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50 Shades Darker Chapter 9 recap, or “Isn’t that how Natalie Wood died?”

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Hey there, friends, Romans, countrymen. Lend me your eyeballs a second.

I’ve had several people send me this link, and someone posted in the comments of the last recap. When I first read it, I could see a couple points I agreed with. Then I started thinking more about it, and I was like, “Well…” because on reread, I started to not agree with it. But I was still going to post it, because I thought, “Maybe it’s just me.” Then, after MomE posted the link on the last recap (and thank you, everyone who sent me the link or posted it here, because it’s created a discussion!), I saw some people kind of agreed with me about it, as well. So, here is what I’m going to do. I’m going to post the link, so if you missed it in the comments section, you can go read it and form your own opinion of it for yourself:
Here is my take on this piece: I think she was reaching way, way too hard to connect 50 Shades to Jerry Sandusky, and it leaves me with bad feelings. First of all, the stuff that happened at Penn State was horrible. Incredibly, life-destroyingly horrible. But there is a mountain of difference between the rape of children and a consensual sexual relationship between adults, no matter how naive or childlike Ana acts in the book. While I believe Ana suffers domestic violence in these books, and I’ve shared my doubts as to whether Ana could give informed consent about entering into a 24/7 D/s relationship due to her sexual naivety, I firmly and fully believe that Ana can consent to a sexual relationship. This is the primary condition on which the author of that piece (more to the point, her social worker friend) and I disagree. Ana might be childish, but she is not a child, and I feel the author of the piece is intentionally misleading in her cataloging of Ana’s allegedly childlike traits. Does Ana wear pigtails? Yes, twice, but more often she wears a simple, non-age-implicating pony tail. Does she say “Jeez!” and “crap,” absolutely, but she also uses words like “avuncular” and “precis” and opens the first book by graduating from college as an English major. I can’t believe I’m actually defending this fucking book, but while I may use Chris Hansen occasionally as a gag, I do not for a moment believe this book encourages pedophilia, or that it was E.L. James’s hidden agenda to mainstream pedophilia. I don’t think E.L. James is a good enough writer to subtly sneak pedophilia in under our noses on purpose. But your mileage may vary, and that’s okay, too, because it’s not like it really hurts us as a culture to examine these things.
With that in mind, here is another link, this one to some 50 Shades fanfic that retells the story from Chedward’s perspective. So, I guess this is a 50 Shades/Twilight/Midnight Sun fanfic? I don’t know, but Anonymous brought this to you, so unto Anonymous go the spoils of your adulation: The strange thing is, the writing is almost better. Unfortunately, she loses me when she casts Drew Fuller as Jose, because Drew Fuller is, you know, not Mexican. Or maybe that was the point.

  Heads up, I find hidden racism like whoa in this chapter, so I don’t know what that says about me.
So, in the interest of public service announcing at you, if you’ve sent me a link or posted it in the comments and I haven’t posted it here and you’re particularly sore about it, hit me up again. Sometimes, I don’t post links because they’re total bummers, and sometimes I don’t post links because I just forget.
All right, on to the recap:
When we last left Ana and Christian, he had just told her that he loves her. Well, no, actually. She said, “You love me,” and he said, “Yes, I do.” Which means he never said he loves her. He just agreed with her. And let me point out that he agreed with her after she stopped trying to have sex with him in order to talk about his feelings. Does anyone else see some motivation here for him to move this scene along? Does anyone else feel like this is a conversation Charlotte had with the rest of the girls on Sex and The City?
“I’m an Ana!” said no woman. Ever.

Since being owned by a man is the highest bar that Anastasia Rose “Courageous” Steele has set for herself, the next chapter starts like this:

I cannot contain my jubilation. My subconscious gapes at me in stunned silence, and I wear a face-splitting grin as I gaze longingly up into Christian’s tortured eyes.

Why is she smiling if he’s looking tortured? It’s like that old “I always cry at weddings,”/”What the fuck do you do at funerals?” chestnut from days of Rocky Horror yore. Also, way to show that bitch, your subconscious. It’s not like she’s given you any good advice that you’re routinely ignoring in favor of your loins. Your stupid, stupid loins.

Ana gushes over his “three small words,” even though they’re not “I love you,” and might as well be, “Sure, fuck now?” because confessions garnered in pursuit of nookie are inadmissible in the court of this blog. Then she again thinks about him being a “beautiful, fucked-up man,” which an astute commenter pointed out is directly from the lyrics of Sarah McLachlan’s “Building a Mystery.” I should have caught that, too, because I passionately sang that album from start to finish during my hormonal teenaged years, even though my boyfriends in high school were all pretty normal teenaged boys. I desperately wanted a beautiful, fucked up man to angst over. I guess some writers grow out of it.

Oh yes, I did.

My heart swells with joy but also pain for his suffering. And I know in this moment that my heart is big enough for both of us. I hope it’s big enough for both of us.

Oh, so you mean, you’re pretty sure you can love him so much that he doesn’t have to really participate in the relationship and all and you can still trick yourself into feeling that your emotional needs are fulfilled? Because that’s what you’re saying, Ana.

They decide to continue the fucking, albeit in another location, probably because talking about his feelings in the shower has deflated Christian’s erection considerably. Ana dries Christian’s hair with a towel, and he comments that no one has ever done that for him before. Ana insists that Grace must have done that for him as a child, and he answers:

“No. She respected my boundaries from day one, even though it was painful for her. I was very self-sufficient as a child,” he says quietly.

I feel a swift kick in the ribs as I think of a small copper-haired child looking after himself because no one else cares.

You mean like the adoptive parents who took him into their very wealthy family and gave him opportunities to achieve things he could never have dreamed of in his past situation, while respecting the fact he came from a hideously abusive and traumatic childhood and treating him with that in mind? Yeah, those fucking monsters. Only you can love him the right way.

So, Ana gets this idea that if she can dry his hair with the towel, she can touch him through the towel, too:

Carefully, I wipe his back beneath the faint lipstick line, which is still visible.

Please, someone tell me what this brand of never-wears-off lipstick is, so I don’t accidentally buy it and tattoo myself into permanent Joker cosplay with it.

Ana wipes his back with the towel, even in the no-go zones, while he makes audibly tense breathing noises and grimaces, and it’s a lot like the scene in Diana Gabaldon’s Dragonfly In Amber where Claire rapes Jamie into not being messed up by rape. Or something. I was kind of confused by a lot of stuff in those books.

Gazing at us both in the mirror – his beauty, his nakedness, and me with my covered hair – we look almost biblical, as if from an Old Testament Baroque painting.

Okay, first, how self-involved do you have to be to compare drying your boyfriend off after a shower to the fucking Bible, which is, btw, probably the only book that could outsell this behemoth? Second, what strange phrasing. “Old Testament Baroque painting” makes it sound like the Baroque period was actually in the time of the Old Testament, and that it was referenced in the Bible. Also, I’m pretty sure Satan didn’t take your soul in exchange for advertising his primary competition, E.L.

Oh, yes I did.
She’s still wiping him off with the towel, and he’s still reacting like a war veteran during an air show, and she thinks:

My subconscious looks on with approval, her normally pursed mouth smiling, and I’m the supreme puppet master.

Whoa, that got 50 Shades Darker. Really, Ana? Your boyfriend has severe PTSD and you’re proud of how well you can make him suffer from it? Don’t get me wrong, Christian Grey is a dickhole, but I don’t really think it’s fair to manipulate him through his childhood memories of molestation and physical torture.

Ana and Christian have off-camera sex, but it isn’t shown because it’s apparently not uber-kink, the way all these other, very, very shocking and titillating glimpses into the life of hardcore BDSM have been.

Apparently, this time it wasn’t fucking, hard, but making love. Awww. Ana mentions that Christian was surprisingly gentle, then tells him:

I grin. “You weren’t particularly the first time we… um, did this.”

She still cannot speak about sex with the man, even after they have just had sex. She literally can not say the word. The instant I read that line, it took me directly back to this novel I wrote in seventh grade. You see, I wanted to write a blisteringly good romance. It was about actors in a Broadway company of Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (no, I didn’t have many friends, thanks for asking) who fell in love while working on the show. It was the worst novel anyone has ever written, and that’s including the book we’re talking about right now and the historical romance novel I wrote in sixth grade (which is actually pretty good, probably only because it was partially lifted from Far and Away). There was no conflict in the romance, there was no external conflict on the characters, it was just a story about two people who dated, fell in love, had sex, and got to be on Broadway. But what I felt was very grown up and important to the story were lots of conversations between the main characters about the sex they were having, because that’s what I thought a grown up relationship was. Only, they said stuff very similar to “the first time we… um, did this,” because while I was horribly fascinated by the concept of sex and adult relationships and thought night and day about how those concepts worked together and separately, I was also very embarrassed and giggly about those subjects, as well.

“No?” He smirks. “When I robbed you of your virtue.”

Hey, when I lost my virginity to you, you weren’t gentle enough. Wait, are you smirking? Why would you be proud about that? That’s horrible.

“I don’t think you robbed me,” I mutter haughtily – I am not a helpless maiden. “I think my virtue was offered up pretty freely and willingly. I wanted you too, and if I remember correctly, I rather enjoyed myself.” I smile shyly at him, biting my lip.

No, you’re not a helpless maiden. Just a stupid one who won’t bother to call the police – or assert your right to call the police – when your life is in danger, because you can wait for big, strong Christian to protect you from the problem he created.

 “So did I if I recall, Miss Steele. We aim to please,” he drawls and his face softens, serious. “And it means you’re mine, completely.” All trace of humor has vanished as he gazes at me.

That’s right. If a man gives you an orgasm, he owns you now. It’s in the Magna Carta, look that shit up.

Ana asks Christian if he knows who his biological father was:

His brow creases and then he shakes his head. “I have no idea. Wasn’t the savage who was her pimp, which is good.”

Maybe it’s just my white guilt, but something happens in this section that gives me pause. First of all, he says that pimp was a “savage.” I hate that word, because it makes me think of all those 80’s rapemances where the women were kidnapped to nights of endless, sometimes non-con rapture by sweet, savage savages (aka Native Americans). The word savage would be used liberally, either in the title or the back cover copy, to warn the reader that non-white loving would be happening in the pages. So when Christian says, a few paragraphs later:

“Police interviewed him later. He denied flat out I had anything to do with him, and Carrick said he looked nothing like me.”

I can’t help but wonder if this is a clumsy, roundabout way of implying that the “crack whore’s” “pimp” was not white.

Ana figures she has to change the subject “before he goes all Fifty on me,” which, you know, that doesn’t sound like an abusive relationship at all, trying to constantly monitor the situations you’re in so the abuser doesn’t react negatively or anything, but I guess I digress.

“Can you face going out for some fresh air? I want to show you something.”

No, she can’t. She’ll wilt, because she’s a porcelain Victorian lass whose vagina will fall out at the mere mention of physical exertion.

 He grins at me with his boyish, carefree, I’m-only-twenty-seven smile, and my heart lurches into my mouth.

Because she realized that in three years he’ll be the dreaded thirty and impossibly old. I love that Ana, who is younger than Christian, is thinking of his age in terms of “I’m only,” as if she’s much, much older than he is. Look, I’m not calling Ana a Mary Sue, but I’m calling Ana a wishful projection of E.L. James.

As we dress, I notice that we move with the synchronization of two people who know each other well, each watchful and acutely aware of each other, exchanging the occasional shy smile and sweet touch.

The synchronization of two people who have known each other for, what, is it three whole weeks now? I’ve lost count, because it seems like time moves in slow motion in this book and days are like, thirty-seven hours long so that there is plenty of time for hours of love making and daring escapes and charity balls. For example, in this day already they’ve had breakfast, Ana’s gotten forced birth control, they shared their feelings in the shower, made slow and tender off-screen love, now they’re going to go buy Ana a new car and then take Christian’s yacht out for a day of sailing. Then they’re going to go out to dinner, drive to Christian’s apartment, have a mini-fight, have a bigger fight, play pool, fuck on the pool table, take a bath together and then they’re in bed by TEN-THIRTY. And this apparently super long day? It takes place over three or four chapters.

Christian drags a large, cream, cable-knit sweater out of his bag and drapes it artfully around over his shoulders. With his white T-shirt and jeans, his artfully rumpled hair, and now this, he looks as if he’s stepped out of the pages of a high-end glossy magazine.

New drinking game rule: take a shot every time E.L. uses the word “artfully.”

As they got dressed, Christian and Ana traded quips about how his palms still twitch, and he could prove it, or whatever, so after the artful sweater draping paragraph, Ana thinks:

And I don’t know if it’s the momentary distraction of his perfect looks or the knowledge that he loves me, but his threat no longer fills me with dread. This is my Fifty Shades; this is the way he is.

In other words, “When he threatens to hit me, I’m not scared anymore, because I’m so used to his threats. Also, he’s hot, so that makes this all okay.”

My hair is a mess, my face flushed, my lips swollen – I touch them, remembering Christian’s searing kisses, and I can’t help a small smile as I stare. Yes, I do, he said.

But not “I love you.” Keep that in mind, reader.

We have to wait with Christian and Ana while the valet gets the car, because this was written by someone who is so attached to their own work that they can’t imagine we wouldn’t all be super fascinated by the minutia of the characters’ every day lives, like getting dressed, eating breakfast, and waiting for the fucking valet. The sick thing? People actually are fascinated by these shitty details that make this book way too long.

As we cruise through traffic, Christian is deep in thought. A young woman’s voice comes over the loudspeakers; it has a beautiful, rich, mellow timbre, and I lose myself in her sad, soulful voice.

The car has a loudspeaker?

Christian is taking Ana to get a new car, so he pulls into the Saab dealership.

“Not an Audi?” is, stupidly, the only thing I can think of to say, and bless him, he actually flushes.

Better give him a derogatory nickname then, Ana.

Christian is going to buy Ana a Saab 9-3, which tragically dates this book already, because Saab went bankrupt and the US inventory of new cars was seized by GM’s finance division back in May. Since this version was published in April, it’s not like they could have done anything about it, but still, it made my heart go, “Awww, poor Saab.”

By the way, when I checked the copyright page to figure out when the Vintage version came out, I noticed this little gem:

The author published an earlier serialized version of this story online with different characters as “Master of The Universe” under the pseudonym Snowqueen’s Icedragon.

 Back in March, Jane at Dear Author excerpted a bit of a Washington Post article in which Vintage books asserted:

“It is widely known that E.L James began to capture a following as a writer shortly after she posted her second fan fiction story,” Vintage said in a statement. “She subsequently took that story and re-wrote the work, with new characters and situations. That was the beginning of the ‘Fifty Shades’ trilogy. The great majority of readers, including fan fiction aficionados, have found ‘Fifty Shades’ deeply immersive and incredibly satisfying.”

So, it’s a completely new and original work that was first published somewhere else! Thanks for the integrity, Vintage!

Anyway, back to the car search. Christian is going to get Ana a Saab 9-3 because there were no uglier cars available.

I resign myself to my fate. A Saab? Do I want a Saab?

Does it matter? He doesn’t let you order your own meals in restaurants, I highly doubt he’s going to let you pick what car you drive.

Troy Turniansky, the salesman, is all over Fifty like a cheap suit.

Why does the salesman have a last name? Or any name? Why do we even have to go car shopping with them? It’s not interesting at all, and I will skip a lot of it. The gist is, Christian asks Ana what color car she wants, then argues with her and overrides her choice, and when Ana points out the way he’s behaving, she instantly regrets it and tells him she’ll take the Audi instead. Then, they talk about getting the convertible model, which makes Ana horny in the pants and her inner goddess shows up again (drink!). While Christian gets the safety stats on the car from Troy Turniansky, the car salesman so important as to have a last name even though he’s in one goddamned scene, Ana thinks:

Naturally Christian wants me safe. It’s a religion with him, and like the zealot that he is, he listens intently to Troy’s well-honed patter. Fifty really does care.

Yes. I do. I remember his whispered, choked words from this morning, and a melting glow spreads like warm honey through my veins. This man – God’s gift to women – loves me.

On behalf of all women, I would like to return the gift.

I find myself grinning goofily at him, and when he glances down at me, he’s amused yet puzzled by my expression.

So, he’s amused and bemused at the same time? Come on, E.L., you missed such an opportunity there!

Christian produces his credit card, or is it Taylor’s? The thought is unnerving.

A lot of stuff unnerves Ana, I’m noticing. What does it matter if it’s Taylor’s card? Is she worried that Christian isn’t going to pay him back?

I wonder how Taylor is, and if he’s located Leila in the apartment. I rub my forehead. Yes, there’s all of Christian’s baggage, too.

For the life of me, I can’t figure out what she means by “all of Christian’s baggage, too.” In addition to what? Leila is part of Christian’s baggage. I’m so confused.

Back in the car (not the Saab they just bought, Christian’s car), Ana asks who the singer on the “loudspeaker” is, and Christian informs her it’s Eva Cassidy, then explains that she died young. And then he’s all, “Are you hungry,” so no, the conversation wasn’t a metaphor or anything, it’s literally just needless chit-chat. I’m not kidding, look how quickly he shifts gears:

“She died young.”


Are you hungry?”

Well, not now, I’m not. Geesh. Nothing wets the appetite like the untimely death of a criminally ignored young talent. Mmm, let’s get porkchops! Why the hell was that conversation included?

Ana is all “uh-oh” when Christian asks her if she’s hungry, because she’s apparently afraid to admit that she wants to eat. Or she’s afraid to admit that she’s hungry, but how is she supposed to control that? It’s not like they had a buffet at the car dealership.

It’s another beautiful day in Seattle; it’s been uncharacteristically fine for the last few weeks.

Okay, this is funny, because Seattle in June usually is pretty nice (or so I’ve been told), but this year, the year this book made its debut, Seattle had an unusually cold and rainy June. So, it’s hilarious on two levels:

  1. It wouldn’t be unusual to have some nice days in June in Seattle.
  2. It makes it look like this book has some dark power to fuck with the weather. 

I put on my robe and wizard hat.
They’re driving now, so you know what that means: it’s time for Ana to think really deep thoughts about Christian Grey:

I am less nervous of his moods, confident that he won’t punish me, and he seems more comfortable with me, too.

I think what she meant to say was, “I’ve learned to modify my own behavior in order to keep from being physically abused by an angry man, and he likes that I’m acting exactly according his every whim.” I’m sure that’s what she really meant. And as confident as she is of her ability to not get beaten up, she still considers him somewhat threatening, because in the next paragraph, after they pull up to a marina, this happens:

“We’ll eat here. I’ll open your door,” he says in such a way that I know it’s not wise to move, and I watch him move around the car. Will this ever get old?

It got old two-hundred and seven pages ago. And yet…

Ana and Christian “stroll” through the marina, where Ana shows off her fancy college degree:

“So many boats,” I murmur in wonder.

So, just in case you’ve ever been wondering if there are a lot of boats on Puget Sound, there are, indeed, a lot of boats on Puget Sound.

Christian takes Ana to a bar on the waterfront where the barman knows Christian by name, and Ana has some more of her weirdly placed white guilt:

“Welcome to SP’s Place.” Dante gives me a friendly smile. He’s black and beautiful, his dark eyes assessing me and not finding me wanting, it seems. One large diamond stud winks at me from his ear. I like him immediately.

Remember how when she met the black receptionist, she was like, “I could be friends with her,” but when she meets anyone white, she has a derogatory name for them, like “Mrs. European Pigtails” or “The Charlatan?” There’s a lot of weird racial stuff in these books, now that I’m thinking of it. Like Edward calling Jose “boy,” and the above mentioned use of “savage.” I can’t be the only one seeing this, right?

Hey, you guys? You’re going to need this monkey again in a second:

“What would you like to drink, Anastasia?”

I glance at Christian, who regards me expectantly. Oh, he’s going to let me choose.

“Please, call me Ana, and I’ll have whatever Christian’s drinking.”

That’s right. He lets her choose something, and she defers to him. She’s so proud at how trained she is, it actually makes my heart sad. Not because I like Ana, but because I know how very common this is.

Christian orders their food – which Ana is totally okay with – and their meals are served with a side of self-centeredness:

He recounts the history of Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc., and the more he reveals, the more I sense his passion for fixing problem companies, his hopes for the technology he’s developing, and his dreams of making land in the third world more productive. I listen, enraptured. He’s funny, clever, philanthropic, and beautiful, and he loves me.

Keep in mind that with the way Ana treats her friends, Christian could be Jesus and Buddha reincarnated simultaneously into the body of a 1950’s gay magazine pinup guy with the brain of Stephen Hawking, and it would mean squat if he wasn’t in love with her, because then it would have nothing to do with her. The only reason she’s so excited about how funny, clever, philanthropic, and beautiful he is, is because he fulfills a need for her.

Now, reread that paragraph excerpted above, and pay attention to the verbs used to indicate Christian’s sharing of information: recounts, reveals, hopes, dreams, either neutral or positive words. Now, when it’s Ana’s turn:

In turn he plagues me with questions about Ray and my mom, about growing up in the lush forests of Montesano, and my brief stints in Texas and Vegas. He demands to know my favorite books and films, and I’m surprised by how much we have in common.

Plagues. Demands. So, on Ana’s end, conversation about herself feels like a burden. I’m undecided if it’s because she finds herself genuinely less interesting than Christian, or if it’s just because she’s as deeply unpleasant as she has been throughout the series so far.

Oh, and for you Tess of The D’Urbervilles readers out there, here’s something you can go apeshit about in the comments (and please do):

As we talk, it strikes me that he’s turned from Hardy’s Alec to Angel, debasement to high ideal in such a short space of time.

He’s cured! Guess he doesn’t need to keep seeing the psychologist you don’t approve of despite not having any background in psychology, Ana. You’re just as smart as a doctor, and your magic hootchie cures all.

Now, I’m sure you’ve all guessed why Christian Grey drove out to the marina to have lunch with Ana. And you would be right. He has a boat, and he wants to take her sailing.

Holy cow. It must be at least forty, maybe fifty feet. Two sleek white hulls, a deck, a roomy cabin, and towering overhead an impressive mast. I know nothing about boats, but I can tell this one is special.

Drink every time Ana admits to not knowing about something, but makes a quality call, anyway.

He pulls me to the side so I can see her name: The Grace. I’m surprised. “You named her after your mom?”

“Yes.” He cocks his head to one side, quizzical. “Why do you find that strange?”

Because it’s not The S.S. Anastasia Rose Steele Magic Hootchie Express. Ana thinks that it’s weird because Christian doesn’t show much warmth when he’s around his mother, but she doesn’t say that. She just lets him ask her again why she thinks it’s weird, and then he’s all, she saved my life, the least I can do is name a boat after her, and Ana finally gets that, oh, hey. He loves his mom. And yet she doesn’t ask him why he’s not warm and friendly to the mother he loves and who saves his life, because if she did, she might get an answer. If she got an answer, we couldn’t have six or seven endless pages of her mulling over the mystery of Mr. Grey.


They go aboard and meet a man who I’m going to just imagine as Kurt Russel from Captain Ron, because that description is more interesting than the one in the book:

“Anastasia, this is Liam McConnell. Liam, my girlfriend, Anastasia Steele.”

Girlfriend! My inner goddess performs a quick arabesque. She’s still grinning over the convertible. I have to get used to this – it’s not the first time he’s said it, but hearing him say it is still a thrill. 

Yes, you do have to get used to it, Ana, because we don’t want to hear about that cupid stunt, your inner goddess, every time the word girlfriend comes up. Girlfriend! My inner goddess whips her sled dogs into a frenzy at the very mention of the word! I know we’ve been dating for four years, but I’ll never get tired of my mercurial, abusive Mr. Grey. Gag.

“How’s she shaping up, Mac?” Christian interjects quickly, and for a moment, I think he’s talking about me.

“She’s ready to rock and roll, sir,” Mac beams. Oh, the boat, The Grace. Silly me.

Yes, Ana, silly you. Not everything is about you.

Christian gives Ana a tour of the boat, and of course inside it’s all white and pale wood and blah blah blah just like the Escala, and then he shows her “oh…” the bedroom:

“This is the master cabin.” He gazes down at me, eyes glowing. “You’re the first girl in here, apart from family,” he says. “They don’t count.”

Because I can’t fuck them, they don’t count.

I flush under his heated stare, and my pulse quickens. Really? Another first.

Okay, so what happens when you’re not special anymore, Ana? When there aren’t any more firsts for you guys to do together?

“Might have to christen this bed,” he whispers against my mouth.

Oh, at sea!

No, in the fucking desert, where do you think, Ana? You’re on a fucking boat. No, in space, Ana. That’s where he means. I hope your inner goddess gets sea sick and pukes all over her dragon boat or whatever ludicrous metaphor you come up with.

“It’s a six-berth cat. I’ve only ever had the family on board, though. I like to sail alone. But not when you’re here. I need to keep an eye on you.”

Wait, that doesn’t make any sense. Of course he’s not going to sail alone if he’s brought another person along. It has nothing to do with keeping an eye on anybody, it’s just… I don’t know, science, or fact, or reality or something. If you bring another person, you’re not alone.

They have an absolutely maddening conversation as he puts a life jacket on her and they talk about straps and how he’s a pervert, but he’s her pervert, basically the same conversation they’ve had a bunch of times and the same conversation they will continue to have a bunch of times for the rest of the book. Then there is some bland innuendo about “rope tricks” regarding the rigging.

Mac comes scooting back down the side of the boat, grinning at me, and jumps down to the deck below where he starts to unfasten a rope. Maybe he knows some rope tricks, too. The idea pops unwelcome into my head and I flush.

And there you have more evidence that Ana is incredibly immature about sexuality. The only sexuality that is welcome is Christian’s sexuality, and hers, to a lesser extent. But once that pesky inner goddess starts casting her net a little wider, sex is once again icky and not good. Her subconscious even “glares” at her for reacting to another man, and Ana thinks about how it’s Christian’s fault. She’s not willing to own a single thing about her own sexuality, but remember, these books are somehow helping women own theirs? I don’t buy it. Those women who claim 50 Shades of Grey and the sequels have changes their lives are in exactly the same position, by the way. They’re not saying, “because of this book, I learned to accept and explore my own sexuality,” they’re saying, “because of this cultural phenomenon, I have permission to be horny.”

After they motor out of the marina:

“Sail time,” Christian says, excited. “Here – you take her. Keep her on this course.”

What? He grins, reacting to the horror on my face.

Ana is super nervous to drive the boat, which I don’t quite get, since she flew the glider with no problem. You’re way more likely to survive a boat crash than a glider crash. Ana steers the boat while Christian and Mac raise the sails:

Perhaps Mac is Fifty’s friend. He doesn’t seem to have many, as far as I can tell, but then, I don’t have many, either.

I wonder why that is, for both of you? You can tell that neither of them have any friends, because Ana seems to think it would be normal for Mac to call Christian “sir” if they were hang out buddies.

Well, not here in Seattle. The only friend I have is on vacation sunning herself in Saint James on the west coast of Barbados.

Yeah, for like, ever. At least, it seems like it. I wonder if Kate is going to show up in this book at all.

I feel a sudden pang for Kate. I miss my roommate more than I thought I would when she left. I hope she changes her mind and comes home with her brother, Ethan, rather than prolong her stay with Christian’s brother, Elliot..

Why? You won’t spend any time with her, anyway. And if you do, you’ll just complain about how terrible she is for being rich or wearing pajamas or being, horror, blonde.

Now, we reach a conundrum of POV. This book is written in first person, present tense. Not my favorite, let me tell you, to read or write, but sometimes a book doesn’t work any other way. If the story is a third person, past tense story, you can try all you want to make it work in a first person pov or a present tense, but it’s not going to work. I don’t know why that is, maybe it’s magic. Maybe it’s science. Maybe there is a reason for it in one of those craft books better writers take the time to study. But it is what it is. However, no matter what pov or tense you’re working with, you have to follow the rules, and one of the rules of first person, present tense is that you can only supply information your character has right now. Earlier on, Miss Anastasia Rose Steele says:

I know nothing about boats, 

so we, the readers, have to take her at her word. She knows nothing about boats.

If she knows nothing about boats, then how is she telling us this?:

Christian and Mac hoist the mainsail.


They get to work on the headsail,


He points with his chin toward Mac, who is unfurling the spinnaker –

It doesn’t make sense for her to know what any of this is, if she doesn’t know anything about boats. And if she doesn’t know it, she certainly can’t share it with us in first person, present tense, no matter how much rich detail it lends to the narrative.

Ana and Christian spend some time being lovey-dovey, and then Ana thinks:

Yes, you’re a lucky bitch, my subconscious snaps. But you have your work cut out with him. He’s not going to want this vanilla crap forever… you’re going to have to compromise. I glare mentally at her snarky, insolent face and rest my head against Christian’s chest. Deep down I know my subconscious is right, but I banish the thoughts. I don’t want to spoil my day.

I don’t want to spoil my day thinking about how eventually he’s going to need to either beat the shit out of me with a belt or dump me, fiddle dee dee, I’ll think about that tomorrow.

An hour later, we are anchored in a small, secluded cove off Bainbridge Island. Mac has gone ashore in the inflatable dinghy – for what, I don’t know – but I have my suspicions because as soon as Mac starts the outboard engine, Christian grabs my hand and practically drags me into his cabin, a man with a mission.

I find it highly suspect that Christian has never brought another girl here, but Mac just instinctively knows to get out so the boss can get down to fucking. Christian tells Ana to strip for him, then there is another scene of fresh-out-of-the-socks toe sucking (why?! why?!) and some deeply troubling inner thoughts on Ana’s sexuality:

I want to be sexy for this man. He deserves sexy – he makes me feel sexy.

Deserves? No one “deserves” for you to be anything, Ana. This is sick and sad.

I am wearing some of my new underwear – a white lacy thong and matching bra – a designer brand with a price tag to match. I step out of my jeans and stand there for him in the lingerie he’s paid for, but I no longer feel cheap. I feel his.

See, if you just have sex without it being true lurve, you’re a cheap, filthy whore. Thanks for confirming that and propping up yet another stereotype about women’s sexuality, E.L. You are truly a fucking sister.

Slowly, I slip my panties off, letting them fall to my ankles, and step out of them, surprised by my grace.

Bitch, you didn’t ribbon dance at the Olympics, you took off your panties. Get over yourself.

Standing before him, I am naked and unashamed, and I know it’s because he loves me. I no longer have to hide.

That’s right, ladies. If no one loves you, cover that shit up. No one wants to see it until you’ve done your duty as a woman and earned the love of a man, no matter how he treats you.

I step toward him, slip my fearless fingers inside the waistband of his jeans, and tug so he’s forced to take a step closer to me.

 For outstanding bravery in the field of undressing one’s boyfriend, awarded posthumously to Ms. Anastasia Rose Steele, killed in action.

“You’re getting so bold, Ana, so brave,” he whispers and clasps my face with both hands, bending to kiss me deeply.

See sarcastic Medal of Honor, above.

My intrepid fingers moves through his pubic hair to his erection, and I grasp him tightly.

Move over, Lewis and Clark. Take a hike, Sacajawea. Intrepid has a new meaning, and you better in be in awe of it.

There’s some kissing and other boring sex stuff, and then Ana gives what has to be the vaguest bj in all of recorded history:

I shift back, taking him in my hands, and I just can’t resist him in all his glory. I bend and kiss him, taking him in my mouth, swirling my tongue around him, then sucking hard. He groans and flexes his hips so that he’s deeper in my mouth.

Until I got to the flexing hips part, I had no idea she was sucking his cock.

And then they achieve simultaneous orgasm, and the chapter is over. Thank god.

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  1. Anonymous

    I’m wondering whether Troy the car salesman got given the last name of one of E.L.’s loyal minions. Perhaps as a reward for their conscientious attacks on anyone who dared to criticise the fanfic. It happened, believe me.

    July 18, 2013
  2. Finally making a comment!!! Yesss. It’s probably because I’ve had three glasses of wine and laughed my ass off reading this (thank you). Okay, of all the truly annoying shit in this book, what really annoyed me the most (hard to imagine) was every time Ana would comment about something and say “I don’t know it” or that she’s unfamiliar with it. ~He plays something lamenting and vague – I don’t know it – but I’m caught in his cool vanilla spell~ or whatever. She always has to quantify something even if she doesn’t know what the hell it is. Like if she doesn’t know what it is then it’s somehow remarkable because she’s so intelligent (there are boats!).

    September 5, 2013
  3. Lieke

    First of all, your recaps are hilarious. Thanks for writing them. Slugging through these horrible books can’t have been easy.

    Why does Ana continue to think that Tess of the D’Urbervilles is romantic? It isn’t. Oh, there are some good bits in the beginning when Angel and Tess are flirting, but everything quickly goes to hell. Tess is raped by Alec. So, he isn’t really a mysterious, broody, handsome stranger as he is a full-on rapist. Then she tells Angel about not being a virgin anymore and he’s basically like ‘see you later, slut.’ He can’t be with her now that he knows she isn’t ‘pure’ anymore. Before he met her he slept with a prostitute, but whatever. It’s different for men, amiright ladies? And rape and consensual sex are totally the same. Ugh. The book ends with Tess being forced to marry Alec because she is ruined and no one else will have her. Then Angel suddenly changes his mind and tells her that he does want to be with her. She kills Alec, (good riddance) is executed for her crime and Angel moves on with her young (and still pure) sister. He’s such a prince. Yep, definitely a romance to aspire to, don’t you think?

    Also, I read your description of Ana’s inner goddess as ‘stupid cunt’ instead of ‘cupid stunt,’ which I guess was your intention. Anyway, I laughed so hard at that. Thank you.

    September 15, 2013
    • Babydraco

      And what’s funny (Not) is that Hardy was totally on Tess’s side. A man writing before feminism got it and E L James doesn’t…

      September 17, 2013
      • Lieke

        I completely agree. I don’t think E.L. James gets anything. It’s like her continued references to Icarus and that painting The Scream. She just picked some classic literature, myth, art (to indicate that Ana isn’t an idiot) and then repeats these references ad nauseam. Maybe she read the cliff notes of Tess, but somehow I even doubt that.

        These books just make me sad.

        September 18, 2013
        • Leah

          Two years later, I just want to thank you guys so much for pointing this out! I read Tess, and it broke my heart, so seeing this travesty of a trilogy quote and misuse it like this is absolutely terrible.

          If a man is like Alec d’Urberville, HE IS NOT ATTRACTIVE. He’s horrible in literally every way. Maybe the author should’ve said he was like the Phantom of the Opera instead (and then he can morph into Raul through Anabella’s hoochie magic!).

          July 5, 2015
          • Alexis

            Considering she thinks Ana and Christian are the most romantic of the romantic, I’m not surprised she thought Tess was a love story. Shows you how warped her mind is.

            September 16, 2015
  4. Alex

    Am I the only one annoyed by “it has a deck”…of course the boat has a deck…what boat DOESN’T have a deck?! What a pointless detail.

    September 24, 2013
    • Bec

      Actually, some smaller catamarans use a trampoline between the two hulls. So instead of decking you either have treated canvas or sometimes netting. I wouldn’t even know that except my friend owns one and I helped him put on a new trampoline last summer.

      September 3, 2014
  5. j0persha

    Nit-pick, but in ballet an arabesque is basically a static position where you balance on one leg ( and is not really expressive of excitement. I have noticed before that it seems like Inner Goddess dancing looks a lot like Elaine off ‘Seinfield’.
    Do we think the sailing terms are even accurate? E.L and her publishers have repeatedly demonstrated they feel research and technical accuracy gets in the way of the creative/sexual flow. I feel like if these books had a bibliography at the end it would be like in those essays you wrote at the beginning of secondary school when you weren’t really clear on how an essay (or a bibliography) was suuposed to work, and all you have is:
    1. The Dictionary. 2002.
    2. Roget’s Thesaurus. 2005
    3. The Consice Oxford Encyclopedia of Western Art and Literature. 2003.
    I’d put Wikipedia, but she has clearly never used that.

    November 23, 2013
    • ViolettaD

      I didn’t notice (blends in so well with all the rest of the bad writing), but you’re absolutely right. If she were really excited, she’d be doing tour jetes across the floor or a fuck-ton of fouettes. Even Odile, the evil imposter, got more genuinely excited than Ana’s flat-footed “Inner Goddess.” I think Ana’s IG is FAKING IT.

      March 10, 2015
  6. Tania

    Thank you! I haven’t read the books but I love your writing. Just the thought of reading your recaps makes me smile. This is not the best period in my life and your writing really gets me through the day. Thanks!

    December 11, 2013
  7. Anon.

    I’ve wanted to comment here for a while (this recap is hilarious!)
    Just wondering has anybody noticed (then gotten constantly annoyed by) how Ana almost always includes a reference to nationality in descriptions of the bit characters? Particularly her apparent obsession with accents? Like she (or EL James) has to geographically place each character… is it supposed to make them instantly real in the absence of any more descriptive work on her part??
    [scene/entrance with lots of unnecessary adjectives] [gender] [level of interest in Ana] [comparison w/ Christian] [accent/nationality reference] BOOM = new character

    December 20, 2013
  8. Shannon

    I love these recaps so much. I really think you could parlay them into an editing book. How Not To Suck.

    January 4, 2014
  9. Shayne

    Love the reference to Bible and O.T. art. Laughed for ages and the lipstick crack…. had a blast reading this recap

    January 6, 2014
  10. ColeYote

    > Then she again thinks about him being a “beautiful, fucked-up man,” which an astute commenter pointed out is directly from the lyrics of Sarah McLachlan’s “Building a Mystery.”

    Pointlessly inserting song lyrics into the text, EL? And here I thought you were above that kind of pretentious hack writing. If I ever do get to work on that sci-fi-gay-furry-sex-slavery novel I’ve got floating in my head, I kinda want to work some In Flames lyrics or something in just to mess with people. Nothing sexier than melodic death metal.

    > Ana figures she has to change the subject “before he goes all Fifty on me,”

    > “This is my Fifty Shades; this is the way he is.”

    > “Troy Turniansky, the salesman, is all over Fifty like a cheap suit.”

    > “Fifty really does care.”

    > “Perhaps Mac is Fifty’s friend.”

    I have seen people give themselves less forced nicknames. Stop it, The James.

    > “Girlfriend! My inner goddess performs a quick arabesque.”

    … This being the first time her inner goddess has done something nonsensical and I have to look up what that nonsensical thing is.

    January 7, 2014
  11. Carolina West
    Carolina West

    “Holy cow.”

    I’ve been writing since seventh grade and I can’t remember using that phrase once, let alone the 200-something times E.L. has shoved it in. How old is this chick supposed to be again?

    April 24, 2014
  12. Lida

    I think Tori Amos wrote the line “so you can make me cum, does that make you Jesus?” for Christian Grey.

    November 29, 2014
    • Adeline Raina
      Adeline Raina

      That lyric and song have been floating through my head all the way through reading these recaps.

      March 19, 2015
  13. T

    Loving the recaps. There’s a few areas where I might’ve nitpicked where you haven’t and vice versa, but it’s been amusing so far.

    And…. the stuff that isn’t recaps, like the link at the top:

    “Ana might be childish, but she is not a child”
    Going to agree with you on this point.
    I don’t want to defend 50 shades for anything, but in this case, I will. As a 30-something virgin (not kidding, I identify as an asexual for a reason) with no interest in changing that status and only, shall we say, an “academic” curiosity about what the act feels like, I find it insulting that anyone, let alone professionals, would automatically assume “no experience” = “child”–that part sounds less like a warning about pedophiles and more like the age-old nonsense that someone who is not heterosexual is simply going through a phase and will eventually “grow out of it.”

    Heck, in my extremely rare musings about what sort of “romance” I’d write if I had any interest in trying, I’d probably treat the whole concept of virginity and the taking thereof as a matter of trust between the people involved, not this rite of passage thing that I see more often…. though my version would of course require the people involved to DESERVE that trust.

    That being said, the writing IS crappy, and, though I am a prude with regards to terminology–case in point, referring to the act as “the act”–I would like to think I sound a little better than Ana.
    And her references to BEING childish remain disturbing as ever.

    December 6, 2014
  14. Kate (the non-slutty non-evil!blonde one)
    Kate (the non-slutty non-evil!blonde one)

    “Bitch, you didn’t ribbon dance at the Olympics, you took off your panties. Get over yourself.”

    …my nose now hurts from snorting out wine as I collapse in laughter.

    February 7, 2015
  15. Reading the alternative pov fic you linked at the start…
    ‘I’m gonna be well pissed with him if he has.’ – CGrey is now a eastend londoner.

    February 8, 2015
  16. Traci

    I arrived late to this party, but had to tell you how hilarious these recaps are. I’ve spent the last day obsessively reading each chapter and my productivity is nil, but I’ve really enjoyed it. You are truly entertaining. Thanks for reading these books so we don’t have to!

    February 26, 2015
  17. KA

    A text from a friend, sent yesterday: “Last night I had a dream that Anastasia actually killed herself in the first book, and the rest of the trilogy was about Christian going to therapy.”

    Dear E.L. James – My friend just wrote a better book than you did. IN HER SLEEP.

    March 21, 2015
  18. Kim

    “it’s a lot like the scene in Diana Gabaldon’s Dragonfly In Amber where Claire rapes Jamie into not being messed up by rape?”

    Something very similar happens in Robin Schone’s The Lover. BTW in terms of good, feminist, character driven, actually sexy erotica that doesn’t hate women and actually takes sexual violence seriously, I love Robin Schone.

    March 23, 2015
    • Kim

      Whoops, I meant Gabriel’s Woman, not The Lover

      March 24, 2015
  19. Heidi

    I’m late to the party, but I’m loving the recaps! Thank you for braving 50 Shades so I didn’t have to! After slogging through the last two books in the Twilight series I just couldn’t face reading these but felt like I should know what all the fuss was about.

    I’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest most of my life and for some reason it annoys me that these books and Twilight take place in the region. She grew up in Monteseno? I grew up twenty minutes from there. I grew up a little over two hours from Forks. I just feel like these places deserve so much more than to be put on the map by this dreck!

    September 24, 2015
  20. CleverSobriquet

    Sorry, Late to the party. But.
    So, when you asked why Troy Turniansky had a last name, I thought it sounded Slavic, and so was probably thrown in for some anti-Slavic racism (YAY VARIETY) (also I’m Slavic, so I kinda notice when names sound Slavic, even if I’m too Americanized to recognize more specific ethnicities). Then I did a cursory Google search, and most of the results had “Jewish” “Israeli” or “Hebrew” somewhere in the description, so I’m going to go with anti-Semitic racism. Which I guess reinforces how horrible EL James is, though we already knew that… Just another dimension to the horrible. Huzzah.

    April 7, 2016
    • ViolettaD

      I missed that. And he’s a car salesman. Nice stereotyping, she’s already dissed Blacks and Blondes, so why not throw religion into the mix? She probably would have made him a USED car salesman, but that would make 50 look cheap.

      April 7, 2016
  21. May La Nee
    May La Nee

    “I shift back, taking him in my hands, and I just can’t resist him in all his glory. I bend and kiss him, taking him in my mouth, swirling my tongue around him, then sucking hard. He groans and flexes his hips so that he’s deeper in my mouth.”

    I imagine Ana puts her hands on his sides as if he is a huge snack and puts her mouth on the top of his actual head, her lips just about touching his ears. Then she takes him in her mouth up to his chest, swirls her huge tongue around him, and she sucks so he’s inside of her to his waist. Then he flexes his hips and only his feet are sticking out.

    Oh yes, Ana was hungry.

    October 3, 2016
  22. Lord Voldebeard, He Who Must Not Be Shaved
    Lord Voldebeard, He Who Must Not Be Shaved

    I gotta say, I heard people talking about the rapper 50 Cent today (old YouTube video), and so every time she calls Christian “Fifty,” I immediately replace him with 50 Cent. Specifically the action hero portrayal of him from the hideously terrible game Blood on the Sand.

    July 9, 2020

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