What’s the Big Deal?: Fifty Shades of Grey Live Blog Edition, Chapters 11-12

I’m still reading this horrible book. (I’m also reading a book called Shadowfell, in which no one gets spanked and modifiers are used appropriately, but that’s a review for another day.) You know, now that the characters are having sex, the book is actually less interesting. All the suspense is gone, and since the sex scenes have just enough steam to go all limp and soggy, I feel a sudden nostalgia for the unfathomably ridiculous b.s. of chapters 1 through, oh, about 5. Nevertheless, the ho must go on!

See what I did there?

Fifty Shades of Grey

by E. L. James

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

Last time in cardboard-cutout Seattle-land, which isn’t even a good cardboard cutout because no one has mentioned the Space Needle even one time, Ana and Christian ate more pancakes, had more sex, and talked to Christian’s mother for .0052 seconds. Oh, honey, I thought we could have lunch. I didn’t realize you were enticing another innocent girl into your web of mind-fuckery. I’ll run along!

Chapter 11: The Contract that Binds

Ana’s sitting down to read this bondage contract Christian gave her, outlining the relationship he expects them to have. The relationship he’s had with fifteen other women, I would like to remind everyone. Let’s talk about this contract, which takes up most of the chapter.

I am fairly certain Christian had an actual attorney sit down and draw this contract up on billable hours. I know attorneys specialize in a variety of fields, including tax law, criminal law, estate law, and many, many, many more subsets of the law, but…sex law? I don’t think that even exists in Nevada, beyond some health regulations. Imagine you’re a lawyer. Now imagine your client says, “I want you to draw up a contract for women to sign in which they will explicitly promise to be my sex slaves.” What would you say? I’m teetering between, “No, because this is America,” and “You do realize that’s not legally binding, right?” To which he’d probably reply, “Maybe not…but it involves binding, mwu ha ha ha!”

The fundamental terms of the contract state that everything will be safe, healthy, and consensual, and that the entire experience is for the benefit of the submissive, so she can “explore her sensuality and her limits.” Wait, this BDSM thing is for her benefit, even though she’s creeped out by it? Convincing the victim all abuse is for his/her own good: Step 1 to a successful case of Stockholm Syndrome. Other contractual obligations include STD testing and not breaching the contract.

The next section involves their roles. Ana will serve and obey Christian in all things, allow him to make all decisions as to her well-being, submit to his “training, guidance, and discipline,” and do him however, whenever, and wherever he wants. Right, I see how this contract is solely for her benefit. What woman wouldn’t want that life? Come on, ladies, we fought to stop having that life! Our mothers and grandmothers didn’t burn their bras so that we would make this drivel a bestseller.

Christian expects Ana to enter into the contract for a three-month trial period with optional extension, sort of like Netflix’s free one-month trial but with fewer foreign films and more foreign objects. She has to spend every weekend at his beck and call. He can fire her whenever he feels like it. In the meantime, she is his, “to own, control, dominate, and discipline,” which mean he may “flog, spank, whip, or corporally punish” her as he likes. What’s this “to own” beeswax? Didn’t we fight a war over that whole ownership of humans concept? And as I recall, that ownership of humans concept also included flogging and whipping, a main objection to the arrangement. Lest anyone think “own” can be defined in any way other than his consideration of her as a personal possession, please take into account the fact that he promises not to loan her out. Definitely “own” in the literal sense. This legal document has no semblance of legality.

Ana also must agree to use oral contraceptives. Thus far, they’ve used condoms, and I have heard so much about the ripping of foil wrappers that every time I see the Reynolds Wrap box, I feel a little soiled. No more of that latex nonsense! Time for Ana to grow up, alter her hormonal composition, and increase her risk of stroke, heart attack, and blood clots like the rest of the big girls. Although, if the alternative is Ana and Christian reproducing, I say God bless the pill.

Ana’s also not allowed to masturbate for unexplained reasons. Looks like she and the shower head never will have that date.

The Rules are reprinted in their entirety, as though the reader will have forgotten that Christian thinks he needs to decide what Ana eats and how often she sleeps. Then follows a “soft limits” multiple choice questionnaire, asking what Ana will let Christian do to her (oral sex, fisting, anal play, etc), what he can use to do it (vibrators, butt plugs, dildos), what he’s allowed to tie her up with (rope, tape, cuffs?), what positions he is allowed to tie her in, and what he can tie her to. Can he blindfold her? Gag her? What intensity of pain can she take on a scale of 1 to 5? How about wax, genital or nipple clamps, caning?

I would not, could not, on a bed! I would not, could not, give you head! You cannot spank my fragile hams, you cannot spank me, Sam I Am!

Sorry. I don’t know what just happened. There were all these lists, and I got dizzy, and then…I Seussed.

Ana stops short of reading the food list (again, obviously trying to prevent anyone suing after suffering harm from the 50S0G Diet) and freaks out. For the first time, she and I share the same incredulity: How can he say this is all for her benefit? How can he expect her to ditch her friends and life every weekend? Of course he can’t loan her out! Oh, and she can’t look him in the eye or touch him. What is that all about?

Of course, instead of throwing the contract in the circular file and getting on with her life, Ana also thinks about the fact that marriage vows include the word obey, don’t they? I’ve only been to one wedding where “obey” made it into the vows, and I tell you what, folks, that bride is not keeping her word. In any case, I don’t see how Ana can compare this arrangement to matrimony. Talk about wishful thinking! Maybe a few decades ago, but we’ve tried to evolve.

Ana dithers about the contract while detailing her getting-ready-for-bed tooth-brushing. She’s so upset, she considers borrowing Kate’s bunny jimjams. Oh, sure, you gripe about the bunny jammies, but now that times are rough, where do you turn, Ana? To Mopsy, Flopsy, and Peter Cottontail, that’s where.

Her subconscious and the inner goddess both rant at her. Subconscious says to walk away. Inner goddess says that if Ana doesn’t sign, they’ll wind up alone, three personalities locked inside one crazy cat lady with a lot of classic novels. (Might I recommend library school?) Obviously three months of sexual slavery is preferable to eternal spinsterhood, never mind the fact that those three months may be followed directly by eternal spinsterhood and PTSD. Regardless of which voice you think is right, I think we can all agree that three inner monologues in one head is too many. Ana doesn’t need oral contraceptives, she needs an antipsychotic.

Ana thinks and thinks and then sleeps because thinking is hard.

The next day, Kate awakens Ana to let her know a delivery man has brought her a box from Christian. The box contains a brand-new MacBook Pro, so new it’s not available on the open market, which is in no way an attempt to bribe Ana into signing the sex deal. Kate’s suspicious and says Ana can use her laptop instead. Is “laptop” a euphemism?

The delivery/tech guy blathers about the laptop’s specifications and has a hernia when Ana says she’ll only be using it for email and Internet research. Ana’s stunned to learn that she now has an email account.

Wait. Wait. Wait a second. She just got her first email account? She also just got her college degree. I don’t know what year E. L. James went to college, assuming she did, but in 2012, college students have email accounts. If nothing else, you automatically get an email address from your school when you enroll, whether you want one or not. Professors often communicate by email. Heck, some classes are online only! We now have electronic submission of assignments, even in some face-to-face classes. No way Ana has no email address and doesn’t know what 32 gig of RAM is. She has an iPod. If nothing else, she should understand the letters GB.

Ana already has her first email! Of her whole, entire life! And it’s from Christian! Non-sex virginities lost in this book: helivirginity, cosleepirginity, margaritaginity, emailirginity. A whole lotta firsts goin’ on.

Ana and Christian have an email exchange reminiscent of Bridget Jones’s Diary, only not as funny and without any mention of skirts. They just banter about whether the computer is hers or on loan. Afterward, Ana keeps blathering about how excited she is that Christian emailed her, then gets a phone call from Jose reminding her that they’re having coffee. Their coffee meeting takes them about two paragraphs, plenty of time for Ana to compare him to a puppy for the reader and to tell him she can’t stay mad at him, thus ensuring his continued crush on her.

And then more emailing, with Christian telling Ana to do some research on BDSM and Ana getting all giggly because he sends her a winking emoticon. Be still, my beating heart. When she asks him how to conduct her research (because why would a lit major ever have done research), Christian advises her, “Always start with Wikipedia.”

NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. Do not start with Wikipedia! Can you say, poorly curated? Can you say, unreliable? Find a source with some authority, Ana! Go ask a librarian!

Actually, in this case, start with Wikipedia. And she does, reads for a while, and gets both nauseated and horny at the same time. Who hasn’t been there?

Chapter 12: Attack of the Descriptors

Ana goes running voluntarily for the first time in her life. Kate is shocked to see her in sneakers, which makes me wonder what kind of Converse shoes Ana’s been wearing. I thought Converse only made sneakers. Anyway, she goes running off into the “opal and aquamarine dusk.” Finally the author tries to inject a bit of imagery, and it comes off all weird. Why would the sky be aquamarine if the sun’s going down? The sky gets darker when the sun goes down. Opal isn’t even a color; it’s a stone that comes in many colors, most often opalescent white. The sky is opalescent white? Did Rainbow Brite and Starlight go galloping across and cause that with their Sprite powder or whatever?

Ana tries to think and run at the same time. She did enough research to find out that the contract is not legally enforceable. Good, because we were all unclear on whether it was legal to sign over ownership of oneself to another person. She wonders if Christian is so messed up because he was molested. Well, abuse does beget abuse.

Back at home, she finds that Kate has been shopping “as only she can.” No one else can shop, only Kate! Naturally, Kate has bought multiple bikinis for her trip to Barbados and models every single one for Ana while Ana thinks that Kate “has a curvy, slim figure to die for.”

gay pride flag

Oh my, how did that rainbow flag get there? Oh well, I’m sure it’s nothing…

Ana goes to her room and sends Christian an email saying “Okay, I’ve seen enough. It was nice knowing you.”

Then she hugs herself and giggles like a crazy person at her “joke.” Quickly, she realizes Christian probably won’t get the joke. I agree, because it’s not a joke! Jokes have set-ups and punchlines and inside meanings. Sending a guy an email apropos of nothing telling him you don’t want to see him anymore isn’t a joke. It’s called breaking up with a guy via email. Not only does Ana not know what masturbation is, she doesn’t even understand what humor is. No wonder she’s been single her entire life.

Ana pouts for a while when Christian doesn’t answer her. Then he shows up on her doorstep, “his pants doing that hanging from the hips thing” again like his weird hangy pants tend to do. Ana’s shocked, even though he’s shown up unannounced before. Her medulla oblongata (the only part of the brain she can name) malfunctions again.

He tells her he wants to remind her how nice it’s been knowing each other. He tugs at her earlobe, which is “so sexual.” Tugging at my earlobe… Nope, nothing.

Christian gets the necktie out and ties Ana to her bed, then stares at her in triumph and “relief.” Phew, she’s restrained. What a relief. She hears voices, you know! Then he pulls her shirt over her head so she cannot see, which all you ladies know is difficult to imagine in this age of tissue-thin shirts and layering, even in the summertime. By the way, when are we going to rebel and demand shirts that don’t need tank tops underneath? I’m sweaty, already!

Then they make out, Christian spitting — excuse me, pouring — white wine into Ana’s mouth, which is so hot, except it’s chilled. Then he pours wine on her stomach and it “burns all the way down to the depths of my belly.” Maybe he got the wine mixed up with the hydrochloric acid? He drinks the wine from her navel, then condoms up and asks her, “How nice is this?” in reference to his erection. Gotta love it when a guy gives you an opening to completely obliterate his self-esteem, but Ana the “ball of sexual tense need” admits she was joking about the “nice to know you” email, causing him to angrily slap her butt before taking her roughly from behind. She has an unrealistically high number of orgasms almost simultaneously, including one caused by Christian telling her to have it. If men could successfully tell women to have orgasms, the entire sex therapy industry would go out of business.

They talk about boring things, and then she asks him if he’s going to collar her. He’s never collared anyone — what kind of watered-down hardcore Dom is he? — and doesn’t know if he’ll collar her or not. I thought everything had to be spelled out in the contract. What’s with the sudden wishy-washing? He admits his molester, whom Ana calls Mrs. Robinson, collared him. Ana is then shocked to learn that Christian still speaks to Mrs. Robinson and that they’re good friends. Ana gripes that he’s allowed to talk to Mrs. Robinson about their relationship, but she can’t talk to anyone. Christian offers to let her talk to one of his former submissives and has no idea why this idea offends her.

Ana tells him to get lost so she can think, and he tells her they’d both feel better if he could give her “a good hiding.” I think she might feel better if someone gave her a good hiding as in, found her a safehouse to keep her away from this yahoo, but I don’t think Christian’s on the same page.

Feeling like she’s been used for sex (what? no way!), Ana starts crying after Christian leaves. Kate comes in and they have one of those talks where Ana gives her no information and then pretends Kate has helped so Kate will stop asking questions. Ana deflects Kate with questions about Elliot, who is normal, sane, and awesome. Folks, we could be reading their story: happy sex, bikinis, normal dates, no contracts that mention vaginal fisting or swallowing semen. But then you wouldn’t be reading my blog!

More emails. Ana tells him she doesn’t need an STD test unless he has something, that the contract is for his benefit and not hers, and that she still doesn’t like this discipline thing. The contract says her health and safety will be a priority about 50 times, but she doesn’t see how flogging is safe and healthy. Good question. She objects to the masturbation clause not because she wants to masturbate, but because she doesn’t masturbate. That’s right! You claim your sexuality and then fail to put it to any use whatsoever! Go, girl! She also tells him the food rule is crazy and she only wants to exercise 3 hours a week, not 4. She makes it fairly plain that she’s not interested in anything listed in the soft limits portion. “No fisting of any kind.” Hey, that’s my motto, too!

Christian tells her to go to bed, in all caps. Ana immediately does as he says, startled by his “shouty capitals” and wondering how he can intimidate her from an offsite location. I’m wondering how any grownup can be intimidated by shouty capitals.

Ana instantly falls asleep. After all, Christian told her to, and his word is illegal law!

Great news, we are almost to the halfway point! We may yet survive.

Will Christian negotiate his terms? Will Ana sign her life away? How many bikinis does Kate need for one vacation? Find out next time!

macbook pro

Next-generation tech in exchange for sexual favors: not prostitution at all!