What’s the Big Deal?: Fifty Shades of Grey Live-Blogging Edition, Chapters 7-8

Wow, guys, can you believe what happened on American Idol this week? I know! It was just, like, so…yeah!

I’m kidding. I haven’t watched American Idol since my dog threw up during Carrie Underwood’s victory song. I’m just keeping you from the smut to be contrary. But no one can stop the smut. Smut keep a’rollin’, all night long. Who am I to get it its way?

In case you’re just joining us, we’re talking about a little phenomenon called…

Fifty Shades of Grey

by E. L. James

The Writer’s Coffee Shop Publishing House, $9.99 Nook book, ISBN-10 1612130291

When last we spoke, E. L. James had just pulled a cliffhanger, or rather, a threshold-hanger. I’ve always found cliffhanger chapters lame. I understand if you’re trying to hook an editor or agent into reading the rest of your manuscript by sticking a cliffhanger on the end of the third chapter. (Sometimes, you only get to submit that much up front, and sometimes not even that.) If your reader is going to turn the page immediately, have you really built that much suspense? But okay. At the rate the book’s progressing, we’re just lucky she didn’t stretch this big reveal into an end-of-book cliffhanger.

Chapter 7: You Guys, the Sex Toys Are Here.

In chapter 7, Ana literally and figuratively steps over the threshold into a surprisingly stylish and well-maintained bondage chamber. Yes, there’s a spread bar with cuffs. Yes, a suspended iron grid with “all manner of ropes, chains, and glinting shackles.” Paddles? Yes. Whips? Yes. Riding crops? Sure! “Funny-looking feathery implements”? Geez, you guys and your inventory questions! How’d you get to know so much about bondage? Yes, those too, although I assume the maid forgot and left them while she was dusting. Clearly, someone dusted recently, because instead of focusing on the torture implements, Ana’s first thought is basically, Mmm, Lemon Pledge! She also mentions the ambient lighting and antique bed, “an ornately carved rococo four-poster with a flat top” that “looks nineteenth century.” She doesn’t know who Thomas Tallis is, but she’s all over the furniture appraisal. Maybe she’s a huge Antiques Roadshow buff. Anyway, this place is filled with whips, chains, leather, and (somewhat less threateningly) feathers, but Ana wants to make sure we know that Christian chose burgundy for the walls and ceiling. That guy has such an eye for color! It gives the place “a womb-like effect.” Any Freudians in the audience want to take a stab at that one?

Anastasia Steele, you are the next contestant on Womb! Of! TOR-ture!

Ana excuses her utter lack of emotional response by claiming shock. Well, honey, that’s rough, but you know what? Your readers aren’t getting anything from you but My, this bed has lovely craftsmanship! You say you found it in the attic when you moved into the house? What would you guess it’s worth on the antique market?

Christian’s feeling the anti-climax, too, and presses her to say something. It’s rude, after all, to walk into someone’s BDSM dungeon and not say anything. The man spent considerable time and money assembling the place, Ana. At least ask him why he chose a dark color for the ceiling instead of ecru, which would have made it look considerably higher.

She wants to know if he’s the whipper or the whippee, so apparently she does know what bondage is, making her failure to throw a B&D joke at him in the hardware store so much more disappointing. Christian, as you probably know by now, enjoys inflicting pain on women who want him to hurt them. Or, like Ana, women who go along with whatever he says because they think it will win them his love. Anyway, she proceeds to question him in a small-child manner: Why? What does that mean? Why?

Long story short, she can please him if she becomes his submissive playtoy. She wants to please him (a “revelation” she suddenly has that I think we noticed on page 7 or so.) He wants her to want to please him. She wants him to want her to want to please him. He wants her to… you get the idea. She still doesn’t understand where the torture chamber comes in. She’s still looking for Fruit Ninja 2, I think, maybe Red Dead Redemption if he’s hardcore like that. Christian has to explain that she’ll follow a set of rules and receive punishment if she breaks them. Ana’s eyes cut to a rack of canes. Yeah. Canes. The neurons start to fire at last.

See that, Ana? I can use brain words, too.

Christian adds a bunch of stuff about wanting to earn her trust so she’ll (paraphrasing) want him to run her life and make all of her choices for her. He refers to the torture chamber as “part of the incentive package.” In return for her submission, Ana gets him, which is so much better than, I don’t know, a Latino photographer with rock-hard abs and bedroom eyes, or a fresh-faced, toned-to-perfection hardware store owner’s brother… Those guys are losers. Hot, appropriate losers.

Ana admits to herself that Kate was right (finally!) and wonders how she knew. Hm, either Kate has some sort of journalistic sixth sense that allows her to sniff out a story, or she can spot blatantly obvious signals like stalking. I’m sure it’s the former. Ana realizes that Christian is “dangerous to her health” because she’s going to say yes to him, even though she admits part of her “wants to run screaming from this room and all it represents.” (Rococo-style furniture fans, I’m sure she doesn’t mean you guys.) She’s out of her league. Yesterday, she’d never been kissed. Today, she’s looking at floggers.

Christian assures Ana that he’s not going to hurt her. Oh? So the canes are for what, weaving baskets? And the flogger is more of an accessory, is that it? Oh, I get it! All these whips and chains are for her protection when he shows his true vampire nature! It is a paranormal romance! I do believe in werewolves! I do believe in werewolves!

In a crass attempt to bribe her into cooperation, Christian shows Ana a beautiful but undecorated room she can customize to her heart’s content, where she’ll stay during their sexy leather weekends. So, she’ll come over for a few days, he’ll do everything he wants to her, and she’ll sleep alone in a lushly appointed bedroom. In no way does has this arrangement started to sound like prostitution.

Well, enough of that sadomasochism talk! Let’s eat!

They go downstairs, where he actually expects her to relax and eat despite knowing there’s a Womb of Torture one flight up where her dinner companion would like to chain and beat her. Time to hammer out some exposition!

If she agrees, they will work out a contract specifically naming each of their limits, what they will and will not consent to do. If Ana refuses, he’s not interested in seeing her anymore. Remember that “I don’t do the girlfriend thing” remark? Well, here we are. I don’t do that girlfriend thing. Now, that love slave for compensation thing? That, I do. When asked why he’s only interested in BDSM, Christian tells Ana that it’s like cheese: some people like it and others hate it.

Yes, BDSM is exactly like cheese. I myself have endured countless cheese-related injuries. I can’t count how many times cheese has chained me to the headboard and left the room. Oh, I trust cheese and know it’ll be back in five or ten minutes, but there’s always that niggling doubt, isn’t there? I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but I think that’s why cheese excites me.

Also, I refuse to believe we live in a world where people hate cheese. I felt disappointed after finishing Cormier’s I Am the Cheese and realizing that actual dairy products didn’t figure in the plot in any way. Call that a classic? I call it misrepresentation. I’d say BDSM is more like Brussels sprouts. Some people like them, some people fear them.

I love cheese. Wait, what was I saying?

He gives her cheese (or maybe not, it’s implied but not stated) and harangues her about eating. She keeps hitting the wine. Why not make it an all-weekend puke-a-thon? She asks why he wants her, and he tells her again that he can’t stay away from her, because that’s more romantic than You’re completely helpless and naive, and I can easily gain control of your every action and feeling.

She asks more questions. The DL: he’s had this relationship with 15 women before her. I wonder if there are before/after photos of the undecorated bedroom? Some of the other women have stuck around for long periods of time. He’s hurt one or some of them. He will physically punish Ana if she lets him, and it’ll hurt.

Ana drinks more wine and thinks about how she just came here for some old-fashioned sexin’, and now this. Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to get some tail.

Christian takes her to his study and gives her a copy of the rules. No, not The Rules, although these are just as insane. To be fair, though, most of them are insane in the sense of him wanting to control her life, not insane in a bad-for-your-health sense. Actually, most of it reads like a New Year’s resolution list. Here’s the rundown:

The Rules

  • The Submissive (Ana) will do whatever the Dominant (Christian) tells her, including all sexual activities not outlined in the “hard limits.”
  • The Sub will sleep 7 hours a night when she’s not with the Dom.
  • The Sub will eat regularly from a prescribed list of foods. The list is allegedly in Appendix 4, but it’s not listed in the text, thank goodness. I’d hate to see the fallout from the Fifty Shades of Grey Diet.
  • The Sub won’t snack between meals unless it’s fruit. Vegetables and other healthy snacks are apparently excluded.
  • The Sub will get a clothing budget and only buy and wear clothes the Dom approves.
  • The Sub will exercise 4 hours a week with a personal trainer hired by the Dom and reporting to the Dom.
  • The Sub will always be clean, shaved, and waxed. Well, Kate has that part under control, no worries.
  • No drinking (even though he’s giving her wine), no smoking, no recreational drugs, no unnecessary danger. I assume hanging out with the Dom is necessary danger.
  • The Sub will be respectful and modest, whether or not she’s with the Dom, because her behavior reflects on him, which seems a little stupid since no one actually knows he’s in total control of her; she signed a nondisclosure agreement.
  • If she breaks the rules, it’s spanky-spanky time.

Pretty cut and dried. I assume the manservant has a similar job description. The employee will purchase fancy underwear in the style and size of the Dom’s choosing for as many women as the Dom sees fit to Dom it over, or we’re going to the Womb.

Ana’s first worry: But if he buys her clothes, that makes her a ho! He tells her she’ll need them to accompany him to functions and won’t be able to afford them on her own. This argument makes total sense, since he never takes anyone out in public with him, to the extent that he’s got homosexuality rumors flying. Ana decides to think of the clothes as a uniform. Like an employee would wear? Because you’re getting paid? Like a prostitute?

She doesn’t want to exercise four times a week! She’s an American, damn it, and we are a fat, sedentary nation! How dare he rob her of her right to accumulate a spare tire prior to middle age!

He gives her his list of things he won’t do. Basically, anything that might turn a reader off completely is included: No kids or animals, no…er…waste products, no stabbity implements, no electrical current. Well, no DIRECT electrical current, so I guess she has some bargaining room there.

And then he asks her what she doesn’t like to do.

And then she tells him…wait for it…you will be so surprised…

She’s a virgin.

I KNOW. I didn’t see it coming, either.

Yup, she’s a virgin. We knew it. Christian would have known it, too, if he’d shown some interest in her life instead of her ass and made an effort to have a 5-minute conversation with Kate, which would have gone like this:

Christian: So, you and Ana go to school together?

Kate: Listen, Mr. Big ‘n’ Rich, I can smell your sleaze a mile away. You better think twice before you mess with my friend, because she’s too innocent to see through you. That’s right, she’s a virgin. V-I-R-G-I-N. Virgin. And before you go getting any nasty first-hitter-down-the-home-stretch ideas, you need to check yourself, because I DO see through your twisted self, and if you hurt that girl, they’re gonna need the world’s largest ball of twine to stitch your boys back together, know what I’m saying?

Then she’d put her cigarette out on the face of his Rolex. I don’t think she smokes, though. Well, in my scene, she smokes. But only for that one scene.

Back in the real-world version of the book, Christian gets mad. “Why the fuck didn’t you tell me?”

That’s the cliffhanger end to chapter 7. Before we turn the page, what will her answer be? Because you didn’t ask? Because my brain mysteriously functions even more poorly when I’m near you than it does on any given day, which is saying a lot? Because I figured I’d tell you during the course of a romantic dinner and wasn’t expecting to have a shit-ton of ropes and pulleys shoved in my face on my first-ever real date? What’s a girl to say?

Chapter 8: The Sex is Here! Under 18? Object to graphic content? Time to get off this ride.

Ana’s answer: She doesn’t go telling everyone, and they hardly know each other. She makes a valid point. The statement carries a different connotation than, “I’ve never had a pedicure.” Strong logic, especially coming from Ana.

Christian freaks out, mighty embarrassed that he took a virgin to see the boudoir o’ kink. He wants to know why “a nice young man hasn’t swept you off your feet?” Geez, Granny Grey. In the modern world, some of us like to get our careers sorted out before we settle down.

Another solid gold question: “How have you avoided sex?”

Here’s how: Ana is emotionally stunted. She’s had attractive guys hit on her, but she’s uncomfortable with men who like her and are willing to show it, perhaps because she doesn’t believe she deserves affection. I blame her biological father’s death and her mother’s multiple marriages. Ana is attracted to Christian because Christian doesn’t visibly care about her, therefore she feels that he’s a challenge. If she works extra hard and is able to win his love through her efforts, she will somehow prove to herself and, by extension, her parents, that she is worthy of love and devotion.

Too bad life doesn’t work that way. Instead she’s bounding after this nut like a pathetic puppy, and even he’s confused as to why she’d consider his contract with her limited experience. Because, silly man, doing everything the other person asks of you, no matter how awkward or painful, is how you prove it’s true love!

Awkward babbling ensues on both sides, until Ana bites her lip, which for whatever reason is Christian’s sexual Achilles heel. He reiterates that seeing her bite her lip makes him want to bite her lip, and then suddenly he decides they need to “rectify the situation.” Situation=virginity. Rectify=Erectify. Nothing beats awkward, clumsily introduced first-timer sex.

Since she’s a virgin, he decides he can make love just this once. Don’t worry, he’s not going soft! (I hope not, or the deflowering is off.) He’ll consider this experience part of basic training. My mind flashes to the basic training montages in army movies: crawling through barbed wire, climbing walls, bajillions of pushups… Sure, sounds like Christian’s idea of a romantic evening.

He pleads and wheedles. He tells her she’s brave. He tells her he wants to bite her lip. For the third freaking time. Quit with the lame, repetitive seduction! Have sex already! She’s dying to! You’re expending too much effort! She came here to get laid!

She says yes, and then we’re treated to a real estate description of his bedroom and super-modern driftwood bed, since Ana is never too nervous to provide a tedious play-by-play of every room she enters. I can’t wait to hear how Christian’s bathrooms are decorated! Bidet? Yes, way!

Ana’s breath is shallow. “Finally, after all this time, I’m going to do it…” So, I think like, after prom? Yeah, Christian and I are going to, like, do it. Like…go all the way? His parents are out of town and Mom thinks I’ll be at Stacy’s all night watching movies, hee hee!

Christian takes off his watch and shoes, and Ana notices he is “heart-stoppingly beautiful” as she tells the reader every item of clothing he removes or keeps on for now as well as the state of his hair (messy) and eyes (“bold and dazzling”) without describing his body. How’s the ass, Ana? I don’t know, but he’s wearing Converse shoes! And he takes his socks off one at a time! Sock removal, the most underrated strip tease move.

He starts taking her clothes off… Adjectives ensue. Sexy. Confident. Hot. How can she use so many descriptors and still leave me completely unable to picture the scene? This isn’t steamy, it’s girl talk. Speaking of girl talk, now he’s asking if she knows what he’s going to do to her. Ugh… Oh, wait. This is Ana. Maybe the question isn’t rhetorical.

Ana’s even more turned on, and “The pain is so sweet and sharp I want to close my eyes…” What pain? They aren’t even kissing yet! Sure, it’s supposed to hurt the first time, but not prior to foreplay. I hope she didn’t catch something from the naughty European underwear. Who knows what black market lingerie street-dealer sold those panties to Taylor in the middle of the night?

Christian moves in for the kill with “feather-like,” not feather-light, kisses, as though a bold and dazzling parakeet is smacking its tiny wings all over her neck and face. He tells her she has beautiful skin, so she decides to do whatever he wants. Maybe she had acne as a teen? Some making out, he goes for the butt grope, and…WHAT? He just “languidly” pushed his erection into her! I didn’t even realize he’d finished undressing. Wow, so much for foreplay!

Oh, wait. No, no. They’ve just now hit the bed. Apparently when a guy pushes his erection into you in erotica, it means something else. I’m not sure what exactly, but we do not have defloration yet. I repeat, no defloration at this time. Over.

He’s licking her… For crying out loud, she is describing his eyes AGAIN. Enough with the hair! Enough with the eyes! Get the measuring tape out! We want to see the goods!

Ana’s surprised to learn her feet are an erogenous zone. Of course, she was surprised to learn her genitals are an erogenous zone. More importantly, the foot-licking gave the author an opening to talk about Converse shoes again.

Ana’s now mostly undressed, and Christian wants to see her “pleasure” herself. She doesn’t know what he means. Not only does she not masturbate, she doesn’t seem to know what it is. Her sexuality belongs only to Christian, so of course she’s never had the desire to touch herself! I’m not as surprised as Christian that Ana’s never had sex, but I am stunned at her lack of knowledge. I frankly don’t see how she earned a literature degree without knowing about sex, which came up with decent frequency in my college courses. Certain passages in Shakespeare must seem incomprehensible to her, and not because of the Elizabethan English.

More kissing, more stroking, more unreadable expressions. Hot flashes, cold flashes. Ana’s going into early menopause? I can recommend a book for that. After bringing Ana to orgasm (“Now I know what all the fuss is about”) via nipple play, Christian gripes because she didn’t stay still and vows to teach her how. Hear that, ladies? Stop showing enthusiasm during sex. Men hate that.

He moves his hand down south. Ana’s thoughts: “Jeez.” We’re to interpret enthusiasm and not exasperation. Christian proceeds to demonstrate female masturbation for her, which she would have figured out a couple chapters ago if he hadn’t interrupted her with pancakes.

Suddenly, he decides it’s go-time and rips off the boxer-briefs (he’s a hybrid kinda guy) to reveal his “considerable length.” I’d like to believe your size estimate, Ana, but exactly what basis for comparison do you have? We’re talking about a girl so naive, her immediate fear is whether he will fit. So, no Paul Mitchell in the Pacific Northwest, and no sex ed either? Christian has to briefly explain how lady-wood works. I can’t believe he started her basic training with sex. He should have started with a biology textbook. Luckily he remembered a condom, as she didn’t even think about birth control or what creepy-crawlies he might have gotten from the other 15 women. Now I wish she’d had that safe sex talk with Kate, because I’m curious as to what she thinks it is.

Right before the deal’s sealed, Ana realizes Christian is still wearing his shirt. But her obsession with his various stages of undress is shoved aside as he drops the making-love plan and goes for the effing-hard plan, “slams into” Ana, and “rips through my virginity.”

You know what noise you never want to make during sex? “Aargh!” And yet, that’s the noise Ana makes as Christian takes her virginity with all the subtlety of a battering ram. And then asks if she’s okay. *facepalm*

Cue some tentative thrusting that quickly builds to “pounding” level, and an immediate simultaneous orgasm.

I know I’ve whined for eight chapters about the lack of sex, but now that the action’s finally started, I confess it’s left me slightly cold. Is it the lack of emotional bonds between the characters? The incredibly poor writing? The even worse editing that has Ana repeating “Now I know what all the fuss is about” a couple pages later? Possibly I’m too busy rolling my eyes in disbelief as Ana rolls hers in ecstasy, unsure how a girl so uncomfortable with any form of human interaction could suddenly turn into a rabidly willing sexual partner.

Mostly, I didn’t think the scene was hot. E. L. James has to do better to impress me. Who describes a naked man’s shoes and not the naked man? Ana’s partner is not a fully-formed person, but a collection of clothing with eyes, hair, feet, and a huge erection, or possibly a tiny erection, because we can’t count on Ana to know the difference. She doesn’t have a lover, she has an Eye-penis who shares her love of Converse sneakers. He’s beautiful enough to stop her heart or take her breath away or whatever lethal cliche you want to toss out there, but not beautiful enough that she sees the point in actually telling us what he looks like. Ana’s rolling about, sexually frenzied, in a huge bed of adjectives that serve the scene not a bit. She talks about her own breasts more than she talks about Christian.

Of course, Ana’s pretty self-absorbed, so that’s maybe not such a surprise.

Now that her body has been released so “gratifyingly,” Ana wishes to share with us the one word that encompasses her experience: “indescribable.” Oh, now I understand! Why on earth was I complaining? The scene’s crystal-clear now.

Having enjoyed a successful trial run, Christian goes for the doggy-style followup, this time with fancy hip circles and assertions that she is his, only his, and tomorrow when she is sore, she will remember that she is his, only his. Otherwise she’d forget and slut it up all over Oregon as soon as she got home.

Then he deteriorates into robot-speak: “You. Are. So. Sweet… I. Want. You. So. Much.” You. Have. Reached. Christian. Grey. To. Leave. A. Message. Press. One. To. Request. A. Consultation. Press. Two. To. Achieve. Orgasm. Press. Yourself.

More orgasms, more moaning, Ana yelling his name into the mattress. Ana immediately passes out or falls asleep (she can’t decide) as women stereotypically do after sex. Wait, that’s not us. That’s men.

Still, it’s a convenient plot device because it gives Christian time to get to the living room so that Ana can wake up and interrupt him playing the piano in his jimmy-jams, all forlorn, with a “melancholy melody.” Surely it’s a very varied melancholy melody? One may only hope. Point is, he plays sad piano music after sex. The man is deep, people. As he rises from the piano (which he was playing with his hands, get your minds out of the gutter), Ana finally notices his broad shoulders, narrow hips, and rippling abs. As description goes, it’s hardly original, but where was this sentence when he was yanking her panties off two orgasms ago? This book actually lagged behind itself.

Christian goes back to bed with Ana, acting weirdly despondent for a man who scored twice. Clearly Christian has torturous emotional issues. Gee, I bet Ana can magically heal him with the power of her pathetically obsessive love.

The author makes sure to drop a mention of the bloody sheet into the text as our heroes head off to Dreamland, because Ana was a virgin. Did you know Ana was a virgin? I sure didn’t know she was a virgin. Anyway, there’s the proof. All that’s left is to send the witnesses home and hang the sheet from the castle walls to let the townsfolk know there’s a new lady up at the manor.

So…there went some sex. I wonder what Kate’s up to?

I know I said I would do chapters 7-9 together, but since things actually happened in 7 and 8, adding on 9 here will turn this post into a novella. We will save it for another day.

While you await the next installment, here’s a fun 50SoG activity: try mimicking what you think Christian’s garbled name sounded like when Ana yelled it during orgasm. Mine is “Curst-turb!”

For those of us who aren’t as well-versed in antique French furniture as Ana.