We pick up from yesterday’s thrilling cliffhanger in which Christian, lord of darkness and anal fisting, has realized that he might just want to go bowling and drink milkshakes with Ana instead of shoving ball gags into her mouth 24/7.
So despite what you might think, he didn’t actually manipulate the women that he’s had relationships with in the past — ALL of whom, according to him, wanted to have a more traditional relationship with him, even though he claims that they were all established submissives who understood “the lifestyle.” But forget that, because Christian is just so emotionally stunted that he’s not even AWARE that he’s deliberately engaging in relationships with the same kind of women with the same kind of expectations over and over again. Poor Christian, you guys! Remember when he was a kid? Remember the moldy cheese?
Christian sends a bunch of e-mails, some of them business-y, he thinks about MORE, and then heads over to Ana’s apartment to give her that car she doesn’t want:
Before I leave I stuff two condoms into the back pocket of my jeans.
I might get lucky.
Aw, look at him. Pretending Ana has a say in anything. That’s cute.
He also stops to buy alcohol, which he buys with his DIAMOND MONEY:
I pull up outside a liquor store on the outskirts of Portland to buy some celebratory champagne. I forgo the Cristal and the Dom Perignon for a Bollinger, mostly because it’s the 1999 vintage, and chilled, but also because it’s pink...symbolic, I think with a smirk, as I hand my AmEx to the cashier.
I’ve now read this passage three times, and I’m still not sure what the pink is meant to be symbolic of. Because my first thought is just her vagina, which is weird and makes no sense — even for this dude. And then I assume it’s because she blushes a lot, but that doesn’t make any fucking sense either.
Also... I hate Oregon, so perhaps this is just going to sound petty, but does it seem reasonable to anyone else that a liquor store — not a specialty wine store, but a liquor store — on the outskirts of Portland has those three expensive brands of champagne?
More importantly, does EL James think Cristal is classy? I feel like it’s mostly associated with nouveau-riche celebrities, not high-powered businessmen. Feel free to correct me.
So many questions. But the final one is: can this dude have a conversation with Ana where he doesn’t get her drunk first?
Let’s answer that with the next paragraph, which picks up after Christian has arrived at Ana’s apartment:
I watch her wander into the kitchen. She’s nervous and skittish. Perhaps because she’s had a big day, or because she’s agreed to my terms, or because she’s here alone—I know Kavanagh is with her own family this evening; her father told me. I hope the champagne will help Ana relax...and talk.
Each and every sentence of that paragraph is horrible. But I think my favorite is the part where Christian admits he called Kate’s dad ahead of time to make sure that Kate wouldn’t be home before he came over with alcohol to coerce his young girlfriend into agreeing to even more of his sexual fantasies when she’s already insecure.
But we can’t focus on that small transgression because Ana throws yet another insane curveball at Christian beacuse — you’ll never believe it — she thinks she should have a say in their relationship. So before Christian can reveal the car, she tells him she can’t accept his fancy metaphor books from earlier:
“Christian, I can’t accept them, they’re just too much.”
Here we go, another battle of wills.
Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.
Why is that in French? That’s not even a famous French turn of phrase. That’s a phrase that’s constantly used in English. And, if this is the intent, it doesn’t make Christian seem sophisticated, it just makes him seem pretentious. Which makes EL James seem pretentious — and like the kind of person who humblebrags about knowing “un peu” of French, and then can’t even order off a menu in a French restaurant.
Anyway, Christian FINALLY explains to Ana that accepting his gifts is part of the arrangement, and that it pleases him to please her, blah blah blah. She reminds him that she hadn’t agreed to anything when he gave the books to her originally, and he responds by saying that her agreement can be applied retroactively. Which is definitely not how that should work, but it’s hardly the worst thing he’s done at this point.
He also assumes that her refusal to accept fancy books means that she’s going back on “the deal,” because EL James thinks that making him seem insecure excuse his bullshit. It doesn’t. Instead, once again it just makes him seem like an alien who doesn’t understand basic forms of communication.
After he’s worn her down a bit, Ana says she’ll accept them, but only if she can give them to charity.
You can burn them for all I care...
Cool. Fine. Whatever. Crisis mostly averted, but only because Christian really wants to force the car on her later.
But first, alcohol:
“It’s pink.” She’s surprised, and I haven’t the heart to tell her why I chose pink.
Tell me, at least. If EL James thinks the reason is obvious, she’s wrong. And now I’m sort of forced to assume it’s a vaginal thing because he’s so gross.
“Drink up, let’s talk about limits.”
Her eyelashes flutter and she takes a shaky breath, then drains her cup. She’s really nervous about this. I offer her more liquid courage.
Just in case you weren’t 100% sure that he’s getting her drunk and compliant on purpose.
Also, I forgot that even though they had the fancy business meeting about the contract, they still need to work out her “limits,” because Christian needs to know exactly what her boundaries are so he can be sure to violate all of them.
After he offers her yet another glass of sparkling vagina wine, he stops to ask if she’s eaten. And she actually has — for once — because her stepdad took her out for a three-course meal, which I’m going to be shitty and say is just “a meal.” I mean, the Old Spaghetti Factory is a three-course meal. I feel like it’s not the kind of thing that you make a metric of unless you’re pushing at least 5 courses.
But then that’s likely an intentional detail to suggest that the best dinner her podunk stepdad could afford is a mere 3 courses, which Christian wouldn’t dare offer even a stray dog.
She also rolls her eyes at his question, because she has stated VERY CLEARLY that she doesn’t want food to be part of their arrangement, and instead of remembering that the whole point of this meeting is about compromise, comfort, and respect, he instead thinks:
Oh, Ana. At last I can do something about this disrespectful habit.
Leaning forward, I take hold of her chin and glare at her. “Next time you roll your eyes at me, I will take you across my knee.”
I don’t know enough about BDSM to say whether or not any of this feels accurate to the kink, but at the end of the day she’s rolling her eyes because HE was violating HER boundaries, so fuck him.
They begin to discuss limits, and I’m only going to type out this passage because the ‘golly-gee’ness of the writing juxtaposed with what they’re discussing makes it an instant classic:
“No fisting, you say. Anything else you object to?” I ask.
She swallows. “Anal intercourse doesn’t exactly float my boat.”
“I’ll agree to the fisting, but I’d really like to claim your ass, Anastasia.”
It’s like art.
They talk about butt sex a little more, and Christian admits that he has indeed been on the receiving end of some butt sex, but don’t confuse him for a GAY:
“No. I’ve never had sex with a man. Not my scene.”
“Yes.” And her large rubber strap-on.
Is it too much to hope that he was at least legal when that happened? Probably.
Ana frowns and I move on quickly, before she can ask me any more questions about that.
Yeah, this is the worst possible time to be open and communicative. Give her more wine!
“And... swallowing semen. Well, you get an A in that.” I expect a smile from her, but she’s studying me intently, as if seeing me in a new light. I think she’s still reeling over Mrs. Robinson and anal intercourse. Oh, baby. Elena had my submission. She could do with me as she pleased. And I enjoyed it.
Here is the one area where I’m happy to cut Christian some slack, because being repeatedly raped by his mother’s friend who had less of a grasp on BDSM than he does does indeed explain why he’s really terrible at setting up these arrangements. So fair enough. And I can even buy that if he hasn’t processed the fact that what Elena did to him was abuse, he would be genuinely confused and annoyed by Ana’s pity and concern. That said, the text itself often tries to argue that the whole thing wasn’t a “big deal,” so it’s a bit of a wash. The take-away: everything is terrible.
“So, swallowing semen okay?” I ask, trying to bring her back to the now. She nods and finishes her champagne.
“More?” I ask.
Steady, Grey, you just want her tipsy, not drunk.
I can stop recapping this now, right? We’re all on board with the fact that he constantly gets her drunk to force her to consent to things she would otherwise be uncomfortable with?
He gives her more wine, they talk about butt plugs and eggs and fisting, and Christian is annoyed that Ana doesn’t automatically know everything about “the lifestyle” even though he also acts like he invented all kinkiness:
“Don’t laugh at me, but what’s a spreader bar?”
“I promise not to laugh. I’ve apologized twice.” For Christ’s sake. “Don’t make me do it again.” My voice is sharper than I intended, and she leans away from me.
Ignore her reaction, Grey. Get on with it.
This is the shit that’s going to ruin me. What ARE you doing, EL James? How can you constantly have him force-feeding her alcohol, intimidating her, negging her, mocking her, yelling at her... and then turn any of that into a positive, sexy relationship that women fantasize about? What part of this is meant to seem excusable, let alone romantic?
“Would you like another drink?” I ask. “It’s making you brave, and I need to know how you feel about pain.” I refill her cup, and she takes a sip, wide-eyed and anxious. “So, what’s your general attitude to receiving pain?”
He knows full well that it’s not making her brave, it’s making her compliant. So fuck him.
She remains mute.
I suppress a sigh. “You’re biting your lip.”
So let’s recap:
He’s given her alcohol — specifically expensive, fancy alcohol so that she feels indebted to him and insecure and boorish in comparison. Then he’s laughed at her for her lack of knowledge about a lifestyle that he believes is super underground and exclusive. This is all while she’s meant to be figuring out her own comfort zone surrounding different sexual acts, none of which she has experienced before. So he has her drunk, intimidated, uncomfortable, and totally dependent on him. And he STILL turns the tables on her and convinces her that she’s the one who’s driving him wild with sexual distraction because she subconsciously bites her lip.
FUCK this dude.
It keeps going:
Fortunately, she stops, but now she’s pensive and staring down at her hands.
No shit. Because you’ve made her as uncomfortable as possible.
“Were you physically punished as a child?” I prompt her gently.
SERIOUSLY? This from the guy who claims he was horribly abused as a kid and it’s the source of all of his kinkiness and inner turmoil? This is the kind of question he’s going to casually drop in conversation? And we already know he’ll fly into a rage if she dares to ask him something similar.
HE’S SO AWFUL. WHY IS HE SO AWFUL.
Anyway, it turns out that she was never physically punished, has no sphere of reference when it comes to any form of punishment pain, and so — one would think — is a terrible candidate to be his future submissive, but Christian valiantly charges through all of these obstacles by assuring Ana that it’s definitely no big deal and she shouldn’t worry about it. Because it’s not about her, rinse, repeat.
“Do you have to do it?”
She means does he have to hit her. He doesn’t.
You really don’t want to know.
She really needs to know. Fuck you. You’re the worst at this.
“Goes with the territory, Anastasia. It’s what I do. I can see you’re nervous. Let’s go through methods.”
I can see you’re nervous. Perfect. Let’s have you agree to everything in this compromised state. Yay for me! I’m the best! Remember moldy cheese?
Finally, after about a million years of the same boring contract conversation as last time, he reveals the car purchase, and she is — JUST LIKE HE KNEW SHE WOULD BE — upset and annoyed. So he’s really understanding about it:
“It’s a gift, Anastasia. Can’t you just say thank you?”
She said no ahead of time. She begged you not to buy her a car. It’s not a gift, it’s an intimidation tactic. You KNOW it is.
Oh, but wait. Because it gets better:
“But you know it’s too much.”
“Not to me it isn’t, not for my peace of mind.”
Come on, Ana. You want more. This is the price.
That last line isn’t out loud, by the way. So even if he IS trying to pretend that this is some tit-for-tat, he is very clearly not presenting it that way TO HER. And he hasn’t officially agreed to whatever the fuck “more” is anyway. And, apart from any of that, she specifically said “no” to this. So it’s not compromise, because he’s internally admitted that HE wants “more” as well. It would be a compromise if he were offering to do something he didn’t want to do. But he’ll never do that, because he’s the worst. Malkovich Malkovich.
Why is she so difficult? I’ve never had this reaction to a car from any of my submissives. They’re usually delighted.
NOPE. EL James, you cannot deliberate fuck with your readers like this. You can’t. He’s acknowledged several times that she didn’t want it. Pretending after the fact that he’s confused is just bullshit. You know that, EL. Try harder.
My body reacts—I want her. Here. Now. In the open. “It’s taking all my self-control not to fuck you on the hood of this car right now, just to show you that you are mine, and if I want to buy you a fucking car, I’ll buy you a fucking car. Now let’s get you inside and naked,” I growl.
Someone find me a gif that can react to this with the magnitude required. I’m left just randomly bashing my head against a keyboard in defeat.
“Please don’t be angry with me,” she whispers.
Her words douse the fire of my anger.
“I’m sorry about the car and the books—” She halts and licks her lips. “You scare me when you’re angry.”
I feel like there are moments like these where I need a giant rubber stamp that just says DOMESTIC ABUSE so I don’t have to spell it out further than that because it’s exhausting and depressing.
She’s begging him not to be angry because she didn’t accept his shitty, manipulative, coercive gifts. She’s sorry for having an opinion about them.
I hate this book. And the fact that people can critically analyze it, point out its numerous flaws and red flags, and have the response be, “You just don’t get BDSM” is perhaps the scariest thing of all. She is asking him not to be mad at her, and not to hit her. This is not a kink. This is not a fetish. This is just abuse.
Shit. No one has ever said that to me before. I close my eyes. The last thing I want to do is frighten her.
You have made every effort to guarantee that she is scared of you. You know what you’re doing. I refuse to be part of this insane, unbelievable denial.
Calm down, Grey.
She’s here. She’s safe. She’s willing. Don’t blow it, just because she doesn’t understand how to behave.
Then EXPLAIN IT TO HER. For fuck’s sake. If this is really about your kink, rather than just you being an abusive asshole, then you would take this opportunity to explain the rules of your lifestyle. That’s literally what you were supposed to have been doing a few pages ago. That was the whole point of this meeting.
God damnit I hate this book.
Anyway, they begin to have sex — indoors and not on top of a car, thankfully — and I’ll spare you most of the boring details and skip ahead to the weird shit:
Shifting my hands to her hips, I hold her steady and glance down at her panties.
Cotton. White. Easy.
I hook my fingers into them and stretch them as far as they’ll go, then push my thumbs through the seam at the back. They tear apart in my hands and I throw them at Ana’s feet.
So many questions: since when does underwear have a seam at the back, what is “easy” about cotton, and is he just ripping them because poor people underwear makes him angry?
I release one of her hands, but the other I place over my erection, which is fighting for space in my jeans.
Then Christian lets Ana “take control,” which basically means that she gets to do cowgirl for a bit because Christian is SO WILD:
Her naivete is captivating. It’s obvious that she’s never done this before. Another first...and it’s fucking arousing.
Just in case you forgot, her main value to him is the fact that she has never before housed any other dicks, apart from his. He loves that. That’s his favorite thing about her. And yet at the same time:
She flops down onto my chest, and I lie, panting, beneath her.
My God, she’s a good fuck.
All of their sex is perfect and a virgin is crackerjack at every sex move on the first go. Fine. Whatever. Their sex is honestly the most boring thing about this series anyway.
I’d much rather read Christian’s tragic purple prose:
The darkness slithers, quick and strong, into my chest, into my throat, threatening to suffocate and choke me.
Because she touched his chest. Moldy cheese, etc. And, because I couldn’t not include it, here’s the money shot:
“Why don’t you like to be touched?”
“Because I’m fifty shades of fucked up, Anastasia.” After years and years of therapy, it’s the one thing I know to be true.
You’re welcome. Let’s move on. After they talk about nothing for a while, Christian lets Ana know that he’s been paying very close attention to her, and it’s definitely not super weird:
“Miss Steele, you are not just a pretty face. You’ve had six orgasms so far and all of them belong to me.” Why does that mere fact make me glad?
You already said why it made you glad in the last page — you love that she’s a virgin, that she’s had no man but you, and that she’s great in bed even though that’s extremely unlikely. You’ve said all of this. Last page. Does EL James read her own book while she’s writing?
Her eyes stray to the ceiling, and a fleeting guilty expression crosses her face.
What’s this? “Do you have something to tell me?” I ask.
She hesitates. “I had a dream this morning.”
“I came in my sleep.” She flings her arm over her face, hiding from me, embarrassed. I’m stunned by her confession but aroused and delighted, too.
She peeks over her arm. Does she expect me to be angry?
OF COURSE SHE DOES. You get angry about everything, and you’ve repeatedly told her that ALL of her pleasure now belongs to you. Not only does it make sense for her to be uncomfortable, insecure, and guilty, but on top of that you’ve literally set out in the contract that she’s not “allowed” to have an orgasm without you.
READ YOUR OWN BOOK, EL JAMES.
They talk about her sexy sex dream for a bit, he gets up to leave, she doesn’t want him to. She asks him to stay and have sex with her again, he decides to “manage her expectations” by refusing, he asks if she’s ready to do a “real” BDSM scene yet, but she’s not sure — because, remember, they still haven’t worked out the limits and she STILL hasn’t signed the contract.
“I’d like to do a scene with you. But I won’t until you’ve signed, so I know you’re ready.”
“Oh. So I could stretch this out if I don’t sign?”
Shit. I hadn’t thought of that.
Of course he didn’t. Because he’s an idiot. On the other hand, had he handled this contract properly, she probably wouldn’t be so worried, so there’s that.
Her chin tilts up in defiance.
Ah...topping from the bottom, again. She always finds a way.
Stop gaslighting the reader, EL James. She isn’t doing anything.
“Well, I suppose you could, but I may crack under the strain.”
“Crack? How?” she queries, her eyes alive with curiosity.
“Could get really ugly,” I tease, narrowing my eyes.
I joke, sharpening my knife.
“Ugly, how?” Her grin matches mine.
So she’s glaring at you?
“Oh, you know, explosions, car chases, kidnapping, incarceration.”
“You’d kidnap me?”
“Hold me against my will?”
“Oh yes.” Now, that’s an interesting idea.
Just in case it’s not clear, at the first sign of her reluctance and discomfort with one of his sex games, he’s threatening her with violence. And... car chases? Sure.
“So you have no choice,” I add with a playful tone.
“Clearly.” Her tone is sarcastic and she rolls her eyes to the heaven, perhaps looking for divine inspiration to understand my sense of humor.
Or frustrated that the very first time he suggests doing a full BDSM “scene,” he’s already violating her boundaries and forcing her into it. But you guys already know that rolling her eyes is going to be the “real” transgression. So he tells her it’s time for THE SPANKENING, and he wants her to consent (since she still hasn’t signed the contract):
Will she? Won’t she? This is it. Proof of whether she can do this or not. I watch her, impassive, waiting for her to decide. If she says no, it means she’s paying lip service to the idea of being my submissive.
And maybe that will be it.
Make the right choice, Ana.
How is it possible that he’s done this for 12 years and still doesn’t understand that her limits, needs, wants, etc. are as important as his? And the “right” choice? Ugh, fuck him.
I’ve wanted to do this since she asked me if I was gay.
Because what could be worse than someone thinking you’re gay, right? Haha, if only there was a sassy gay hairdresser in this book to prove that EL James totally isn’t homophobic. She loves the gays — they’re so good at decorating and cutting hair!
She has a fine, fine ass. And I’m going to make it pink...like the champagne.
Is that my answer? He bought pink champagne because it made him think of the color her ass might theoretically turn if he spanked it? I don’t even know why this bothers me so much.
Anyway, he spanks her and then they fuck — because he’s crazy like that. And, because I’m skipping over most of the sex, I feel like you should still get a quick taste of the quality of EL James’s erotica, so have this and thank me later:
She moans as I move. In. Out. In. Out. I pound into her, watching my cock disappear beneath her pink backside.
Do EL James’s sex descriptions remind you uncomfortably of her “Child Christian” voice?
I collapse at her side, pull her on top of me, and, wrapping my arms around her, I whisper into her hair, “Oh, baby, welcome to my world.”
Light spanking, y’all — it’s some next-level shit.
She’s not in tears. She did as she was asked. She’s faced every challenge I’ve thrown at her; she really is quite remarkable.
I just can’t. Someone can for me.
“You didn’t cry.” My voice is low.
And you let me spank you. You’re amazing.
Both of these passages make him sound like a camp counselor who’s extra proud of the kid who overcame her struggle with lanyard-making and might just be able to move on to basket weaving.
Anyway, Christian leaves even though Ana doesn’t want him to. They e-mail for a bit, she jokes that she’s going to drink wine instead of have aspirin to deal with her ass pain, he grumps about this, and then mentions that he’s going to have Taylor “dispose of” her old shitty poor person car. Ana points out — via e-mail — that it’s strange that Christian would allow his long-time employee Taylor to drive the car that he felt was TOO DANGEROUS for Ana, “some woman [he] fuck[s] occasionally.”
What the hell? Some woman I fuck occasionally?
I have to take a deep breath. Her response irks me...no, infuriates me. How dare she talk about herself like that?
I’ve reached a point where I feel like I can only respond with hysterical laughter. He’s punishing her (in his head) for being rude about herself. I can’t. I just can’t.
As my submissive she’ll be so much more than that. I’ll be devoted to her. Does she not realize this?
NO. Because you’re constantly horrible to her. Nobody realizes this. Nobody believes this. You’re always going to treat her like garbage, and then punish her for the insecurities that you create.
And she has driven a hard bargain with me. Good God! Look at all the concessions I’ve made with regard to the contract.
The contract that ye told her over and over was up for negotiation. He should get a cookie because he agreed to her changes — that he told her she was allowed to make.
I count to ten, and to calm down, I visualize myself aboard The Grace, my catamaran, sailing on the Sound.
Flynn would be proud.
Actual serial killer.
Also Flynn is his therapist. The book doesn’t tell you that because EL James is insanely lazy.
Christian writes back, is shitty with her, admonishes her for the red wine, tells her that Taylor is super great at driving cars because he was in the army (just go with it), and that she shouldn’t talk about herself that way because it makes HIM upset.
Ana replies by saying she’s not happy with him — because of the behavior he’s just exhibited — and once again he assumes this means she’s backing out of his sex contract for good.
I wish she was.
End of the chapter, but just the halfway mark of the book.
Send me your wine, send me your gifs.