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June 30, 2012

Cosmo Quickies: June 2012

It's been a long time since we've tackled an entire issue of Cosmo all at once. Actually, it's been awhile since we've written about Cosmo at all - we needed a breather. But we did buy the June issue, so before the month ends we thought we'd take a look at it, and apparently the time off has helped us to see the horror with fresh eyes because we have a lot of feelings about it. Like, a lot. Get a snack.

Let's start with the cover. Wild Sex Stories, 50 Ways to Be Sexy This Summer, all the usual stuff. One of the headlines is Where to Meet a Guy In June, but for some reason instead of being printed on the cover this one was printed on a sticker and stuck on. I was so curious about this. Was the headline a last minute addition that just had to be on the cover even if it meant printing a bajillion stickers? Or a replacement for another headline that was deemed not sexy enough? Or was it covering up some other headline that was too scandalous for public consumption? I actually investigated to rule that last one out:

And did I mention that I did this in an airport? I got some weird looks from people, but it didn't occur to me at the time that it was because I was mutilating the cover, because we always expect weird looks when we read Cosmo in public.

Anyway, on to the inside of the magazine. On the letters page there's actually a short follow up to the article from the April issue about crazy things women have heard from their gynecologists.
When Your Doc Says Something Crazy

Many of you were disturbed by the stories in our article "The Crazy Thing My Gyno Said to Me." If your doc ever makes an inappropriate remark, gynecologist Alyssa Dweck, coauthor of V Is for Vagina, recommends you speak up right away. "Tell your gyno you are uncomfortable with the remark, and ask what she meant. This way, she's forced to explain."
I'm glad they actually followed up on this but I wish they had given better advice here. Some women might not be comfortable confronting a gyno directly, especially in the middle of an exam. And even if you are okay with doing that, it might not accomplish much. For example, some of the stories in the original article were about women whose doctors made inappropriate comments about them being virgins or gave them lectures about abstaining. If you were to tell a doctor like that that you were uncomfortable and ask them to clarify their remarks, they would probably just repeat the same abstinence-only talking points. Women need to know that they have more options, like speaking to another doctor in the practice, contacting the state licensing board, or even posting a review online. (There's more detail about this in our post about the original article.)

In the What's Sexy Now section, there's an article called Make a Hot First Impression featuring tips from Chace Crawford. (Every month Cosmo finds a hot famous guy who has a movie or album to promote to do these tips, which we fully believe are always written by the celebs themselves and definitely not by some intern or publicist somewhere.) The tips are always stupid, but Mr. Crawford really lowered the bar this month and provided quite possibly the most generic dating advice of all time. Order a cheeseburger! Be on time! Tell a joke! Wear natural makeup! Seriously, if you have picked up even one issue of any magazine for women or teen girls ever in your life, you've read these tips before. Nate Archibald, you disappoint.

Later in the same section is our least favorite page of every issue, the Sexy vs. Skanky list. At the top of this month's list is...well, see for yourself:

So "topless hunks on billboards" are sexy and "topless chicks as walking billboards" are skanky. We're not going to say that we necessarily endorse whatever the hell is going on in that second picture, but really, what is the huge difference between these two situations in Cosmo's eyes? David Beckham stripped down to his underwear and posed for pictures to sell a product, and the brand name is plastered over his body and the billboard is displayed very publicly. Oh right, the difference is that these women are "skanks" in Cosmo's book, and David Beckham is a hot guy that they would totally have sex with and therefore he can do no wrong.

Further down the list, Cosmo informs us that "men who strip for you" are sexy while "men who cheat with strippers" are skanky. Is it inherently worse somehow if a man cheats with a stripper than with anyone else? Unless they're trying to suggest that they think that all strippers are skanks, which they would never...wait, we almost forgot that this is Cosmo we're talking about. They totally would and they totally are.

Next up is the 101 Things About Men section. It starts with a helpful page called Touch His Butt Like This. Did you know that "different booty squeezes can convey specific messages to your BF or hubby"? The Undercover Caress can let him know that you're "feeling especially connected to him", while the Quick Pat is "a nonverbal way of saying 'You're awesome'" (you know, like athletes do), and the Hard Squeeze is "animalistic" and lets him know that you "want to rip his pants off ASAP". Oh Cosmo, never change. (And apparently, they never do change. They ran a similar piece a few years ago.)

Once you've perfected your butt touches, we can move on to What He Sees Vs. What You See, one of Cosmo's monthly attempts to misrepresent the results of some academic research in order to make a goofy dating tip out of it.
Apparently, there's such a thing as guy goggles. A new University of Texas study found that women underestimate how attractive guys think they are...and guys overestimate their own sexiness to women. So when you look in the mirror and think you're a 6, he looks at you and thinks you're a 9. And, uh, vice versa.
They provided a lovely visual aid to illustrate this point with four celebrity photos. He sees Ryan Gosling, you see Ryan Seacrest. You see Alyson Hannigan, he sees Alison Brie. Personally, we think Alyson Hannigan and Alison Brie are both beautiful, but apparently this is science, so who are we to argue?

Do you want to be a Summer Dream Girl? Of course, we all do. According to Cosmo's research, the key here is to go beyond being smart and attractive (which "every guy wants") and focus on the important question of "what little qualities make a big diff?" Here's the top three, courtesy of Cosmo Science:

1. Wears a sundress
2. Has a sexy laugh
3. Smells like the beach

They actually created a Venn diagram for this, and in the center it says "The Triple Threat Men Can't Resist". But they totally fell down on the job by not directing us to other pages in the mag where we can learn about the sexiest guy-approved sundresses and beachy fragrances and an article with a title like How To Sexify Your Laugh. Maybe that's in next month's issue.

One of the sentences in this section actually starts with the phrase "To quote Pauly D..." as if that's a good thing. We have nothing further to say about that. And speaking of cringeworthy sentences, try this one: "Men love a woman with guy humor, according to a new poll from eHarmony." Guy humor? What the fuck is guy humor? Apparently it's sarcasm and raunchy jokes. We had no idea up to now that we've been using guy humor our entire adult lives. Who says you can't learn anything useful from Cosmo? If you need help perfecting your guy humor, they recommend watching Kathy Griffin for tips. We recommend watching Kathy Griffin instead of reading Cosmo.

Let's check in on the Beauty section, shall we? There's a 'guy on the street' poll called Center Parts: Hot or Hippie? (The verdict was 78% hot, 22% hippie in case anyone's curious. I guess hippies can never look hot.) This is part of Cosmo's continuing quest to get a man's opinion about literally everything. Much like the guy humor thing, we're so happy to have Cosmo to set us on the right path, because up to now we were blissfully unaware that we were supposed to give a fuck what any guy thinks about how we part our hair.

On the page opposite the center part poll there's a Head & Shoulders ad featuring Alyson Hannigan. Guess they didn't get the memo that she's only a 6, or maybe Alison Brie wasn't available.

On to the Love section! This month's Hot Tip is called His Sweaty Superpower. Cosmo is obsessed with the sweaty=sexy equation and they constantly have tips about coming home from the gym without showering to hook up and stuff like that. This has got to be at least their tenth rehash of this advice in the last year or so:
You know a glimpse of his glistening postworkout bod turns you on, but it can boost your mood too. Research shows that the scent of male perspiration reduces tension in women, and the phenomenon works even if all you get is the whiff of a sweaty stranger. So give your guy a big postgym hug, or stand extra close to the dude celebrating a softball victory at happy hour...and remember to breathe deep.
You heard it here first, people. Cosmo wants you to find sweaty strangers and smell them. It's for your own good.

Later in this section there's an article called The One Time to Never Tell Him Yes. The gist of it is that you shouldn't make a habit of faking interest in his hobbies or things he likes to do if you don't like them because it's better if you do your own thing. This is only notable because, yet again, they use sports as their example of a thing that girlfriends never like doing with their guy. Dear Cosmo: Many women actually enjoy sports. Some even - brace yourselves, ladies - participate in sports themselves! Please stop using this as your default example of a guys only thing that all women hate. Thanks.

Next up is Love For Keeps, the monthly column about married life. The title of this month's column is "Are We Boring?" I just decided for myself that if you have to ask, the answer is probably yes, and skipped the article. But I'm sure it was fascinating.

And now it's time for us to check in with Ky Henderson, Cosmo Guy Guru and giver of horrible relationship advice. Let's see what problems he's failing to solve this month:

Q: Whenever I try to bring props, like handcuffs, into the bedroom, my boyfriend starts laughing hysterically. It kills the mood for me. How can I make him take it more seriously?

A: There's a lot of funny stuff that happens during sex, and if you are unable to laugh about it, you probably will not enjoy sex as much as you should. I bring that up because while restraining someone is hot, whipping out props can also be kind of funny. My advice? Laugh with him...and then restrain his ass. He may smile or even burst into full-blown giggles at first, but keep going with it - once he sees how sexy it is, he'll shut up. If you're really determined to avoid the chuckles altogether, use something that your boyfriend will associate with sex instead of with television police procedurals. Meaning, skip the silver cuffs and tie him up with something hotter, like your thong. It will work just as well and feels way naughtier, as opposed to slightly goofy.
Okay. First, as ever, Cosmo's relationship advice avoids recommending actual communication at all costs. Second, using your thong will not work just as well. And third, we have a hard time seeing how choosing a thong over handcuffs or some other "prop" that's actually designed to restrain someone is somehow hotter or less goofy. Fourth, Ky Henderson's advice sucks and we hate him. (We may come back to this in more detail later, because we can never say enough about how awful this part of the magazine is every month.)

The next question for Ky is about how to let a new guy you're seeing know that you're looking for a relationship. We won't bother you with his entire answer but:
The solution isn't about saying the right thing; it's about how you behave. For starters, if you usually sleep with men after just one or two dates, stop. It may not be fair, but some guys will rule out the possibility of a long-term relationship with a woman who hops in bed with them shortly after they first meet. There are exceptions to this, but generally men put you in the just-a-hookup category if you give it up early.
You're right, Ky. That's not fair. And if we find out that a guy thinks that way, we tend to rule out the possibility of having a long-term relationship with him.

There's a mention of 50 Shades of Grey in an article called 5 Fun Reasons to Get Naked. Cosmo recommends reading it naked and/or reading it out loud to your guy. (How very inner goddess of them.) This isn't particularly surprising or noteworthy, we just couldn't let the 50 Shades of Cosmo convergence of suck go unmentioned.

Towards the back of the magazine is the Need to Know section, which is usually full of true crime stories about awful things happening to young women. In this issue there's A Twisted Obsession Turns Deadly, which is the story of Johanna Justin-Jinich, a college student who was murdered by a mentally ill man who had been stalking her for several years. It's a horrible, tragic story, and we feel really ambivalent about seeing it in the pages of Cosmo.

Basically, we hate this section of the magazine because they rarely include any tips on how to deal with a similar situation if it happened to you. Instead of, say, an article about the crime of stalking in general and the fact that the anti-stalking laws on the books right now might not be keeping up with current realities like online harassment, we get this personal story where the message is basically just 'a young woman was murdered by a crazy stalker, isn't that scary?' There's a sidebar about "analyzing a stalker's emails" that shows some of the "red flags" in the emails that Johanna received from her killer, and there's one line in the article about how the safest thing to do is go to the police, but other than that there's no concrete info or advice that a reader can take away from this. There are a few lines about things that Johanna did 'wrong', like deciding not to press charges the first time she went to the police - it reminded us a little of the "Deadly Decisions" article they ran a few months ago that was basically a victim-blaming festival. It just feels like Cosmo is exploiting these women's stories for no real purpose beyond shock value. Some of these articles have even included things like bloody crime scene photos, which is over the line as far as we're concerned.

We're really in luck this month because there's another Need to Know crime story called "A Guy Sabotaged My Birth Control". It's the story of Anya Alvarez, who was in the middle of hooking up with a guy when she realized that he had removed his condom and her NuvaRing without her knowledge or consent. When she confronted him about it later he told her that he had done it before and that it was "not that big a deal". She now works to raise awareness about birth control sabotage and believes that it should be made illegal.

This article is an improvement over "Twisted Obsession", but still falls apart at the end because again, they don't tell you what you can do if this happens to you. They do cover some reasons why guys may do this and end by saying they're "hopeful" that legislators will eventually do something about it, but that's it. We get that this is something that's not illegal so options are limited, but it was disappointing that they actually did a good job of raising awareness about the issue and then didn't provide any resources. Of course, everything we know about birth control sabotage came from an episode of Law & Order: SVU that we watched a few months ago (starring John Stamos as the reproductive abuser), so what do we know? But if you would like more information about reproductive coercion, the Know More project is a good place to start.

To wrap up the Need to Know section, there's an update on the Cosmo Fights Campus Rape initiative. They've been running this campaign for months and partnering with organizations like SAFER and there's not much negative to say about it, but there was one thing that caught our eye this month. There's a list of suggestions of ways to get involved, like volunteering for RAINN or helping to organize a Take Back the Night march at your school, and then there's this:
Help blow the lid off how common it is for rape to go unreported by sending your personal story to cosmopolitan.com/campus-rape-story. It may be included in an upcoming Cosmo feature.
Something about this seems a little too casual for us. They're all 'hey, send us your rape story!' like they're asking you to enter a giveaway for a new lipstick or something. We feel that if they're going to ask for such personal and sensitive information, they should be clearer about exactly where the information is going to go and how it might be used.

Okay, that's it. We're done. Can't take anymore, brain cells fried, need a stiff drink, etc. See you next month!

June 28, 2012

Our Review of a Sex App That We Will Never Use

Just a typical day at the office for us...

Lilith: Did you see our new twitter follower?
Jezebel: Which one?
Lilith: The iBang app. "The first and only iPhone App to give you detailed graphs and statistics of your sexual performance.... accurate to the thrust!"
Lilith: WTF LOL
Jezebel: OMG yes, I was going to mention it to you.
Lilith: I'm on their website right now.
Jezebel: Oh, this I have to see.
Lilith: The screenshots are hilarious.
Lilith: "I just lasted 37 thrusts in bedroom lasting 11s, lol! DONT POST / POST"

Jezebel: "the world's premier Sex Tracking App!!!" "Super detailed data!!!" "Easily share with your friends on facebook or twitter!" Well, they certainly seem excited about it.
Lilith: The social sharing part is my favorite. Because that's just what everyone's fb and twitter friends want to see!

Jezebel: OMG, the "best and worst efforts" section is killing me. Total thrusts, total time thrusting, total average TPM...thrusts per minute, I'm assuming?

Lilith: How does it know how many thrusts you make? Do you count and enter it?
Jezebel: I don't know, but suddenly I'm dying to know the ratio of slow to medium thrusts for all of our twitter and facebook friends.
Lilith: Maybe you wear it? Like a pedometer?
Jezebel: LOL. That would be kind of a mood killer if you not only have to count the thrusts, but also judge them.
Jezebel: 'Honey, would you call that a slow or a medium?'

Lilith: Also like, is that all that matters in sex? # of thrusts? How about the QUALITY of the thrusts?
Jezebel: I know, I was just looking at the screenshots to see if they measure anything else and it looks like this is it.
Jezebel: And where's the female version?
Lilith: Yeah I know, right?
Jezebel: Like, should I measure my own performance by counting my partner's thrusts?
Lilith: And apparently any sex that doesn't involve nothing but PIV thrusting doesn't exist either.

Jezebel: I'm looking at their twitter and there's only one tweet so far.

@iBangApp For anyone that might be reading this, we will be releasing our exciting new app very shortly. Follow to stay updated #iphone #sex#app

Lilith: Definitely follow them, we need to stay updated.
Jezebel: Already done.
Lilith: Oh and speaking of twitter, did you see all of the tweets about our Hot Wheels post?
Jezebel: Yes, that was awesome. And nobody can say our blog doesn't cover diverse topics.

June 26, 2012

The ESC Reads 50 Shades of Grey: Chapter 5

WARNING: This blog post contains spoilers. But, of course, that's kind of the point.

We decided to tackle the Fifty Shades of Grey series one book at a time and give everyone chapter-by-chapter summaries and critique. We're going to read Fifty Shades of Grey... so you don't have to.

Chapter 5

Summary: Ana wakes up in Christian Grey's hotel suite and although she's barely hungover, she's utterly mortified. He assures her that they didn't have sex, scolds her for drinking too much and makes her eat breakfast. He has sent her clothes to be cleaned but had Taylor buy her new clothes and shoes. She gets a thrill out of using his toothbrush. Ana learns the following fascinating things about him: He's not gay. He's not celibate. He hates wasted food. He never sleeps in the same bed with anyone else. He doesn't do the "hearts and flowers" romance thing. He can't stay away from Anastasia no matter how hard he tries, but he's not going to "touch her" until he has her "written consent"... although she'll probably not be interested anymore once she knows why. (Foreshadowing!) They make a date for that evening and then they have steamy kiss in the elevator.

Sexiness factor (scale of 1-10): 3.5

Admittedly, the scene in the elevator is a little hot.
“Oh, fuck the paperwork,” he growls. He lunges at me, pushing me against the wall of the elevator. Before I know it, he’s got both of my hands in one of his in a vice-like grip above my head, and he’s pinning me to the wall using his hips. Holy shit. His other hand grabs my ponytail and yanks down, bringing my face up, and his lips are on mine. It’s only just not painful. I moan into his mouth, giving his tongue an opening. He takes full advantage, his tongue expertly exploring my mouth. I have never been kissed like this. My tongue tentatively strokes his and joins his in a slow erotic dance that’s all about touch and sensation, all bump and grind. He brings his hand up to grasp my chin and holds me in place. I am helpless, my hands pinned, my face held, and his hips restraining me. I feel his erection against my belly. Oh my… He wants me. Christian Grey, Greek god, wants me, and I want him, here… now, in the elevator.
...although we could do without phrases like "bump and grind" because then we just start thinking about Bump N' Grind and get distracted.

Number of times Ana's "subconscious" communicates with her: 4 or 6
I flush at the waywardness of my subconscious – she’s doing her happy dance in a bright red hula skirt at the thought of being his. [...]
He’s affected all right – and my very small inner goddess sways in a gentle victorious samba.
Is her very small inner goddess the same as her bitchy subconscious? Or are they two separate personalities in her head? And why do they both express themselves via dancing?

Number of time it is foreshadowed that Christian Grey is a dom: 9
"You’re lucky I’m just scolding you.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, if you were mine, you wouldn’t be able to sit down for a week after the stunt you pulled yesterday.

“You are quite the disciplinarian,” I hiss at him.
“Oh, Anastasia, you have no idea.”

I leave the table, wondering for a moment if I should ask permission but dismissing the idea. Sounds like a dangerous precedent to set. I head back to his bedroom.
Okay, we get your super subtle hints, E L James. Just say it already! We're ready for the totally shocking reveal that he's a dominant now.

Plot Holes, Fact Checking Fails, and Other Observations:
Oh no. I cringe inwardly. I don’t remember coming here.
How do you cringe inwardly?
One minute he rebuffs me, the next he sends me fourteen-thousand-dollar books, then he tracks me like a stalker. And for all that, I have spent the night in his hotel suite, and I feel safe. Protected. He cares enough to come and rescue me from some mistakenly perceived danger. He’s not a dark knight at all, but a white knight in shining, dazzling armor – a classic romantic hero – Sir Gawain or Lancelot.
Mistakenly perceived danger? She was practically about to be date-raped by her "friend" Jose. Ugh. (Although we agree with the stalker part.) And what the hell is with the classic romantic hero bullshit? We're cringing outwardly at the idea that a grown woman would be sitting around thinking all of this 'knight in shining armor' nonsense.
My mouth pops open as I gasp and swallow at the same time.
Is that even physically possible?
Don’t lie to yourself – my subconscious yells at me – it’ll have to be pretty bloody bad to have you running for the hills.
"Bloody"? Her subconscious is also British.
I head into the bathroom. I want to clean my teeth. I eye Christian’s toothbrush. It would be like having him in my mouth. Hmm… Glancing guiltily over my shoulder at the door, I feel the bristles on the toothbrush. They are damp. He must have used it already. Grabbing it quickly, I squirt toothpaste on it and brush my teeth in double-quick time. I feel so naughty. It’s such a thrill.
She gets a thrill out of using his toothbrush, because it's like having him in her mouth. Come fucking on. It's a toothbrush! And think of this - he's such a control freak that he sent someone out to buy her clean clothes (including bra, panties and sneakers). He didn't think to get her a freaking toothbrush!? And he discovers that she used his toothbrush after he kisses her. (He says "you've brushed your teeth".) If she hadn't brushed her teeth she would surely have a nasty case of morning breath, especially considering that she threw up last night. So why wouldn't he buy her a toothbrush, why would he be surprised that she brushed her teeth, and why would he kiss her if he thought she might not have. So many questions. (Of course we realize the most important question is why are we wasting more time trying to figure this out than E L James ever did? We ask ourselves that question a lot.)

Some of the worst writing in the chapter:
Actually, I don’t feel that bad, probably much better than I deserve. The orange juice tastes divine. It’s thirst-quenching and refreshing. Nothing beats freshly squeezed orange juice for reviving an arid mouth.
Please E L James, tell us more about the orange juice. Spare us none of these fascinating details.
Christian Grey’s sweat; the notion does odd things to me. I take a deep breath and close my eyes. I feel like a two-year-old; if I close my eyes then I’m not really here.
What odd things does the notion of his sweat to do her? She went from feeling (and acting) like a 14-year-old and now she's regressed to a 2-year-old? Also, it's kind of a weird transition to go from thinking about how hot you are for Christian's sweaty post-workout body to saying that you feel like you're two years old.
He comes and sits down on the edge of the bed. He’s close enough for me to touch, for me to smell. Oh my… sweat and body wash and Christian. It’s a heady cocktail - so much better than a margarita, and now I can speak from experience.
Shut up, Ana.
He cocks his head to one side, still grinning. My heartbeat has picked up, and my medulla oblongata has neglected to fire any synapses to make me breathe. His grin widens, and he reaches over and runs his thumb down my cheek and across my lower lip.
E L James has such an odd writing style. Part of the time she sounds like she's a 14-year-old writing in her diary and part of the time she sounds like she's channeling an old fashioned romance novel. But then she goes and drops a line straight out of a science textbook. Do we really want to know what her medulla oblongata is doing? Should we check in with her spleen as well?
What does that mean? Does he white-slave small children to some God-forsaken part of the planet? Is he part of some underworld crime syndicate? It would explain why he’s so rich. Is he deeply religious? Is he impotent?
Okay, maybe we're completely horrible people, but this part just makes us laugh so hard. She's afraid of what his "deep dark secret" that will probably scare her off is and why she would need to sign paperwork before he can be with her... and these are the potential reasons she comes up with? (Also, nice use of "white-slave" as a verb.) It's funny that she equates being "deeply religious" and "impotent" with the other horrible possibilities and it's also pretty damn stupid of her. He has made it clear already that he's not celibate and that he likes his women "sentient and receptive". Why would she think he was impotent? And why would she need to sign paperwork if he was? Maybe getting drunk for the first time has fried a lot of her brain cells - we'll ask her medulla oblongata and get back to you.
“Like Eve, you’re so quick to eat from the tree of knowledge,” he smirks.
Shut up, Christian.
“Sleeping with someone.” He picks up his newspaper and continues to read. What in heaven’s name does that mean? He’s never slept with anyone? He’s a virgin? Somehow I doubt that. I stand staring at him in disbelief.
We don't know if this is delusional wishful thinking on Ana's part at this point or what, like maybe she's trying to convince herself that they're both virgins or something, because he's been pretty clear. It's one of the few things that he actually has been clear about so far.
“I can’t eat all this.” I gape at what’s left on the table.

“Eat what’s on your plate. If you’d eaten properly yesterday, you wouldn’t be here, and I wouldn’t be declaring my hand so soon.” His mouth sets in a grim line. He looks angry.
So let's get this straight. He's mad at her because he chose to track her cell phone and show up at the bar, and then chose to take her back to his hotel, and then chose to order her a huge breakfast that she didn't ask for, and then chose to make a date with her so that he can 'declare his hand'. What a dreamboat he is, and what a bitch she is for making him do all of those things.

Conclusion: This book sucks and we hate all of the characters right now, with the possible exception of Taylor. Any guy who can go out shopping and bring back a pair of jeans that fit you perfectly on the first try can't be all bad. On to Chapter 6 and the big reveal! (We were going to write a longer conclusion, but our inner goddesses are late for dance class.)

June 22, 2012

The ESC Reads 50 Shades of Grey: Chapter 4

WARNING: This blog post contains spoilers. But, of course, that's kind of the point.

We decided to tackle the Fifty Shades of Grey series one book at a time and give everyone chapter-by-chapter summaries and critique. We're going to read Fifty Shades of Grey... so you don't have to.

Chapter 4

Summary: Grey doesn't kiss Ana like she wishes, instead he tells her to "steer clear" of him. She gets upset and goes to sit in her car and cry about it. She wonders if he's celibate (ha!) Later in the week, after she finishes her final exam, she receives a mysterious package. It contains first editions of three volumes of Tess of the D'Urbervilles (a very expensive gift from Grey). Ana, Kate, José and some other guy who doesn't matter go out to celebrate the end of finals. José buys everyone a pitcher of margaritas and says "dios mio" a lot, because E L James is really subtle. Ana gets drunk for the first time in her life and drunk dials Grey. He tracks the phone call, because he's a psycho, and shows up at the bar to "protect" her. José tries to kiss her and won't take no for an answer, but Grey rescues her just in time. Ana vomits. A lot. For a long time. Grey decides to take her home and they go out on the dance floor to let Kate know, who is dancing with his brother Elliot. The chapter ends with Ana passing out and Grey saying "fuck".

Sexiness factor (scale of 1-10): -5

This chapter is so unsexy, we rated it a negative number. As if the vomiting wasn't enough to completely kill this chapter, Ana's self-loathing and the near date-rapey scene with José put it over the edge for unsexiness.

Number of times Ana's "subconscious" communicates with her: 7
Stop! Stop Now! – My subconscious is metaphorically screaming at me, arms folded, leaning on one leg and tapping her foot in frustration. Get in the car, go home, do your studying. Forget about him… Now! And stop all this self-pitying, wallowing crap.
This one is the funniest. Her subconscious has been talking to her for the past 3 chapters and only now does she mention that it is metaphorically screaming at her. Hopefully it's not literally screaming at her. Because, you know, it's her subconscious. It doesn't send direct messages. This isn't Twitter!
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.
Finally her subconscious is telling her something she should listen to. Yes, he's a stalker! Stay away! End the book at Chapter 4, please. Unfortunately that's not going to happen and we've got 22 more chapters to suffer through. But somehow, because it's Christian, we don't mind...oh wait, yes we do. We mind a lot.
Oh Ana… are you ever going to live this down? My subconscious is figuratively tutting and glaring at me over her half-moon specs.
Her subconscious wears half-moon specs? (Again - British slang, we don't call them spectacles, we call them glasses!) Personally, I like for my subconscious to wear my contact lenses, because I hate it when my conscious eyes get dry.

Plot Holes, Fact Checking Fails, and Other Observations:
"Anastasia, you should steer clear of me. I’m not the man for you,” he whispers.
So, you invited her to coffee in order to tell her to stay away from you? She's so awkward and shy she would've already been steering clear of you, if you hadn't invited her out to coffee or agreed to do a photo shoot or shown up at her job in the first place. Also, we're pretty sure this part is more evidence of the Twilight rip-off. Listen people, there's a difference between fan fiction and just copying.

More inconsistent voice:
“Anastasia?” He’s surprised to hear from me. Well, frankly, I’m surprised to ring him.
We're also pretty surprised that you decided to "ring" him, because you're not from England!!
“It’s about knowing your limits, Anastasia. I mean, I’m all for pushing limits, but really this is beyond the pale. Do you make a habit of this kind of behavior?”

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, 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. Not now that I’ve thrown up in front of him. Why is he still standing there?
She absolutely should have said all of that to him, but we'll give her half a point for at least thinking it and realizing that he was being a jerk.
Holy cow – he’s leading me onto the dance floor. Shit. I do not dance. He can sense my reluctance, and under the colored lights I can see his amused, slightly sardonic smile. He gives my hand a sharp tug, and I’m in his arms again, and he starts to move, taking me with him. Boy, he can dance, and I can’t believe that I’m following him step for step. Maybe it’s because I’m drunk that I can keep up. He’s holding me tight against him, his body against mine… if he wasn’t clutching me so tightly, I’m sure I would swoon at his feet. In the back of my mind, my mother’s often-recited warning comes to me: Never trust a man who can dance.
Dude, she just puked her guts out and is so drunk that he felt the need to track her down and come rescue her. And they're dancing? Plus she probably still reeks of vomit.
But I never got to talk to her. Is she okay? I can see where things are heading for her and him. I need to do the safe sex lecture. In the back of my mind, I hope she reads one of the posters on the back of the toilet doors.
Since Ana is the virgin here who has never even held hands with a man before Christian Grey, maybe Kate would be better off getting her safe sex lecture from... well, anyone else on earth. I mean, just one chapter ago Kate was telling Ana that she felt Grey would be dangerous for someone innocent like her. Probably Kate's got a lot more experience and doesn't need Ana's advice. That's not to say that virgins can't be knowledgeable about sex and birth control and all of that, they obviously can be and many are, it's just really random that Ana suddenly decides that Kate desperately needs her guidance on the issue.

Some of the worst writing in the chapter:
Kiss me damn it! I implore him, but I can’t move. I’m paralyzed with a strange, unfamiliar need, completely captivated by him. I’m staring at Christian Grey’s exquisitely sculptured mouth, mesmerized, and he’s looking down at me, his gaze hooded, his eyes darkening. He’s breathing harder than usual, and I’ve stopped breathing altogether. I’m in your arms. Kiss me, please. He closes his eyes, takes a deep breath, and gives me a small shake of his head as if in answer to my silent question. When he opens his eyes again, it’s with some new purpose, a steely resolve.
Melodrama! There's something about the words that E L James chooses that are so... ugh. I implore him! His steely resolve! Blaaaaah. We know a lot of 50 Shades fans have talked about how "edgy" the books are, but some of this stuff seems like it's straight out of a book that should have Fabio on the cover. (Incidentally, did you know that there's an entire Fabio book cover gallery on the website of the Fabio International Fan Club, or the Fabio IFC as the cool kids call it? Well, now you do. You're welcome.)
Adrenaline has spiked through my body, from the near miss with the cyclist or the heady proximity to Christian, leaving me wired and weak. NO! My psyche screams as he pulls away, leaving me bereft. He has his hands on my shoulders, holding me at arm’s length, watching my reactions carefully. And the only thing I can think is that I wanted to be kissed, made it pretty damned obvious, and he didn’t do it. He doesn’t want me. He really doesn’t want me. I have royally screwed up the coffee morning.
To quote the fierce and flawless Latrice Royale, Ana seriously needs the 5 Gs: Good God Get a Grip Girl.
I have never been on the receiving end of rejection. Okay… so I was always one of the last to be picked for basketball or volleyball – but I understood that – running and doing something else at the same time like bouncing or throwing a ball is not my thing. I am a serious liability in any sporting field.
Yeah, that situation is totally comparable to this one. Great analysis, Ana.
Oh no… not the Katherine Kavanagh Inquisition. I shake my head at her in a back-off now, Kavanagh way – but I might as well be dealing with a blind, deaf mute. “You’ve been crying,” she has an exceptional gift for stating the damned obvious sometimes.
Um... what? She's dealing with a "blind, deaf mute"? (Yeah, that's not at all offensive.) If she's dealing with someone who is blind, deaf and mute... then how exactly would she be able to make obvious observations like "you've been crying" anyway?
I pretend to read the article, all the time meeting his steady gray gaze, searching the photo for some clue as to why he’s not the man for me – his own words to me. And it’s suddenly, blindingly obvious. He’s too gloriously good-looking. We are poles apart and from two very different worlds. I have a vision of myself as Icarus flying too close to the sun and crashing and burning as a result. His words make sense. He’s not the man for me. This is what he meant, and it makes his rejection easier to accept… almost. I can live with this. I understand.
Of course that's not what he meant at all, but get used to the "Icarus flying too close the sun" metaphor, because much like the frequent visits from Ana's subconscious, you'll be seeing it again soon.
My stomach heaves, and I double over, my body no longer able to tolerate the alcohol, and I vomit spectacularly on to the ground.

“Ugh – Dios mio, Ana!” José jumps back in disgust. Grey grabs my hair and pulls it out of the firing line and gently leads me over to a raised flowerbed on the edge of the parking lot. I note, with deep gratitude, that it’s in relative darkness.

“If you’re going to throw up again, do it here. I’ll hold you.” He has one arm around my shoulders – the other is holding my hair in a makeshift ponytail down my back so it’s off my face. I try awkwardly to push him away, but I vomit again… and again. Oh shit… how long is this going to last? Even when my stomach’s empty and nothing is coming up, horrible dry heaves wrack my body. I vow silently that I’ll never ever drink again. This is just too appalling for words. Finally, it stops.
That scene took us forever to read. It was just so cringeworthy. It's as if E L James really went out of her way to make Ana as pathetic as possible. (We also had to laugh at the phrase "vomit spectacularly". We get what it means here, but it just sounds like 'sure you puked all over the place in front of the only guy you've ever been attracted to, but at least you did a really good job of it!') And ELJ makes José out to be a total jerk in this chapter - he keeps trying to kiss Ana even after she says no repeatedly, and then leaves her with some guy that they all just met. It's like she needed to have the "Jacob" character in the original fanfic, but wanted to make sure that nobody would actually root for Ana to get with him instead of Christian.

Conclusion: Ana has hit a new low. (Again.) And Grey shows her more of what a psycho he is. (Again.) She calls him drunk and he traces the cell phone call to find out where she is and shows up to "protect" her? WTF. Now it just so happened that she did need his help (being harassed by José and so drunk she was sick) but he couldn't really tell that from her stupid drunk phone call, so instead of coming off as "knight in shining armor" it comes off as overprotective, obsessive creepy stalker.

We'll be charitable at this point and follow up to our thoughts on Chapter 3 by saying that at least in this chapter E L James did give us a little bit more of Ana's thoughts and perspective on why she's never had a relationship before and always kept guys at arm's length beyond just 'they're not literary heroes'. Like Fox News, we strive to keep our reporting fair and balanced.

Also, this is unrelated to the story, but we have to say that it's really annoying to type "E L James" over and over while writing these posts for a few different reasons. First, we're constantly writing E.L. James instead and having to correct it. Then, we get distracted wondering why it's E L James and not E.L. James. (We could look it up but that would require us to waste even more precious moments of our lives on this stupid book.) And then, we think of E.L. Fudge cookies, which makes us wonder if we have any good snacks, and then we're even more distracted, and the posts take forever to write. We hope you all appreciate our suffering.


Hey Hot Wheels: Girls Like Cars Too!

So it was almost a year ago that men and women took to Twitter to complain to Hot Wheels about the fact that their Twitter account's profile referred to their cars as "toys for boys". Like we said back then, girls play with Hot Wheels too!

We randomly came across their account again today and were dismayed to find that they are still using sexism to promote their products.

Since 1968, Hot Wheels® has created thrilling vehicle experiences for boys of all ages. Check out our Facebook page for more information on Team Hot Wheels.
Boys of all ages. Really? So girls of all ages haven't had "thrilling vehicle experiences" with Hot Wheels?

Let's get this straight. We complained about the phrase "toys for boys" and they replaced it with "vehicle experiences for boys"? Sorry Hot Wheels, you missed the point!

Their Facebook page takes it a step further:

Delivering thrilling vehicle experiences for boys and guys of all ages

Boys and guys?

Hot Wheels is completely ignoring all of the women who grew up playing with Hot Wheels and similar toys. And they're alienating all of the little girls today who play with Hot Wheels and other cars.

And they're still doing this, even though we all complained to them a year ago about their sexism. Hot Wheels is basically telling us that they don't care about our complaints and they don't care about girls. But you can be sure they care about our money. We're sick of gendered-marketing of toys because it's sexist, its' inaccurate, and honestly, it's just bad business sense. So we think you should tell Hot Wheels that GIRLS of all ages play with cars too!

Tweet to them on Twitter (@Hot_Wheels) or write on their Facebook wall (Facebook.com/HotWheels) or contact Mattel directly. Remind them that GIRLS LIKE CARS TOO!

June 20, 2012

The ESC Reads 50 Shades of Grey: Chapter 3

WARNING: This blog post contains spoilers. But, of course, that's kind of the point.

We decided to tackle the Fifty Shades of Grey series one book at a time and give everyone chapter-by-chapter summaries and critique. We're going to read Fifty Shades of Grey... so you don't have to.

Chapter 3

Summary: Kate and Ana schedule a photo shoot with Christian Grey at his hotel, enlisting Jose to be the photographer. After the photos are taken, Christian invites Ana to have coffee with him. We learn that Ana prefers tea, which she likes really weak. E L James might as well have just had her say "I like my tea submissive". He asks her a bunch of personal questions about her life and her family, including "Do you always wear jeans?" He walks her to the parking lot and she asks if he has a girlfriend and he says he doesn't do "the girlfriend thing". Then she clumsily falls into the street and he saves her from being hit by a guy on a bike. She wants him to kiss her, but he doesn't.

Sexiness factor (scale of 1-10): 1.5

Anastasia gets to stare at Christian for a whole 20 minutes during the photo shoot, but then they have the most boring, inane conversation over coffee. Least sexy date ever. The only remotely "sexy" part is when she almost gets hit by someone on a bike and he holds her close to him. Apparently the smell of his "fresh laundered linen" and "expensive body wash" intoxicated her and for the first time in twenty-one years, she wants to be kissed. Yikes. Ana's life is so sad.

Number of times Anastasia thinks about how hot Christian is: 13

Number of times Anastasia thinks "Oh my" about how hot Christian is: 5
"Oh my… he really is, quite… wow."

"Grey smiles a dazzling, unguarded, natural, all-teeth-showing, glorious smile. Oh my…"

"I could watch him all day… he’s tall, broad-shouldered, and slim, and the way those pants hang from his hips… Oh my."

"He cocks his head to one side, running his index finger across his lower lip… oh my."

"I hold his anxious, burning gaze for a moment or maybe it’s forever… but eventually, my attention is drawn to his beautiful mouth. Oh my."

Number of times Anastasia blushes: 6
“Oh Kate, you know I blush all the time. It’s an occupational hazard with me. Don’t be so ridiculous,” I snap.

Okay, let’s do coffee,” I murmur, flushing a beet red.

I am struggling to maintain a straight face, so I gaze down at the floor, feeling my cheeks turning pink.

Number of times someone points out Anastasia's blushing: 3
“Except when you blush, of course, which is often. I just wish I knew what you were blushing about.”
Trust us, Christian, you really don't want to know.

Number of times Ana's "subconscious" communicates with her: 5

Maybe he thinks you haven’t woken up yet, my subconscious whines at me in a sneering mood again.

Try to be cool, Ana, my subconscious implores me.

“Okay, bag out tea. Sugar?” For a moment, I’m stunned, thinking it’s an endearment, but fortunately my subconscious kicks in with pursed lips. No, stupid – do you take sugar?
Ana's subconscious is kind of a bitch.

Plot Holes, Fact Checking Fails, and Other Observations:

Continuity issue again! Kate is now back to being the editor of the school "newspaper". So that's Chapter 1, newspaper. Chapter 2, magazine. Chapter 3, newspaper. Make up your mind! They're not the same thing!

Ana reveals that not only does Jose like her, but so does Paul from the hardware store. Again, why did she go on and on in the first chapter about how awkward and insecure she is. Nice, good looking guys are literally throwing themselves at her... but they're "no literary heroes", so she'd rather fawn over the controlling asshole Christian Grey.

More failures at dialect:
"I very rarely throw my toys out of the pram"
The pram? Again, the author uses British slang even though no one in the book is British. She could have easily set her story in the UK, but she didn't. She set it in Washington/Oregon, so she should've done a little research into US colloquiums to make it even remotely authentic-sounding.
“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.
At least Ana is aware of how much like a child she is. Yes, she's a grown woman - but you wouldn't know it by reading this crap.
I make my way down the corridor, my knees shaky, my stomach full of butterflies, and my heart in my mouth thumping a dramatic uneven beat.
Congrats, Ana! Throw in a sleepless night or two and this is exactly how you've always dreamed of feeling. Christian Grey must be a literary hero.
He’s still holding my hand. I’m in the street, and Christian Grey is holding my hand. No one has ever held my hand. I feel giddy, and I tingle all over.
No one has ever held her hand? In 21 years? Really? At this point we're starting to hope that E L James is just a front for the 14 year old girl who really wrote this book.
Holy shit. He’s remembering the ‘gay’ question. Once again, I’m mortified. In years to come, I know, I’ll need intensive therapy to not feel this embarrassed every time I recall the moment. I start babbling about my mother – anything to block that memory.
We agree that Ana could probably use some therapy, but not for this reason.
“But it’s England that I’d really like to visit.” He cocks his head to one side, running his index finger across his lower lip… oh my. “Because?” I blink rapidly. Concentrate, Steele. “It’s the home of Shakespeare, Austen, the Brontë sisters, Thomas Hardy. I’d like to see the places that inspired those people to write such wonderful books.”
More references to wonderful books that make us stop and wonder why we're reading this crap, and that we'll have to marathon read to jump start our brains again after we're done with it. Yes, some of the greatest literary geniuses came from England: Shakespeare, Austen, the Brontës... and... E L James. So maybe James should've been going to these inspiring places instead of reading Twilight?

Some of the worst writing in the chapter:
Paul is cute in a wholesome all-American boy-next-door kind of way, but he’s no literary hero, not by any stretch of the imagination. Is Grey? My subconscious asks me, her eyebrow figuratively raised. I slap her down.
He's no literary hero. Really? Spoiler alert, Ana - no man is. Plus now Ana's "subconscious"is not only communicating with her directly via facial expressions but now Ana can physically slap her in response.
“Travis, clear the chairs. Ana, could you ask housekeeping to bring up some refreshments? And let Grey know where we are.”

Yes, Mistress. She is so domineering. I roll my eyes, but do as I’m told.
Yeah, don't you just hate it when someone is domineering? Unless, it's like, the super hot and rich businessman who you have a crush on.
He has a coffee which bears a wonderful leaf-pattern imprinted in the milk. How do they do that? I wonder idly.
She's been going to school in the Seattle area for four years and she's acting like she's never seen a cup of coffee before.
His gray gaze holds mine. He’s so unnerving. I want to look away but I’m caught – spellbound.
Christian Grey has gray eyes, in case we missed it the first ten thousand times she told us. And apparently they're just as magical as his sexy fingers.
Grey nods slightly, seemingly satisfied with my response, and glances down at his blueberry muffin. His long fingers deftly peel back the paper, and I watch, fascinated.
She's fascinated by the sight of him unwrapping a muffin? Sorry, but nobody's fingers are that sexy.
“My dad’s a lawyer, my mom is a pediatrician. They live in Seattle.” Oh… he’s had an affluent upbringing. And I wonder about a successful couple who adopts three kids, and one of them turns into a beautiful man who takes on the business world and conquers it single-handed.
This just doesn't read right coming from Christian Grey. Everything he says is so formal, so exact, like an old fashioned 100 year old vampire man. And then sudden he says "dad" and "mom"? No, I just don't buy it. He would say "my father and mother". This is what we call an inconsistent voice. And as usual we have no idea what Ana is going on about. Christian's parents adopted three kids and one of them became a successful businessman, so she's wondering...what, exactly? It's almost like she's shocked that he became successful because he's adopted. We're going to send an email to her subconscious to get clarification.


This book is incredibly boring so far. It's not even "so-bad-it's-good" bad. It's just bad-bad. Their conversation over coffee is quite possibly the most boring and awkward conversation on earth. Christian basically interviews her, only she has nothing interesting to say. She tells him about her family, yet he tenses up when she asks about his. He's a serious dick in our opinion and there's no amount of money or sexiness that could make us go for a guy like that. (Plus the scene where Christian saves Ana from almost getting hit by a bike is a direct rip-off of Edward saving Bella from getting hit by a car in Twilight. Just sayin'.) We're also a little creeped out by how far E L James is going to make Ana seem innocent - if she's a virgin that's fine, whatever, but to establish that she's never even held hands with a guy and never ever wanted someone to kiss her before seems like a bit much.


June 19, 2012

The ESC Reads 'Fifty Shades of Grey": Chapter 2

WARNING: This blog post contains spoilers. But, of course, that's kind of the point.

We decided to tackle the Fifty Shades of Grey series one book at a time and give everyone chapter-by-chapter summaries and critique. We're going to read Fifty Shades of Grey... so you don't have to.

Chapter 2

Summary: Anastasia returns home to their apartment and gives Kate the interview recording. She's still annoyed that Kate didn't give her a biography of Christian Grey (because, you know, she's never heard of Google). Kate decides that Christian is "quite taken" with Ana. Their friend Jose shows up uninvited on Friday night with a bottle of champagne to celebrate that his photos were chosen for an exhibition. On Saturday, Christian Grey shows up at the hardware store where Ana works to buy rope and tape. He agrees to pose for a photo shoot for Kate's article, and the chapter ends with Ana hoping she can find a photographer somewhere to do the shoot for them, even though we just met Jose two pages ago and established that he's a photographer. What a dramatic cliffhanger!

Sexiness factor (scale of 1-10): 1

Still nothing sexy. The sexiest thing that happens is Christian alludes to taking off his clothes. But Ana thinking of herself as a "quivering mass of raging female hormones" who "must be the color of the communist manifesto" negates any potential sexiness from that interaction.

Number of times Anastasia thinks about how hot Christian is: 12
"He’s not merely good-looking – he’s the epitome of male beauty, breathtaking"

"I’ve never felt like this before. I find him attractive, very attractive."
Number of references to Christian's hot and sexy... fingers: 5
"I have to get off this subject – those fingers on that face are so beguiling.

"he murmurs, gesturing with his long-fingered, beautifully manicured hand."
Plot Holes, Fact Checking Fails, and Other Observations:

Continuity issue! In Chapter One, Kate was writing the article on Christian for the school newspaper. Now in this chapter, it's for the "magazine". She does realize they're not synonymous, doesn't she? (Maybe there is no article and this was just the world's most elaborate plot by a friend to get her awkward roommate laid.)

Christian goes to the hardware store to buy rope and tape. Doesn't the author know that they sell specific rope for bondage? You don't go to the hardware store. This is like in Cosmo where they always recommend using a silk scarf or your thong or something to tie up your guy so they don't have to acknowledge that sex toys exist. They do exist, and if anyone would know that they exist it would be Christian Grey, and while we're on the subject, doesn't a supermegaultra rich and successful executive like Christian have an assistant who can run to the hardware store for him? Although knowing how creepy and control freaky he is, he probably had Ana investigated to find out where she worked and contrived the whole thing just to see her again...anyway, we digress.

Some of the worst writing in the chapter:
No man has ever affected me the way Christian Grey has, and I cannot fathom why. Is it his looks? His civility? Wealth? Power? I don’t understand my irrational reaction. I breathe an enormous sigh of relief. What in heaven’s name was that all about? Leaning against one of the steel pillars of the building, I valiantly attempt to calm down and gather my thoughts. I shake my head. Holy crap – what was that? My heart steadies to its regular rhythm, and I can breathe normally again. I head for the car.
As I leave the city limits behind, I begin to feel foolish and embarrassed as I replay the interview in my mind. Surely, I’m overreacting to something that’s imaginary. Okay, so he’s very attractive, confident, commanding, at ease with himself – but on the flip side, he’s arrogant, and for all his impeccable manners, he’s autocratic and cold. Well, on the surface. An involuntary shiver runs down my spine. He may be arrogant, but then he has a right to be – he’s accomplished so much at such a young age. He doesn’t suffer fools gladly, but why should he? Again, I’m irritated that Kate didn’t give me a brief biography.
This part is just so dumb. She keeps repeating herself, wondering what happened and how dumb she was and how strange it all was. I can't fathom why. What in heaven's name was that all about? What was that? Surely, I'm overreacting to something that's imaginary. Okay, we get it. You don't understand what happened and you're a moron. Also, she's already starting to make excuses for his arrogant behavior for no apparent reason. Guess the exhilarating shiver she got from his super sexy fingers hasn't fully worn off yet.
Some of his answers were so cryptic – as if he had a hidden agenda.
Seriously E L James, we get it.
And Kate’s questions – ugh! The adoption and asking him if he was gay! I shudder. I can’t believe I said that. Ground, swallow me up now! Every time I think of that question in the future, I will cringe with embarrassment.
We wish the ground had complied with this request so we wouldn't have to read any more of her whiny internal monologue.
“Mostly he was courteous, formal, slightly stuffy – like he’s old before his time. He doesn’t talk like a man of twenty-something. How old is he anyway?”
Yes, it's almost like he's been living in this area for over 100 years, going to high school over and over again until he finally meets Bella Swan...wait, sorry, wrong book. (Yes, we're going to keep bringing up all of the Twilight references because we can't call bullshit enough times on the fact that 1) a Twilight fan fiction not only got published, but became a bestseller and 2) E L James claims that this book was totally rewritten and is now a completely original story.)
“I was in the area,” he says by way of explanation. “I need to stock up on a few things. It’s a pleasure to see you again, Miss Steele.” His voice is warm and husky like dark melted chocolate fudge caramel… or something. I shake my head to gather my wits. My heart is pounding a frantic tattoo, and for some reason I’m blushing furiously under his steady scrutiny. I am utterly thrown by the sight of him standing before me. My memories of him did not do him justice. He’s not merely good-looking – he’s the epitome of male beauty, breathtaking, and he’s here.
What the hell is with her metaphors? Her heart is pounding a frantic tattoo? Is this a real expression? What does it even mean? Is she comparing her heartbeat to a tattoo gun, or...? And his voice is warm and husky like dark melted chocolate fudge caramel... or something. Or something? Way to commit to that one Anastasia. Although it was nice of E L James to just fill in the "or something" that the majority of readers were probably already thinking. (But can you really describe melted fudge as "husky"? And does it have to be dark melted chocolate? Would milk chocolate sound different? So many questions.)
Katherine often teases me that I’m missing the need-a-boyfriend gene, but the truth is – I just haven’t met anyone who… well, whom I’m attracted to, even though part of me longs for those trembling knees, heart-in-my-mouth, butterflies-in-my-belly, sleepless nights. Sometimes I wonder if there’s something wrong with me. Perhaps I’ve spent too long in the company of my literary romantic heroes, and consequently my ideals and expectations are far too high.
Ah yes, who among us didn't dream as a little girl of growing up and falling in love so we could spend sleepless nights with our heart in our mouth and just a touch of restless leg syndrome. Of course, she just described the reason why crap books like this and Twilight are popular! This might also be another Bella Swan reference, since she's always talking about her love for Wuthering Heights (another book that stupid people think is romantic and a love story, when it's really not). There's also a Tess of the D’Urbervilles mention in this chapter, and we have to say we're not sure it's the best strategy to remind people of the existence of well-written and critically acclaimed works of literature in the middle of your shitty repackaged fan fiction.
“I was visiting the WSU farming division. It’s based at Vancouver. I’m currently funding some research there in crop rotation and soil science,” he says matter-of-factly. See? Not here to find you at all, my subconscious sneers at me, loud, proud, and pouty. I flush at my foolish wayward thoughts.
Ana's "subconscious" continues to communicate with her directly and give her instructions for the rest of the chapter. Is it normal for someone's subconscious to sneer and pout at them and order them around? We feel like there's probably a prescription drug with a lot of harmful side effects for that.
I feel like I’m fourteen years old – gauche, as always, and out of place.
Don't worry Ana, you talk and think and act like it too.
Our fingers brush very briefly, and the current is there again, zapping through me like I’ve touched an exposed wire. I gasp involuntarily as I feel it, all the way down to somewhere dark and unexplored, deep in my belly. Desperately, I scrabble around for my equilibrium.
Magic fingers again! Maybe Christian Grey is related to E.T., or one of the fairies from True Blood. (Don't anybody steal those ideas, we're going to save them for our 50 Shades of Grey fan fiction.)

Conclusion: We still think Christian Grey is a dick - she clearly tells him to call her "Ana" yet he still switches back and forth between "Anastasia" and "Miss Steele" and he gets pissy when she talks to another man in his presence. He speaks like he's 100 years old, not 27 (another reference to Edward Cullen from Twilight). Ana knows that Jose has a crush on her, but she just isn't interested in being more than friends even though she admits that he's hot. So clearly he's the "Jacob" character. Of course, it doesn't explain why Ana is so shocked that someone hot like Christian Grey might like her, when someone hot like Jose does. Nothing makes any sense and there's still no sex. On to Chapter Three!


June 18, 2012

The ESC Reads 50 Shades of Grey (so you don't have to)

WARNING: This blog post contains spoilers. But, of course, that's kind of the point.

We recently wrote about Fifty Shades of Grey (and the sleazy guys who use it to pick up women) but we admittedly hadn't fully read it yet so our criticisms while probably valid, weren't completely fair. So we decided to tackle the series, one book at a time and give everyone chapter-by-chapter summaries and critique. We're going to read Fifty Shades of Grey... so you don't have to.

Chapter One

Summary: College student Anastasia Steele goes to interview mega-industrialist tycoon Christian Grey for the school paper because her beautiful roommate Katherine got sick. Anastasia is clumsy and awkward and nervous and acts like an idiot. Christian Grey is rich and hot and kind of a dick. He shows her a little bit of attention which makes her bug out because she's an insecure moron. That's about all that happens in Chapter One.

Sexiness factor (scale of 1-10): 1

Nothing remotely sexy happens in this chapter. Despite the fact that the author wants us to believe that Christian Grey is so damn good looking that Anastasia literally feels electricity shooting through his fingers when they shake hands, there's nothing in there that sounds like an actual turn-on.

Number of insecure/self-deprecating thoughts Anastasia has: 16.
"I roll my eyes in exasperation and gaze at the pale, brown-haired girl with blue eyes too big for her face staring back at me, and give up."

"I’ve never been comfortable with one-on-one interviews, preferring the anonymity of a group discussion where I can sit inconspicuously at the back of the room. To be honest, I prefer my own company, reading a classic British novel, curled up in a chair in the campus library. Not sitting twitching nervously in a colossal glass and stone edifice."

Number of times Anastasia thinks about how hot Christian is: 5
"So young – and attractive, very attractive."

"He really is beautiful. No one should be this good-looking."

"He really is very, very good-looking."
Okay, we get it - he's hot.

Number of references to Christian's hands: 14

Number of references specifically to his fingers: 7
"He extends a long-fingered hand to me once I’m upright."

"He’s watching me, one hand relaxed in his lap and the other cupping his chin and trailing his long index finger across his lips."

"The way he strokes his index finger against his lower lip? I wish he’d stop doing that."

"His long index finger presses the button summoning the elevator, and we stand waiting."
...because when you think 'sexiest body parts', index fingers always make your top three, right?

Plot Holes, Fact Checking Fails, and Other Observations:

At the beginning of the chapter we're told that Anastasia absolutely has to fill in for Kate and do this interview for the school newspaper. So we have to wonder, does Kate run the entire newspaper by herself or what? It's established that Christian Grey is a very well-known and successful local entrepreneur who rarely gives interviews, and yet none of the other reporters and editors at the paper were able or willing to take this assignment when Kate got sick?

Of course, it's possible that Kate is just as clueless as Anastasia, since one of the questions on her list for the interview was "Are you gay?" Did we mention that this is all for the graduation issue of the school paper and that Christian Grey is going to be conferring the degrees at the ceremony? So naturally what all of the graduates and their families are just dying to read about is his sexual orientation. (There's also a fascinating question about whether he has any hobbies.) Insightful reporting, Kate.

Anastasia embarrasses herself about twelve different times while attempting to interview Christian, mostly because she was totally unprepared and literally knew nothing about him before meeting him. She blames this entirely on Kate for "not providing me with a brief biography", because apparently she was incapable of doing a quick Google search ahead of time or saying something like 'so, who is this guy that you want me to interview anyway?' If she hadn't spent so much time at the beginning of the chapter whining about her bad hair day and the "ordeal" of going to do the interview, she might have had time to get her shit together a little bit.

Some of the worst writing in this chapter:
The roads are clear as I set off from Vancouver, WA toward Portland and the I-5. It’s early, and I don’t have to be in Seattle until two this afternoon. Fortunately, Kate’s lent me her sporty Mercedes CLK. I’m not sure Wanda, my old VW Beetle, would make the journey in time. Oh, the Merc is a fun drive, and the miles slip away as I floor the pedal to the metal. My destination is the headquarters of Mr. Grey’s global enterprise.
Oh, the Merc is a fun drive. We had to Google "merc" to find out if that was even a real word anyone has ever said and apparently it's British slang. This is a perfect example of how the author gave the characters her voice, instead of their own unique voices. (E L James is from the U.K.) Instead of doing any research into the regional dialects of Washington state to see if the dialogue worked, James just wrote it in British slang. Seriously, if you re-read the chapter with a British accent in your head it actually sounds so much better.
She hands me a security pass that has VISITOR very firmly stamped on the front. I can't help my smirk. Surely it's obvious that I'm just visiting. I don't fit in here at all. Nothing changes, I inwardly sigh.
Nothing changes! What is she, 14? I just don't fit in here! Or anywhere! Wah! (And how does one inwardly sigh?)
Behind the leather chairs is a spacious glass-walled meeting room with an equally spacious dark wood table and at least twenty matching chairs around it. Beyond that, there is a floor-to-ceiling window with a view of the Seattle skyline that looks out through the city toward the Sound. It’s a stunning vista, and I’m momentarily paralyzed by the view. Wow.
She's acting like she's never been in a building taller than two stories in her entire life. We've been to Seattle a couple of times and gone to the top of the Space Needle and all of that, and the views are beautiful. But...momentarily paralyzed? Yeah, wow is right.
His office is way too big for just one man.
Have we mentioned that Anastasia is a moron?

The foreshadowing during the interview itself is so heavy-handed. Christian says that he "exercises control in all things" and that "immense power is acquired by assuring yourself in your secret reveries that you were born to control things”. And that's before Anastasia even gets to the questions about what he likes to do for fun:
“I have varied interests, Miss Steele.” A ghost of a smile touches his lips. “Very varied.” And for some reason, I’m confounded and heated by his steady gaze. His eyes are alight with some wicked thought.

“Well, to ‘chill out’ as you put it – I sail, I fly, I indulge in various physical pursuits.” He shifts in his chair. “I’m a very wealthy man, Miss Steele, and I have expensive and absorbing hobbies.”
Okay, E L James, we get it! We picked up your very subtle hints. We'll keep reading, we promise.

Conclusion: Nothing interesting happened yet. We already hate Anastasia and Christian, so it's kind of hard to get excited over their brief and awkward first meeting. The parallels to Bella and Edward from Twilight are clear. Bella and Anastasia are both awkward and annoying and have no personality. Edward and Christian are both arrogant and aloof and total control freaks. Anastasia is actually observant enough at this point to realize that Christian is an arrogant control freak...but he's just so attractive and he has those sexy index fingers that gave her an "exhilarating shiver", so we don't expect her to hold on to that opinion for too much longer. We are dreading having to read another 25 chapters of this, but we're hopeful that at least once the sex starts we'll have something interesting to discuss.

June 17, 2012

Meet Mr. Grey?

So by now there probably isn't anyone left who hasn't at least heard of Fifty Shades of Grey

(WARNING: This blog may contain spoilers about the book series.)

We at the Evil Slut Clique have mixed feelings about the Fifty Shades phenomenon. On the one hand, we think it's garbage - it started off as Twilight fan fiction (written by someone who called themselves "Snowqueens Icedragon") and is so poorly written - but on the other hand, we think if there's something that can get middle America talking about sex, then it can't be all bad. Of course, we think there's much better erotica out there, but if this open's the door for some women, then that's a good thing.

Of course, we find it hard to believe that anyone who actually knows anything about BDSM would think too highly of the books. So that's why it was so comical to find a man on an online dating site who referred to himself as "Mr. Grey". I felt compelled to contact him, even if only to find out why the hell he would reference Fifth Shades of Grey in his profile.

I sent him a quick message that asked whether he might be interested in chatting sometime. He answered within 5 seconds. I asked him why he chose to put "Meet Mr. Grey" as his heading and his answer was hilarious.
there is a book called fifty shades of grey

Um, yes, I've heard of it. Is there really anyone on earth left that doesn't know this book exists? Even if you haven't read it or don't know what it's about, you probably at least have heard the name before. I told him that I was aware of the books but that I was curious why he chose it for his profile and asked if he actually reads them.
it's a long story, too much to type here

Okay. It's important enough to put it in your profile - meaning that it contributes to our first impression of you - but not worth actually discussing? So decided to bait him a bit...
Okay, so maybe you'll tell me in person someday. I'm not a fan of the books. If I had to choose my favorite fictional BDSM character named "Grey" it would be James Spader's character in Secretary lol.
That got his attention.
oh so you like fully get the meaning. im a dom i date subs
i put that in my profile to meet women who are into that or curious about that

I made a joke about how I'm "into that" but not strictly, so I would guess that he is more of a dom than I could handle. I also mentioned how I usually don't bring that up until at least a second date.
i dont want to waste weeks on someone who isn't compatible with me. but i guess thats what this site is for, to find out who is not a match. best of luck

I corrected him that I didn't say I waited weeks, but that sometimes when you discuss sex before you even meet a person they get the impression that they should expect sex on the first date or that you're only looking for sex. (Which is fine if you are, but if you're not, it sends a different message.)
im unconventional

Doesn't sound that unconventional to me. Not sure why you're so quick to write someone off as "not a match" without actually finding out. I said "I would guess" but we have no idea what's really too much/not enough based on just that. But that's cool I guess. Goodnight.
Then he asked me to text him tomorrow and gave me his phone number.
I'm getting the impression I shouldn't bother.

ok your loss
My loss? You told me I wasn't a match and wished me good luck. Point taken, no hard feelings. Why would I text you?

You seemed kind of aggressive. Are you a sub or not?
Aggressive? I guess that's the lack of tone of voice. I'm a sub in bed, not in life. You're right, this isn't a match.

Conclusion: He's a dick.

But there's something about the whole situation that just really struck me as really... wrong.

I haven't read the entire Fifty Shades trilogy, so I'm not exactly sure how the author portrays the BDSM relationship between Edward Cullen Christian Grey and Bella Swan Anastasia Steele. I've heard mixed reviews: some claim that it's a great relationship and others have complained that it gives a false impression of BDSM.

One thing I know, is that most people in the BDSM community wouldn't necessary consider it to be a how-to guide. There are dangers involved, so communication and negotiation are so important. As is trust. I've gotten the impression that the book glosses over some of that and turns it into a fairytale love story. So I find it hard to believe that someone who is looking for a BDSM relationship would use that as a reference.

Instead, I think this guy is looking for naive, inexperienced girls who want to be Anastasia Steele and have some guy order them around. I get the impression that he's specifically looking for girls who aren't familiar with BDSM (but rather are just intrigued by the idea after having read the books) so that he can "teach" them what BDSM is "all about". And that just seems kind of shady.

Now, there's nothing wrong with an experienced dom "showing the ropes" (pun intended) to a novice sub but there's just something so manipulative about the way this guy is trying to lure in naive women with his "Mr. Grey" reference. BDSM has gotten a lot of criticism - some say it's "negative", some say that it's anti-feminist, some have even likened it to an abusive relationship. I have to disagree, but based on what I know in the books, I can understand why some might get that impression. And I have trouble understanding why women are so intrigued by Christian Grey.

Much like Edward in Twilight, Christian starts off as a stalker. He is possibly a sex-addict and definitely a control freak. He is emotionally troubled and practically abusive to Anastasia, hiding it under the guise of "domination". He's so overly protective of her that he has someone follow her around at all times. I'm told that the way BDSM is portrayed in the book is inaccurate and inconsistent and that some of the sex scenes border on rape (and not in a consensual rape fantasy type of way). Apparently Christian became interested in BDSM as a result of some childhood trauma and some psychological problems. Many from the BDSM community who have read the books say that as a dom, he's... pretty fucked up. But Christian is good looking and rich and Anastasia is an inexperienced virgin, so somehow this is a romantic love story?

It seems too much like Beauty and the Beast, where an abusive assholes turns into a charming prince because of love. Yeah, no. Anyone who isn't familiar with BDSM and decides to give it a try based on these books is potentially setting themselves up for a really bad situation, especially if they end up with a dick like the aforementioned "Mr. Grey" who wants to take advantage of their naivety.

Disclaimer: We admit that we haven't fully read the books, so we can't say for sure how bad the portrayal of BDSM really is. But we've read enough criticism to at least be wary of the message the books send and those men who try to use the books' popularity to take advantage of inexperienced women. We do intend to read the books (painfully), so we can give a more thorough critique and so we can truly see just how ridiculous and poorly written they really are. Wish us luck!

Update: We started reading the book and will be offering chapter-by-chapter critiques: The ESC Reads Fifty Shades of Grey... so you don't have to

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