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The Sixth Year: American Sigh Story

Tag: fifty shades of grey

Fifty Shades of Grey Recaps: Chapter Twenty-One

So, I’m back from Berlin, and I most certainly haven’t been writing a ton of erotica that accidentally features character names from The Walking Dead, and, if I did, it wasn’t because I have a massive TWD poster of Daryl and Rick opposite my writing chair.

LOUISE - WIN_20150608_191605

Nope. Not doing that AT ALL.

I also wrote this in response to the announcement of ANOTHER fucking Fifty Shades book, so go read that if you want my take on it. I’ll recap it if someone buys me a copy, otherwise I’ll avoid it for the rest of time.

But enough with these petty amusements- it’s time to barrel forward with Fifty Shades of Grey. We’re on chapter twenty-one now, with only five chapters after this one remaining, and I’m starting to cast my mind over what I want to recap next. Right now I’m leaning towards doing Sex and the City, series one, from a modern feminist perspective (because that shit is a disgrace, and I still kind of love it), or taking apart the Harry Potter book series, which I read literally dozens of times when I was a kid.  if you’ve got any ideas, please tweet/email/comment at me and let me know. Books, TV shows, a series of handsomely shot interpretive dance numbers; I’m game for it all (in my darkest hours, I’ve considered going on a massive mission to find the best porn parody on the internet, so adult entertainment is not out of the question).

This chapter opens with a massive paragraph which is just Ana waking up, and I already want to kill myself. Ana thinks about how she’s living the dream, but that it’s awful because he wants a special arrangement that he doesn’t want  Right, so, I’ve decided that, to try and make this recap moderately bearable, I’m going to insert a picture of Christopher Ecclestone looking stern every time there’s an example of problematic content in this chapter. I don’t want to have to sully him with this series, but his face- the face of my adolescent sexual awakening-might just get me through this alive. Let’s start off with one to sum up my ego, shall we?

Yes, that should do it. Ana nips out to the kitchen to find Christian, who isn’t in bed, and instead finds his housekeeper who introduces herself and offers Ana tea. Ana immediately curses her out as a blonde bitch in her head in case the reader got confused and thought Christian might fall in love with the housekeeper if Ana didn’t immediately hate on her like the perfect little product of internalized misogyny she is.

It’s a handy shorthand for “fuck off, EL”!

Ana finds Christian in his office, where he’s having a really fucking long conversation with someone on the phone about Generic Buisness Things, the sort of things I might say if I were transported to a high-powered office for a day in some sort of great and terrible mishap. Once he’s done, they discuss her trip to Gerogia, then Ana demands to be fucked over his desk. I’d like you to read the description of Ana’s orgasm here:

“I cry out a wordless, passionate plea as I touch the sun and burn, falling around him, falling down, back to a breathless, bright summit on earth.”

You know what else might work here? “I came really fucking hard, and it was fucking excellent.” That would also be pretty good. I believe I’ve said it before in these recaps, but if you can think anything other than “FUCK” as you’re about to come, you’re doing it wrong. Or he is. Once again, Christian lasts just under a page.

Ana gets upset when she realizes that Christian has had sex on his desk before, when she should really be upset about the face that he told her that he liked her sore because it acted as a reminder that he was the only one allowed in her vagina, not before grabbing her face and saying “YOU. ARE. MINE.” Because swoon, ladies, amiritie?

See, I was thinking about this earlier today. I was wondering about what the perception of Fifty Shades would have been if the roles had been reversed- obviously, it would still be a book about abuse, but my guess is that we’d be a lot more willing to actually see the horrific abuse at hand, because we’re so used to seeing romantic male leads act this way, especially in New Adult fiction. The stalking, the intimidation, the obsessive establishment of ownership instead of actual love, all held up as the epitome of romance- it’s a total trope, a usually unquestioned one at that, and that makes genuinely turns my stomach.

They talk some more, and Ana goes for a shower, upset because Christian seemed weird and off with her. I mean, I assumed that was what she liked about him, but as a woman myself I know we can never make our minds up about anything and also Ana’s just probably on her period, the mouthy bitch. Ana goes to get some breakfast, and Christian offers to let her take his private jet when she says that she wants to get a commercial flight. She actually stands her ground for once, and she goes to get ready for a job interview. As Christian asks if she’ll miss him, she thinks “He’s got right under my skin…literally”, which, you know:

This is a Chrissy Ecc episode, so it counts. Also, this is the second time I’ve got Slitheen banter in these recaps! Raxacoricofallapa-LARIOUS!

We join Ana on her second interview of the day, because anything she does that doesn’t revolve around Christian is pointless, and a woman described as having black, pre-Raphelite hair appears. Which is funny because when you think of pre-Raphelite hair, black isn’t really the colour that springs to mind. Let’s see what happens if I take four seconds out of this recap to google it:

Research is FUN!

Ana remembers how Christian demands that Ana take her Blackberry with her when she visits her mother, and considers how “…that’s just the way he is. He likes control over everything, including me.” Which is exactly what Ana has been protesting this entire book- whether it’s sexual control, emotional control, or physical control, she’s bucked against it. But here she is, again, dismissing it, because EL James didn’t bother to get a beta reader for her shitty, shiity fanfiction. Oh dear why is this knife at my wrists-

A more self-aware Ana. It’s so stinking unfair, by the way, that my Doctor only got one season. Grumble, grumble.

Ana goes into the inteview, and notes internally a young man with “small, silver, hooped earrings”, and that’s a good enough excuse for me to squeeze in this, because that’s clearly the description of a pirate:

Tim Curry in Muppet Treasure Island is my Dad’s hero, and you should know that.

That man is Jack Hyde, who, spoiler alert, becomes a moustache-twirling villain later in the series, which I will not be recapping unless someone has a copy of Fifty Shades Shiter and Fifty Shades Fucked that they’d be happy to lend to me and let me scrawl all over. Because I ruined my copy of FSOG:

There's a whole page in chapter one with "PRICK" written across it.

There’s a whole page in chapter one with “PRICK” written across it.

The interview is boring, and Ana goes home to find Kate unpacking. Kate cocks her head, and Ana gets annoyed that everything is reminding her of her “favourite Fifty Shades”, and everybody take a shot because the title of the book is in the text. What Lord of the Rings was really missing was Aragorn turning to metaphorical camera every five pages and going “YOU TRULY ARE…THE LORD OF THE RING(S)”. And that’s why no-one remembers Tolkein now. Ana scolds Kate for winding Christian up with her comments about Jose at dinner, and Kate rebuffs with this bit of ironclad logic:

“He’s a real control freak. I don’t know how you stand it. I was trying to make him jealous-give him a little help with his commitment issues.”

Yeah, Kate, what you should do to the control freak boyfriend who obviously intimidates your best friend is WIND HIM UP. Then he can give her a fucking black eye or a broken nose and you’ll have proof, because emotional abuse is just made up, right?????!??!111one

Ana starts to cry, and Kate asks her what’s wrong, and Ana says that she just has such strong feelings for Christian. Kate says that it’s clear that he fancies her too, and those crazy kids should just go for it already. Kate is obviously as bored of this fake conflict as I am.

Christian and Ana email back and forth, and it’s totally, horrifically, painfully, insultingly boring. I mean, I know all the fans of this book who defend it were just skipping from sex scene to regurgitated sex scene- and I know this because whenever you bring up the abuse with them, they say it wasn’t there- but could EL not even try and make a hint of effort with this filler passages? Christ almighty, it’s like listening to the Telegraph bitch and moan about the Jeremy Clarkson being fired for punching someone in the face.

Ana gets to the airport, and Christian has upgraded her ticket to first class after she specifically told him not to interfere. WHAT A TOP NOTCH HUMAN BEING!

/sarcasm

I promise I’ll continue the theme of gifs of men who awakened my sexuality with Chris Barrie next week.

So gorgeous. Where did my bra go?

Fifty Shades of Grey Recaps: Chapter Seventeen

So, I’m back, no matter how hard you’ve been trying to avoid me (and I know some of you have turned that pastime into a sport). Exams and other mundane life bollocks has been in the way of me writing these recaps but, buoyed up by the fact my blog hits have gone up from around thirty a day to around five hundred, I’m plowing forward. I can see the end; it’s so close to being over. Let’s get this shit on the go.

One more thing: if you’re new to the recaps or just want to remind yourself what’s been happening, I’ve added a Blog Directory (up at the top there) where I’ve organised a bunch of different articles into sections so you can find them quicker, and all the Fifty Shades recaps are there, so get on up on that shit. Make a drinking game when you do a shot every time I despair for humanity. You’ll be slammed by lunchtime.

Chapter seventeen opens with Ana having yet another stupidly metaphorical dream about being Icarus flying too close to the sun, then wakes I’m to find Christian wiggling his eyebrows at her and gesturing to his morning wood. Once again, I’m struck by how pointedly unsexy every sentence of this is. In between recaps, I wrote a piece about my own experiences writing erotica, and this passage comes as a reminder that I basically just tack a post-it note with “The opposite of EL James” on my laptop and bash on. Ooh, yeah, tell me you slept well except for the last hour when you were a little warm!

Jane Lynch tho

Christian hoicks her out of bed after promising to meet up on Sunday, and Ana and him exchanges emails about the spanking that left Ana sobbing and upset the night before. Here are some of the words Ana uses to describe the experience: Punished. Beat. Assaulted. Demeaned. Debased. Abused. Uncomfortable. Guilty. Confused. If you could see me now, I’d be waving my hands in front of my head like a fucking windmill and shouting “THESE ARE NOT WORDS YOU SHOULD BE APPLYING TO A BDSM SCENE WITH YOUR PARTNER”. These are words that, once again, show us that Ana doesn’t understand what she’s getting herself into, and isn’t really enjoying it when she does. These are not words generally applied to pleasant, squicky-in-the-pants feelings. Luckily, Christian is on hand to sort things out;

“Do you think you could just try to embrace these feelings, deal with them, for me?”

Oh yeah, sure, sorry you felt like shit after I spanked you and abandoned you, but you know, just kind of deal with it, babe. I wonder if Christian would feel the same way if Ana told him to “just deal” with his feelings about being touched? Everyone can fuck off. I’d forgotten how painful recapping this book was. No-one in the entire world has it worse than I do right now.

Ana emails him back, saying that if she was actually listening to her feelings she’d be in Alaska by now. Then we get this doozy:

“Alaska is very cold and no place to run. I would find you. I can track your cellphone, remember?”

Look, I’m sure lots of couples joke about being freaked out by their partner enough to run to some ridiculously distant part of the globe to escape them. And it’s funny and it’s cute because that partner probably hasn’t stalked them obsessively- acquiring their home address, tracking their cellphone, turning up places uninvited, etc-up till then. What Christian is saying isn’t a harmless joke. Because he’s stalking Ana.

Ana goes to her last day at work before she moves, and while she’s there, a Blackberry arrives, courtesy of Christian, because he wants to be able to reach her at all times. She endures a hideous emotional speech from the people she’s worked for for three years (which we don’t actually hear because that would require a modicum of writing skill), then goes home to pack.

Jose turns up to bring Kate and Ana takeaway, and then Elliot (Christian’s brother, who’s now fucking Kate) arrives. Ana practically implodes with horror as Kate and Elliot smooch in the doorway  (“I’m appalled by their lack of modesty”), and I remember that time a friend of mine was dating someone who was really physical with them all the time, and how even then I managed not to stare in outright disgust because I have a modicum of respect for my friends and who they choose to date. Also, Christian and Ana were humping in a fucking elevator, but, you know, kissing your boyfriend in your own house is so much more disgusting than dry-humping a creepy murder freak in a lift. Remember, folks: if you’re expressing your sexuality and you’re not Ana or Christian, you should be ashamed of yourself.

Jose and Ana go out for a drink, and when she gets back, there’s a terse email from Christian in which he threatens to call Elliot unless she contacts him. Oh, and five missed calls and a voicemail. With “a deep, curling” dread, Ana calls him back, because it’s definetly healthy to fear a conversation with your partner! After he gets monotone thanks to her not calling him, they literally do the “no, YOU hang up thing” for seventeen lines because, well, you’re not going to stretch this out into a trilogy without some space filler! Did I mention this was the fastest-selling book of all time OH NO WHERE DID THIS NOOSE COME FROM

We cut to the next morning, with Ana and Kate installed in their new apartment. Over dinner, a package arrives from Christian, and Ana explains that he must have acquired their new address thanks to his “stalker-like” tendencies. Kate says she’s worried, and no fucking shit, because if some creep who made my best friend cry every time she saw him had acquired my address without talking to me or my roomate, I’d be freaking the fuck out and demanding he back off. But Kate is fine with it, because Christian sent good champage. So basically, get Kate good booze and she’ll forgive you for anything. I’d like to criticize her for this, but it’s way to close to the way I live my life, so…

Ana prepares to go see Christian, and when she gets there, she’s informed that the ob-gyn will be there the following day to get her on her new contraception. PSA: Don’t let anyone push you into changing your contraception. Sure, talk about it with your partner, but anyone who thinks it’s way cool to just inform their sex partner that they don’t like using condoms so they WILL go on the pill can suck an (unprotected) dick. Seriously, this creeps me out so much I can’t really articulate it.

She’s hungry, but not for food, and he gets angry at her for not eating, whatever whatever whatever, the ob-gyn arrives and Christian tells he he can’t way to see her naked. Oh, Fifty Shades of Grey, how I’ve missed you.

Fifty Shades of Grey Double Recap: Chapter 11 and 12

Welcome back to another instalment of Fifty Shades of It’s Only BDSM, OMG, You Prude, Do Ur Research XD (amusingly, a couple of weeks ago on Twitter, someone snarled at me to write a damn essay on the abuse in Fifty Shades if I cared so much. FUNNY YOU SHOULD MENTION THAT). Anyway, we left off with Ana opening the sex contract Christian gave her, and basically the entire chapter is her reading that contract. Shall we begin?

Right off the bat, let’s bear this in mind for later:

“2. The fundamental purpose of this contract is to allow the Submissive to explore her sensuality and her limits safely, with due regard for her and her needs, her limits, and her well-being.”

Seriously, bear that the fuck in mind. Anyway, the contract goes on to cover STDs (not allowed, disappointingly), and what Ana would be expected to do as the submissive. Basically, it outlines that be signing the contract, Ana is comitting herself to three months of being Christian’s sub, at which point they’ll negotiate the terms if they intend to continue the relationship. Three months?! But what if she doesn’t like it? What if she wants out? I’m seriously doubting that this fucking contract would hold water in court, y’all.

Essentially, the contract makes for pretty boring reading, but in a lot of ways in does actually outline what a safe, sane, and consensual BDSm relationship consists of: safewords, the discussion of boundaries, and, um, the dictating of how much sleep Ana would be required to have every night and precisely what she’s supposed to eat from a perscribed list of foods. Help me out, BDSM peeps: is this sort of thing normal? I’m pretty well versed in BDSM but I’ve never been in or near a relationship of this intensity, so is the establishment of rules over eating and sleeping the norm or not?

The contract goes on to mention that Ana would be responsible for any “misbehavior” that might cast Christian in an ill light, even though she signed an NDA which means she couldn’t talk about the relationship anyway. She must realize that her behaviour “is a direct reflection on the dominant”, even though no-one but Ana, Christian, and any hapless family members who wander into his house ad nauseum would know about the whole BDSM thing. Urgh. The contract also discusses the fact that Ana will have to go to a trainer four times a week, and commit herself to whatever beauty treatments Christian sees fit. Again: BDSM folks, can you offer comment on this?

And after four pages of that (OOOH YEAH THIS FINE PRINT IS GETTING ME HOT DOWN THERE), we finally get to the stuff about actual sex. Hard limits (things that Christian won’t do, basically) include fireplay, breath play, and anything involving children or animals (if the flat is so small that your cat can hear you while you’re doing it, does that count?). Then the contract goes on to ask what Ana’s into, because the contract is a caring lover that’s interested in Ana’s limits. I’d go to bed with this contract over Christian. They include vaginal and anal fisting, the infliction of pain, bondage, swallowing cum etc. Aw, this isn’t nearly as hardcore as I was expecting!

Now, let’s take a look at Ana’s reaction to all of this. “I shudder at the thought of being flogged or whipped. Spanking wouldn’t be so bad; humiliating though…No, no I can’t do this. I put my head in my hands. This is no way to have a relationship”.

Ana, honey, serious talk now. It’s okay not to be into the same things the guy you like is into. But this reaction to even reading about BDSM suggests that you’re not into it. You’re not turned on by this. You can’t even consider it. And that’s totally okay. But if your sexual appetites are that different, one of you is going to have to be making massive compromises to make the other person happy, and, let’s face it, it’s going to be you.

She goes and brushes her teeth, and remembers “his body inside mine”, thus reminding us he is a Slitheen

And we have to put up with yet another reference to the muscles “deep, deep down” tugging at her. Does EL James just have a smooth bit of plastic between her legs, or is she just so embarrassed about the thought of writing about female sexual arousal she can’t fucking call anything what it actually is? At this point, I’m pulling for the former.

The next morning, a brand new, not-in-the-shops-yet Macbook arrives for Ana and the delivery man sets it up for her while trying to not blow his load all over the exclusive screen. Seriously, the way this is written, I think I’d like to read the sexual exploits of this way too enthusiastic computer fan and his new Macbook. That shit sounds hot as fuck.

“Most women gets flowers or maybe jewellery” says Kate suggestively”

SHUT UP KATE YOU PUTRID SEACOW. Anyway, Christian and Ana exchange some emails and he says “laters, baby” and the last vestige of my faith in humanity withers up inside me  for good. Ana goes to work, and Jose turns up to take her for lunch, and she’s like “you know I could never stay mad at you, friends who repeatedly pushed himself on me after I turned him down!” and I can’t any more. Ana and Christian exchange some more interminable emails in which Christian orders Ana to go to Wikipedia to research BDSM.

Ana ends the unbelievably dull chapter by mentioning that she’s queasy and sick and doesn’t want this kind of stuff in her head, and saying to herself that she needs time to think. You know what, I’m plowing right on with the next chapter because I think that it’s worth putting these two back-to-back just to appreciate what an utter clusterfuck this story is turning into. So, chapter eleven.

Ana goes for a run, and wonders if it was Christian being “seduced” (and certainly not molested!) at such a young age that made him a dominant, because people with sexual fetishes are broken in some way obvs. Ana gets home and is forced to sit through Kate showing Ana what she’s going to be wearing on holiday to Barbados while Ana listens to the white noise in her head. Then- and it’s key you remember this- Ana sends Christian this email.

“Okay, I’ve seen enough.

It was nice knowing you.

Ana”

How I read that email. Jesus, Marilyn Monroe was earth-shatteringly beautiful, wasn’t she?

Ana laugh to herself, because she’s made a joke. But all Christian sees is this: this is an email, for all intents and purposes, that’s politely saying that hey, Ana isn’t into the BDSM stuff she’s seen and doesn’t want to see him again. And no, I’m not twisting that out of context- that’s the only thing Ana sends to him. Just that. Ana bemoans the fact that he doesn’t reply, and then gets on with packing up her room. As she’s re-reading the contract, this:

“I don’t know why I glance up, maybe I catch a slight movement from the corner of my eye, I don’t know, but when I do, he’s standing in the doorway to my bedroom, watching me intently. He’s wearing his grey flannel and pants and a white linen shit, gently twirling his car keys. I pull out my earbuds and freeze. Fuck!”

Aside from the fact that this paragrpah sounds like it’s lifted straight out of a horror movie, let’s consider what’s happened here. Ana sent Christian an email that she knows was a joke, but for all intents and purposes is telling him to leave her alone. And what does he do? He turns up uninvited in her room to watch her.

Christian tells her that he thought her email required an in-person response, and sits on her bed. Ana’s thoughts: “I glance around, plotting an escape route”. Because plotting an escape route is exactly how I react to being in the same room as my lover FOR FUCK’S SAKE, HOW CAN PEOPLE NOT SEE THIS IS PROBLEMATIC?!

Christian questions Ana about her email and, before he asks her if it’s okay or if she meant what she said about not wanting to see him again, he’s kissing her and pinning her to the bed. Ana thinks “He wants me…not Kate in her little bikinis, not one of the fifteen [other submissives], not Mrs Robinson…me”.Yeah, because it’s sooo healthy to take all your self-esteem from a man who’s chosen you over all the other women who totally want to nail him like Kate and her slutty bikinis, that dirty two-dollar whore!

Okay, this passage coming up is one that I’ve wanted to analyse for a while, because it’s a quote that I often see in anti-Fifty Shades memes and suchlike (which are basically providing a national service to all of humanity).

“He bends and starts undoing one of my sneakers. Oh no…no…my feet. No. I’ve just been running.

“No!” I protest, trying to kick him off.

” If you struggle, Miss Steele, I’ll tie your feet too. If you make a noise, Anastasia, I will gag you. Keep quiet. Katherine is probably outside listening right now.”

Being privy to Ana’s inner monologue, we know that the reason she doesn’t want Christian to take off her shoes is because her feet are sweaty because she’s been running. But think about what Christian hears in this situation. After receiving an email from Ana telling him she didn’t want to see him any more, he turns up at her house. When he begins to undress her, she explicitly says “no” and tries to kick him away from her. In that situation, you fucking STOP AND ASK IF IT’S OKAY TO CONTINUE. If your partner ever says “no” during sexual activity, you stop immediately and check what’s up. Even if Christian had just stopped for a minute and said “is it just your feet or do you want me to stop altogether?” this scene would be less of an issue. But for all the Fifty Shades defenders reading this: Ana says no, and Christian ignores her, then threatens her. That’s what happens right here. She hasn’t signed the contract, hasn’t agreed to any BDSM, they haven’t discussed boundaries at all (the most we got was Christian asking “trust me?” and Ana nodding), there’s no discussed safewords. If you take Ana’s inner monologue out of it, this is an explicit rape scene, because she said no and he carried on.

Christian goes outside and gets a drink for them both after chatting to Kate while he’s half-naked, because if Ana protests about something Christian’s doing it will bring humiliation on everyone involved, but wandering out of the bedroom with only trousers on and chatting away to the roomate doesn’t give the game away. Christian dribble wine over Ana and- HOLD THE FUCK UP! ANA REFERRED TO HER CLITORIS AS A CLITORIS! AND WE’RE ONLY 194 PAGES INTO THE BOOK! Then there’s this as Christian prepares to fuck Ana and Ana refers to it unfortunately as “his sudden assault” and I’m all-

They come, Ana screams Christian’s name (picture it for a second), and Christian says “I thought you were saying no, no discussion at all”. Which, you know, means that he thought Ana was turning down his sexual advances but proceeded to turn up at her house uninvited and ignore her protests during sex because LOVE. Christian offers to introduce Ana to one of his ex-subs so she can learn from them, and Ana throws him out. Finally. Ana runs into her room and bursts into tears. Kate comes in, and asks why Ana is crying-

“I sent him an email.”

“Asking him to drop by?”

“No, saying I didn’t want to see him any more.”

“And he turns up? Ana, that’s genius.”

Is it, though? Is it really genius that the man she asked to stay away from her turned up without asking? Ana sends Christian some emails outlining what she is and isn’t willing to consent to on the contract, and I’m impressed that she’s actually negotiating. Instead of addressing any of her issues, Christian tells her to go to bed. Because mixed signals make me wet.

Shelters and Graveyards: Abuse, BDSM and Love Stories in Fifty Shades of Grey

The Fifty Shades of Grey film hits cinemas later this week, and I think it’s time we take a bloody good look at why Fifty Shades is a story about an abusive relationship. Hundreds of people are defending EL James’ best-selling novel as a depiction of a love story. but it’s time to add to the maelstrom of people arguing that no, it fucking doesn’t.

fifty1

Fifty Shades, as people who’ve been keeping up with my shouty recaps will know, follows the story of Christian Grey, mysterious multi-millionaire wanker and dominant, and his relationship with Ana Steele, mousy, pretentious college student. And, right from the off, their relationship is abusive. Because Christian has an inability to respect boundaries, he travels cross-country to pick a drunk Ana up from a party, takes her home, undresses her, and sleeps next to her, without once asking if it’s okay. Christian gets angry at Ana for being a virgin. He stalks her with tracking devices on her phone. She never signs the infamous sex contract he presents her with in order to establish their boundaries as dominant and submissive, but he uses it against her when he decides that she shouldn’t see her mother. He buys her place of work so he can exert more control over her life. He grabs her and pulls her at several times throughout the novel. Christian occasionally outright threatens Ana with violence for doing things he doesn’t like- describing himself as “palm-twitchingly mad” when she visits a male friend.  He pulls Ana away from her friends and locks her in a room with him until she tells him why she won’t return his calls. He admits to getting her drunk in order to get her to agree to what he wants. At the end of the first book, Ana explains to Christian that she doesn’t like the idea of getting punished- he manipulates her saying that she said she’d never leave in her sleep, and Ana asks just how painful things could get. With no discussion of boundaries, Christian beats Ana with a belt so hard she finds herself unable to speak through the pain and thus unable to use her safeword.  When she does manage to count the blows out loud, her voice is a “strangled sob”, so pretty safe to say that things had gone too far; Christian doesn’t even stop to check she’s okay. Read this breakdown of Fifty Shades with regards to an emotional abuse checklist if you don’t believe me; throughout the first book alone and the whole series by extension, Fifty Shades is peppered with emotional abuse, manipulation and emotional blackmail. That’s a fact. Trust me, I know.

FIFTY2

But what does that mean for people who like the book? If you are a fan of Fifty Shades, it doesn’t automatically mean that you support or condone abusive relationships. It means that you’re welcome to enjoy any kind of fantasy you want provided you’re able to draw the line between what you let happen in your head (or on the page) and what you would let happen to yourself or someone else in real life. As long as you’re able to accept the fact that the relationship depicted across the trilogy is a horrendously bad one, feel free to enjoy all the slightly kinky BDSM sex. No, seriously- go ahead and enjoy it. But stop counting yourself amongst fans who defend the book as a love story, or argue that those saying the book is abusive just don’t understand how BDSM works. Fifty Shades is often sold as the love story of a generation, with articles on Match.com and countless other websites giving readers tips on how to find their own Christian Grey. And therein lies the problem with the book- people aren’t satisfied with just the fantasy of a boring, emotionally manipulative manchild- they’re being encouraged to go after it in real life. The problem here arises from a worry that there are probably all too many people willing to become Christian Grey, and all too many people who, thanks to the books, might conflate romance and love with emotional abuse. Because at not one juncture in the book does EL James suggest what Christian is doing is abusive (similarly, the book steers mostly clear of labelling the sexual relationship Christian had as a young teenager with his mother’s manipulative friend as what it is – statutory rape). The reader is supposed to fall in love with him as much as Ana, when we should be encouraged to look out for the often tacit signs of emotional abuse (in our own relationships and in others) that Christian so perfectly epitomizes. Fans who defend this book are basically saying “LOOK! THIS CAMPAIGN OF EMOTIONAL AND BORDERLINE PHYSICAL ABUSE THAT CHRISTIAN CONDUCTS AGAINST ANA IS LOVE!” They are saying that they wouldn’t see a problem with this if it was happening to them or someone they knew. If that doesn’t worry anyone else, you’re probably less invested than me (lucky thing).

FIFTY4

EL James has spoken about how upsetting she finds people describing her book as abusive is, saying “”Bringing up my book in this context trivializes the issues, doing women who actually go through it a huge disservice. It also demonizes loads of women who enjoy this lifestyle.” The problem with that statement? A) Most people calling the book abusive aren’t only annoyed at the pathetically mild BDSM the book depicts, even though that’s it’s practiced in an inaccurate and unsafe way B) It’s everything that happens outside the bedroom that counts as abuse, as well as some aspects of the relationship within it. Countless people have run down the ways in which Fifty Shades depicts an abusive relationship, so I won’t reiterate them all here, but too many critics of the book are framed as prudes or those conflating a consensual BDSM relationship with abuse. We’re not. Defenders of the book are conflating abuse with a consensual BDSM relationship, and they’re wrong.

Hey, you know who else thinks they’re wrong? Hundreds of members of the BDSM community. Here’s a fascinating link to a blog post by someone from without the world of BDSM explaining that the dominant/submissive dynamic depicted in Fifty Shades just wouldn’t fly in most BDSM circles because of how irresponsibly Christian practices BDSM. Some people have voiced concern over the fact that readers, inspired to try out BDSM by Fifty Shades, might well engage in play that blurs the lines of consent. BDSM is a complex lifestyle that requires work in order to keep things safe, sane and consensual- Fifty Shades does not show the planning, the long discussions about boundaries, and the aftercare required to have a successful experience. And then there’s depiction of BDSM as a disease that’s curable by True Wuv, as Ana consistently characterises Christian’s kink as the scariest thing about him (it’s not).

So, with the mighty behemoth that is Fifty Shades rolling into cinemas this week, what can you do to take a stand against the movie (past just not seeing it at all)? Well, I’m donating the cost of my movie ticket to Broken Rainbow, a charity that supports LGBT victims of domestic abuse. Whether you donate or not, keep talking about Fifty Shades- read the books for yourself, and find the countless pieces of evidence that define this as an abusive relationship. You don’t have to shame people for reading it; you have to get people thinking about if this kind of thing is acceptable in real life. I was looking for the right quote to end this piece on, and I found it, courtesy of Gail Dines: “Battered women’s shelters and graveyards are full of women who had the misfortune to meet their Christian Grey.”

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Fifty Shades of Grey Recap: Chapter Six + Links Bonanza

We return to the magical world of Fifty Shades just after Christian and Blana have shared their first smooch in a lift. As Ana wonders if it ever happened- Grey probably had choloform in his lip-balm, just to be on the safe side- he straps her into his SUV and plays her Sex on Fire, which is a terrible song for a terrible guy and most certainly not the first tune I heard after I lost my virginity.

He then receives a call from his brother, whose first question is if he got laid. Just like the phone conversations me and my big brother have, really, except for the part where any of that happens. I might sound like I’m bored recapping this: I am. Grey’s just being a low-level prick while Ana pouts over the fact that he won’t snog her again. Give me the juicy stuff, dammit! (Not your vagina, Ana, darling).

The first thing that really pisses me off comes after Grey drops Ana back off at the apartment that he knows she lives at despite having never visited or been given an address to. Kate, Ana’s roomate (that BITCH), is there, having just had a roll in the hay with Christian’s brother Elliot. To answer your question, he only seems marginally better than Grey, kissing her hand and saying “Laters, baby” as he leaves. Ana says Kate looks “compliant”, which conjures up images of automatons from Age of Mythology as well as being a bit inexplicable. How does someone LOOK compliant? Grey clearly has a nose for them, but Ana, the great English major, clearly has no fucking clue how words work. Can you fuck someone into general compliance, anyway? I’ve never had sex with my partner and found myself feeling willing to obey anything that anyone told me to do.

Once again, EL demonstrates her complete ignorance at how twenty-somethings communicate-

“Wow, Ana Steele finally falling for a man, and it’s Christian Grey- hot, sexy billionaire.”

“Oh yeah, it’s all about the money.” I smirk, and we both fall into a fit of giggles.

While proving once again that Ana is a fucking hoot, EL takes a second to remind us that Grey is far too good for Ana AND that he’s hot, sexy, and rich. Because we needed to have someone stiltedly reading that off cue cards in the text, again. Bleh. Kate decides to spruce Ana up for her date tonight, and it all turns into a nineteenth century courtship novel, with depillaion-

Under Kate’s tireless and frankly obtrusive instruction, my legs and underarms are shaved to perfection, my eyebrows plucked, and I am buffed all over. It has been a most unpleasant experience. But she assures me that is what men expect these days.

I accept the idea that Ana is a sexual and romantic newbie, but did it really come as a surprise that most gents prefer a shaved lady? It all comes across as making Ana out to be a beautiful untouched virgin, innocent and unschooled in the ways of sexuality and primping. Like Rachel Weisz in The Mummy, only a thousand times less intelligent and appealing.

The only known intersection in the ven diagram of people who me, my boyfriend, and my Dad all fancy.

The only known intersection in the ven diagram of people who me, my boyfriend, and my Dad all fancy.

For no apparent plot-worthy reason, Ana goes to work, then gets picked up by Grey and his driver Taylor to take her to the helipad.

Ana notices that Christian smiles warmly at an older employee at the helipad, and is pretty surprised. Honestly, when you’re surprised that your date is showing a modicum of politeness to those in his employ, it’s not the best sign. Christian straps Ana into the chopper (if only that were literal), and kisses her cheek. She talks about the muscles of her belly contracting again, and I can’t help but wonder if there’s some constipation on the go as opposed to arousal. EL seems to have a problem with having Ana just say that she’s super turned-on or horny, and has to have her use endless metaphors in an attempt to establish the depth of her lust for the man who has just told her he likes he in a harness. Ana mentions how awed she is, and Christian reveals that he prefers soaring-well, gliding to the layperson. No shit, these words are written on the page, and I should know as I’m currently trying to tear it out of the book in annoyance. All these pointless double-meanings and posh words aren’t a way of displaying intelligence, they are a way of displaying a predisposition to pretension-in the cases of both the character and the author. Ana and Christian arrive in Seattle.As he unfastens her seatbelt, for no apparent reason, Grey asks

“You don’t have to do anything you don’t to do. You know that, don’t you?”

Well, where were you last chapter when we had the whole passed-out-drunk-and-stripped naked fiasco? What follows is no less than four paragraphs- almost a whole page- describing what the apartment he’s brought her to looks like, and EL’s obsession with talking about glass continues. This exchange occurs.

“Are you hungry?”

I shake my head. Not for food.”It’s a very big place you have here.”

“Big?”

“Big.”

“It’s big” he agrees, and his eyes glow with amusement, I take another sip of wine.

“Do you play?” I point my chin at the piano.

“Yes.”

“Well?”

“Yes.”

Benedict isn't even in character as Sherlock here. THAT'S HOW FUCKING UNSUBTLE THEIR INNUENDO IS.

Benedict isn’t even in character as Sherlock here. THAT’S HOW FUCKING UNSUBTLE THEIR INNUENDO IS.

I really think this is one of the scenes that will work better in the movie, as reading this sucks it desert-dry of the sexual tension and innuendo EL clearly thought it was dripping with. The formatting looks weird, the subject all over the place, and the sheer insignificance and cheesiness of the exchange makes me want to burn a library. In my head, this is just an awkward chat filled with pauses and in-law dinner time-fillers. With Ana unable to take the tension any more, especially after they exchange tidbits about Tess of the D’urbervilles (which is an excellent book that is demaned by it’s mention in these pages). Christian brings out a non disclosure agreement, asking that Ana sign it before they go any further. Aside from paperwork being the singular most sexy thing on earth (I’m doing my taxes right now, and have to take regular breaks to furiously copulate with my harem of lovers), it seems that Ana is far too horny to read anything before she signs it. An intelligent woman in control of her own destiny, ladies and gentlemen!

After explaining that he doesn’t make love, he “fucks…hard” (is it seventies porn o’clock already?), Christian offers to show Ana his playroom. She prances in, unaware that she’s actually just signed her soul in a Faustian deal with the devil and Mephistopholes is waiting within to drag her into hell. The chapter ends with an internal exclamation:

Holy Fuck.

HOLY FUCK!

HOLY FUCK!

LINKS!

What’s up, party people? Like you’re favourite celebrity coming out round the back to sign autographs, I’m bestowing on you a bunch of links that might be of interest. I’ll be updating the About page with these soon enough, but in case I forget, here they are. Do what you will!

Twitter- this is my twitter feed, where I post a bunch of articles from this site and others, and vent about getting up early, my cat, and politics. Follow away.

The Cutprice Jukebox- This is the sister site to the Guignol, where me and the consort review music- it’s a mixture of older bits and pieces along with a bunch of new bands of various genres, with reviews, retrospectives, and top tens a-plenty. You can like that site on Facebook here for more regular updates, and me being a little bitch about Morrissey.

The Interesting People Project- there’s a blog post about it here, because it’s a lot to explain in a few sentences. My interview heavy labour of love, featuring chats with everyone from David Firth, creator of Salad Fingers, to Vic Mignogna, noted voice actor and generally cool guy.

The Man Place– My dad, who is a much better writer than me, blogs about growing up in the sixties-everything from Action Man to playing soldiers. You can also find his other, more niche blog The Gun Place here, if you’re into learning about air pistols and the way that guns are used in movies from a bearded Aberdonian. My mother sells a fictional ebook about life in the Highlands (the genre of the book is fiction, that is- it does exist) here, and I’m sure we could dredge up a poem my brother wrote for English class one time if you want the full set of my family’s writing.

Fifty Shades of Grey: Chapter Two

See that time I said that I’d post a review up next week, and then a month passed? Aye, I lied. Anyway, on to the second chapter of Fifty Shades of Pish. We left Ana strangely entranced by professional wankbasket Christian Grey, and oh Christ I just don’t care I really don-

After Ana nearly decks it while fleeing from his office, then ponders on how no man has ever made her feel this way before (I sympathise, as never have I been so attracted to someone who is also a complete pair of balls). She drives home too fast in a car that isn’t hers, and immediately starts whining about her so-called best friend and roomate, Kate.

Tonight's theme is dissonant cartoons!

Tonight’s theme is dissonant cartoons!

“Ana, thank you so much for doing this, I owe you, I know. How was it? What was he like?” Oh no-here we go, the Katherine Kavanagh inquisition.

Excuse me if I don’t think two questions regarding a wildly important job-related opportunity that she was forced to delegate to her blank-eyed automaton of a roomate is an inquisition. They then go to have a curiously stilted conversation where everyone says things that have never once been said before, and Ana goes to her job (let’s face it, it’s probably Kate’s job, and she’s going to huff around fucking everything up for Kate by asking if her boss is into dogging or something).

When she gets home, Kate comments that it sounds like Christian was “taken” with Ana during the interview. Christ, I was surprised she couldn’t make out the wood on his desk creaking as his erection tried to break free of his body and make a solo expedition to Ana’s peaks (heh). Some other shit happens-it’s just so fucking dull-and then we meet Jose.

Now, for those of you not familiar with Twilight (of which, we must recall, this book is a fanfiction) there is a character named Jacob in it. Jacob lusts after the female protagonist to no avail after he befriends her shortly after her arrival in a new town, his father has links with hers, and it’s implied he has Native American roots. We’re about to meet a character in Fifty Shades, and I want you to tell me if he reminds you of anyone. All the following excerpts are taken from within a page of his introduction.

Jose is the first person I ever met as WSU…and we’ve been friends ever since… We also discovered that Ray [Ana’s father] and Jose Senior were in the same army unit together…Jose and I are good friends, but I know deep down inside me he’d like to be something more.

It’s all in my head.

Off Ana heads back to work, and, lo and behold, who’s there but beloved actress Pauline Quirke. No, it’s Christian Grey. And he’s here to rub up on Ana like an anaconda with a hard-on and…buy murder supplies? Rope, cable ties, masking tape…as Ana veritably leaves a puddle beneath her every time he speaks, she takes little notice of the fact that he’s clearly stocking up for a long season of hunting humans for sport like every great romantic hero.

In honour of his upcoming tenure as Doctor Who, they'll be a Peter Capaldi gif in every article!

In honour of his upcoming tenure as Doctor Who, they’ll be a Peter Capaldi gif in every article!

They flirt stupidly for a bit (I must be the color of The Communist Manifesto think Ana, and I punch myself in the face) and then organise a photo shoot to go along with Kate’s interview. Where he will presumably-and hopefully-kill them all.

Fifty Shades of Grey: Chapter One

Synopsis: We meet Anastasia Steele, prick extraordinaire, as she carries out an interview with Christian Grey for her sick roommate. No, literally, that’s all that happens. It’s diabolically boring.

Christian Grey Describe-O-Meter: The scribbles on the copy of my book imply that Christian Grey being described as looking “above all, polite” was my favourite; however, after a brief re-read, I noticed that there were four references to his “long index finger” in the handful of pages he appeared in the book. This conjured up the image of a guy with normal hands hindered by one huge, flappy pointing finger that he struggled to control as it careered waywardly around the room. I preferred this.

Because it reminded me of this.

Because it reminded me of this.

Ana, A History: What struck me most about this chapter was that Ana Steele seems to have been written as a complete wanker deliberately. On page two, she “ignores a pang of unwelcome sympathy” for her bedridden best friend (Kate) who’s so ill she’s unable to conduct an interview we discover she’s spent months arranging. Then she proceeds to ask a series of ridiculously rude questions to a man who she’s apparently so in awe of she feels “strange muscles in [her] belly clench suddenly” when he looks at her (by the way, EL James, stomach =/= arousal).

First off, she suggests that his millions of dollars and twenty-thousand people strong company is down to luck alone, then tells him he’s a control freak. After that, she proceeds to ask if he’s gay when he says he doesn’t want a family. C’mon, Ana, I liked Kate! Even if you have a wierd desire to watch her suffer, try not to fuck up an amazing opportunity that she created for herself, okay? She also mentions that she’d prefer to be reading “a classic British novel”, which holds the double win of making me hate this book for being too vague to name a single classic British novel, yet specific enough to know I would eviscerate Ana with my words if I ever met her. That’s talent.

This kid has the right idea.

This kid has the right idea.

For the man who awoke dormant menopausal libidos across the planet, Christian Grey is outrageously shit. I get the notion of a standoffish sexual hero-treat ’em mean if you must-but his dialogue seems to consist of really inappropriate sexual hints (after all, Ana is a student at the university he benefits) and indecipherable statements. Viz;

“We can’t eat money, Ms Steele, and there are too many people on this planet who don’t have enough to eat.”

“That sounds very philanthropic. Is it something you feel passionate about? Feeding the world’s poor?”

He shrugs noncommittally.

“It’s good business sense.”

Aside from being atrociously written (can you shrug with certainty?), this is pretty much left as it is. He isn’t asked to explain that strange final comment, and the attempts to make him seem like a sensual villain with a heart of gold come off as a teenager wearing his fringe over his eyes to seem mysterious.

After a brief goodbye, during which Ana actually gasps when he touches her-

gasp

-Ana sneaks in one last reference to his long index fingers and is mercifully on her way, never to see this wretchedly boring creature again. Until Chapter two, that is. Tune in next Friday!