We had an amazing weekend on twitter. Someone came up with the idea to make a #50ShadesIsAbuse hashtag. Actor Stephen Fry (!) tweeted the hashtag to his followers and the damn thing exploded. Once the 50 Shades fans caught wind of the criticism, they circled the wagons. Some of them promptly jumped at the chance to threaten violence against people who didn’t like the book, and to tell real domestic violence survivors that they deserved their abuse or should be the targets of further abuse. Some went a more subtle route, repeatedly reporting one #50ShadesIsAbuse poster until his account was suspended twice.
So basically, these books are attracting only the very best people.
In response to all this, a 50 Shades is Abuse blog ring was created. If you feel like despairing at humanity for exalting this book, here’s the link.
When last we left Ana and Christian, they were going to make the security team wait in the other room while they had sex. Christian asks Ana if she wants “kinky fuckery.”
I nod, feeling my face flame. Why am I embarrassed by this? I have done all manner of kinky fuckery with this man. He’s my husband, damn it! Am I embarrassed because I want this and I’m ashamed to admit it? My subconscious glares at me. Stop over-thinking.
Ana, no one would ever acuse you of over thinking. But what really pisses me off about this paragraph is her assumption that because this man is her husband, she should be able to just give up her body and her desires to him without any reservation. The thing is, that kind of relationship requires trust, and there’s no trust between Ana and Christian except for the trust he’s forced her to put in him. And even then, she has doubts, so tell me again why she should be totally comfortable sharing anything personal with him at all?
Christian asks if he has “‘Carte blanche'” during this kinky fuckery:
Carte blanche? Holy fuck – what will that entail? “Yes,” I murmur nervously, as excitement blooms deep inside me.
You may remember that the last time she gave him “carte blanche,” he beat the ever living fuck out of her with a belt, and not in a sex game way. In a “I want to cause you as much pain as possible because your suffering gets me off even if your consent is dubious and uninformed,” kind of way.
They go into the “play room.” I guess that’s what we’re calling it now, instead of the Red Room of Pain, and thank god. Red Room of Pain sounds like a New Wave band or a Boston-based Irish rap group.
The playroom smells reassuringly familiar, of leather and wood and fresh polish. I blush, knowing that Mrs. Jones must have been in here cleaning while we were away on our honeymoon.
Why, was someone else using it while you were on your honeymoon? Why would it need to be cleaned?
What will he do? He locks the door and turns.
Again with the locking door. Like, dude, you live alone, with a highly trained security staff. Do you think the arsonist is going to drive his Dodge right through that door and interrupt your sex? What is the likelihood of someone busting in on them in the apartment where only they live? I know this is a small detail when compared to everything else in these books, but I’ve totally fixated on it.
Christian asks Ana what she wants, and she tells him to surprise her. With the exception of, “beat me as hard as you can with this belt so I can see if I can still love you after,” has Ana ever actually told Christian what she wanted? It seems like most of the time, she demurs and lets him take control. Which I get, she’s a submissive, but hell, he’s asking you.
So, read this excerpt, and I’ll ask you a question on the other side:
“Here,” I whisper, gazing nervously at him as I remove the hair tie from around my wrist and hold it up for him. He stills, and his eyes widen briefly but give nothing away. Finally, he takes the small band.
“Turn around,” he orders.
Relieved, I smile to myself and oblige immediately. Looks like we’ve overcome that little hurdle.
What hurdle? I re-read this part over and over, trying to figure out what all the drama was about, and the best I could come up with was that maybe he didn’t want to braid her hair like he did to his subs? Because she’s his wife now? Or something? But there’s no way to tell. All this tells me is that he’s somewhat reluctant to touch a hair tie, for no reason. Or they’ve overcome the hurdle of telepathic communication, since all she had to do was say, “Here, braid my hair.”
Now it’s time for bold that word rep! Obviously the emphasis is all mine:
“Now turn around and take your skirt off. Let it fall to the floor.” He releases me and steps back as I turn to face him. Not taking my eyes of his, I unbutton the waistband of my skirt and ease the zipper down. The full skirt fans out and falls to the floor, pooling at my feet.
“Step out from your skirt,” he orders. As I step toward him, he kneels swiftly down in front of me and grasps my right ankle.
I get that sometimes, word rep can be sneaky and hard, even for copy editors. Sometimes, there’s no way to avoid it. But this is kind of inexcusable.
Suddenly he kneels up, grabs my hips, and pulls me forward, burying his nose in the apex of my thighs. “And you smell of you and me and sex,” he says, inhaling sharply. “It’s intoxicating.” He kisses me through my lace panties, while I gasp at his words – my insides liquefying.
You just fucked in the car, your “insides” are already sloshing with liquid. Pardon me while I imagine Christian getting a huge glob of his own gelled semen up his nose.
Christian tells her to face the wall, so she won’t know what he’s doing, and she listens while he opens drawers and thinks about how much she loves anticipation and how he’s going to do all this naughty stuff to her. Which would be hot, except it’s followed by this:
The subtle hiss of the sound system coming to life tells me it’s going to be a musical interlude. A lone piano starts, muted and soft, and mournful chords fill the room. It’s not a tune I know. The piano is joined by an electric guitar. What is this? A man’s voice speaks and I can just make out the words, something about not being frightened of dying.
Quick question, does anyone else get a murdery vibe from that? By the way, the song she’s describing is “The Great Gig In The Sky,” which is not music I would choose for a BDSM scene. Pink Floyd is definitely music to have sex to when you’re stoned and laying on the floor and you’ve already gotten tired of trying to match the lyrics up with Wizard of Oz, but the borderline screaming would make it super distracting if you weren’t high as absolute balls. Also, I refuse to believe Ana got through college in the Pacific Northwest without ever once hearing Dark Side of The Moon. Why can’t she just say, “Christian puts on a Pink Floyd song?” Why is E.L. so fucking coy about the music or naming songs if she’s just going to put the list of songs up on her website, anyway?
Oh, shit! I know why she’s coy about the songs, I’ll bet. Because back in the day, Fanfiction.net cracked the fuck down on “song fics,” fanfiction where the author would write stories based on popular songs, or built around the lyrics of popular songs. For a long while, they were super strict about this; one of my Phantom of The Opera fics got removed because I included the lyrics to an aria (which was in the public domain, but whatever, in the Pit of Voles, you get what you pay for). I wonder if that’s why songs aren’t mentioned by name. This is only speculation, of course, since 50 Shades is obviously not at all fanfiction of any type, right? It says so in the disclaimer in the front.
Maybe it’s a copyright thing? Like she was afraid someone was going to come after her from a legal standpoint if she used the titles of songs in her published work? Which is kind of… not seeing the forest for the trees, isn’t it, considering that her entire work is plagiarized?
Continuing with his theme of “love means never having to use a safeword,” Chedward tells Ana:
“You must tell me to stop if it’s too much. If you say stop, I will stop immediately. Do you understand?”
Look. My opinion of safewords is, you should probably use them. However, there are situations where people decide to not use safewords, or to just make the safeword, “Ouch, that hurts in the bad way.” To engage in safeword-less BDSM, you need a few things:
- A Dom/Domme who can tell the difference between “(don’t) stop!” and “Stop!” Christian has already proven that he can’t do this, when he beat the fuck out of Ana while she screamed her head off in a clear, “I’m not into this,” way. He was confused afterward, because he felt it was her responsibility to safeword, not his responsibility to monitor the scene (which he shouldn’t have engaged in, because she didn’t want to play, she wanted to test him on an emotional level.)
- Trust. Sure, Ana trusts Christian. But that’s because Ana is stuck in a loop of learned helplessness. She has to trust him, because she has no other choice. He’s broken that trust time and again (putting hickeys and bruises on her on their honeymoon, when she couldn’t see what he was doing and couldn’t object, for one), but since she doesn’t have any agency left, she can’t not trust him. That’s not trust, that’s brainwashing.
- Clear and open communication. These two do not communicate. They talk a lot, but not about anything important, until someone has a huge breakdown. And if Ana does try to communicate with Christian, he just manipulates her out of being concerned about whatever it was that bothered her in the first place.
So, basically, no. These nitwits should not be in the playroom without a safeword.
They have some boring interplay about how she wants him to spank her, and he blindfolds her, and then he sticks his fingers in her, and then he plays with her asshole and tells her they’re going to have fun with it. And I’m like, “FINALLY. Three books in and we’re FINALLY going to see some backdoor action.” He fingers her and talks about how wet she is, and I’m like, “Duh, you came in her not five minutes ago, did you get spunknesia or something?”
I hear the quiet spurt of some liquid, presumably from a tube, then his fingers are massaging me there again. Lubricating me… there!
I’m so tired of “…there!” I’m so tired of it. I’m tired of “everything south of my waist” (which, by the by, is used in this scene as well). If you want to write a naughty book, write a naughty book. Just say that he put lube on your asshole, for fucks’ sake.
Also, Ana does a lot of hearing in this scene. She hears the drawer opening, she hears the “soft hiss” of the sound system (is he putting on a vinyl LP here? I haven’t heard a “soft hiss” since the 1980’s, and certainly not on a digital format), now she can tell that there is liquid coming out of a tube. Not a bottle, specifically a tube, and she can tell this because she’s fucking Daredevil.
“Most people don’t know I’m blind, just because I’m so great at anal!”
“This is lube.” He spreads some more on me.
Thanks for mentioning it, because otherwise she might have thought it was salad dressing.
Oh god, I just pictured Ranch dressing on somebody’s asshole. There goes lunch.
I groan. And I feel something cool, metallically cool, run down my spine.
“I have a small present for you here,” Christian whispers.
An image from our show-and-tell springs to mind. Holy crap. A butt plug.
Anastasia Steele, Psychic Buttsecks Detective.
Are you ready for the most appallingly vague description of anal play you will ever read in a modern novel? Grab your ankles and brace yourselves, because this is happening:
And gently, while his fingers and thumb work their magic, he pushes the cold plug slowly into me.
“Ah!” I groan loudly at the unfamiliar sensation, my muscles protesting at the intrusion. He circles his thumb inside me and pushes the plug harder, and it slips in easily, and I don’t know if it’s because i”m so turned on or if he’s distracted me with his expert fingers, but my body seems to accept it. It’s heavy… and strange… there!
And I can feel it… where his thumb swirls inside me… and the plug presses against… oh, ah… He slowly twists the plug, eliciting a long, drawn-out moan from me.
“Ah!” I groan loudly at the supposedly kinky book. It’s not graphic… and it’s disappointing… and I have… feelings! I’ll use… ellipses… to… avoid… describing… anal… because I’m lacking experience or imagination or both.
Throughout this scene, Ana mentions being nervous, having anxiety. This does not a loose asshole make. But there’s no discomfort at all? Not even like, “It’s a weird feeling like I’m accidentally shitting myself?” Just, “Oh, it’s all pleasure because I’m just soooo turned on, even though I’m nervous and I’ve never done this before and also I’m routinely terrified of the person who’s wielding the butt plut?”
I hesitated to add that part, because I know someone in the comments is going to be like, “Actually, I loved anal the first time I had it and it doesn’t hurt everyone and that’s not very sex-positive of you to say it does when it doesn’t for everyone,” and then I was like, fuck it. If you were an anal queen the first time out of the gate, good for you, but most people aren’t and this scene doesn’t add up to me, knowing everything we know about Ana and Christian. It’s just straight up unrealistic first time butt play. She’s nervous, a first-timer, and he does nothing to prepare her apart from squirting some lube on her butthole. She has never done butt stuff before. So, the first and most obvious choice would be to finger her asshole, right? Nope, straight to the butt plug. Which I find really amusing, because he’s like, soooo concerned about rushing her into butt stuff, and they have to go super slow and it’s this long, intensive process to go through before he can put his wang in her butt, but then he skips the first and most obvious step. But whatever.
Then he has P-in-V with her while pulling the plug in and out, and we get this crazy-ass description:
And he picks up the pace, his breathing more labored, matching my own as he thrashes into me.
Thrashes? What an odd word choice. All I can imagine is Christian violently swinging his cock from side to side like the pendulum in a broken grandfather clock while he tries to penetrate her.
He moves one of his hands from my hips and twists the plug again, tugging it slowly, pulling it out and pushing it back in. The feeling is indescribable, and I think I’m going to pass out on the table.
I know sometimes authors (myself included) use “indescribable” to show the reader that this character is overwhelmed by something. But given the vague descriptions in this scene, I’m going to assume it’s just literally indescribable because the author isn’t skilled enough to describe it.
And then they come and it’s the most amazing orgasm ever and all sorts of trite descriptions, blah blah. Then there is a section break and they’re still listening to the same song. I’m like, “That song is about four minutes long, way to have staying power, Chedward,” until Ana clarifies that it’s on repeat. You know, I love Pink Floyd as much as the next person, but if someone blindfolded me and locked me in a room with “The Great Gig In The Sky” repeating, I would consider that legitimate torture.
Then they have their usual post sex talk, all quiet and gentle with shy smiles and uncertainty, because nothing turns people on more than needless drama after sex. Christian starts gathering up their toys and says he’s going to go run them a bath.
“Who cleans these toys?” I ask as I follow him over to the chest.
He frowns at me as if not understanding the question. “Me. Mrs. Jones.”
WHAT? First of all, when frowned like he didn’t understand, I was like, “What, he doesn’t clean his buttplugs?” Then he said that his poor, sweet housekeeper Mrs. Jones cleans them, and I was like:
Seriously? You do the anal, you clean your own damn toys. Jesus! You’re a millionaire. Get a little dishwasher for the playroom and use it only for that. WTF is wrong with you. “Hey, will you clean someone else’s shit off this? Thanks.”
Whatever Mrs. Jones gets paid, it is NOT enough.
Prepare yourselves, dear readers.
Taking my hand, he unlocks the playroom door, then leads me out and downstairs. I follow him meekly.
The anxiety, the bad mood, the thrill, fear, and excitement of the car chase have all gone. I’m relaxed – finally sated and calm. As we enter our bathroom, I yawn and loudly stretch… at ease with myself for a change.
Okay. There are people who are so into the submissive mindset that they do have mood swings or feel generally ooky if they haven’t been dominated in a while. I believe this is more common in 24/7 D/s relationships, but I don’t know that anyone has done a study on it or anything. HOWEVER, Ana and Christian are not representative of an actual D/s couple. Ana is now psychologically addicted to Christian’s brand of dominance (abuse), and though there was nothing technically abusive about that sex scene, I have to wonder if this isn’t a way to justify how Christian treats her even when they’re not having sex.
And then I got very sad, and I ate my feelings with a side of burritos.
Christian has noticed that she’s been out of sorts:
“Yes, you’ve been in a strange mood today, Mrs. Grey.” Standing, he pulls me into his arms. “I know you’re worrying about these recent events. I’m sorry you’re caught up in them. I don’t know if it’s a vendetta, an ex-employee, or a business rival. […]”
How incredibly artless. It’s all three, guys. Just a heads up here. She couldn’t even be bothered to throw a red herring into this “mystery”.
They take a bath together and Christian tries to get Ana to give up work. Because being a housewife with a live-in housekeeper and no children is going to be real fucking personally fulfilling to a woman, right? Because all we truly desire is to sit around being available for men. Then there’s a section break, and Ana goes downstairs and hears Christian giving Sawyer a different kind of ass reaming:
“Where the fuck were you?”
Oh shit. He’s shouting at Sawyer. Cringing, I dash upstairs to the playroom. I really don’t want to hear what he has to say to him – I still find shouty Christian intimidating.
So, Ana is still afraid of Christian. That’s a healthy marriage, right? Being afraid of someone? Also, fuck you Christian. Where was Sawyer? He was in the SUV behind you because you absolutely have to drive your own car. And then you made him wait for his dressing down while you had sex and a bath. So I really hope the answer is, “I was sitting in your study waiting for you to get concerned about the plot again.”
Taylor will be back tomorrow evening, and Christian is generally calmer when he’s around. Taylor is spending some quality time today and tomorrow with his daughter. I wonder idly if I’ll ever get to meet her.
Why would you? If Taylor is smart, he’ll keep his kid well away from the fucked up people he works for.
Ana decides to pull her own weight and clean the butt plug. She’s intercepted by Mrs. Jones as she tries to make it to the bathroom. Mrs. Jones now calls Ana “Mrs. Grey,” and when Ana tells her to use her first name, Mrs. Jones says she’s not comfortable with it. Now, Ana, the correct answer here is, “I pay your salary, get comfortable with it,” but instead she thinks:
Oh! Why must everything change just because I have a ring on my finger?
Because it’s a tiny shackle.
Mrs. Jones wants to look over the menus for the week with Ana, who is shocked at the idea. Probably because she never eats and has only heard of food when other people talk about it, or when her dreamy abusive husband force feeds her. After a brief description of Sawyer crossing the great room, Ana resumes her butt plug cleaning journey.
I dump Christian’s shoes on the floor and my clothes on the bed, and take the bowl with the butt plug into the bathroom. I eye it suspiciously. It looks innocuous enough, and surprisingly clean. I don’t want to dwell on that, and I wash it quickly with soap and water. Will that be enough? I’ll have to ask Mr. Sexpert if it should be sterilized or something. I shudder at the thought.
Why would you shudder at the thought of a sterile butt plug? You should shudder at the thought of a dirty one, really. And I love that she doesn’t want to dwell on the fact there’s no poop on the butt plug. How could there be? Ana doesn’t ingest any physical nourishment. I’m sure she only takes a crap biannually. But the time you don’t want to dwell on a butt plug is when there is poop on it.
Christian has given Ana the library to work in, so she goes there.
Part of me dreads going back to work, but I can never tell Christian that. He’d seize on the opportunity to make me quit. I remember Roach’s apoplectic reaction when I told him I was getting married and to whom, and how, shortly afterward, my position was confirmed. I realize now it was because I was marrying the boss. The thought is unwelcome. I am no longer acting editor – I am Anastasia Steele, editor.
If it’s unwelcome, why don’t you get a job and prove yourself somewhere else? Oh, that’s right, you can’t, Christian will just buy that company too, and make you the CEO.
I’m sorry, but I’m not feeling Ana’s “poor me” bullshit over getting promoted to editor within a week or two of working at SIP. Christian was supposed to stop steamrolling over her career. She was outraged when he bought SIP, and she was angry when she accused him of getting her promoted to acting editor in the first place. But now, she knows for a fact that she’s gotten promoted because she married him, and she’s fine with it? Whatever, we all know she’s not going to keep working there for long.
I haven’t yet plucked up the courage to tell Christian that I am not going to change my name at work. I think my reasons are solid.
“I don’t want to change my name.” There’s your solid reason. I absolutely fucking loathe that it’s still considered a given that a woman will change her name after she gets married. If you want to change it, change it. But the idea that society totally defends the right of a man to be angry about his wife not taking his name is just mind-boggling and infuriating.
Ana decides to get the honeymoon pictures off the digital camera, and then shit goes all One Hour Photo up in this bitch:
Picture after picture of me. Asleep, so many of me asleep, my hair over my face or fanned out across the pillow, lips parted… shit – sucking my thumb. I haven’t sucked my thumb for years!
Oh wow! That’s totally not creepy or infantilizing at all! How romantic, that being with her husband makes her so vulnerable and child-like again!
Or not, because fuck this. Fuck all of this.
And there’s one of him and me on the bed in the master cabin that he took at arm’s length. I am cuddled on his chest and he gazes at the camera, young, wide-eyed… in love.
What a gentleman, he took a surreptitious selfie with the chick he just banged. Oh, shit, was that description not romantic enough? Sorry, I guess I recognize malignant narcissism when I see it.
Seeing the photos he creepily took of her while she was sleeping (look, I’ll give him one or two, but not “picture after picture”), she’s all, OMG I love him, I can’t believe someone would want to kill the most perfect and precious human being on the planet,” and she runs to his study. He’s on the phone with Barney, looking at something on his computer.
When I crawl onto his lap, his eyebrows shoot up in surprise.
Do you suck your thumb, too, Ana? Look, I’m all for some age play, but this isn’t written as age play. It’s written as totally normal behavior, for a grown ass woman to lapse back into sucking her thumb and crawling into daddy’s lap. It’s gross, like E.L. is trying to make children or being child-like (without consciously choosing to engage in age play) sexy. And I’m sorry, but this book is fucked up enough.
Christian is looking at his computer, at images of the server room before the fire.
The picture blurs, then refocuses moderately sharper on the man consciously gazing down and avoiding the camera. As I stare at him, a chill of recognition sweeps up my spine. There is something familiar in the line of his jaw. He has scruffy short black hair that looks odd and unkempt… and in the newly sharpened picture, I see an earring, a small hoop.
Holy crap! I know who it is.
It’s Mister Clean.
“Christian,” I whisper. “That’s Jack Hyde.”
Or maybe it’s a pirate. Are you saying all guys with small hoop earrings look the same to you? That’s racist against pirates.
And then the chapter is over. I’m so glad it was only fifteen pages long, because damn.