Fifty Shades of Grey Recaps: Chapter 23
I’m writing this on the day of a catastrophic hangover, born from my fucking terrible decision to drink vodka last night. And as I was hunched over the toilet for several hours this afternoon, hurling up the half-digested contents of my guts, I realized that I hadn’t been near some other half-digested content in quite a while.
Yes, after Grey came out (I recapped most of the book here), I was honestly so disheartened on the subject of Fifty Shades that I couldn’t be fucked going near it for a while. I’ve also been working on huge, staggering piles of my own erotica (and if you want me to write erotica for you, fucking do it, because I’m great) and was terrified that some of EL James’ anti-talent might rub off on me. Then the amazing #askELJames tag happened on Twitter- they were all great, but one that simply asked, with no question mark, “have u ever had sex” still makes me chuckle. And I realized it’s my sworn duty to keep taking the piss out of this woman and her work for as long as I live/can be bothered with it. So we’re back, and we’re picking straight back off as Ana realizes that Christian stalked her across the country after she specifically asked for space. Because that’s a really, really good way to not make me want to carve things out of my skin.
So, Ana just got a text from Christian asking her how much she’s planning on drinking, and Ana has figured out that he’s not just in the area, but in the same fucking bar as her and her mum. I find this quite funny, because my mum was up from Italy this week (just a stopover till she moves to Myammar because- say it with me- my parents are on a gap year), and if my boyfriend had tried to lurk enigmatically around bars that we were in she’d have told him to go fuck himself and set me up with that nice boy from her work she’s always talking about (there’s always a nice boy at her work).
Ana thinks that she’s “neglected to mention Christian’s stalker tendencies” to her mother, and it’s hard not to remember all those times fans of the book have been like “OMG he never stalks her!!!111one!!” when it LITERALLY SAYS SO IN THE TEXT YOU IMBECILES. So this is how far we’ve made it into the chapter without EL James proving herself or her fans wrong:
Christian comes over, and Ana notes how angry she is, before she gives up on that because that might make from some interesting characterisation. Christian knows Ana’s mum’s name, because he’s a fucking creep who stalks her (as we discovered in the illuminating second chapter of Grey which is, lest we forget, just pages of the PI report he got on Ana and every aspect of her life). Ana’s mum gawks at him, and Ana scolds her to “get a grip”, which is kind of pot-kettle-black when you consider the fact that Ana literally squirts every time she considers his existence.
Ana asks what he’s doing there, and apparently he’s thrown off-guard. She thinks about how thrilled she is to see him, but how angry she is that he hung out with Mrs Robinson- oh, so just so we’re clear, it’s nothing to do with his invalidating your personal agency or refusing to give you the space you needed, just the fact that he hung out with a woman who you will always see as your romantic rival first, and his molestor second. Glad we got that cleared up.
Ana thinks she sounds like “a Sophomore on amphetamines”, which is basically just EL going “LOOK! LOOK! THEY’RE AMERICAN, SEEE?”. Also, I may or may not have come into contact with uni students on uppers at some point in my life, and I can confirm that they are not nearly as calm as Ana is in the scene. Maybe. Not that I would know.
Hold on to your hats: I might get angrier as this chapter goes on. We’re 714 words in and halfway down the second page, and my blood is already bubbling at this:
“Crap-is he mad? Maybe the Mrs Robinson comments? Maybe the fact that I am on my third, soon to be fourth, Cosmo?”
Fuck that shit. I’m out.
ANA. YOU are the one who should be mad. Christian has, once again, ignored your desire for personal space, stalked you (as well as your mother!), and now you’re worried that you might have upset him after he spent all that time and effort making sure you felt suffocated? Here’s a handy way Christian could not have been angry about you drinking: if he hadn’t flown hundreds of miles to watch you drink them from afar like a pre-credits sequence on Law & Order. Or, he could just not think that he has any right to question how much alcohol you put in your body! Christian comments on the coincidence of them both ending up in the same place (!), and Ana sees a “flicker of a smile”, and thinks that they “may be able to save the evening after all”.
Ana’s mother goes out for a slash (not what it says in the text, but I have to make my own fun), and Christian asks Ana if she’s angry about Mrs Robinson. Ana explains that she sees her as a child molestor, at which point Christian says it “wasn’t like that.” Even though he was technically a child at the time, and she took advantage of him to mould him into a subservient sex slave after he’d spent years traumatised by his mother’s death.
Christian offers to leave, and Ana begs him to stay, saying how delighted she is that he was there. Which is odd because three pages ago she was angry that he was here. Ah, consistency, who needs it? I’m surprised these character names don’t start swapping out for “Bella” and “Edward” at random points through the book, the line-editing is so dire on this bitch. Ana worries about getting Christian angry at her, because he’s such a good manipulator that he’s convinced her that, despite his choice to follow her across the country against her will, she’s the one who should be working to make him feel at home.
Ana’s mum practically jizzes over Christian, and refers to the “UST” in the room- Unresolved Sexual Tension, apparently, which is not a phrase I think I’ve heard before outside my brief dalliances with the fanfiction community (accidentally writing Sam and Dean from Supernatural into gay threesome erotica notwithstanding). She tells her that they’re obviously nutso about each other, and that Ana should go off and work things out with him. I mean, props on finding a subtle way to get rid of Ana, mate, but surely a discreet valium in her cocktail would have done the trick? Her mother tells her that Christian is the key to her happiness, which I think is some of the worst advice I’ve ever heard any parent give any child ever- “yeah, don’t bother trying to be happy by yourself when there’s a rich stalker waiting upstairs to pull out your tampon and emotionally manipulate you!”
Oh yes, did I forget to mention? For the squeamish amongst you, look away now, because we’re about to get hardcore period-bloody up in this joint. I think this is an interesting scene, because as a feminist and a woman, I know that there’s nothing really wrong with period sex and, in fact, it makes a lot of sense to fuck when you’re menstruating- the lubrication is already there, it eases cramps, and if you’re not weeping with period hormones you’re so horny it feels like your clitoris is trying to slap you round the face. But I also don’t really have sex on my period, because I’ve been socialised to think periods are gross and nasty and bad, and that I should just head out to the woods for a few days till the whole thing just plays itself out (I tend to mope around the house feeling sorry for myself and bitching to anyone who’ll listen for the first day, then sucking it up and getting on with it while my ovaries try to bungee-jump out of my vagina. That’s what it feels like, anyway). So having a mainstream, best-selling erotica with a period sex scene in it is actually a big deal, as I’ve heard many people point out. But it’s also worth remembering that this sex scene takes place in the context of a emotionally fraught, pretty drunk Ana who’s been stalked two thousand miles after asking her smothering not-quite-boyfriend for space. So it’s not feminist, at all, because it backs up the idea that a man has dominion over a woman, no matter what, and she should be doing anything to please him. Including fucking him whenever he wants it, even if he has put a great deal of emotional and mental strain on her in the last few pages and even if she goes up to the room with the intention of talking to him about their issues, a subject that he will swiftly steamroller over. Because his needs take precedence over hers. Boom. Feminist’d.
Ana goes to his room, and he’s on the phone doing more Generic Buisness Chat (TM). He comes off the phone and starts trying to fuck her, and she thinks about how they’re meant to be talking. Then he approaches her with a “sexy, predatory” look, because those are two words that are used in conjunction all. The. Time.
“I haven’t set eyes on you for three days, and I’ve flown a long way to see you,” explains Christian, because that does not make it sound like he thinks Ana owes him sex after he put so much effort into stalking her. Ana says they need to talk, and he’s like yeah, sure, let’s fuck tho. He undresses her in front of the mirror, and here it’s revealed that Ana isn’t wearing a bra, and I’m sick with jealousy because there’s been a major heatwave in Scotland this week and I do not have the option of letting my 36-E cups fly free. Fucking underwire in this heat should be a federal offence. Ana thinks about how she’s the marionette, and he’s the puppeteer, because those are thoughts you want to have during sex, right? Who doesn’t want to picture this when your boyfriend’s got his hand on your hoo-ha?
Shall we indulge ourselves with a little look at how this goes down, and you can compare this against your inner monologue the last time you got laid (or just thought about that bisexual orgy scene from Sense8. Unf.)?
“He reaches gently between my legs and pulls on the blue string-what?!-and gently takes out my tampon and tosses it in the nearby toilet. Holy fuck. Sweet mother of all…Jeez. And then he’s inside me…ah!”
Sweet. Mother. Of. All. Jeez. Everyone else sit the fuck down, for EL truly is a master of her craft. Also, I love how Christian’s always been so “I’m so careful about birth control, so I’m going to force it on my potentially unwilling partner instead of wearing a condom”, but he’s sticking it in her unsheathed a matter of days after she started her pill. Which is…probably pretty risky, all things considered. When I went back on the pill, I was told not to have unprotected sex for a week (and I was like “A WEEK?! How am I going to enjoy my no-condoms-allowed, no-holds-barred fuckfest this weekend?!” because my life is rocking). I’d say I’d hope he gets her pregnant so they both learn a lesson, but he does knock her up in two books time, so…
Here’s how long the actual penetration lasts:
Because what I want in my erotica is two paragraphs of poorly-defined sex, followed by Ana nagging on Christian about Mrs Robinson again. She notices he’s got scars on his chest, and asks if she gave them to him- he says no. Then she speculates about what his life would have been like if Mrs R had never introduced him to BDSM, and it’s clear that her bigger crime is not molesting an underage child, but ruining Christian for Ana. Oh, and Ana, sweetie, if he’d never have been into BDSM, this would be just a regular old abusive relationship, as opposed to one the author can get defensive about.
Ana and Christian talk about Mrs Robinson some more, and Christian says how great their relationship was for him, because damn it all if EL isn’t going to make apologies for more than one kind of abuse, right, folks? Christian asks her what she thinks of their arrangement, and Ana replies that she couldn’t do it for a long period of time, because it would be like becoming someone she wasn’t. Christian comments on what a bad submissive she is, and it’s like EL just put this stuff in there to taunt me. He KNOWS she’s a bad submissive and that she doesn’t enjoy his brand of domination- which goes far outside the bedroom- but hey, let’s plow on with this abusive clusterfuck of a relationship anyway! Christian asks her if she liked being spanked, and she said she did, which is a hilariously brazen fucking lie. Then Christian explains that if she can obey his rules, then they can find a way forward, seemingly forgetting that he just mentioned how much she didn’t like obeying his rules. What is this book? Is it a joke? Is it some kind of fucking horrible joke? Honestly, I’ve felt the red mist rising a few times in this chapter, because it’s so blatantly obvious that EL James doesn’t give a shit about character consistency or an interesting plot when she can write shitty, backward sex scenes with nasty undertones for the wool-brained defenders of this book to jill off to.
Ana asks how she’s supposed to balance these rules when he claims to like her defying him, and he ignores her and fucks her again. He lasts a page this time, which is frankly impressive. My favourite line (as they’re still in the bathroom when this sex scene happens) is the water “sloshing everywhere, mirroring what’s happening inside me.” Just her bladder making audible splish-splash sounds as he pounds her.
They talk about Christian’s number of partners, and he discusses how he’s paid for sex, and Ana goes to sleep, thinking that she’s never been so happy before. AND WE’RE OUT.