Fifty Shades Freed: Chapter Eleven
It’s been one of those days, so I thought I’d make it one of THOSE days as well. Yup, it’s time for another chapter of Fifty Shades Freed. But before we launch into the regular cavalcade of misery, please consider sponsoring my lovely friend/long-time fellow recap sufferer Ellie on a fundraiser she’s doing over the weekend. She’s great, the causes are worthy, and she makes a cracking cocktail and told me that she would personally make every person who sponsors her one on the house. Note: one of these statements is a lie.
This week, we bounce into action with another awful, depressing sex scene. Ana and Christian had a falling-out last chapter, and of course he’s trying to fix things by banging her. He’s wearing his sexy jeans as he goes towards her:
” I try to gauge his mood as he stalks toward me. Angry? Playful? Lustful? Gah! It’s impossible to tell.”
I mean, I feel like a broken record here, but how many times do I have to say that not knowing what your partner’s mood is when they initiate sex – ie, whether they’re seducing you in an attempt to distract or punish you as opposed for your mutual pleasure – is fucking grim. Also, “stalk” isn’t a word I associate with playful, so I think we’re safe to rule that one out.
“He grins a disarming wolfish grin that doesn’t reach his eyes. Shit—he’s still mad. He’s wearing these to distract me.”
Ah, glad we got that cleared up. He’s doing it to distract her, AND because he’s angry. That seems healthy. Also, how fucking sexy does he look in those jeans that they can distract her from being mad at him very recently? I mean, I get a bit melty when I see my fella in a suit and tie (which is great, because that’s sort of his aesthetic), but if he were to sprint out of the room halfway through an argument, get changed, and run back in again, I wouldn’t, like, have forgotten what we were rowing about in light of his renewed hotness.
Christian pulls a piece of paper from his pocket, which turns out to be an email Ana sent him in the last chapter. Sorry, that’s fucking hysterical. Who’s going about printing emails in this day and age? And then bringing them into their sexplay? “Ooh, yeah, baby, waste that paper. I, too, reject all those suggestions from the bank to go paperless.”
Ana asks Christian why he returned from New York, and he admits that it was because she went out for drinks with her best friend, thus going back on her word in his eyes. She replies with some grade-A internalized misogyny:
“”Christian, I changed my mind,” I explain slowly, patiently as if he’s a child. “I’m a woman. We’re renowned for it. That’s what we do.””
Oh, do we? I have been in one of those raging feminist moods recently (lol when am I not though amirite), mainly because I’ve been encountering online and in real life a bunch of people just dripping with internalized misogyny. I HATE this attitude of “oh, ha ha, women do X because that’s just what women do!”, especially when it comes from a woman – not only do people see it as a change to go “well, look, a woman said it so it must be okay” but it backs up these awful stereotypes women have about ourselves and each other. Yeah, being changeable isn’t the worst thing you could have associated with your gender, but this “I am a woman, therefore when I shit on my gender it’s charming” attitude makes me want to FUCKING SCREAM.
Fuck, this chapter just gets worse and worse: right after woman-hating bingo, it’s time for abuse-apologist o’clock:
“”I don’t know how to deal with this anger. I don’t think I want to hurt you,” he says, his eyes wide and wary. “This morning, I wanted to punish you, badly and—” He stops, lost for words I think, or too afraid to say them.
“You were worried you’d hurt me?” I finish his sentence for him, not believing that he’d hurt me for a minute, but relieved, too. A small vicious part of me feared it was because he didn’t want me anymore.
“I didn’t trust myself,” he says quietly.
“Christian, I know you’d never hurt me. Not physically, anyway.” I clasp his head between my hands.
“Do you?” he asks, and there’s skepticism in his voice.
“Yes. I knew what you said was an empty, idle threat. I know you’re not going to beat the shit out of me.”
“I wanted to.”
“No you didn’t. You just thought you did.””
Sorry for the enormous excerpt, but there’s just so much here we need to deconstruct. Christian is telling Ana that he strongly wanted to hurt her, even though she’s expressed consistent dislike in being hurt in the past. Christian has also beaten the crap out of Ana with a belt while she sobbed so hard she couldn’t tell him to stop. But Ana is sitting here, going “Oh, but you would never hurt me”. Because she loves him, and love means never having to say “when you said you would never hurt me as a means of expressing your anger again, you better fucking mean it.” Oh, and even if he did just want to hurt her as an “empty, idle threat”, that’s pretty fucking terrible, no? Even if my partner didn’t lay a hand on me but just threatened to, I would consider that highly abusive behaviour. Because it is. But, remind me again, this is the man of your dreams, right? A man who you have to talk out of believing he wants to beat you? Fuck me, but like, as an expression of sheer fury.
Ana reminds him how upset he was when he beat the crap out of her and she left, and she tells him to talk to her while he gropes at her a bit. Ana finally gets him to talk to her, and she asks a bunch of questions about the Jack Hyde situation, which makes sense. Christian explains that Hyde was interested in his family so he gave them extra security, and then demands to know if Ana’s eaten and forces her through to the kitchen so he can feed her and avoid the rest of the conversation. She acquieses, and thinks about how “mercurial” he is as they goof around. Yeah, mercurial: going from expressing his desire to beat you against your will to forcing you to eat whether you like it or not.
Christian spits wine into her mouth, because EL James will make this sexy no matter what, and Ana recalls the last time they did it:
“Oh my. Memories flood back of not so long ago—me trussed up on my bed in Vancouver before I graduated with a hot, angry Christian not appreciating my e-mail. Hmm . . . have times changed? Not much. Except now I recognize the wine, Christian’s favorite—a Sancerre.”
Ugh. Right. Not so long ago, when Ana sent Christian an email saying she’d seen enough and didn’t want to be with him, leading Christian to turn up at her apartment, tie her up, and fuck her without once asking if it was actually what she wanted. Not so long ago, right after you first met. And you’re right, Ana, times haven’t changed much, because he’s still mad, ignoring what you want, and spitting fucking gross-ass wine into your mouth. But hey, now you’re classy enough to know what make it is. Progress?
Christian burns himself – ha – and the scene just continues to get grosser.
“”I just burned myself. Here.” He eases his index finger into my mouth.
“Maybe you could suck it better.””
Someone else’s mouth is not the best place for your fresh burn, idiot. How do these people function? Get it under some cold water, asshole!
“Slowly and patiently he feeds me, occasionally kissing a morsel of food from the corner of my mouth or wiping it off with his fingers.”
I’m reading the worst bits out to my boyfriend, and he just pointed out that this isn’t far from when we’re trying to eat and the cat wants whatever we’re having and tries to nuzzle herself on to our faces to get at it. It’s fucking gross, is what I’m saying. Ana should chuck Christian into the bedroom with some treaties to distract him till she’s done eating. Except, and this is the crucial difference, she shouldn’t let him out when she’s done, or ever.
They head to the playroom, and engage in some of the most blisteringly nonsensical play I’ve read in the book so far:
“”Lift your feet, one at a time.” I oblige and he removes first my panties, then each sandal in turn.”
What, so he yanked her knickers off over her shoes? He cuffs her feet to some restraints and stalks around a bit, sucking on her nips and what have you. Christian starts playing her her clit, and then stops to pull out a magic wand vibrator. At which point, of course, he decides that it’s time to pull out some orgasm control – a concept which they’ve never discussed or agreed to before – on Ana. Ana is distinctly upset, saying “no” and calling his name –
“”Frustrating, yes?” he murmurs against my throat. “Just like you. Promising one thing and then . . .” His voice trails off.
“Christian, please!” I beg.”
OH ACTUALLY FUCKING WHAT I BEG YOUR FUCKING PARDON SIR. So, because Ana went out for a drink with her friend, Christian gets to force a sex act they never discussed before on her? Tit for fucking tat? This is assault, make no mistake. Christian is abusing her, ignoring her boundaries and proving once again that he should never have been allowed to have sex with anyone in the first place. His concept of consent, of punishment, is majorly, disturbingly flawed.
I’m going to put a major trigger warning for rape here, and I’m not kidding about.
” For how long? Can I play this game? No. No. No—I can’t do this. I know he’s not going to stop. He’s going to continue to torture me. His hand travels down my body once more. No . . . And the dam bursts—all the apprehension, the anxiety, and the fear from the last couple of days overwhelming me anew as tears spring to my eyes. I turn away from him. This is not love. It’s revenge.
“Red,” I whimper. “Red. Red.” The tears course down my face.”
My heart sank when I read this passage. Sometimes, reviewing this series is goofy, snarky fun, and other times, it’s just…it’s just really soul-crushing. Christian forces orgasm control on Ana, and this is her reaction. That he’s doing this to take revenge on her. That the leading man in this romance series is committing an act of revenge against his partner by exploiting her sexual inexperience and pushing her boundaries in a way that causes her to break down in tears. She doesn’t want this. She actively hates this. It’s “torture” to her. And for some reason, Christian thought this would be an acceptable way to express his feelings about the last few days at her, even though she gave him the opportunity to talk. Ana might be sure that Christian doesn’t want to hurt her, but he does. He really, really does.
Christian stops at once, repeating “no” over and over again, and apologising for what he’s done. Ana is deeply upset, sobbing, and asks him why he did it.
“I frown at him, and he sighs. “Ana, orgasm denial is a standard tool in—You never—” He stops. I shift in his lap, and he winces.”
YOU NEVER WHAT, MATE? She never said she didn’t want to do it, and therefore it’s fair game? And yes, orgasm denial is a standard tool in BDSM, but that doesn’t matter if you haven’t discussed it. Pegging is a standard tool in femdom in some circles, but just because a guy let me go on top doesn’t mean that I can whip out my strap-on and pull faces when he doesn’t like it.
Ana winds up apologising for Christian for going out without his permission, and he tells her he’ll try to keep his instincts in check a little better. Oh, cool, yeah, so you assaulted your wife and left her sobbing and distraught, but as long as you’ll try a little harder in the future, right?
They talk some more about Jack, and it’s strongly implied that he came to the apartment to kidnap and rape Ana. He’s also implicated in the crash of Christian’s helicopter. And then, the big cliffhanger we leave this godforsaken chapter on, as Christian reveals the cops are looking into a lead in Detroit:
“”Detroit?” I gaze at him, confused.
“Yeah. There’s something there.”
“I still don’t understand.”
Christian lifts his face and gazes at me, his expression unreadable. “Ana, I was born in Detroit.””
I hope this book rots in the fiery pits of hell. See you next week, if I haven’t drowned in a vat of wine to forget this chapter first.
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