So here we are: the end. Yes, it’s the final chapter of Fifty Shades of Grey, and my last recap on the topic of EL James’ soul-destroying series. I started these recaps over a year ago, and I wondered, in the few weeks leading up to this moment, if I would miss my weekly adventures into serial abuse, coercion, and bad sex. And, much as I’ll miss all the awesome readers who came along on this journey with me, the answer is no. I’ll be officially evicting Fifty Shades from my bedside table, and putting it in it’s rightful place: the back of the bookshelf, where no-one can ever find it. It’s where every copy of this book belongs.
When I started this book, I was living in a shared flat, distantly out of town, and just halfway through my university career. Now, I’ve got my own place, a job where I get to write porn all day, and a cat of my own- as well as an ordinary degree. My life has improved drastically over the course of these recaps, but that had nothing to do with EL James’ talent.
Let me make one thing clear here: my opinion of the book has not changed in the course of doing this recap. This is a piece of thinly-veiled plagiarism, written with an embarrassing lack of flair, that glorifies and romanticises abuse because the author is too stubborn or too stupid to acknowledge that it’s there. The writing is dire, but the message is worse and, while there seems to be a stronger backlash against the books than way I started, a new instalment to the series was released and we’ve got another two movies to come yet. This cultural behemoth doesn’t stop going, and that’s powerfully depressing. The best we can do is to keep talking about it, keep pointing out the dangerous messages it sends to both women and men, and force EL James and her defenders to admit to the fact that they’re part of a culture that victimises and blames women for their abuse, while telling men that this kind of treatment is expected and desired.
Okay. Come on. One more time.
Chapter twenty-six opens with Ana waking up to Christian playing the piano, and it’s exactly the same as when this scene was in this book before. Remember?
Christian is moody and bitchy, etc, and Ana wants to know why he’s not asleep. Well, that’s because some dick is playing piano in the middle of the night and keeping everyone awake. Tosser. Christian decides he wants to fuck, and Ana suggests that they talk instead, to which he’s like “LOL no I like my idea better.” I’ve said it once, but I’ll say it again: sexual agency, who needs it?
Ana says she needs some things straightening out, and he asks what needs straightening. She replies that the two of them do. Sorry if I’m wrong, but the two of you seem like the most stereotypically fucking straight people in the world. Hey, we even get that latent homophobia that comes through later in the series, and in Christian’s POV! So no, you guys don’t need “straightening out.” Unless it’s on a rack. That I get to adjust.
She asks about the contract, and he’s says that it’s moot. Well, he says that, and then this happens:
“”So let me be clear. You want me to follow the Rules electment of the contract all the time but not the rest of the contract?”
“Except in the playroom. I want you to follow the spirit of the contract in the playroom, and yes, I want you to follow the Rules- all the time. Then I know you’ll be safe, and I can have you any time I wish.””
So- wait, what? I went back to look at the Rules section (I’m pretty sure they’re all rules, but okay), and that involved control over her food, her clothes, her exercise routine, her personal hygiene habits and her “obedience”- ie, her consent to do anything, whenever he wants it, without questions. So…just all the stuff that she objected to? What the fuck even is this? Some kind of joke? The contract is still in play, she just hasn’t actually signed it so EL James can give her SOME semblance of personal autonomy? Does EL James even know what she wrote in her OWN DAMN BOOK?!
Oh, except they score food off the list now, so I guess that means everything’s different? Even though Christian will try to control what she eats within four chapters of the next book. Ana rolls her eyes, and Christian’s erection just about explodes out of his pants as he tells her that he has to spank her now. He doesn’t ask for her consent, even are she tells him that he’ll “have to catch” her first, and runs away. Because someone trying to escape you is exactly what enthusiastic consent is, right, EL?
She tells him that she has no intention of letting him catch her, and he just tells her that it’ll be “worse” when he does catch her. Seriously, I think this is supposed to read as playful, because Ana refers to herself as a child (boke) during this sequence, but it’s gross, because he doesn’t give a shit if she’s playing or not. He wants to spank her, so he will. He says it seems like she doesn’t want him to do it, and she replies:
“I don’t. That’s the point. I feel about punishment the same way you feel about touching.”
And, well, that just puts Christian in his place, doesn’t it? He gets all sad and ashen, and Ana immediately backtracks in her head, scolding herself with “it can’t be that bad, can it?”. He asks if she really hates it that much, and she’s like “I feel ambivalent about it. I don’t like it, but I don’t hate it.” Which…is not how you’ve felt for the rest of the book. Once again, has EL even aware of events that happened earlier in the story? Where Ana cried her eyes out because Christian “assaulted” her? Where Ana thought about their BDSM encounters as a matter of survival? Thank fuck there’s only a few pages left. Thank FUCK. Because this shit is so painfully inconsistent, so stupidly badly put-together, that sometimes I just want to give up writing forever and kill myself. If this is what people want, I will never be able to do this to them, because I was raised on the old-school, out-of-date methods like “character consistency” and “a coherent plot.”
Ana tells him that she’s worried that he’ll hurt her, and that she does the BDSM for him. Now, if Christian were a good dom, this would be a huge red flag- the only reason anyone should be doing BDSM is for themselves, and someone- especially someone as romantically and sexually inexperienced as Ana- admitting that she does it for him is a no-no. But, of course, Christian ignores that, and tells her that he needs it, but he can’t tell her why he needs it, because he’s a needy fourteen-year-old emo kid whose trying to write Fall Out Boy lyrics, I presume. He kisses her, and begs her to stay, telling her that she said she would in her sleep so she can’t go back on her word. See above re: needy emo kid. Speaking of:
I don’t give a shit about trying to make these gifs relevant anymore, I’m in too deep and I just want to look at Gerard Way. Also, Ellie: this is for you, for reading these recaps from the start. You’re the REAL hero.
Ana wants to make him happy, so she tells him to show her how bad it can get. If her comments about doing it for Christian weren’t worrying enough, this is ANOTHER big red flag that Ana is not in an emotionally healthy place to be doing BDSM with Christian. She believes that it’s the only way to save their relationship, which she believes is the only way to keep him happy, which is the only thing she cares about, which is a super, super unhealthy way to live. She’s just told him outright that she wants to push her limits, but not in a fun, sexy way, only because she wants to satisfy his need. She LITERALLY JUST SAID that BDSM didn’t fulfill anything in her, and yet he STILL thinks this is a good idea. There are a lot of people who will use the fact that Ana didn’t use the safeword as “proof” Christian didn’t know what emotional damage he was inflicting, but there were hundreds of signifiers leading up to that moment that any dom- hell, any decent person- would see as a red flag coming from their sexual partner. Heads up, folks: if the person you’re sleeping with tells you over and over again that they’re only doing certain acts because you like them, and that they actively dislike them and feel bad doing them, DON’T DO THOSE THINGS. DON’T. DO. THEM.
Christian takes her to the playroom, and bends her over a bench thingy. And then he gets a belt. Hold up, a fucking belt? Of all the things to hit her with, that seems particularly painful, especially after she’s said over and over how much she only does this for him. Then he starts to hit her. Let’s pick some choice segments from this upcoming bit, shall we?
“I desperately scrabble around my psyche looking for internal strength.”
“Tears spring unwelcome to my eyes…he’s not holding anything back.”
“The belt bites me again, and tears are streaming down my face.”
“My voice is more a choked, strangled sob, and I think I hate him.”
Do these sound like the thoughts of someone having a fulfilling sexual experience? No. As anyone who’d been paying any fucking attention to her previous reactions, she doesn’t like being hit, and beating her with a belt isn’t going to change that. And Christian, once again, should be reading her reactions- she’s crying, she can barely talk, and when she does, she describes it as a “scream”. These should be tip-offs that get him to check in and see if she’s doing okay, even if she hasn’t used the safeword. I don’t think I should have to explain that, if your partner is weeping openly because you’re involving them in your fetish, maybe fucking don’t.
Ana storms off, and thinks about how Christian tried to warn her about this- about how he wasn’t normal, because BDSM is a sympton of being mentally unwell, right? She thinks about how she never wants him to hit her like that again, and refers to him as “Fifty Shades” twice in a page, which would make me laugh if my mouth were not set into a hard line. Christian comes through, and apologises for hurting her, and she replies, I swear, “I asked for it.” Because, as we all know, if a man has coerced a woman into doing what he likes with NDAs and abuse and contracts and the withholding of emotional intimacy, and she finally agrees to do it so she can please him, it’s her fault and not his.
So they talk, and Christian says they should break up, and Ana loses her ever-loving shit, referring to it as an “unfolding tragedy”. Remember how they’ve been dating, like three weeks? Yeah. Her world is now “sterile ashes”, all her hopes and dreams “cruelly dashed”, because Ana never wanted anything more than to be trapped in an abusive relationship with a slightly kinky billionaire, right?
Ana collects her things, thinks how hot Christian is again, and then…IT’S OVER! SHE’S GONE! THE BOOK IS DONE! SHE LEAVES THE APARTMENT AND, IN MY HEAD, REMAINS BROKEN UP FROM HIM FOREVER HURRAH!
Thank you to everyone who’s joined me for these recaps- you can read them all from the start in the blog directory, above. Despite the awfulness, it’s been a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to starting my next recapping adventure with you all.