Saturday, January 11, 2014

Let's Read Fifty Shades of Grey: Chapter 13!

In the last chapter, our hero broke into our heroine's house and raped her.  So.  Really nowhere to go but up from here, I guess.


Content warnings for this chapter: emotional abuse (like, a LOT), sexual harassment.  You know the drill.

We begin, after some pointless stuff with Ana's family and continued repetition of the fact that she doesn't want or even understand a BDSM relationship, with the most condescending fucking email imaginable.
Following my more thorough examination of your issues, may I bring to your attention the definition of submissive. submissive [s uhb-mis-iv] – adjective 1. inclined or ready to submit; unresistingly or humbly obedient: submissive servants.
con·sent  [kuhn-sent] - verb (used without object) 1. to permit, approve, or agree; comply or yield (often followed by to  or an infinitive): He consented to the proposal. We asked her permission, and she consented.

This next exchange occurs over the course of nine emails, each one complete with subject lines, time stamps, and sig files, but I'll compress it into a dialogue because FOR FUCK'S SAKE:
Chunk BluntFob: I will collect you from your apartment at 7:00 tomorrow. 
Ana: Sir I have a car. I can drive. I would prefer to meet you somewhere. Where shall I meet you? 
Chunk: I refer to my email dated May 24, 2011 sent at 1:27 and the definition contained therein. Do you ever think you’ll be able to do what you’re told? 
Ana: Mr. Grey I would like to drive. Please.
How is this sexy, how is this romantic, how is this fun, how is this anything anyone would ever want?  I mean, even if you're not considering abuse, this relationship still seems like a royal pain in the ass.  This isn't an erotically charged power struggle. This is a guy who argues and complains every time his girlfriend tries to make simple plans with him. Never mind whether it's ethical or not, never mind whether it's good BDSM or not... isn't it just annoying?
He’s even grumpy by email. Doesn’t he understand that I may need to make a quick get-away? Not that my Beetle is quick… but still – I need a means of escape.
Oh god.  She's right, too.

This is the thing I really don't get about FSoG: it doesn't really depict an abusive relationship as positive.  It depicts an abusive relationship as pretty damn abusive.  Ana isn't shy about saying that she's afraid of Beef RollBar, that he's hurting her, and that she doesn't want to do BDSM with him.

This is starting to bother me more than "abuse and the heroine loves it" fiction, because it's not just saying those behaviors are romantic; it's saying that feeling afraid and unwilling is too.  It's saying that if your thoughts before going on a date aren't "I hope we have a good time!" but "let me get my escape routes in order in case this gets physical again," that's an acceptable stage in a blossoming romance.

I really wanted these posts to be funny and silly, but here we are.
Paul is back from Princeton before he sets off for New York to start an internship with a financing company. He follows me round the store all day asking me for a date. It’s annoying.
Maybe the reason Hair SinkClog seems like a viable option to Ana is because every man in her universe is equally intolerable.
I rarely wear make-up – it intimidates me. None of my literary heroines had to deal with make-up – maybe I’d know more about it if they had.
If only there were a scene in Jane Eyre where Jane goes through "I then applied the mascara slowly and evenly along my upper lashes only, curling upward as I went."  How careless of Charlotte Brontë to not include one.
“What would you like to drink?” My lips quirk up in a quick, sly smile as I sit and slide into the booth – well, at least he’s asking me. “I’ll have what you’re having, please.” See! I can play nice and behave myself.
God, she's internalizing it.  She's starting to associate "in accordance with this guy's completely arbitrary desires, which I'm just now learning to predict" with "good and right, which I should have done all along."  In this book where nothing else makes sense, where unused sneakers stink and Vancouver is south of Portland, it's unsettling that the one thing that's unfailingly realistic is the psychology of abuse.
“You know this contract is legally unenforceable.”“I am fully aware of that, Miss Steele.”"Were you going to tell me that at any point?”He frowns at me. “You’d think I’d coerce you into something you don’t want to do, and then pretend that I have a legal hold over you?”“Well… yes.”“You don’t think very highly of me at all, do you?”“You haven’t answered my question.”
Ana's actually pretty sharp sometimes.  This is yet another exchange where she makes some extremely good points and he completely dodges the implications and they never really get resolved at all.
“Did you have similar discussions with um… the fifteen?” “No.” “Why not?” “Because they were all established submissives. They knew what they wanted out of a relationship with me and generally what I expected. With them, it was just a question of fine-tuning the soft limits, details like that.”
The hell it was.  Speaking as an "established submissive" myself (well, it's not like I have a listing with the BBB, but I've been doing this stuff the majority of my adult life), you don't grow out of needing to negotiate.  You don't start saying "the usual" when someone asks your hard limits, because you come to realize there is no usual.

You might be able to work out the details of a scene a little more efficiently when you have more experience, but when it comes to an entire D/s relationship, an experienced submissive is going to have more to talk about in negotiation, because they have a better idea of what the pitfalls can be.
[Ana:] “I think we should stay in public, on neutral ground.” He smiles sardonically. “Do you think that would stop me?” he says softly, a sensual warning.
Who shelved this fucking horror book in the romance section?
“My sexual health. Well, all of my previous partners have had blood tests, and I have regular tests every six months for all the health risks you mention. All my recent tests are clear. I have never taken drugs. In fact, I’m vehemently anti-drugs. I have a strict no-tolerance policy with regards to drugs for all my employees, and I insist on random drug testing.”  Wow… control freakery gone mad. I blink at him shocked.
After everything we've been through in the last few chapters, this is shocking? Random drug testing?  Heck,  I've had to pee in a cup most of the places I've worked, and while you can raise various ethical objections to the practice, I don't think "this means you're being a BDSM dominant over all your employees" would be one of them.
“Do you really think I would do that? Go beyond any limit you can’t take?”
He does this a bunch of times in this chapter--rather than saying "I won't hurt you," he phrases himself as the wounded party because she has the audacity to think he would hurt her.  (This is in between threats to hurt her.)

I wish I had more jokes for this chapter.  Instead, I just have to observe that once again, this is a remarkably true-to-life abusive behavior.
“You’ve said you’ve hurt someone before.” “Yes, I have. It was a long time ago.” “How did you hurt them?” “I suspended them from my playroom ceiling. In fact, that’s one of your questions. Suspension – that’s what the karabiners are for in the playroom. Rope play. One of the ropes was tied too tightly.” I hold my hand up begging him to stop. “I don’t need to know any more. So you won’t suspend me then?” “Not if you really don’t want to. You can make that a hard limit.”
So there's two things I notice here.  The first is that hurting someone doing a suspension is a pretty big frigging deal, and his reaction here is all off.  Even if Ana doesn't want details, he needs to make it clear that he takes this seriously and he's taken steps to make sure it never happens again.  Instead, he basically shrugs it off and tells her that she's allowed to say no (how generous of him) but otherwise he plans to suspend her too.

The second is that Ana's reaction wasn't fascination and wanting to know how suspension works and how it feels.  It was a horrified "I don't even want to know."  If this were just about suspension, okay, but she's like this about every BDSM subject.  There's nothing about it that intrigues or even interests her.  She isn't a new submissive, timid about her desires--she's a non-submissive.

I don't know if Tractor JohnDeere doesn't notice this or doesn't care (presumably both), but either way, it speaks extremely poorly of him as a dom that he's still going through this "we're negotiating the exact details she wants" farce without observing that she obviously doesn't want to do any of this.

This whole negotiation scene is kind of like this; he asks "do you want to be spanked or caned?", she shudders and goes "oh god, neither, but I guess I'd go for spanking if I had a gun to my head or something," and he notes that as "she consented to spanking."  Not only is this bad BDSM, not only is it bad being-a-human-being, but am I the only one who thinks it's about as sexy as a sewer backup?
I will fuck you, any time, any way, I want – anywhere I want. I will discipline you, because you will screw up. I will train you to please me. But I know you’ve not done this before. Initially, we’ll take it slowly, and I will help you. We’ll build up to various scenarios. I want you to trust me, but I know I have to earn your trust, and I will.
That last part sounds all nice and all, until you remember that the last time he saw her, he broke into her house and raped her, then walked out and left her sobbing.  I think he's kind of missed the window on earning her trust at this point.
I frown and take a bite of cod, trying to assess mentally what concessions I’ve gained. The food, the sleep, I can look him in the eye.
It's sad that she's thinking of her being able to eat and sleep when she wants as "concessions."  As things she's taking away from him.

BDSM negotiation shouldn't be like this.  It shouldn't be a battle of wills between a dom who would utterly destroy the sub if they got their way and a sub who wouldn't play at all if they got their way.  It should be, like, we both basically want the same things, now let's work out the details of something we will both enjoy.
“… Your body gives you away. You’re pressing your thighs together, you’re flushed, and your breathing has changed.” O, this is too much. “How do you know about my thighs?” My voice is low, disbelieving. They’re under the table for heaven’s sake. “I felt the tablecloth move, and it’s a calculated guess based on years of experience. I’m right aren’t I?”
He knows she wants him because he felt it through the tablecloth.  It was a particularly sexy tablecloth tug, you see.  Experienced Tablecloth Doms would know it anywhere.  I... at this point I can't say "I love this book," even in jest, but now and then it is pretty damn precious.
My car pulls up outside. Christian’s mouth drops open. “That’s what you drive?” He’s appalled. Taking my hand, he leads me outside. The valet jumps out and hands me my keys, and Christian coolly palms him some money. “Is this roadworthy?” He’s glaring at me now. “Yes.” “Will it make it to Seattle?” “Yes. She will.” “Safely?”
Going from Vancouver to Seattle is a few hours' trip on a flat, wide freeway.  It's not some mountain journey that requires a super rugged vehicle.

Of course, this isn't really about her car.  It's about him finding another way to make her feel inferior and put her in his debt:
“Oh, Anastasia, I think we can do better than this.” “What do you mean?” Realization dawns. “You are not buying me a car.” He glowers at me, his jaw tense. “We’ll see,” he says tightly.
When buying your lover a car is a threat you make angrily, you've made some major mistakes in what you think a lover even is.
If I do this thing… will he be my boyfriend? Will I be able to introduce him to my friends? Go out to bars, the cinema, bowling even, with him? The truth is, I don’t think I will. He won’t let me touch him and he won’t let me sleep with him.
Of course kinky couples can go bowling!  Even in a "24/7" relationship, nobody can actually spend 24 hours a day on flogging and blowjobs and kneeling in uncomfortable positions.  Sometimes you want to go out and do ordinary fun stuff, and when you do fun stuff it's natural to take along people you're close to, and that includes doms and subs.

Bobcat ForkLift probably won't go bowling with her, but not because he's a dom.  Because he's a "people who have sex with me are basically sex toys and should be shoved in the back of the underwear drawer when I'm not using them" asshole.
I climb into bed. As I lie staring into the darkness, I think of all the times he warned me to stay away. ‘Anastasia, you should steer clear of me. I’m not the man for you.’ ‘I don’t do the girlfriend thing.’ ‘I’m not a hearts and flowers kind of guy.’ ‘I don’t make love.’‘This is all I know.’ And as I weep into my pillow silently, it’s this last idea I cling to. This is all I know, too. Perhaps together we can chart a new course.
Or perhaps you could date someone else, someone who does the girlfriend thing and is a hearts and flowers kind of guy and makes love (and ISN'T A RAPIST), and your new course would be a hell of a lot easier to chart.

122 comments:

  1. "Because he's a "people who have sex with me are basically sex toys and should be shoved in the back of the underwear drawer when I'm not using them" asshole."

    He has a standard-model white Audi he gives to all his "subs", and he re-uses vibrators, and the women all look almost identical. This is a very accurate assessment.

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    1. Hey, I also use my toys on different partners. (Of course with a condom on it). That itself isn't inherently evil.

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    2. @ 2d Anon: But buying a new car for every vict- uh, sub, while they don't even get their own sex toys seems a bit... well, let's just say his priorities are off.

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    3. 2d Anon here.
      I don't say that Butt MeatCheck isn't creepy. I just say that the "I use one vibrator on all my play partners" is not a problem.

      Buying sex toys for a partner can be creepy, too. I had a (now ex-) boyfriend who buyed a vibrator for me (without asking me what Kind I preferred or if I even likes vibrations) and used it as a "now, when you have sex with yourself, you also have sex with ME". Yes, he turned out to be abusive and when I left him, he got violent.

      Somehow I'm really surprised that Hair SinkClog doesn't do the same vibrator-move.

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    4. He re-uses vibrators? That seems incredibly strange, given that the book loves pointing out how much money he has, and how "generous" he is with it. So he can buy her a car, but a fresh-out-of-the-box vibrator (which she might feel more comfortable with)? Nope!

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    5. Oops, the issue has already been raised :)

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    6. It's more that he has a drawer of them rattling around, and his attitude towards condoms tends to lean on the contraceptive side (and once Ana gets on the pill/has her period he eschews them completely) so I don't think he'd use them as safety aids for his sex toys. Ana asks if she can have fresh vibrators and he's pretty much "ugh, fine, if I HAVE to."

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    7. 2d Anon, again.
      yeah, that guy ignores every desire and every boundary Ana has. He doesn't like her having boundaries at all, so it's not to surprising that he tries to dismiss safer sex methods that protect only Ana.
      But I would be almost equally horrified if he bought every sub a new vibrator of the same kind.
      Almost like a "sub package": You get a car and a vibrator and an abusive millionaire! Get your flatrate now!

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    8. I don't think what The Pervocracy is saying here is "he has a drawer of vibrators that he re-uses". It's that he's using people who are his sex partners AS IF they were vibrators or other sex toys that can be stored and ignored when not being used to get him off. You can throw your vibrator in a drawer and forget about it without doing any damage because vibrators don't have feelings; you wouldn't take it to the movies or bring it to meet your friends because it's not a person, it's a thing. Christian Grey is treating his sex partners in the same way: as things that don't have needs, so he's not obligated to pay any attention to them when he's not using them to further his goals.

      When my boyfriend and I read that, we both recognized it as a bang-on description of my ex-husband, who has treated us both in that "shove their needs aside when not getting off" way, so I really related to that description, even copied it into my journal. This isn't about re-using vibrators. It's just about using people.

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    9. @Sara Lin Wilde

      No, no, I read the second book. He has a drawer of used vibrators he wants to use on Ana.

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    10. I treat my sex toys better than he treats women. They get lots of care and I sleep with my hitachi under a pillow.

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  2. "I really wanted these posts to be funny and silly, but here we are. "

    I've seen several 'X reads FSOG' series that started out with that goal, but I think it's impossible to keep it up. Just. So much wrong. I definitely second the 'horror story shelved in the romance section'.

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  3. What...the...FUCK.

    At first Roll FizzleBeef was a hilariously ridiculous 24/7 brooding sex vampire. But now he's crossed the line from funny monster to fucking legitimately frightening monster. I don't even want to read this book anymore; I'll probably get childish quibbles of Christian lurking under my bed.

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  4. Second chapter in a row where she's alone and crying at the end. Well, that's certainly my idea of a healthy infatuation period for any relationship.

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  5. Have you thought about writing a book based on these observations? Like you, I am constantly shocked at how vile Fifty Shades actually is. Based on its reputation, I had assumed it was harmless if inaccurate/unrealistic fun, but ... wow. It's a poison that needs an antidote!

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    1. Maybe a story where someone very like Stone FallCrush approaches our heroine, tells her he's kinky, acts like a creep... and she's terrified, runs, and teams up with an actually kinky person who helps her defeat him? It would be hard to get right, but rewarding.

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    2. Same here, this is not just crappy romance, this is downright propagating a sexually and emotionally abusive relationship! Horrifying!

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    3. I would highly recommend Abigail Barnette's "The Boss" series as a counterpoint to FoSG. She also completed a very hilarious recap series of all of the FoSG books (under her real name, Jenny Trout) and proceeded to write a series with the same premise ("billionaire Dom has kinky sex with a young female and introduces her to the world of kink"), but without the horribleness of FoSG. It's pretty awesome to read, because she purposely puts little digs at FoSG in the series.

      For instance:

      "Where is his kinky sex room?"
      "He doesn't have one."
      "No, no, all billionaires have a kinky sex room, I read about it."

      Or:

      "Would you be okay with me writing about our relationship and possibly having it published?"
      "Sure. It's not like I made you sign a non-disclosure agreement before we started dating."


      Just brilliant.

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    4. "Maybe a story where someone very like Stone FallCrush approaches our heroine, tells her he's kinky, acts like a creep... and she's terrified, runs, and teams up with an actually kinky person who helps her defeat him? It would be hard to get right, but rewarding."

      I would read the hell out of that book.

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    5. Me, too. :D:D:D:D:D:D

      -Fishgoat

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    6. Has anyone come across this? http://www.discordcomics.com/shades-cover/ - Shades of A, by Tab Kimpton. It's kind of an alternative universe, this-is-what-FSoG-would-look-like-done-right thing (in graphic novel form!)

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    7. Oo, I second the for Abigail Barnette's "The Boss" series. It's kinky, not misogynistic, and there's "alternative" relationships. The heroine is inexperienced, but there's no emphasis on purity, and she's super enthusiastic about submitting. There's plenty of supportive relationships with other women, as well. Plus the author manages to add elements of real world relationships (illness, mental illness, employment difficulties, family friction, etc.) into the story while still keeping it fairly light. And the sex is hot. Can't forget that.

      Really, if I say everything I like about them, this is going to turn into a book review.

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    8. I have to third the Abigail Barnette's "The Boss" series. Her third book in it is coming out soon if you don't count the middle ish book between book two and the new one coming out. If I remember correctly she started writing it because she was frustrated with FSoG.

      I should get back into my not funny video review of each chapter of this book I was doing. Eh. Maybe later

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  6. She's quite sassy in her reply emails, though. I admire sass :)

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    1. She's quite sassy in her reply emails, though. I admire sass :)

      You might, but I'm not sure that the book does. The sass seems more of a speedbump on the road to ecstatic "submission" and annihilation of the self, used in the meantime as a plot device to provoke Clenchy McBunghole into further abusive paroxysms.

      If only Ana would get over that pesky instinct to stand up for herself, we could get on with "redeeming" our truly-the-victim-here Narcissus von Mirrorlooken so that he doesn't need to go through the motions of obtaining Ana's consent so that he can run roughshod over it.

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    2. The weird part of this book is that that's exactly the deal he's offering her. He's not mincing words or hiding it. He's told her twice now that once she submits, all this horrible asking-her-opinion will be over.

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  7. There are two disturbing thoughts left in my head after reading the last passage; when Ana recalls the numerous warnings Christian gave her about himself, and then bursts into tears, there is a feeling of "he warned her and she didn't listen, therefore she now has to suffer consequences of her own decisions". We know this bullshit all to well - victim blaming. And then, she apparently abandons the previous idea of escape and, still crying, settles for playing a part in his sick scenario; are those the implied consequences of Ana not retreating "when she still could"? I wish I could write and explain everything I have in mind right now but I am downright terrified that this bs is called a "romance". Sorry for any mistakes, I'm not a native; I just had to share my disgust.

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  8. I found myself stopping part-way thru this chapter review, because I was finding triggers and partial flashbacks to my own abusive relationship. Unlike Ana, i wasn't a naive twit, but I still fell for the bullshit and the whole "Hey, this is a D/s relationship and I should comply with whatever my Dom says cuz that's how it's done, right?" Thank god I was a 'bad slave' in his eyes and he found another poor soul to destroy, but I wish to all the gods that I had found the Pervocrasy earlier on and read more into what a healthy BDSM relationship is like. After my ordeal, I... I don't even want to think of it.

    I"m not sure what sickens me more: This bullshit story and it's popularity, or the fact that I'm finding echoes of things that crossed my mind in Ana's thoughts...

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    1. I'm not sure what sickens me more: This bullshit story and it's popularity, or the fact that I'm finding echoes of things that crossed my mind in Ana's thoughts...

      Can't it be the intersection of the two? This story takes a plausible abusive relationship, puts the protagonist through realistic emotional paces as an abuse victim, glosses over it as a positive experience, and then has the temerity to sell itself as a relationship model to be envied for its passionate intensity.

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    2. It's really fricking insidious. Ladies, this is the kind of sex life *we are supposed to want*, according to all the hype. *barf*

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    3. "I found myself stopping part-way thru this chapter review, because I was finding triggers and partial flashbacks to my own abusive relationship."

      That's exactly why I started doing a video review chapter by chapter of this series. I think I stopped at chapter 10 or 11 because I got busy and had computer problems but now that I have a new computer....I'm thinking of re-starting it again.

      Well that and being tired of re-iterating the same points over and over now I just send people youtube links to the playlist and tell them watch that. It will tell you better what my opinions on the series are.

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  9. Random drug testing obviously isn't as bad as you know... raping people, since they do at least have the option to refuse and just be out of a job. That puts it more on par with quid pro quo sexual harassment. Just because it's "normal" doesn't mean it isn't fucked up. Though I suppose Solid Beefloaf can at least claim he had been led to believe it was acceptable behavior on this one.

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    1. I've worked with some people who were altered on the job in really terrifying ways--like, when they were driving an ambulance or caring for ventilator-dependent patients. I'm all for their employers gathering whatever evidence is necessary to get them to stop.

      However, when you get to jobs that aren't so life-and-death and where there is no other sign of impaired performance--or when you're testing for metabolites of something someone might have taken over the weekend--then you're being intrusive and enforcing "drugs r bad!" morality for no good reason.

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    2. Well, when I signed my current employment contract, it included a statement that my employer could perform random drug testing if they wished to. I gave my upfront agreement to that. So I wouldn't put random drug testing on a par with sexual harassment, since the former happens with my prior consent whereas the latter does not.

      (Of course, you could argue that a poor job market puts pressure on people to consent, but then the same is true of consenting to any less-than-ideal conditions in your contract, so I'm not sure how much weight to give that.)

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    3. I suspect this is just another case of culture blindness. Drug testing at work is a complete no in the UK - even if you appear to be visibly high whilst doing something dangerous at work, you'll get a disciplinary proceeding or even fired, but you won't get drug tested. The only people I can think of who ever get drug tested at work here are athletes.

      I realise it's, uh, hardly, the most ludicrously BAD thing here. But it does seem like Ms James just went "Oh well, Americans speak English and watch telly too, there can't be any cultural differences at all!"

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    4. In Sweden you have to take drug tests at certain work places, I know that the company my dad work for (they produce paper... I think) does drug screenings once a year on their employees and before you are hired. And I talked to one of my little sister's friends the other day and she told me about how she had had to take a drug test before working at a children day care this summer.
      I worked at a psychiatric ward and I didn't need to take a drug test, but I know they were talking about start drug testing the personel.

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    5. My husband works for a power station, they get randomly drug & alcohol tested as well as full physical health checks on a more regular basis (like every 6 months-year). So it's not just athletes. I would be happy if anyone involved in a position of caring (so nursing, childcare etc) or heavy machinery useage was subject to regular drug testing.

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    6. Physicals too? Uggh. That's arguably even more rapey.

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    7. I don't know, I have always thought full physical health checks on the job was a good thing? Cause it's a doctor appointment for free and is really good, especially for men over 45, since you can find and prevent a lot of cardiovascular dangers on those health checks. I don't know how it is in the U.S. but in Sweden where I live you can't fire someone because of a medical problem, so it don't matter that the physician finds a widened abdominal aorta, you are safe on your job - and even safer since now you know that you have a may-be-aorta-aneurysm and can get it fixed before it burst.

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    8. It's not like a "turn your head and cough" style physical - just eye checks, hearing, blood pressure etc. Since it's a fairly physically demanding role sometimes it's good that their Occupational Therapy keeps an eye on them.
      Oh, and if they are high/drunk they can be fired.

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    9. In Italy every if you work with machinery or you are a public driver (schoolbuses, buses, trains etc) you have to take drugs and alcohol tests once a year, for your safety and the safety of the people around you. Every worker (except freelancers) has a health check, paid by the company she/he works for, where a doctor checks eyes, ears, blood pressure, spine conditions. The frequency depends on the kind of job you have and your boss cannot fire you if something is wrong with your health.
      In Italy more or less everybody thinks this is good (except the ones who drink half a bottle of wine first thing in the morning and then go out to drive the schoolbus full of 6-y-o kids...) and not an abuse at all.

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  10. The part that bothers me is that I've seen some actual BDSM blogs that seem to give the impression that this book's version of negotiation is the correct one (or close to it). It's usually in arguments about what constitutes "topping from the bottom." I've seen more than a couple people say that subs should do things they don't want to do in order to please their dom. I've even seen people (subs and doms) pull the whole "If you confront your Dom about not wanting to do something, it shows that you don't really trust them."

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    1. Yeah... I think the "should" is the real problem there. There are subs who want that. I've had one who told me straight out, "Make me do something I don't want to do". But, you know, that came from her. A dom who wants that should find a sub who wants that, and not expect it from every sub.

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    2. Yeah, I mean it's fine if that's what both people want to do. The issue is when people treat that like it's the only "real" way to do D/s, and that everyone should like it. Then again, it's not an issue specific to BDSM, either. As evidenced by all those Youtube videos on "What Men/Women Want" many people think their preferences are universal (or that they should be, at least).

      Either way, this brings up the possibility that EL James really did try to do some research, just not in the best places.

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    3. Yeah, honestly this is this impression I originally got from reading one of the BDSM usenet groups back in the day -- that once you consent to being a submissive, the whole point is that the master can do anything they want to you and if you try to get out of it YOU'RE in the wrong. And also, the more the sub doesn't want it, the hotter it is for the master.

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    4. This is one of the biggest reasons why I never wanted to get involved with the local kink community. Way way too much stuff like that on their internet forums.

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  11. I'm kinda cheating and reading parts of the chapter that Cliff didn't quote :)
    This bit stopped me cold:

    (they're eating oysters)
    Ana: "Did you choose these deliberately? Aren't they known for their aphrodisiac qualities?"
    HardBeef: "No, they are the first item on the menu. I don't need an aphrodisiac near you."

    THE FIRST ITEM ON THE MENU.

    He insists on ordering for her, he goes all hard-lipped and flared-nostrils and cold-eyed if she even mentions ordering her own food, and HE DOESN'T EVEN CARE. HE JUST PICKS THE FIRST THING ON THE MENU ARGLBLKEWLSHJSFDHDF

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    1. It's like he wants all the 'rewarding' parts of being a Dom without the responsible parts like respecting your sub or picking out a food they might fucking like.

      (Seriously, shellfish allergies are fairly common so oysters are probably a bad choice without asking first.)

      Delete
    2. Umm, seconding the shellfish allergies part (my dad is allergic to shellfish), and, as far as appetizers go, isn't the first item on a menu usually cheese fries or something like that?

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  12. The more commentary I read about Fifty Shades of Grey (I really, really don't want to read the actual book myself, I have this irrational fear that I'll get sucked in and become a fan even though it's terrible), the more convinced I become that it started as an elaborate social experiment (including the persona E.L. James presents) on rape culture and the romanticization of abusive relationships, which spiraled out of control and is now horribly twisted and corrupted from its original purpose.

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    1. I think that that would make absolute sense if James appeared to be cleverer. I know that she could be pretending to be a dreadful writer and all that, but I don't really get the impression that she is clever enough to have been playing this whole time.
      I think that she just wanted to make a shitload of money and she did that pretty easily as this stuff can't have been hard to write (easier to write than read!).
      Ellesar

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  13. Analysing the abuse in that book would make a VERY interesting essay/thesis/paper/thing. Damn, should have picked that for my bachelor thesis. Except it would require me to actually buy and read the book, and I'd constantly be having fits of rage shouting "XANTHY ANGRY. XANTHY SMASH."

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  14. "He smiles sardonically. “Do you think that would stop me?” he says softly"

    God almighty, he sounds like a leftover Bond villain someone found in the bargain bin at a clearance sale.

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    1. when I wrote that comment earlier today I'd forgotten that Sean Connery's character rapes a woman in Goldfinger so...

      Christian Grey is like Bond without any of the charisma or likability?

      Delete
  15. This is terrible. This book, and thus this series, has shifted dramatically from "Let's take apart this schlock and laugh at its wibbly bits!" to "#1 in the Military-grade Nightmare Fuel Business for 20 years running." At this point I'm reading not to be entertained, but rather to be educated, and periodically to ask the few I know who have read this book, "were you paying attention to when Rapist RapeRapeyRape raped the protagonist?" (Shit, I can't even think of that character with the amusing nicknames anymore, it's all Molester O'PantsAreNotLegallyBinding and Abusetron McCreepyWouldBeACompliment.)

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  16. Comradde PhysioProffeJanuary 11, 2014 at 6:21 PM

    Anyone have thoughts about why this shitte is so popular?

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    1. The most popular meme I have seen to explain it claims that it's because Christian Grey, "Never plays Xbox, loves his mother, begs to take his girl shopping, spoons in his sleep, encourages his girl to eat all the time and makes sure she comes first."

      The best explanation is that people in actual shitty relationships have a hard time discerning abusive relationships if they have the veneer of theoretically nice things like those listed above.

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    2. I know my aunt likes it because of its Beauty and the Beast aspect: heroine redeems fucked-up man through her goodness.

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    3. I've heard pretty much the same thing as Palaverer. If you look at positive reviews of the book, or discussion boards for it, most of the people who like it say they just love the fantasy of being able to save/change a man, and then have it be a happy ending, plus it's an attractive rich guy. Many also recognize that it's completely unrealistic, I've noticed, so that's good.

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    4. He hates his mom and only spoons after making a big production out of "I never sleep with my partners!", though.

      This further reinforces my impression that some of the biggest fans of FSoG are the ones who haven't read it too closely.

      Delete
    5. I know when I'm reading erotica, I'm often not paying too much attention to the plot...

      (Not implying that I find this shite erotic, but clearly other people do.)

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    6. @Palaverer: Does it not bother ANYBODY ELSE that at the end of Beauty and the Beast (Disney version), the Beast is so selfish that he can't even be bothered to help his own people and servants? Instead, he's all, "I don't care what happens to me (and by extension, you). Let them come."

      Once I realized that, all the romance went out of that movie. He doesn't change all that much.

      I've just decided it's a bad storyline.

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    7. I'd suggest non-consent fantasy, but as Cliff points out, it's not ''non-consent fantasy where it's all bodice-ripping and the victim acts all reluctant but secretly enjoys it'', it's ''non-consent fantasy where reality ensues and it's terrifying and horrible... ROMANCE!!'' The former is problematic and sets a bad precedent, but this is just basically saying outright ''Assault and abusive relationships are the thing to go for.''

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  17. Bobcat ForkLift is the best one yet.

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  18. Oh god... and there's going to be a movie. I wonder how they'll gloss over all the bad parts (aka the whole book).

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    1. On a (slightly) positive note, a bunch of actors have dropped out of the project because they are sooooo creeped out by the character of Christian and don't want to play him.

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    2. Let's hope that continues until the studio gives up. :D:D:D:D:D

      -Fishgoat

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    3. They could always try for Christian Bale a la American Psycho. Even if his hair is all wrong...

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    4. Let's face it, Christian Grey basically is Patrick Bateman cast as a male love interest.

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    5. Bateman had a sense of humor though.

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    6. Unfortunately, they are already filming it here in Vancouver (BC). =/

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  19. Considering the fact that most things that drug screens test for are also legitimate medications it's extremely unethical to drug test them. You're essentially asking for their confidential medical/psychiatric information through a war-on drugs loophole. It's absolutely despicable.

    I'm talking about true drug "screens" though. If someone is showing signs of drug abuse you can make a case. But if someone is working fine, I cannot think of any situation where a drug screen is appropriate. Thank god this seems to be an American-only phenom.

    Sorry, guys.

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    1. Interesting point, about countries. I wonder if it's pretty rare in the UK (where E L James lives). If so, from her perspective it might legitimately seem kind of nuts.

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    2. Brit here. It is rare as far as I know - professional sportspeople will get anti-doping spot checks, and there's the general guidance that there are some jobs (flying planes, operating heavy machinery, etc.) you should not do if you take particular kinds of medication. But the idea that in the States it's apparently routine to have required-in-the-contract random drug tests for run-of-the-mill jobs is ... bizarre.

      UK employment law is not super brilliant, but reading about US employment law as a Brit makes me incredibly grateful that I live and work on this side of the pond.

      Delete
    3. Yeah, in Canada the law is not well laid out, but a few lawsuits have nudged the common-law in the direction of "drug tests cannot be required for jobs where people's health and safety would not be put at risk by impairment", and is still shaky on whether it's okay to drug test before an incident has occurred, depending on the province. I would never expect to pee in a cup for my job (teacher) and would feel pretty outraged at being asked to do so even if my employer felt my performance at work was completely unacceptable.

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    4. I am from the UK and I have never heard of it. Culturally it is unacceptable

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    5. I don't know if it's enforceable but it's something that our company has had to agree to in order to do engineering work on the railways. I am not aware of anyone being asked to take a test (or what would be the legal position if they refused) but it definitely exists in the UK.

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  20. When we finish talking about all the truly repulsive things (that you address beautifully), the fact that this is fanfiction is sometimes so glaringly obvious.
    The car thing is straight out of Twilight. Almost in its entirety. This story doesn't even pretend not to be a disgusting warped 'cover' of an equally terrible book

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    1. Twilight is a sweet story by comparison.

      Delete
  21. American only? I used to be the ones doing the drug and alcohol tests, out on the mines in Australia.
    The drug test accuracy depended on the drug being tested (as in, how many days back it picked up things in your system, most were only a few days although marijuana was longer), and most people working there had it down to a fine art just what they could take when so it wouldn't be picked up.
    The amphetamines test occasionally pinged on legal drugs. And that was fine, if we had no concerns about the employee we accepted their explanation (and occasionally asked for a copy of their script). If we did have concerns about them (as in, we believed they were under the influence of something additional), we referred them to further testing.

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    1. The Mythbusters did an experiment to test whether eating poppyseeds would cause a false positive on a drug test. They found out that yes, it does -- even with a shockingly small amount, such as one poppyseed muffin, and after an astonishingly long time, too.They contacted the drug test companies and asked, "What do you do about false positives?" The companies' reply: "We don't get false positives."

      Delete
    2. ShifterCat - I also saw that episode, and it looks like the message is: eat no poppyseeds if you want a job in the US!
      Drug testing companies must be absolutely coining it in the US so they will deny deny deny!

      Delete
    3. Apparently the newer tests are less sensitive and should only be tripped by the by-products of actual opiates, but Food Detectives did an experiment where they found that enough poppyseeds (admittedly a very unlikely amount, about as much as five or so bagels) will still give you a false positive.

      Delete
    4. Clearly you haven't met Eastern European pastries. The one on the right is poppy seed: http://www.flickr.com/photos/eszsara/4635537804/

      Delete
    5. That looks delicious. May I also add Makowki/Mohnklöße? Can't imagine the tests not going "ping" with this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mak%C3%B3wki

      Delete
  22. I have to say, even without the abusive shit, a lot of this is rather unappealing. I'm extremely picky about eating, somewhat picky about clothing, and have trouble with sleeping, so this wouldn't really work for me. I guess I just don't get it?
    One of the comments in this post did remind me of something I want to see more of: people in sexy stories having sex, yes, but then going out the next day and being goofy and having fun and liking each other and smiling. I'd like to see them go out, make fun of a movie, have fun at a playground even though they're far older than the target demographic for such things (but don't care), go on a roller coaster, have splash fights at the pool, and then go back home and have sex. Is this really too much to ask? Also, where they talk about sex, too. That would be nice.
    Also, I haven't seen anyone mention this yet, but wtf on the makeup thing? People have been wearing makeup for a long, long time. One would assume that one of her novels would mention that at some point. Not that it would do her any good anyway, since she fundamentally misunderstood Tess of the D'Urbervilles, so who knows what she would do with any beauty advice.

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    1. One of the "flash" scenes in the film "Run Lola Run" was of a couple where the woman is beating the guy in a BDSM scene, immediately followed by the two of them, dressed, leaning against some railing somewhere, looking outwards, embracing, smiling.

      Haven't seen the movie in a while so maybe that's not completely accurate but that was my first exposure to the idea of BDSM as being just a part of a happy relationship.

      Delete
    2. That flash scene made me happy.

      Delete
    3. Oooh, thanks for reminding me. If anybody else wants to see that scene (again), you can find it at 11min 14secs here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bGQrDt6Uhzw

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  23. "The amphetamines test occasionally pinged on legal drugs. And that was fine, if we had no concerns about the employee we accepted their explanation (and occasionally asked for a copy of their script). If we did have concerns about them (as in, we believed they were under the influence of something additional), we referred them to further testing. "

    Yeah but you still violated their privacy.

    There are laws protecting people with disabilities for a reason - those people are vulnerable to discrimination. That person could have worked their whole career without anyone knowing about their well-managed disability, and now they have to deal with the possibility that their higher-ups will view them negatively for something that has absolutely nothing to do with their ability (or their adherence to the law).

    People have a right to keep their medical information private. How would employees like it if urine tests included test for erectile dysfunction medication, antidepressants,etc?

    ReplyDelete
  24. P.S. I'm Canadian, the only time I've ever seen anyone have to do a drug test for work it was for an American job.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Cliff: "It's sad that she's thinking of her being able to eat and sleep when she wants as "concessions." As things she's taking away from him."

    I think the underlying problem is that Beef RollBar had complete control over the framing of the discussion by presenting her with this long-ass contract. She'd have fared better if she'd come in with her own, alternative contract, so they could then collaborate on something they're both happy with.

    So, for kicks, I wrote Ana's Contract:

    1. The Primary Goal of this Contract is to promote the sexual education and the sexual pleasure of the Submissive. The Dominant may take measures to enjoy the process so long as doing so does not interfere with the Primary Goal.

    2. The term of this contract takes the form of one or more Visits, which are defined time periods which the Submissive spends at the Dominant's residence or other designated play area.

    2.1 The Submissive may cut short a Visit at any time, and may refuse further Visits.

    2.2 Visits are scheduled at the mutual convenience of the Dominant and the Submissive.

    3. During a Visit, in pursuit of the Primary Goal, the Submissive will experience Incredible Sexytimes (see Appendix 1) and have at least three (3) Mind-Shattering Orgasms.

    4. The Dominant may use whatever means his twisted mind comes up with to achieve a successful Visit (subject to the Hard Limits, see Appendix 2), as long as the Submissive is given fair warning and a generous opportunity to use an Established Safe Word.

    5 The Submissive agrees to obey the Dominant's verbal instructions during each Visit, so long as the Dominand respects the other clauses in this contract and the Hard Limits (see appendix 2) and Safety Principles (see appendix 3).

    5.1 (the "Trusting your Dominant" clause) Notwithstanding clause 3, the Submissive will follow clause 5 even if Incredible Sexytimes (see appendix 1) and Mind-Shattering Orgasms are not immediately apparent.

    6. The Established Safe Words are "No", "Stop", and "Fuck off you fucking asshole". After use of one of the Established Safe Words, the Submissive is to be immediately released from any bondage or painful circumstance, and the Dominant will proceed to Aftercare.

    7. Every Visit (if not cut short) will end with Aftercare, which consists of a warm blanket, hot tea, cuddles if the Submissive indicates desire for cuddles, and absolutely no whining about food whatsoever.

    8. Either party may give notice to terminate this Contract at any time except during a Visit.

    9. Any gifts given by the Dominant to the Submissive during the term of this contract will remain property of the Submissive even after termination of the contract.

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    1. My impression is that it's not a good idea to use words you might say reflexively, like "No" or "Stop", as safewords. Depending on what you're into, there's a good chance you might say "No" or "Stop" and then continue with "...no, wait, I didn't mean *no*, keep going..." which confuses everyone. On the other hand, there is almost no conceivable reason why you would say "photosynthesis" during BDSM unless it is your safe word and you actually want to stop.

      Delete
    2. Safewords should be easy to remember during extreme stress, though. My favorite is "safeword" :)

      Delete
    3. I would say that "no" and "stop" are generally sufficient unless someone has expressed interest in putting up verbal resistance as a part of a scene. And with an inexperienced sub it would probably be wise to heed them even if another safeword had been established. Personally, I always liked the "green," yellow," "red" setup as it provides a certain amount of nuance.

      "Banana," is also a very easy to remember safeword... because it's everyone's safeword.

      Delete
    4. Yeah... I went with "No" and "Stop" on that basis, but Ana's contract should probably have some provision for her to change her mind later.

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  26. Do you think James is aware of the abusive implications of the book? I find it amazing that whatever the problems with your previous relationship, 50 Shades of Grey is triggering. I almost worry for James.

    Christian Grey seems to be using submissive in the taken in hand context rather than the BDSM context, but even taken in hand isn't that creepy.

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    Replies
    1. Nope, James blocks anyone on twitter who tries to bring up the book's problematic aspects: http://iam.yellingontheinternet.com/2013/02/03/the-glorification-of-abuse-in-50-shades/

      Delete
    2. The funny thing is it's not even implications; it's right out there. It's not presenting something that would be horrible in real life as ideal or romantic or not really a big deal. It's presenting it as... horrible in the book, but somehow it's meant to be ideal and romantic.

      Delete
  27. I realize that this is a little off topic here, but, seeing as these are dark times in the "Lets Read...!" recaps, I thought I'd share something that made me snicker. My favorite is the Charlie Tango vibe.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2211596/50-Shades-Of-Grey-sex-toys-The-collection-E-L-James-hopes-spice-Middle-England.html#axzz2JoiizNAD

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    1. I'll just be over here cringing at "hard limits" as an attempt at a sexy name for a toy.

      I feel like that choice can be summed up pretty well with that "No... :( I wanted the opposite of this :C" image from hyperbole and a half.

      (this one: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_D_Z-D2tzi14/TGNFLhkTmRI/AAAAAAAADZA/5lA_Dkkwlcg/s400/fence6(mud)(ALT).png )

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  28. "You’d think I’d coerce you into something you don’t want to do, and then pretend that I have a legal hold over you?...You don’t think very highly of me at all, do you?”

    Coerce? No. Physically force? You just did that. Legal action? Probably not. Stalking, B&E, threats against your friends, family, and livelihood? That seems pretty par for the coarse at this point.

    Could you imagine hearing someone say that shit to your face after they just raped you? I'm baffled by this book. At what point does Anna snap and stab him in his grim/smug/condescending face with a fork?

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    1. Yeah and this exchange happens like five seconds before he coerces her into the private dining room on the basis that he can rape her either way.

      As for the "pretend that I have a legal hold over you" -- he's still doing that with the NDA, even after she called him on the contract bullshit.

      I do love that she simply answers "Yes" to all this, and then persists with "You haven't answered my question". But then he steamrollers over her anyway. I don't understand why she later says "Yes" to hit "Do you trust me?" because she's already said she doesn't.

      Delete
    2. A fork? That won't stop him. I think she needs the Baron Scarpia dinner knife.

      Delete
  29. 'Sometimes you want to go out and do ordinary fun stuff, and when you do fun stuff it's natural to take along people you're close to, and that includes doms and subs. Bobcat ForkLift probably won't go bowling with her, but not because he's a dom.'

    My view: because he is a jerk who obviously has no friends. And if they try to go bowling with Ana's friends, those will soon start not wanting to go out with her until she gets rid of that obnoxious guy she's dating.

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    Replies
    1. Re last paragraph: Which is a dangerous thing that can happen to people in abusive relationships, so hopefully, her friends would be smarter than that.

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  30. I wonder if the reason James wrote Ana as having strong objection to, and no previous desire to practice BDSM, is to reinforce the "inexperienced girls = better" idea. I think it was less about "him" being horrible and more about Ana being seen as pure. Because, obviously girls who know what they enjoy sexually and are willing to verbalize it are icky sluts.
    I think James has the idea that romance is a woman who is completely clueless about. Er own sexuality being shown how to experience great sexual satisfaction by some totally experienced dude. Again because guys having a ton of experience in bed = good, and girls who have a ton of experience in bed = bad

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  31. The clunky insertion of "my literary heroines" reminds me of something one blogger noted while doing a chapter-by-chapter analysis of Twilight: there's never any indication of what the protagonist liked about this classic literature, or how it shapes her opinions; references to particular books seem to be thrown in because the author thinks it makes her heroine look intelligent.Someone in the comments for that blog pointed out that Bella's offhand "Oh, I can ignore what the teacher's saying because I've already read the syllabus" is actually not a smart thing to do: the teacher might take a different approach than you're used to, or you might discover new things during a re-read.

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    1. I think that it is part of the 'unworldliness' and lack of modernity in Ana's personality. But it is trying to ref Twilight, so maybe it is meant to be shorthand for Ana is intelligent. But there are many way we can express our intelligence...

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    2. It's a leftover from this being Twilight fan-fiction. So I don't think it's E.L. James' way of saying anything -- she lifted this trait directly from the source material, and didn't do anything to make it her own.

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    3. I think the hating on her car is also left over from Twilight.

      Delete
  32. Dang. I wanted this to be funny. I don't at all blame you for the lack of humor as you only had so much to work with and this book sucks a big donkey cock. Here's to hoping that it picks up in subsequent chapters!

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  33. https://www.sofurry.com/view/579501 Here you are. A real life Christian Grey

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    1. I sort of get that impression that that may just be an RP thing. I hope so, at least. Otherwise it's terrifying.

      Delete
  34. Respectfully requesting at least one of these entries replaces every instance of his name with "Doug Dimmadome, owner of the Dimmsdale Dimmadome."

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  35. Love the series! Next, for fun, read the parody, Fifty Shames of Earl Grey. It's hilarious, though it focuses more on parodying the writing style than the abusive content (probably since, as you've discovered, it's hard to keep mocking that in funny ways).

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  36. For me the most egregious part is that it's not even good erotica. I read all three books to see if they were really that terrible (they were worse) but I found myself skipping over the sex scenes after a while. "Oh, yep, they're having surprisingly boring sex for apparently being all BDSM again .... "

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    1. ... This is EXACTLY the issue I had watching the only mainstream porno I've ever seen (the Breakfast Club parody.) Except in that case, the plot and the acting and the characters were actually a decently funny riff on the original, there was a lot more consent, and we could fast-forward the actual sex.

      So, uh, not exactly the same, as I'd much rather rewatch that porno than read 50SoG.

      Delete
  37. Just accidentally stumbled upon a Daily Mail article about 50 Shades whilst looking for something completely different, read it anyway, and am utterly stunned. Here's a direct quote:

    "One image that’s really caught public imagination is Christian binding Ana’s hands with a grey silk tie before sex. It’s hardly whips and chains, but that is the key to its success, I believe. Yes, it’s risque and taboo, but it’s set within the safe parameters of a fictional world where no one is harmed. Everything is consensual; the sex is all very tender.

    Many women feel disloyal in some way for having sexual fantasies, but hanker after a little gentle experimentation. What this book has done is given a sexual template for them to explore with their partners."

    ...Did the writer even READ the book? "Safe", "no one is harmed", "consensual", and the kicker... "the sex is all very tender."

    I sure as hell hope the writer was ALSO wrong about the book being a sexual template for others to follow.

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