Warnings: The Fifty Shades series is extremely sexually explicit and involves BDSM. Because of that, and because they are not exactly well-researched or high-quality literature, I will mention things such as abuse, rape, rape culture, male dominance, sexism, relationship violence, and consensual BDSM. Also, the books began as Twilight fanfic, so I will be mentioning Twilight (which is a major squick for a lot of people just by itself).
Why, hello, Monday! Time for another round of Fifty Shades. If you’re new to this blog, I’m reading through the Fifty Shades series and forcing everyone to suffer along with me on Mondays. If you want to know what I’ve written about it before, click the link on the right and you’ll find all my Fifty Shades posts in reverse order.
Please just put me out of my misery now. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m on Christian’s side for once. I honestly hate myself right now, both for feeling that way and for admitting it in public.
Chapter 2 starts with Christian taking Ana to a restaurant any normal couple would like for its semi-casual, romantic atmosphere. It’s beneath Christian, of course, which is how we are reminded once again that he is a super rich, refined person and that we should admire him for his taste. They’re in a hurry, so he takes the liberty of ordering for Ana–who reacts as though he hadn’t just done this for an entire previous novel.
I get the sense that’s not what she’s really reacting to, though it probably should be. I’m with her that she ought to be allowed to order her own dang food. My husband knows better than to do this for me unless I’ve asked and preferably supplied him with a list of acceptable choices. On the other hand, my husband and I don’t have the kind of relationship where he stalks me and controls me, we break up, and I stop eating. So there’s that.
Here’s where I’m on Christian’s side. He’s picked up on the fact that Ana has no interest in José but is using him to make Christian jealous. He’s correct that this is juvenile behavior. It’s the kind of thing very young or inexperienced people do sometimes. Christian is right that it’s hurtful to José (I wonder if it just killed him to actually care about José’s feelings). Immature people sometimes don’t consider the effect on someone else. Given that this describes a lot of Ana’s interactions with the world, it’s not too surprising.
The reason it just destroys me to have to side with Christian on anything–ever–is that he is, like everything else, such an ass about it. I don’t mean that he’s angry; that’s actually reasonable. It’s that in a healthy relationship without power struggles, Ana would not feel “chastened” by him as though he were her parent.
Their discussion quickly progresses to their last interaction. I have a hard time getting past the unnatural dialogue, but at least they’ve gone there. It just keeps getting weirder. It’s like E. L. James has sort of forgotten what she actually wrote. Christian asks Ana why she didn’t use a safe word the last time they were together. As I recall, it’s because she asked him to show her the worst he could give, and they weren’t actually having sex; they were arguing, and she demanded to know what he would do to her. They weren’t playing–he was providing her a demonstration. Maybe that shouldn’t have mattered, but when you have poorly-defined boundaries for your relationship, that makes it hard to know how to use things like safe words.
She tells him that she didn’t use a safe word because she was overwhelmed with trying to be what he wanted. Again, this doesn’t really fit with what happened. She wasn’t trying to be what he wanted–she was trying to find out what would happen if she wasn’t what he wanted. There’s a pretty big difference.
Ana concludes that she could have avoided the break-up if she had just used her safe word. Of course! Because the best way to handle an abusive, controlling jerk is to blame yourself for his behavior. I mean, why don’t more people think of that? Oh, wait. They do. And, like any decently abusive and controlling jerk, Christian is pissed at Ana for not stopping him from being an abusive, controlling jerk. Because safe words.
I am utterly confused and horrified by his next words to her: “How can I trust you?”
This is a thing that abusers use. It’s what gets said to people everywhere whose partners are harming them. “How can I trust you not to do something that’s going to set me off?” Christian failed to provide a safe learning environment for a naive young woman and then blamed her for not grasping the rules properly. What a complete dick.
In any other kind of book, I could actually love the next part. He confesses that she told him in her sleep that she loved him and would never leave him, and he tells her how much that meant to him. It’s like this tiny little spark of genuine romance that would have worked perfectly in a book with flawed but ultimately decent characters. Sadly, this is not that book.
And just like that, the moment is ruined by Christian telling Ana that she has to eat or he’s going to spank her, and it won’t be in a sexual way. Because threatening abuse is absolutely the best way to get someone to take care of herself. Probably only works on self-centered, immature recent college grads, though. Too bad.
I’ll leave it there for this week. Join me next week for another installment, or stick around and see what else I’ve got planned this week.