Thursday, April 25, 2013

50 Shades Darker, Chapter 14, which was supposed to be a guest post, but Erika felt it was inhumane to make someone else do this chapter

This chapter is post 200 on Something Short and Snappy, just want to throw that out there y'all. Happy 200! I'm moving in a few days (to a much nicer apartment in a much nicer neighborhood) and Editor #2 (aka Mad Scientist Alex), being an awesome friend, offered to do this week's 50 Shades post so I could concentrate on the battle with Boxzilla. I was ready to take him up on that offer (and next week will be him! Be excited!) but once I read the chapter I realized there was no humane way for me to inflict this chapter upon him. I warned you guys last week that this chapter was going to be bad; I meant it. Your booze. Grab it.

Just a quick recap of last chapter: Leila, Grey's gun-toting ex, was found in Ana's apartment, and Grey took care of her without really explaining to Ana what was going on. Ana figured that meant obviously they were going to fuck, freaked out, went to get some drinks with Ethan, and when she went back to Grey's resolved to ask for some space (aka: Be allowed to go back to her own damned house) he FREAKS OUT and goes into Sub mode.

Okay, ready? Here we go!

So, there's a big thing about how Grey wants the perfect sub in book 1, and how Ana can't be that. Since he is perfect, we're to believe that he is also awesome at being a Sub. I think that's what we're supposed to believe as Ana describes him as being serene, but, well, he's bad at it. Ana asks/begs/pleads for Grey not to do this, he ignores her. When she gives him a direct command ("Say something!") his response is a bland "What would you like me to say?"

She has given a few orders/requests, and he ignores them. Even while being submissive, he is still being dominate by trying to bully Ana into the role of Dominate. Ana realizes she'll have to "fight" to bring "her 50" back. But she won't dominate him because that's gross and icky and would make her like Elena and she's obviously way better than that!

As my thoughts clear, I can see only one way. Not taking my eyes off his, I sink to my knees in front of him.
The wooden floor is hard against my shins, and I dash my tears away roughly with the back of my hand.
Like this, we are equals. We’re on a level. This is the only way I’m going to retrieve him.

WE GET IT BDSM IN THIS RELATIONSHIP HAS BEEN A STAND IN FOR POWER! Ana, by curing him of his darkness with her white-magic snatch is curing him of his need for BDSM/giving him the ability to not NEED to be in control. But Grey's need to control people/his surroundings comes from his having felt useless/helpless in the past. It comes from deep-seated insecurities, and Ana can't fix that; he has to.  She can help him realize he wants to fix that, but he talks about not feeling the need to go back to the play room, all because of her! So this whole "and now they are both submissive and therefore equal" thing? It doesn't really fit with the theme of the dominating sex stuff being about overall power in the relationship, and I actually think Ana the Dom would have done a better job of portraying that. However, we instead get this moral superiority that dom=bad and evil, sub=good and pure. If we follow this tangent further it's saying that dominate behaviors are bad (which includes things like bluntly asking for what you want, initiating sex) while submissive ones are good (like Ana engineering situations to ask for her wants because of Grey's "moods" and seducing him via ass waggling as opposed to just going for the gold or SAYING she wants to fuck). So basically this book is telling me that a good relationship is one that limits direct, blunt, honest communication in favor of indirect hints. Ana actually does often say what she wants directly, but unless she frames and times it well (like a few chapters ago when she asked to go to work alone in the tub) it often ends in a fight, or Grey having a psychotic breakdown.

Ana then starts to babble about how she loves him, but there is a lot of baggage and she just wants some space and time to figure out how she feels about a lot of it and how she wants to handle it. I wholeheartedly support this thought, by the way. An old roommate and I had a theory that there were two types of people: fast burns and slow burns. Fast burners are those people who tend to be really intense and what they feel they feel in a big way, and right away. When they're done, they're done. Slow burns are obviously the opposite, they tend to be more subdued in their emotions as it takes longer and more to rile them up, and when they do get riled up it often takes them a little longer to sort it out because sometimes its taken them so long to GET upset they're not entirely sure what, exactly, they're mad about. When a fast burn and a slow burn fight it often leads to the fast burn getting everything out all at once, and the slow burn going along and then being left to sift through it after the fact and if they realize that they're still upset/have issues they either need to deal with them on their own or risk upsetting their fast-burning other half by bringing the same issue up after the fact. We've seen Grey get upset at Ana for revisiting old problems (like her issues with Elena) because she's still trying to understand (admittedly, Ana did go back to that one a LOT, but the point still stands). So Ana outright saying "I wanted time and space to figure out how I feel so we can talk about this all at once, rather than repeatedly which upsets you" IS AN AWESOME WAY TO APPROACH THIS! Yay Ana! Shame that it's getting shit on by Grey here.

You see, as Ana offers this explanation, Grey doesn't bat a lash. She's sobbing, visibly upset and anxious, and he's just staring at her. I'd say he wants her to talk and he wants to hear her out but she isn't even sure if he can hear her, so I really think he's letting her talk herself out so he doesn't need to justify himself. Which is exactly what she does. She goes on to talk about her insecurities about not being able to be a Sub and seeing Leila was hard for her and she just doesn't get why he thinks she's awesome because he's like, super perfect and she's just... plain old Ana!

Oh, he’s so exasperating. Talk to me, damn it!
“Are you going to kneel here all night? Because I’ll do it, too,” I snap at him.
I think his expression softens—maybe he looks vaguely amused. But it’s so hard to tell.
I could reach across and touch him, but this would be a gross abuse of the position he’s put me in. I don’t want that, but I don’t know what he wants, or what he’s trying to say to me. I just don’t understand.
“Christian, please, please . . . talk to me,” I beseech him, wringing my hands in my lap. I am uncomfortable on my knees, but I continue to kneel, staring into his serious, beautiful, gray eyes, and I wait.
And wait.
And wait.
“Please,” I beg once more.
His intense gaze darkens suddenly and he blinks.
“I was so scared,” he whispers.

YOU MANIPULATIVE COCKSLIME! He leaves Ana panicking and lets her pour her deepest insecurities out in her panic and fear that she broke him and his first response (after he leaves her crying in terrified silence) is all about him. He has managed with his silence to lead her away from her upset and back into being concerned about him, and he knows that he can now have her coddle his feelings.

Oh, thank the Lord! Inside, my subconscious staggers back into her armchair, sagging with relief, and takes a large swig of gin.

That sounds like an excellent idea.

He’s talking! Gratitude overwhelms me, and I swallow, trying to contain my emotion and the fresh bout of tears that threatens.

She is overwhelmed by gratitude because he is talking. Just think about that for a minute. His irrational, misplaced fear (which she has just spent a fair bit of time trying to lay to rest within her own emotional rant) is still demanding attention, rather than Ana's distress. I'm not saying Grey's feelings don't, or shouldn't, matter. I'm just tired of them mattering more than Ana's.

First, he explains why he was such a jackass to Ana in her own apartment about getting her out of there (he was scared for her safety, even after he had the gun) and waits to see that she's into it before he continues.

He swallows. “Seeing her in that state, knowing that I might have something to do with her mental breakdown . . .” He closes his eyes once more. “She was always so mischievous and lively.” He shudders and takes a rasping breath, almost like a sob. This is torture to listen to, but I kneel, attentive, lapping up this insight.

My first response was to call Grey out for appropriating Leila's trauma, but, I kind of have to give him this one. That shit would be traumatic. What is creepy here is Ana. She claims this is torture to listen to (seeing your loved ones in pain is awful, yes) but describes herself as "lapping up" these insights. That... doesn't sound tortured to me, that sounds like she's reveling in it.

So once Grey finishes talking about how he was just so worried about Ana and her safety and that she was going to run away they reassure each other that they're totes in love and we get this:

“I love you, too, Christian, and to see you like this is . . .” I choke and my tears start afresh. “I thought I’d broken you.”
“Broken? Me? Oh no, Ana. Just the opposite.” He reaches out and takes my hand. “You’re my lifeline,” he whispers, and he kisses my knuckles before pressing my palm against his.

REALLY BECAUSE WHEN YOU WENT INTO SUB MOVE AND WERE TOTALLY UNRESPONSIVE THAT SEEMED PRETTY FUCKING BROKEN DUDE! He then grabs her hand, puts it on his chest, and sits there hyperventilating. Ana tries to pull away because she's not comfortable with this and he doesn't let her. I get that it's supposed to be a show of trust here, but if she isn't okay with it at the moment, then DON'T FUCKING FORCE HER! She switches to being on side with it pretty quickly, though.

Gently I start to undo the buttons on his shirt. It’s tricky with one hand. I flex my fingers beneath his hand and he lets go, allowing me to use both hands to undo his shirt. My eyes don’t leave his as I pull his shirt open, revealing his chest.
He swallows, and his lips part as his breathing increases, and I sense his rising panic, but he doesn’t pull away. Is he still in sub mode? I have no idea.

And there is something bizarre about this scene. Ana isn't sure if he's still in sub-mode which makes her unbuttoning his shirt and touching his chest (a hard limit for him) deeply problematic. There is one thing I really do like about it, and that is that Ana stops and asks for consent before each action. When Grey doesn't seem into it, she tries to stop and he puts her hand back. When she kisses his scars (we all knew this was coming) she stops and studies his reaction, and she doesn't do it until he tells her to. I find myself liking Ana quite a bit this chapter, and it makes me sad to see her getting swept along with Grey's emotional manipulation.

“Oh, Ana,” he breathes, and he twists and pulls me down on to the floor so that I am underneath him. I bring my hands up to cup his beautiful face, and in that moment, I feel his tears.
He’s crying . . . no. No!
“Christian, please, don’t cry. I meant it when I said I’d never leave you. I did. If I gave you any other impression, I’m so sorry . . . please, please forgive me. I love you. I will always love you.”

She's begging forgiveness because he wouldn't let her finish a god damned sentence. However now it's time for what we've been waiting for since book 1! Grey's Big Dark Secret! Is he about to confess the nature of his dark magics to Ana? Show her his collection of severed doll's heads? Maybe he has a secret knitting room?!

He takes a deep breath and swallows. “I’m a sadist, Ana. I like to whip little brown-haired girls like you because you all look like the crack whore—my birth mother. I’m sure you can guess why.” He says it in a rush as if he’s had the sentence in his head for days and days and is desperate to be rid of it.

Ana's first response is "B-but you said you weren't a sadist. You just said you were a Dom," as she tries to absorb this. I'm not that surprised, to be honest. This is about the level of pseudo-psychology I'd expect from this book.

Then it hits me like a wrecking ball. If he’s a sadist, he really needs all that whipping and caning shit. Oh fuck. I put my head in my hands.
“So it’s true,” I whisper, glancing up at him. “I can’t give you what you need.” This is it—this really does mean we are incompatible.

That's right, Ana's first clear thought is "OH NO THIS MEANS I CAN'T MAKE YOU HAPPY" not "holy shit you want to whip me as a way to take out aggression on your dead Mom AND you presented that as a sex thing."

“When you said you loved me, it was a revelation. No one’s ever said it to me before, and it was as if I’d laid something to rest—or maybe you’d laid it to rest, I don’t know. Dr. Flynn and I are still in deep discussion about it.”
Oh. Hope flares briefly in my heart. Perhaps we’ll be okay. I want us to be okay. Don’t I? “What does that all mean?” I whisper.
“It means I don’t need it. Not now.”
What? “How do you know? How can you be so sure?”
“I just know. The thought of hurting you . . . in any real way . . . it’s abhorrent to me.”

I find it hard to believe that his super sweet doctor Mom never said "I love you" as she tucked him in at night. Doctors need to take some level of psych in school, don't they? Or read any parenting book when she had her own kids, or had some sort of social worker that comes through during adoption processes who would have talked her through it? I hate that Grey has been cured from BDSM by love, because it just spells it out in big block letters that BDSM=BAD and it isn't. If everything is being done safely and consensually, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it (like any other sex act!). I hate how a book that is supposed to be kink positive is selling us this crap that there is only one acceptable romantic and sexual narrative. I hate it almost as much as Grey being cured by love.

“You’re still here. I thought you would be out of the door by now,” he whispers.
“Why? Because I might think you’re a sicko for whipping and fucking women who look like your mother? Whatever would give you that impression?” I hiss at him, lashing out.
He blanches at my harsh words.
“Well, I wouldn’t have put it quite like that, but yes,” he says, his eyes wide and hurt.
His expression is sobering and I regret my outburst. I frown, feeling a pang of guilt.

When I first read this I thought "Well, that joke is in poor taste" and then I finished the sentence and realized Ana wasn't joking. I'm torn on how I feel about it. Grey is emotionally manipulative and abusive, and so I don't feel much sympathy for him. On the other hand, he did just do something huge by opening up about it to Ana and this really comes out of no where (she goes from confused about him being "cured" to this?) but Grey knows how easy it is to make Ana feel guilt.

His easy dismissal of her comes to mind: No one of consequence . . . She’s responsible for all this . . . and I look like her . . . Fuck!

Yeah, say it with me. EEEWWWWW!

There's more "So... you're not leaving?" and puppy dog eyes as Ana announcing that she is exhausted and wants to just go to sleep and they can talk about this more later, okay?

“Don’t leave me,” he whispers.
“Oh, for crying out loud—no! I am not going to go!” I shout and it’s cathartic. There, I’ve said it. I am not leaving.
“Really?” His eyes widen.
“What can I do to make you understand I will not run? What can I say?”
He gazes at me, revealing his fear and anguish again. He swallows. “There is one thing you can do.”
“What?” I snap.
“Marry me,” he whispers.
What? Did he really just—

Nope, not enough.

Okay, little better.

Ana's response is hysterical laughter (which is right and just). Grey is wounded, but Ana points out that they haven't been together that long (FIVE WEEKS!) and he just told her his initial attraction to her involved wanting to beat his mother up. Girl needs time to think- she isn't saying no, she just isn't saying yes yet, either. Grey sulkily finds this acceptable (and is prodded that maybe he should propose again later, but more romantically).

So despite the fact that Ana is exhausted and just wants to go to bed, she lets it slip that she's hungry in her litany of complaints on why she needs to stop having a SUPER SERIOUS CONVERSATIONS for now, Grey demands she eats first. While he's microwaving some left over KD (ick) and Grey starts to get growly at Ana for not knowing where she went (she left her purse and phone! He couldn't track her!) and Ana's response is to play ball. She asks what he did with Leila. The answer? Gave her a bath (ick).

Try to rationalize this, my subconscious coaches. That cool, intellectual part of my brain knows that he just did that because she was dirty, but it’s too hard. My fragile jealous self can’t bear it.
Suddenly I want to cry—not succumb to ladylike tears that trickle decorously down my cheeks, but howling at the moon crying.

I'm torn on how I feel about all this. If I found out The Boy's ex had turned up on our doorstep a naked broken mess and he shooed me out and gave her a bath while he waited for the paramedics... I understand the thought of "Shit what do I do I can not freak out if I can find something to DO!" and latching onto just about anything, but at the same time: help was on the way, dude. He also could have washed her up without giving her a full on bath. I think Ana's right to feel that it was Not Okay for him to give her a bath, but I also appreciate her effort to rationalize it and the recognition that it's jealousy/she is totally beaten from the days events.

“Ana, please.”
I whirl around and face him. “Just stop, Christian! Just stop with the ‘Ana, please’!” I shout at him, and my tears start to trickle down my face. “I’ve had enough of all this shit today. I am going to bed. I am tired and emotional. Now let me be.”

She then sprints off to get ready for bed/the bathroom and just breaks down sobbing because that's the kind of day she's had. That's the end of the chapter folks! Told you it was brutal. Bets on him barging in in about seven seconds next chapter?

So that's all for this week, sound off in the comments with what you think, and tune in Sunday for the first book club! Chapter 1 of Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle! Till then!


  1. Wow. Last chapter was god-awful, but this one, unbelievably, is worse. I do love the super-sized whatnapple, and it's so appropriate for this chapter.

    Is there a human being on this planet who acts like Christian? Seriously? I'm not even a psychologist, but I cannot believe that he would put it that simply and that bluntly, nor do I believe that his anger toward his mother (even if he remembered her, which is kind of unlikely) would lead to this particular kink.

    Oh, and for the record? If any man ever said that he wanted me because I reminded him of his mother -- even without all the whipping and caning shit -- I would be long gone before he finished talking. I realize Ana is supposed to be totally innocent and without experience of anything in the world, but someone who's supposedly got a degree in English literature should have come across the mother complex somewhere in her studies, and should know enough to get the hell away from a guy with those kinds of issues.

  2. I'm kinda surprised that it was bad enough that we had to bypass whatnapple and go straight to Hulk for the first one. As for the marriage thing, I'm not terribly surprised that it was pulled out abruptly -- it's a trope of the genre -- but damn, even "Twilight" had a few more months (and lots more bullshit, so maybe it evens out) of relationship happen before Edward's all intensely glittery about marriage.

  3. As an English major, I can tell you that, yes, Oedipal crap would have shown up. Even if she focused on Romantic/Victorian literature, which is the implication, she would have had at least one survey course that included Modernism, with D.H. Lawrence or William Faulkner or Sylvia Plath. Freud was RIFE then. But this just supports my theory that Ana is an enormously stupid character.

  4. The part where he was all, "BTW, Oedipus complex" would have been it for me too, even if he hadn't otherwise been a controlling, grossly sexist, emotionally-exhausting pain the ass. I do not want to stand in for someone's parent, period, and that goes many times over for sexual situations. Seriously, E.L. James, you want us to believe that the benevolent wealthy people who adopted Christian didn't bake him cookies, take him to the zoo, and engage an army of therapists for him? No. No, I am no having it, madam.

  5. Man, if I was a necromancer, well-versed in the darkest arts, and I had dead-parent issues? I'd just resurrect the guilty party, yell at them like an angry teenager for a few hours, and then bam! Issue resolved.

  6. Wait, so it wasn't already well-established that he's a sadist? I thought the revelation was the taking-out-his-mommy-issues-on-his-subs thing. That *is* the creepy wrong thing here, after all.

    "While he's microwaving some left over KD (ick) "

    Yeah, no. You eat leftover KD *cold*, like any other pasta, and I certainly would not want to eat it as my last food before bed.

  7. This chapter is utter awful. Even super-size Whatnapple can't get that across. A simplistic Oedipal complex, the apparent descent into BDSM (truthfully, if he had said he did it because he wanted to get back at Mrs. Robinson, y'know, the woman that abused him as a young man, I could believe that), Ana's Pure Love as the cure, and then a marriage proposal as a way of saying you'll stay? Just ugh.

    Also, how long has Christian been going to Dr. Flynn? His personality type seems to be the kind of person that would change or stop psychiatric help if it didn't produce miracle cures quickly, so I can't really see him as having long, deep conversations with her for any length of time.

  8. Agreed! All the other shit in this cluster-fuck aside, I don't see how having the author/reader self-insert protagonist being part of the 'hero's' Oedipus complex is remotely sexy. I mean these books are supposed to titillate the reader, right? Even if all the abuse and manipulation and general stupidity hadn't been part of the book until now, that fact alone would have spelled instant death for all my lady-boners. The last people I want to think about when I'm getting frisky are my parents, and there's no way in seven hells I'd consent to being a stand-in for someone else's parent in bedroom games!

  9. Redirected here by Will for the what-apple, and now thinking that maybe I need to bite the bullet and read these from the beginning because you are awesome. (I remain freaked out by the fact that I share a name with the protagonist, though.)

  10. He was adamant about "NO I'M A DOM NOT A SADIST!" before so this is supposed to be a revelation. I mean, he is feeding her KD, it's pretty obvious he's a sadist.

  11. It's implied that he's been seeing Dr Flynn for quite some time and they've got a pretty good relationship. He even let him get away with trying to buy Ana at the dance auction earlier in the book/cut in and dance with her later (which was all very bizarre and inappropriate conduct for a therapist) I think this is really just to keep Grey as "cute but damaged" instead of "OH HOLY GOD HE'S WEARING A SKIN SNUGGIE!" because Grey acting as he did and NOT seeking help would make it much harder to relate to him and send up red flags. Since he IS seeking help the idea is he's damaged but not dangerous. Or at least that's my theory.

  12. Good point about Dr. Flynn. If he's been seeing Dr. Flynn for a while, wouldn't you think he'd be a little less of a douchenozzle, or at least a little more self-aware? And Christian doesn't seem to be the type who would have long deep conversations with ANYONE, not because he's so damaged and hurt (I really don't see evidence of that other than Ana's claims that he is), but because he is in fact a douchenozzle.

  13. Maybe it's supposed to play up the idea that Ana has a magical snatch? Like, he's been going to therapy for all these years, but dammit, the only thing that will cure him is boning pure, innocent, perfect little Ana! I wouldn't be surprised, at any rate.

  14. OMG, I think you've figured it out. I am now going to be sick.

  15. Well... I was going to comment that it struck me as odd how he likes to beat girls up first and then have vanilla sex (which isn't to say some bdsm-ers don't do it that way, just usually there's a theme throughout lovemaking)... and then I read this chapter and the whole How-the-Fuck-is-this-BDSM argument I've been having kind of makes sense now. Sooooo... it's NOT bdsm? BDSM was a beard for him hating his mother so much (at age 4) that he wants to beat the shit out of every woman that looks like her and then stick it in em? That's... that's messed up. I mean, I don't think I can even remember being 4, and I'm pretty sure that it took a few years after his trauma for him to suddenly become sexually mature. So I'm honestly not getting how the two are related.
    Also, Christian can cry all he wants about omg, I'm a fucking sadist, but really he's just an angry woman-beater. Which some would say yes, that's a sadist, but the 'S' in BDSM stands for sadist. So in this particular context, sadist is really not that surprising, since a Dom can be a sadist. I know the general definition of sadist is someone who enjoys inflicting pain on others, so they both do fit, but again-- in this particular context (it's not bdsm, i just like hurting people and then fucking them) he's acting like there's some huge difference and there isn't. He's really just a little dick who likes to beat up on women who look like his cracked-out momma because he's angry. Get an effigy punching bag, you lunatic.

  16. I think people who act like christian in the real world take their anger out on anything weaker than them: animals, children, drunk barflies, etc. Ones that looks specifically like their anger target (mother, ex girlfriends, etc) are the ones that really trigger the rage, though. Look at serial killers who will kill several women who all share the same size/hair color/ethnicity. By now, in the real world, I think Christian would have easily surpassed the kinky boyfriend and entered into the abusive wife-beating kind (were it not for his supreme wealth and string-pulling abilities).
    I'm also confused as to why if his mother is to blame for him wanting to beat brown-haired women.... why did he bother becoming someone's submissive?

  17. Good point -- he's not a sadist per se, he's a woman-beater. Not very sexy, is it?

  18. Also, sadism in that sense requires you to derive pleasure/satisfaction from inflicting pain. SEXY pleasure/satisfaction. Some sadists... that's ALL they need. They get off on the scene and really don't require sex. Christian never seems actually to be aroused by the process of beating Ana... oh god, so many things wrong with these books I can't I just... oh hey. How are YOU, mister alcohol?

  19. Awesome re-cap!

  20. chapter's the one where he rapes her. -_-

  21. Please, please tell me, what the hell does KD stand for? I see now that it's some kind of pasta, but I cannot wrack my brain enough to figure it out.... :-/