So, I did it. I promised to read Fifty Shades of Grey, and so I am. I usually like BDSM romances. I read them avidly, and I like to write them even more. Therefore, I was willing to give this book the benefit of the doubt, even though I’ve heard from acquaintances in the BDSM community that it’s horrible and portrays the classic “Don’t”s in a BDSM relationship.
I’ve read the first chapters now and I will say this: It’s not as bad as I had feared. That said, it’s still far from good.
The main character Anastasia Steele appears shallow and dull. For a woman who worries this much about men (to the point where men are all she ever seems to talk (or think!) about), how is she still a virgin? Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against books that feature (even older) virgins.
On the contrary, I’m often appalled by the pressure of society, which almost shames women when they’ve reached the age of 20, yet have never had sex before. (And as a person who herself had sex for the first time when she was 24, I know what I’m talking about.) So, yes, I’m all for breaking the taboo and writing ‘older’ virgins who don’t explain themselves or apologize for not having had sex.
However, people like that don’t spend every minute of their life fantasizing about guys the way the protagonist does. Very early in the book, I got the feeling of ‘Oh come on, give me a break already’. Seriously, how often can you dream about those damn grey eyes. (I counted three times until chapter 8.) And what kind of image is that anyway? I certainly thought of the eyes in The Great Gatsby and that was not hot, nor pleasant at all. Maybe that’s what the author was going for though. Grey eyes, all-knowing and permanently overlooking everything that’s happening. That does sound eerily like the control-freak Christian Grey.
Which brings us to the hero of the book. Or should I call him, as E.L.James undoubtedly would like, the Dark Knight? Christian Grey is creepy. I mean it. Scary, stomach-knotting, terrifying and threatening. (To follow the authors habit of stringing together adjectives with similar meaning ;) )
Why? For starters, he is a control-freak. Steele herself calls him that often enough in her mind, though for some strange reason it doesn’t seem to register with her. He controls her even before they’re in a relationship. She’s intimidated by him. Intimidation is hardly a good starting point for a relationship. Especially a BDSM relationship!
But the protagonist goes even further by referring to him as a stalker. (But, oh, it doesn’t bother her since it’s him. Really?!?!) She calls him at night from a bar, and he demands to know where she is. She informs him it’s none of his business. So what does the reasonable gentleman every woman apparently dreams about these days do? He tracks her phone and follows her there, only to show up just in time to rescue the damsel in distress from being harassed by a friend of hers.
Set aside the fact that every male in Anastasia’s life apparently wants to date her, this scene just established her as the weakest, most passive heroine I’ve read in a long time. Especially BDSM romances like to use spunky, strong heroines in order to show a bit of the power clash between dominant and submissive. Let alone that many submissives are turned on by the process of being submitted and taunting their dom a bit. (A lot of the submissives in Cherise Sinclair’s BDSM novels are sassy–to the point of being brats. Which makes for some really strong, yet submissive, heroines.) Not so Fifty Shades of Grey.
Let the stalker rescue her from the sexual offender, then take her home, undress her, and sleep next to her in his bed while she’s passed out–after he’s bought rope and duct tape at her store.
Literally every single Criminal Minds episode begins like this. And we all know how it ends, usually. (Hint: She doesn’t end up happily marrying the guy. ;) )
However, let me move on to the actual diary part. I took the liberty to mark my favorite passages in the book, along with a few notes.
Here’s my summary for chapters 1 – 8:
Conversations with Anastasia Steele (a.k.a. rantings I let loose while I was reading the book)
Alright. Could you be more of a Mary Sue? You’re clumsy, unskilled and behave like a complete idiot. Grey’s natural reaction? He offers you a job. Where does this even come from?
“Paul has always been a buddy, and in this strange moment that I’m having with the rich, powerful, awesomely off-the-charts attractive control freak Grey, it’s great to talk to someone who’s normal.”
Yeah… red-lights all over the place. Run, girl. Run. You already know he’s a control freak, and he makes you uncomfortable. That’s not the start of a romance. What the hell is wrong with you?
“He smiles, then strides with renewed purpose out of the store, slinging the plastic bag over his shoulder, leaving me a quivering mass of raging female hormones.”
Oh boy. Slinging the plastic bag with the rope and duct tape over his shoulder. Lots of rope. And no, sex is not the first logical assumption one draws when seeing something like this.
“Okay—I like him. There, I’ve admitted it to myself. I cannot hide from my feelings anymore. I’ve never felt like this before. I find him attractive, very attractive.”
Oh please. You never hid from those feelings in the first place. You mentioned them on every single page. Twice. At least.
“Okay, we’ll see you there.” I am all gushing and breathy—like a child, not a grown woman who can vote and drink legally in the state of Washington.”
Um, yeah… I feel like you’re a child, too. A 13-year-old child. Not a grown woman with common sense. You know, since you brought it up.
“I see. Is he your boyfriend?” Whoa … What?
“The photographer. José Rodriguez.”
[…] “And the boy I met yesterday, at the store. He’s not your boyfriend?”
“No. Paul’s just a friend. I told you yesterday.” Oh, this is getting silly.
Yeah. No kidding. Although, on second thought, I wouldn’t choose the word silly. More like possessive. Idiotic. Creepy. Stalkerish.
Here’s this guy whom you barely know. And he asks you, very inquisitively almost like an accusation, whether guys you talked with were your boyfriends. Where in your mind does that feel right? Your response should have been “It’s none of your business.”
“I find you intimidating.” I flush scarlet, but mentally pat myself on the back for my candor, and gaze at my hands again. I hear his sharp intake of breath. “You should find me intimidating.”
Okay, if I got a penny for every time you flushed or blushed, I’d probably own a nice sum of money now. Seriously. Stop it. Nobody blushes that often.
Now, for the intimidating part. What kind of response is that even? Again I repeat, run girl. Run! Fast and far.
“I AM RESTLESS THAT night, tossing and turning, dreaming of smoky gray eyes, coveralls, long legs, long fingers, and dark, dark unexplored places”
There they are again. The smokey gray eyes in dark, dark unexplored places. Seriously, why are those bodyparts so—um—disembodied? Long legs and long fingers flying around… smokey grey eyes in dark unexplored places. Sounds more like a nightmare to me.
On top of that, it’s very lame foreshadowing that made me roll my eyes.
“Grey smiles a dazzling, unguarded, natural, all-teeth-showing, glorious smile. Oh my …”
Oh my, indeed. What’s with those strings of adjectives? Not to mention the word doublage (“he smiles a smile”???) Would have been enough (and maybe even more powerful) just to say “Grey gave a dazzling, unguarded smile.”
Also the all-teeth showing is kinda disturbing. For starters, that would usually be a grin, not a smile, right? And also, that’s very creepy. (Kinda brings to mind the wolf getting ready to swallow up Little Red-Riding-Hood.) Maybe that’s just me.
“He’s staring into my eyes, and I hold his anxious, burning gaze for a moment, or maybe it’s forever …”
Oh, if only it were forever. Then I’d be spared from the rest of the story.
“And that night, I dream of gray eyes and leafy patterns in milk, and I’m running through dark places with eerie strip lighting, and I don’t know if I’m running toward something or away from it … it’s just not clear.”
I’m glad we’re on the same page that it’s just not clear. For the third freaking time. I’m just gonna let this little jewel speak for itself. ;)
“I tracked your cell phone, Anastasia.” Oh, of course he did. How is that possible? Is it legal? Stalker, my subconscious whispers at me through the cloud of tequila that’s still floating in my brain, but somehow, because it’s him, I don’t mind.
Oh course you don’t. I mean, we don’t mind sociopaths if they look good, right? He could be a murderer, a rapist, a psychopath… but because it’s him, and he’s so handsome and so rich, we just don’t mind.
Oh boy. Why am I reading this again?
“I’m coming to get you,” he says, and hangs up. Only Christian Grey could sound so calm and so threatening at the same time.
No kidding. If that was me, I’d be chatting up the police by now. If a guy says “I’m coming to get you.” that is very over the top. She even admits he’s threatening. She barely knows this guy.
“My head buzzes with excess alcohol and irritation. What the hell has it got to do with him? I didn’t invite him here. He sounds like a middle-aged man scolding me like an errant child. Part of me wants to say that if I want to get drunk every night like this, then it’s my decision and nothing to do with him—but I’m not brave enough.”
Ah, for a second… a glimmer of hope… yes, she’s standing up for herself. And then such a downfall. No, you’re not brave enough. Dear Lord.
He sets me down and, taking my hand, leads me back into the bar. I feel weak, still drunk, embarrassed, exhausted, mortified, and, on some strange level, absolutely off-the-charts thrilled.
Um. Again. The abundancy of adjectives makes me dizzy. This is way overdone. Not to mention a lot of it could be cut. If you’re feeling exhausted, it’d be implied you feel weak. And it’s obvious she’s still drunk. Not sure what she’s mortified about now. A small part in me hopes it’s his behavior. But I know it’s just: *Insert 14-year-old’s voice here* “Oh my God. The crush of my life just saw me hurl all over the place. I’m never gonna survive this.”
“He’s so overbearing. He runs his hand through his unruly hair. He looks frustrated, angry. What is his problem? Apart from a silly drunk girl calling him in the middle of the night so he thinks she needs rescuing. And it turns out she does from her over-amorous friend.”
Oh for crying out loud. I have no words for this. Apparently, females of the 21st century are not able to kick a guy in the balls anymore. They need a stalkerish control-freak to rescue them.
“Kate! Even in my inebriated state, I am shocked. She’s only just met him.”
Are. You. Fucking. Kidding. Me? Hypocrite. Hypocrite, hypocrite, hypocrite.
“Anastasia, trust me, I can afford it.”
“That’s not the point. Why should you buy these for me?”
“Because I can.” His eyes flash with a wicked gleam.
*rolls eyes* I wanna make a snarky comment, but I’ve actually met women who’d fall for something like this. And guys who tried to pull it off with me because apparently it works so well. So I’ll accept I’m a minority here when I say ‘turn-off’. ;)
“Do people always do what you tell them?”
“Usually, if they want to keep their jobs,” he says, deadpan.
“And if they don’t work for you?”
“Oh, I can be very persuasive, Anastasia. […]”
At this point, I’m starting to feel like The Sopranos music should be playing in the background. Or The Godfather soundtrack. Any kind of mafia boss music that implies you’re gonna end up at the bottom of the river if you don’t do what he says.
I’m wearing my T-shirt, bra, and panties. No socks. No jeans. Holy shit.
Yeah, holy shit. And he slept in the same fucking bed. Why are you still staying in his house?!?
Control freak that he is, he thinks of everything.
You might wanna hold on to that thought and run!
He’s in gray sweatpants that hang, in that way, off his hips and a gray sleeveless T-shirt which is dark with sweat, like his hair. Christian Grey’s sweat; the notion does odd things to me.
Yeah, me too. And they’re definitely not good things.
“It means you cannot disclose anything about us. Anything, to anyone.” I stare at him in disbelief. Holy shit. It’s bad, really bad, and now I’m very curious to know.
Nice little contract he has there. FYI, this isn’t what a dom does. A dom encourages his or her sub to socialize with other subs and share experiences. That’s also an important safety net in BDSM to catch abusers. If a dom makes you sign a ‘no talking about this’ agreement, run like hell!
He pulls up outside my duplex. I belatedly realize he’s not asked me where I live—yet he knows. But then he sent the books; of course he knows where I live. What able, cell phone–tracking, helicopter-owning stalker wouldn’t?
Yeah, I can’t even be sarcastic anymore. I’m just staring at this, slack-jawed. Just read it again, very slowly. Let the implications sink in. This is not romantic. I know the last comment is probably an attempt at humor, but it’s not funny. Mostly because it’s true.
“It means I want you to willingly surrender yourself to me, in all things.”
I frown at him as I try to assimilate this idea. “Why would I do that?”
“To please me,” he whispers as he cocks his head to one side, and I see a ghost of a smile.
Um, no. The strongest no ever. The right answer would have been “Because you want to.” BDSM is not just about the wishes and desires of the dom, you know? It’s about the sub wanting to submit and please as much as it is about the dom/domme wanting her or him to please.
“No. I haven’t signed anything yet, so I think I’ll hang on to my free will for a bit longer, if that’s okay with you.”
This left me speechless. This author seems to know nothing about BDSM at all. Or maybe it’s supposed to be a reflection of the protagonist’s ignorance about BDSM? Grey doesn’t clear up the misunderstanding, though. Nor does he act like a responsible Dom should in any other way.
THE CONTRACT (won’t copy here in whole, because of copyright issues)
The Submissive will agree to any sexual activity deemed fit and pleasurable by the Dominant excepting those activities that are outlined in hard limits (Appendix 2). She will do so eagerly and without hesitation.
While this can be a consensus in BDSM, the way he does it is very weird. This early in a relationship, Doms would slowly ease their way in. Doms and subs grow together in relationships, learn each other’s limits over time. As a sub, I’d never sign a contract like this BEFORE entering a relationship with a guy.
The rest of the contract seems very intrusive. I’ve only ever seen these kinds of relationships with so-called 24/7 slaves or pets. And definitely not at the start of a relationship. For further clarification, let me refer a text I was once given by a master. Keep in mind, this comes from the actual BDSM community.
In the BDSM lifestyle there are three different types of submissives, and when speaking to them, they will tell you with pride which they are and why. The following is a small idea of the differences. It does in no way give all the details involved with the vast array of men and women that submit.
As a submissive you are in the first level of a Dominant/submissive lifestyle. You submit to your Dom, you give up control for short or longer periods of time. However, you have your opinions and you still make all choices on your own. You lead your life, pay your bills, do your dishes—all of these things are usually still under your control. It changes only during set times and parameters. There is also the thought of the “power balance” between dominant and submissive. In a submissive role the power is 50/50. Sex is usually a large part of this relationship and mostly where the submission enters in. Now don’t get me wrong the intensity is still strong and the punishments and pain are real and overwhelming. However you have an option to stop, and this usually doesn’t spill over into the everyday.
As a slave control is largely given up. The power balance is completely tipped in the Dominants direction. However, keep in mind this is a choice the slave makes, and not something she/he was made or forced to do. Slaves usually are slaves 24/7, although there are exceptions. They may work but when they get home there is no distinction from normal day to a BDSM day. The person is always a slave from the day they enter into the status. As a slave, sex is still very real and alive. However, it’s not always the goal and not needed for the Dominant and slave. As a slave the lifestyle is usually more intense in pain, humiliation and just pure pleasure. Being a slave does not mean the Dominant can ask you to break the law or hurt yourself. If a Dominant is asking you to do things that are against the law or against your moral values or hard limits, he or she is not a dominant but an abuser.
This hasn’t always been a classification of a submissive person and is still controversial in some BDSM circles. A pet is more on the side of a slave except for one large difference: sex does not have to be involved at all. In many cases it isn’t. If you have become a pet, you give up yourself and obey unconditionally. You gain pleasure from the control and obeying, not from sexual play. There can be sex, but it’s rare in this kind of lifestyle. This submission is one of the most dangerous ones, because you can lose yourself mentally as you’re not allowed to have opinions of your own, you usually don’t work and although you may discuss things with your Dominant he is last say in all things.
Ultimately the deeper you go into submission the stronger you have to be. You have to be very sure of yourself to give up every ounce of control and thought. Taking each step is serious and should never be taken light by the Dominant and submissive. Remember, always remain safe, sane, and consensual.
So while Grey’s conditions and terms can be realistic, the timing and the way they’re presented aren’t. As a person who has some experience with Doms (both good ones and bad ones), I can say, he’s acting very amateurish and inappropriately intrusive. This is not the way to go in a BDSM relationship. Maybe this is part of the reason why I can’t get into his character. To me, it feels like he doesn’t have the slightest clue about what he’s doing. (Which is a big red light when dealing with Doms.) He’s just satisfying his own personal whims and expecting everybody to be available for his satisfaction. Which is the character trait of a tyrant – not a Dom in BDSM lifestyle.
“Pull your knees up,” he orders softly, and I’m quick to obey. “I’m going to fuck you now, Miss Steele,” he murmurs as he positions the head of his erection at the entrance of my sex. “Hard,” he whispers, and he slams into me.
“Aargh!” I cry as I feel a weird pinching sensation deep inside me as he rips through my virginity. He stills, gazing down at me, his eyes bright with ecstatic triumph.
Okay. Don’t know about everyone else, but first of all, I cringed here. No matter whether your first time sex hurt or not, a guy certainly shouldn’t SLAM into you. (Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch!)
And ecstatic triumph? Really? What kind of sicko is that???
Then: “As he rips through my virginity”.
*slams head on table* I’ve said this before. I will say it again. This is false. Simply scientifically false. And it makes me mad as hell. Pardon me, but I can’t even keep a sense of humor anymore. So many women writers (in the 21st century!) serve that age-old myth of virginity.
The hymen is a myth. Virginity is a myth. The dense tissue that was labeled ‘hymen’ in the vagina retracts during puberty and is usually completely gone by the time girls are eighteen or nineteen. The only reason a women bleeds during the first time is because she’s scared of pain and therefore tensing (self-fulfilling prophecy!), she’s not aroused enough or the guy’s being too harsh. (In this case, and with all the slamming going on, my bet is on the latter–if the author even thought this far.) This is not pleasant, and it should not be glorified.
This scene was by far one of the worst first-time-sex-scenes I have ever read. He is being a selfish ass. It amazes me that this was written by a woman. Even more, it amazes me that the protagonist takes it all and enjoys it all. It’s not believable. Not with the blood, which indicates injury.
Yet, pain doesn’t even seem to come up, not even in her mind.
The scene had its moments—a couple of sentences in between—but largely it was just terrible. Which makes me sad, because I love BDSM romances.
“We both glance down at the bed at the same time. There’s blood on the sheets—evidence of my lost virginity. I flush, embarrassed, pulling the duvet tighter around me.”
On that note, I’m done for today. Seriously. I can’t take anymore of this without having a heart attack from all the anger-adrenalin flooding my bloodstream.
I gotta resurrect some of my brain cells, and have a good nights sleep. And Dear Lord, please don’t let me dream of those damn gray eyes!!!