face.
Usually when lovers make eye contact in a public gathering, they'll seek out each other's gaze and smile  or wink at each other.  Maybe blow kisses.  It's cute.  Ana hunching down and hiding, and Chomp SharkWeek staring blankly at her... that's not cute.
[Crunch ButtCake's graduation speech:]"Over a billion people, mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America, live in abject poverty. Agricultural dysfunction is rife within these parts of the world and the result is ecological and social destruction. I have known what it’s like to be profoundly hungry. This is a very personal journey for me… ” 
My jaw falls to the floor. What? Christian was hungry once. Holy crap. Well, that explains a great deal. And I recall the interview; he really does want to feed the world. I desperately rack my brains to remember what Kate had written in her article. Adopted at age four, I think. I can’t imagine that Grace starved him, so it must have been before then, as a little boy. I swallow, my heart constricting at the thought of a hungry, gray-eyed toddler.
I'm mostly putting this in because it "explains" the forcing her to eat.  I guess?  With a heroine named "Ana" who's always being forced to eat, this book has some weird food issues I can't begin to address.
I’m seized by a sense of raw outrage, poor, fucked-up, kinky, philanthropic Christian – though I’m sure he wouldn’t see himself this way and would repel any thoughts of sympathy or pity.
Oh.  I see how it is.  He's kinky because he had a troubled childhood, so her resolve to tolerate his kink is strengthened anew.  How very, painfully self-sacrificing of her to put up with this thing that she hates because he can't help himself.

Meanwhile I'm over here just being kinky with my partner because we get off on that kind of stuff.
I make my way up to the stage between the two giggling girls. Christian gazes down at me, his gaze warm but guarded. “Congratulations, Miss Steele,” he says as he shakes my hand, squeezing it gently. I feel the charge of his flesh on mine. “Do you have a problem with your laptop?” I frown as he hands me my degree. “No.” “Then you are ignoring my emails?”
WHAT. A. DICK.  She's getting her diploma and he can't even make that one moment not about him.  Christ, he can't even make it about himself in a nice way!  She gets three whole words of congratulations and then he goes right back into pointless, aggressive whining while she's still up on the stage receiving her diploma.  This guy just ruins everything.

You know, next time I'm trying to convince someone this book is terrible, this is what I'm going to quote.  Not the rape scene.  People are so conditioned to find any evidence the woman didn't perfectly live up to their standards of Ideal Rape Victim and take it as consent.  But this scene isn't rape and if it were an isolated incident it might not even be abuse.  It's just so thoroughly unpleasant I don't see how you can call it romantic.
Christian is talking to the Chancellor and two of the teaching staff. He looks up when he sees me. “Excuse me, gentlemen,” I hear him murmur. He comes toward me and smiles briefly at Kate. “Thank you,” he says, and before she can reply, he takes my elbow and steers me into what looks like a men’s locker room. He checks to see if it’s empty, and then he locks the door. Holy shit, what does he have in mind? I blink up at him as he turns on me.
I wanted these posts to be funny.  I didn't want them to be me holding my head and going "holy shit, this is a spot-on depiction of an abusive relationship down to every detail."  But here we are.

And what place does this have in a romance?  What exactly is the romantic fantasy of having your lover pull you into an empty room (at your goddamn graduation) and lock you in to yell at you?  That's not quite like having Ryan Gosling bring you flowers in the rain.
“Why haven’t you emailed me? Or texted me back?” He glares. I’m nonplussed. “I haven’t looked at my computer today, or my phone.” Crap, has he been trying to call? I try my distraction technique that’s so effective on Kate. “That was a great speech.”
Ana's gotten pretty good at handling this guy.  She knows how to tell the right lies to save her ass and steer the conversation to turn the heat down.  Like bailing out a leaky boat, it's a skill that can keep you from immediate disaster, but can also make you feel like it's your personal responsibility if you sink, instead of having something to do with the big goddamn hole in the boat.
“I’ve been worried about you.” “Worried, why?” “Because you went home in that deathtrap you call a car.” “What? It’s not a deathtrap. It’s fine. José regularly services it for me.” “José, the photographer?” Christian’s eyes narrow, his face frosting. Oh Crap.
She is just constantly on eggshells around this guy. Like, I sort of see the appeal of "reforming the bad boy with the harsh exterior and tender heart," but this is missing the reformation and the tender heart.  All that's left is asshole.
“No!” It’s my turn to sound exasperated. “Introduce you to my dad as what? ‘This is the man who deflowered me and wants us to start a BDSM relationship’. You’re not wearing running shoes.”
I've introduced several people like that to my parents, but usually I just called them "my friend" or "my boyfriend." The rest can kind of go politely unsaid, y'know?
Ray raises his eyebrows and smiles – a rare, genuine, bona fide Ray Steele smile – and off they go, talking fish. In fact, I soon feel surplus to requirements. He’s charming the pants off my dad… like he did you, my subconscious snaps at me. His power knows no bounds.
Okay, so there is a very good reason not to introduce your fuckbuddy to your dad--because said fuckbuddy is going to tell your dad that you're dating and thereby use your dad as yet another way to manipulate you to agreeing to a relationship you don't want.

And it works, too, because the next thing that happens is that Ana agrees to be in a relationship with Big McLargeHuge.  Well, "agrees" is sort of strong.  She says she doesn't want a relationship where she has to submit and there's no romance, he says he wants the exact opposite, and then he asks her to say yes and for some goddamn reason she does.  What a great start, huh?

I mean, it'd be a bad basis for a relationship even if he hadn't raped her a couple days before.



Christ, I wish I was more able to make jokes here.

Um...

Why can't you hear a pterodactyl going to the bathroom?
Because the P is silent.

86 comments:

  1. "He checks to see if it’s empty, and then he locks the door. Holy shit, what does he have in mind?"

    See I thought the implication was they were going to have sex, but instead he lectures her about returning his messages? What the hell??? This is the least erotic and least passionate romance fic I've ever read.

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  2. Okay, I've gone from "God EL James is a crappy writer" to active concern about her personal relationships. Do you need somewhere safe to go, EL? Blink twice for yes...

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    1. I'm honestly having the same reaction but then I remember the source material is Twilight.
      Maybe she figures this is what would happen if you turn everything up to 11 with what happens in those books. Stalking gets added kidnap, the forced kiss becomes a full on rape attempt, watching her sleep becomes a rape scene...

      I don't want to know how bad things would have to get in these books for the fans to recognize that this is just awful.

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  3. Cliff, I think it's truly awesome that you're taking on this book in the way you are, but... seriously, are you sure you're still OK with doing this? It'd be extremely understandable if you decided you'd had enough and couldn't face reading more of this.

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  4. See, I also thought the locker room thing was going to be another sex or rape scene. Wasn't this book supposed to be erotic? You'd think the author would focus less on irrelevant/irritating arguments and more on getting her characters naked, at the very least.

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    1. Can we just have the obligatory xkcd now? (Not to undercut the eroticism of anything not PIV sex.)

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    2. Yeah. I can see how a "he pulls her aside for a quickie" scene would fit into the "sexiest book ever!!!" thing. But he pulls her aside to yell at her for not answering emails. (Emails he sent that same day, too, just in case you wanted a little more unreasonable with your unpleasant.) ...Hot?

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    3. It somehow makes it worse that those emails were just a proxy for hating on her car. After all, considering she was right there, presumably he was no longer concerned about whether she made it home. Nooo he wanted her apology for daring to drive her own car.

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    4. The whole car thing is so infuriating. It's a simultaneous attack on her social class, her judgement, and her general ability to live her own life.

      I can see the fantasy appeal of "rich guy buys her a fancy car," but the emphasis in this book is all tilted toward "rich guy nags and complains about her car which she likes just fine," and I just don't get how that can be anything but obnoxious.

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    5. I've gotta say, I had a weirdly complicated probably abusive relationship, that bordered on more mental/emotional than anything else. One of the things he did was stuff like what Christian's doing about her car. Just worrying, worrying, making you feel bad for just operating like you normally do because you're making them worry... when there's really nothing to worry about... because they're hoping to control you in some way. I'm pretty sure my ex didn't want me to obtain a license, let alone purchase a car and drive it, and not just because he apparently hates riding in them or that he didn't have a license of his own. He was always so concerned about me driving and he did it in a let-me-guilt-you-until-you-apologize-and-don't-do-the-thing way.

      That's what this makes me think of.

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    6. There's a very strong, fuck it, OVERcurrent of "Ana must not have personal freedom" in these books. Here her own car is "unsafe". Later on, jura gurl'er ergheavat sebz uvf cnerag'f cynpr fur ortf naq pnwbyrf uvz gb yrg ure qevir, gurl vzzrqvngryl trg n gnvytngre jub unenffrf ure nyy gur jnl ubzr. Pnabavpnyyl vg'f gur zbhfgnpur gjveyvat rivy Wnpx, ohg tvira uvf genpx erpbeq bs nffubyrel zl vzzrqvngr gubhtug jnf ur zhfg unir tbggra fbzrbar gb unenff ure naq fpner ure cebcreyl gb znxr fher fur jbhyqa'g jnag gb qevir naljurer urefrys.

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    7. (different anon)

      The car also ties into the classism that ends up being one of the defining themes of the second and third books. Christian and his adopted family are inherently better than everyone else because they're rich and Ana pretends to be uncomfortable with her sudden increase in status while simultaneously hating poor people. Christian's mother is treated as the real villain of the series (worse even than Mrs. Robinson the child molester) because poverty = weakness, and the cartoonish Snidley Whiplash-type villain's only real motivation seems to be "because Detroit." Christian's and Ana's status symbols demonstrate how much better they are than everyone else, and after a while you just want them to die in a fire.

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  5. I just wanted to point out … this guy is seriously wearing a gray suite. Gray a bit much??

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    1. Clearly this would've been a much more entertaining book if his name was Christian Magenta.

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    2. She could have called it 50 Colours of the Rainbow

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    3. I have just read Jasper Fforde's Shades of Grey and there IS a character called Magenta (everyone in the world has a last name related to a colour) - a highly recommended book, MUCH more entertaining than this; the genre is futuristic dystopia rather than supposed erotic fiction.

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    4. (Same Anon) I like you suggestions :D

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    5. quenzmo - Oh dear, poor Jasper Fforde. Shades of Grey was a fantastic book, and the similarity in titles will probably haunt him for the rest of his career...

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    6. They actually re-titled the book after EL James's explosion in popularity. Sadness.

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    7. Alright, I officially have to think of a way to fit a character named Christian Magenta into something I write...

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    8. Fforde's Shades of Grey is fantastic - but be warned, it's the first in a series, and the rest of the series as of yet not available.

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    9. Wait... they re-titled it? To what?

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    10. Shades of Grey Part One: The Road to High Saffron.

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  6. I'm a little surprised you didn't point out the most ridiculous bit of "she's a complete virgin" stuff yet - SHE HAS NEVER HAD A SEX DREAM AND DIDN'T KNOW YOU COULD. I mean, what is that?

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    1. There comes a certain point in this book where you gloss over crap like that because you're starting to worry that your compensatory comfort ice cream intake is too high.

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    2. It happens though. I never really had sex dreams untill my twenties - I had plenty of fantasies, sure, but sex dreams and/or orgasming during sleep? Nope. I still have them very very rarely. I agree though that in this book it's less "some women are like that" and more "let's make the heroine as inexperienced as possible because of reasons". It bothers me, because I'd like to see a book in which an inexperienced heroine is *a heroine* not just a toy for "hero" to play with and "cure" by the power of his dick.

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    3. I'm 22, and I rarely have erotic sex dreams. (Plenty of horrifying ones though, ranging from 'sex with your boyfriend's parents' to 'your vagina eats a dick and then you grow a dick'.)

      I dunno about anyone else, but Ana's sex dreams are way to 'fantasy' to be actual sex dreams. Except for the clit-whipping part, thats... oww... *crosses legs*

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    4. I am willing to buy that she's never *had* a sex dream. Personally, I have them very rarely and have never orgasmed during one. But to never have heard that such a thing was possible? Come the fuck on.

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    5. I'm sorry to make light of what sounds unpleasant, anonymous, but I am weirdly charmed of the idea of being able to vaginally eat dicks and then sprout them. It sounds like a wonderfully weird horror movie hero(?)!

      ~Sor

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    6. She knows the phrase "wet dream", which I interpret as indicating she does know other people can have them, she just didn't know she could.

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    7. I don't get wet dreams. I get sex dreams but then the sex always gets interrupted by some hilarious contrivance. (Last night I was trying to have sex with an Australian guy on the beach but then sharks started washing up so we had to run away.) I never actually have an orgasm in my sleep. I'd be pretty surprised if I did.

      Still, if I did, it would be because something changed in me, not because I met some dude. I've spent my whole life meeting dudes I find attractive and none of them have rewired my sexuality with their mere presence.

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    8. I'm 22, have never had a sex dream. And although I know people dream about sexy stuff sometimes, I didn't really know that "sex dreams" where you're HAVING SEX were a thing until reading this comment thread.

      So yes. It's possible.

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    9. (different Anon) To be fair, I'm 24 and I just had my first sex dream, like, three months ago. I knew they were possible, though.

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  7. While reading this book, I came across an exchange between the two which went like, "I'm not ready for anal sex." "It's not something we can dive into. Your ass needs to be trained."

    I really really really want to see Cliff's juicy rebuttal to that one.

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    1. heh, rebuttal

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    2. Honestly, I might have already skipped over that because I just didn't know WTF to say.

      ...In retrospect, probably "Sit. Stay. Roll over. Speak. ...Ha ha, speak."

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    3. Nah, it's in the next chapter. And I feel compelled to share the glorious graphic that a reader of Jenny Trout's blog created in response to it.

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  8. I sort of find it interesting to see this compared to beauty and the beast... In that Beauty and the Beast HANDLED THIS A LOT BETTER!

    The Beast was transformed into a monster with the mental punishment being that he was considered unlovable and all his initial abuse was him being intentionally monstrous because he thought he was unlovable and not only does he never outright harm her (He just threatens to, which even Belle finds out were pretty empty threats), but even he understands what he did was terrible and regrets it but has no outlet to heal his mental scars. The Beast never did really think Belle would could love him and he basically sabotaged himself.

    While Christian Grey is just acting out his abuse over and over and has absolutely no barriers preventing him from seeking help and is completely unrepentant and shows no remorse for his actions. Better yet he KNOWS why he does the things he does and he never uses it to get better... he is just using people and Ana.

    Honestly there is NOTHING riding on me to want Hunk McAbusivepants to be redeemed by Ana. He never HINTS at trying to be a better person, regretting his actions, or doing anything out of the kindness of his heart. Look I know he is hot, but frankly he could be the hottest guy in the world who could give me orgasms at the snap of his fingers and even then I'd still find him repugnant. He has ceased being even SLIGHTLY sexually attractive because all his looks, money, and charm all feel like tools he uses to abuse you. He is like a Super Villain more the an erotic character.

    In fact, I could accept the book as it progressed so far warts and all. If it was instead a book about how Ana learns to grow a backbone and just leave him entirely and works through all the abuse he put her through. Probably involving him dying in the process, because lets face it he would never let her go.

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  9. This is so textbook abusive relationship that I am actually growing a bit uncomfortable even though my experience is now over 20 years ago. Ana's 'management' of Grey's glowering disapproval is particularly pertinent.
    I can only imagine that those who have heaped praise on this appalling pile of steaming ... were either given inducements or barely actually read it. The dynamics are so unappealing that how can any sex scene be erotic?!

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    1. I'm 100% with you, quenzmo. Mine was more recent, but the email thing!

      Once I lost my phone for over a month and didn't try very hard to find it because it meant that I had a good excuse for not receiving and/or immediately responding to my partner's texts. (Because being a graduate student and teacher, having friends and family who I occasionally like to spend time with, not hearing the phone, forgetting it in the car, the battery dying, or any number of other things that prevent one from responding to texts within the hour they were received were unacceptable excuses.) Turns out, the phone was buried in my rather large purse the whole time--I must have willfully overlooked it knowing how free it made me.

      The, "How dare you not respond to emails I sent to you today, on your graduation day--what could you possibly have on your mind other than ME?!" is exactly that. Definitely not hot!

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  10. This was a particularly good blog post in the series, Cliff -- kind of a good go-to if I ever need to justify my "no I haven't read it but in this one case you CANNOT DISMISS MY OPINION AND HERE IS WHY" stance!

    But I second what other people have said -- you can stop wading in the cesspit of piranhas for us any time you like.

    Thanks,
    Germaine

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  11. I'm a bit sad that they don't take the NDA more seriously.

    "Hi Dad! This is Christian Grey, and I'm not allowed to tell you anything about our relationship, the existence of which I can neither confirm nor deny."

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    1. Hahaha, that would be amazing

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    2. I thought about that. I mean, when you sign an NDA for work, the NDA itself isn't a secret. If someone asks you about a company secret, you say "Sorry, I can't talk about that, I signed an NDA" not "What company secret... HEY LOOK OVER THERE!"

      I feel really bad for Ana that she instinctively knows (and in a sad way, she's not wrong) that the NDA itself is something she can't talk about.

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    3. I've actually signed contracts where the existence of the contract is itself a secret (and I don't know if I'm supposed to tell you that ;) ). It wouldn't surprise me if Grey's NDA also went that far. Not that it matters, since she hasn't read it...

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    4. I wish I could thumbs up comments here.

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  12. Reading this I just really felt like giving Cliff a hug. However, I'm pretty sure Cliff's not into random strangers handing out hugs willy-nilly, so I guess a cup of hot tea and a quilt and a copy of "Leaves of Grass" to take your mind off your troubles? Walt Whitman, now that was pretty cool dude.

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  13. Terrible source material aside, you did manage to make me burst out laughing at work with "Chomp SharkWeek."

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    1. After the tampon scene, that epithet will become incredibly appropriate...

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    2. Oh God, there's a tampon scene? oh god

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    3. *schadenfreude-induced horrorgiggling*

      ... You didn't know about the tampon scene...? It's kinda infamous just for being so bad-smutficcy...

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  14. Christ, I knew these books were bad, but yours and Jenny Trout's recaps have really shown me just how fucking awful they are.
    It boggles my mind that it got this popular. How can any reasonable person read this and think that Scum Cocktease is a character you would want to hang out and be friends with, let alone have sex with? Every insult and abusive thing he does overshadows any kind of attraction or charm he might have.

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  15. That is an excellent joke and I burst out laughing.
    (This book, on the other hand, is awful).

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  16. lol "face frosting". I'm seeing only Mrs. Doubtfire with her nightly mask on.

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  17. You know, there's a way to make perfect sense of all this.

    Anna doesn't have any detailed memories from before a few weeks ago, because she's only a month old. Kate met her soon after her creation and has been taking care of this naive, mysterious girl out of concern. Jose got close to her because he thought she was easy and could take advantage. The college was paid off to treat her as a student. Her "father" is some guy Christian hired for a couple months to play a role.

    You see, Christian really isn't attractive. His money doesn't make up for his utter contempt for other people, and his physical attractiveness. He is, however, extremely wealthy, and one of his investments is in a corporation specializing in experimental robotics and artificial intelligence.

    Sooner or later, Anna will disappoint him, and he will murder her. Just like he murdered the last five. He gets a real boner from doing that, and there are technically no laws preventing it. Anna will cry out for mercy and be crushed, dissappearing into nothingness like tears in rain.

    Fifty Shades of Gray: the Modern Pygmalion.

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    1. Now THAT would make an interesting book. A sexbot becoming self aware and eventually rebelling from her master.

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    2. As the kids say these days... "headcanon accepted."

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    3. Anonymous - for an excellent read on more or less this topic I heartily recommend:
      http://www.amazon.com/The-Windup-Girl-Paolo-Bacigalupi/dp/1597801585

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    4. I'm in love with this theory. And not FSoG ''love'' but, y'know, good love.

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  18. *Physical unattractiveness, that is. Anna only thinks he's gorgeous (and that no other man is attractive) because she's programmed to.

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  19. I haven't read the book, so I only have Cliff's review to guide me, but every time I picture Christian Gray I think I picture Christian Bale.

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    1. I take it that's because of American Psycho? I guess I could see Chunk BlowFist get murderous about someone having a better business card than him.

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  20. For someone who 'isn't a hearts and flowers guy' and who doesn't want emotional relationships, he is insanely needy. I don't understand how this story can end with Christian and Ana together and still have a happy ending. I feel like it should build to her escape.

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    1. Hearts and flowers would be givey. He's only needy.

      Also, he's setting up a situation where any time he makes a romantic gesture, no matter how tiny or halfhearted, he can act like it's a huge deal and she should weep in gratitude and forgive everything. He can't get away with that if he's nice to her just any old time.

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  21. I'm desperately clinging to the hope that maybe these books are E.L. James' way of trying to discourage people from having anything to do with BDSM...like just a long-winded way of saying "BDSM is inherently evil. Just look at this relationship" or some shit...

    ...Trying to believe that is easier than trying to come to terms with the idea that some people out there genuinely find this scary ass bullshit to be some kind of sexy-as-hell...

    What.The.Everlasting.Fuck.

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    1. Speaking as a proud consumer of scary-ass bullshit... most of it is better than this :)

      Even in a straight-up torture fantasy, nobody bugs you about answering emails.

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    2. ^^ Agreed. I'm down with porn where the premise is "non-consensual sex and violence", in the same way that I'm down with non-sexual fantasies where the premise is "hurting people I don't like", as long as it remains a fantasy that you are aware is not an acceptable way to behave. I'm speaking here as someone who once wrote a detailed story about locking her former boss in his own walk-in freezer; I didn't, however, publish it for general consumption and then claim that this is an ideal form of labour relations which will liberate and empower people to take charge of their employment.

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    3. Oops, wrong response thread. Ignore the above.

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  22. It became accepted headcanon among my buddies as I was MSTing this that Christian Grey was a mind-controlling alien from Neptune. It was the only plausible reasons we could imagine him going on the way he did and not get groin-kicked by everyone.

    --Rogan

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    1. I've been reading those MSTing chapters in sync with Cliff's posts, and enjoyed them muchly :)

      Why Neptune, though? You passed up a golden Uranus joke there :)

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    2. Heh. Golden Uranus. >.>

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  23. This is weird, but I find this kind of story ("guy is genuinely cruel to girl") really compelling and even a little hot.
    Because, y'know, I'm a fucked up person, and I *ought* to be yelled at and hit and so on. In earnest. Not as a consensual game. What's emotionally compelling is *genuine* punishment. Which has very little to do with BDSM play and much more to do with being yelled at and frightened and pedantically bossed around.

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    1. There isn't necessarily anything wrong with that.

      A lot of people fantasize about things that would be horrific in real life. The important thing is recognizing the difference between the dream logic world of fetishism and reality. If 50SoG marketed itself as porn, I think most of us wouldn't have a problem with it. However, it tries to pass itself off as a literary story with characters we're expected to take seriously; a "romance." This dangerous blurring of porn and notporn, and the author's seeming lack of self-awareness, is where the problem arises.

      I'm actually about to start a novella-length piece on this subject.

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    2. Anon's comment made me very uncomfortable, so this may not be a good answer, but:

      What you want has to be either consensual or stay a fantasy. Because what you're saying is "I want something I don't want," and I can understand that feeling, but... it starts out with an "I want" and actually quite a specific description of that thing.

      And I don't think that trying to get that in real life, without ever telling anyone you're trying to get it because then it wouldn't be real, is okay. For it to happen, people would have to yell at and hit people who don't want it at all, not even in a convoluted way, so that you can get what you want without asking for it. People would have to sign on to the idea that there is a sort of person who deserves to be abused.

      So if what you're describing is a fantasy, that's fine, but when you take it into reality, I'm really not okay with it.

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    3. I can understand how punishment thing would appeal to some, but if that's what 50 Shades was aiming for, it seems to me it still missed because Ana didn't do anything to deserve punishment. If Ana had been a "bad girl" instead of a complete innocent with no history, it still wouldn't be my cup of tea, it could at least have been a more interesting story.

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    4. "For it to happen, people would have to yell at and hit people who don't want it at all, not even in a convoluted way, so that you can get what you want without asking for it. People would have to sign on to the idea that there is a sort of person who deserves to be abused."

      "People would have to"? People already do. I get what you're saying, but the existence of someone who somehow benefits from abusive people (?) is not causing abusive people to exist. They're already out there, in droves. The existence of those abusive people does not depend on anon.

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  24. I was also thinking about how unrealistic it is for Ana to get that turned on by this guy. The only things that could make someone feel that aroused is serious foreplay, or an incredibly powerful psychosexual complex, then it hit me. Anastasia Steele has the world's biggest fetish for TIES!!

    Something involving sex and business ties happened right during her puberty. Maybe she discovered masturbation by tugging on her panties, but somehow decided one of her father's ties would work better. Her first two dozen orgasms came from rubbing a business tie against her vulva, then of course dad found out, freaked out, and she shut down her budding sexuality. That is, she met the guy with the best tie in the world.

    Seriously though, this novel should have been categorized as "erotic horror"

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  25. Thank you so much for writing a detailed, occasionally humorous summary of this book, Cliff! The writing was so bad that I had no intention of reading it for myself, but I was therefore under the impression that FSoG might be valid erotica for people with rape fantasies or something.

    But, thanks to you, now I know that it's a nauseatingly good depiction of a systematically abusive relationship, which I don't think anyone gets off on.

    Either we're in for some very good kink scenes later on, or a lot of people just don't know where to find good bondage erotica and so are ooh-ing and aah-ing over the few hackneyed tidbits (like the dream sequence beginning this chapter). Or all the "fans" are just in denial because they shelled out $10-$20 for the book, and so are invested in believing it to not be garbage.

    The only thing that could save this book, in my mind, is for EL James to tip her hand and prove that she is completely aware of what she has crafted, that it is MEANT to be a horrible, awful, no-good, very bad relationship. But considering this started as a Twilight Fanfic, no way that's going to happen.

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  26. A few years ago, I came out to one of my oldest and closest friends as kinky- I was in a somewhat-healthy power exchange for the first time, and wanted to share my excitement with her. She didn't take my kinkiness badly, exactly, but couldn't relate at all and was confused and concerned about me. It was kind of sweet, actually.

    Maybe six months ago, she read FSoG, and texted me one day that she felt like she "really understood [my] life" after reading the book. At the time, I knew the book wasn't a great portrayal of BDSM, but thought that her coming to any understanding of kink was a good thing. After reading these posts, I'm dreading ever introducing her to my partners, for fear she thinks they are Christian Grey and I am Ana Steele.

    It's mindblowing to me that she was worried I was being abused when I was describing how fun and exhilarating kink is for me, but now that she's read this horror show, she's not concerned at all.

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    1. If your friend assumed you were abused when you described the stuff to her in an excited and enthusiastic way but somehow stopped having that concern when she read about a psychotic, manipulative rapist and his victim, well... this would perhaps cause me to question my choice of friends...

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  27. For some reason, I decided to look in the 50 Shades discussion on Goodreads, and...nope! A whole bunch of people are saying "No, it can't be abusive! He gave Ana the opportunity to run away, and she didn't take it! She obviously accepted him for his problems, so it can't be abusive." That was paraphrased, but...yep. One person was also claiming that Ana secretly was really a masochist, because you can't actually force people to stay in a relationship, so she must have actually liked it. Oh, and even if she did actually hate it, well then love requires sacrifice or else it isn't really love. Also, apparently your opinion of the books only counts if you've had sex. Doesn't matter if you're into BDSM, of course, just so long as you have indeed had sex at some point in your life.

    This comment section makes me feel somewhat better.

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    1. ...Wow, that is incredible disturbing. Victim blaming to exonerate your fandom. Twilight always seemed to me to be an incredibly dangerous view of romance to present to impressionable people, so I suppose it's only right that FSoG be the same. ...You know, I hate to say this, but I actually think Edward was actually a much less creepy boyfriend. I mean sure, he thinks about murdering her and her family all the time, and does things like go into her room at night and look through all her stuff so he can pretend to like the same things as she does. But he at least seems to generally say nice things about her, tell her she's attractive, and (some) of the time feel bad about the fucked up things he did.

      I never thought anything could make me appreciate what a 'healthy' example Twilight could be. I'm fairly appalled.

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    2. Original Anon here again:

      Well, at least it isn't all of them? I was kind of angry at the time of the original post, because the people I ran into were saying stuff like that (one person in particular). Some of the people who had commented earlier apparently did recognize that it wasn't healthy, or they seemed to be reading an entirely different book and claimed Ana was a strong woman who controlled the relationship...? Either way, most did say they didn't care about the BDSM, they just like the fantasy of changing a man (or they like rich guys, in one case).

      I'm not sure about Twilight. On the one hand, it is paranormal romance so he has being a vampire as an excuse for the whole wanting to kill people thing. Plus, as you said, he does seem to at least try to be pleasant occasionally. On the other hand, the fanbase was indeed more impressionable than that of 50 Shades. Now, if we're just looking at the actual stories, then I do agree that Twilight wasn't quite as bad...probably. Admittedly, I last read it in middle school (I'm sad to say I was a fan), and I don't remember it very well.

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    3. I've been reading Twilight this year (in order to keep up with Ana Mardoll's deconstructions), and I'd say that while Edward is abusively controlling and has no respect for Bella's boundaries, he does actually care about her wellbeing. I don't get any sense of that last part from Grey.

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  28. When you were making him not named Christian, I think you missed a spot. :-P I miss the fun names--they crack me up every time. Splint ChestHair really gets me in particular for some reason.

    Loving the work, and glad for this double-update (?). Keep forging ahead! The end is...coming eventually! After what will feel like a really long time!

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  29. I found the sentence "Christian was hungry once" to be unintentionally hilarious. I know that she means that he was literally starving but the way it's written makes me think "Just once? Don't most people get hungry everyday? Has his stomach felt perpetually full since then?" Now that I'm typing this out, it doesn't seem that funny but I literally laughed out loud when I read that, Chomp Sharkweek and "HEY, REMEMBER MY DICK?"

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