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September 4, 2012

The ESC Reads 50 Shades of Grey: Chapter 9

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 9

Summary: We're still a little bit traumatized from Chapter 8, so bear with us. It's the morning after - Ana wakes up at Christian's apartment and EL James establishes yet again that he's really super gorgeous and his apartment is really big because he's really rich. Ana decides to make breakfast in Christian's big kitchen. Even though she makes a huge breakfast, she doesn't really want to eat any and they again have the conversation about not wasting food. He wants her to stay another night, but she insists on being home by the evening. He decides that they should continue her "basic training" and move onto "oral skills". She talks to Kate on the phone, who grills her about the sex (even though she must know that she's still there with him and therefore it's kind of shitty to expect her to talk about it in front of him, but that's Kate for you). Then Ana and Christian talk about the non-disclosure agreement - she wants to be able to talk to Kate about some questions she has about sex, but he says she can just ask him instead. They take a bath and she gives her first ever blowjob, which is also apparently the best blowjob mankind has ever seen. Then, even though she still hasn't agreed to the "arrangement" or signed the paperwork, he binds her wrists with one of his grey silk ties, bites her toes (huh?), goes down on her and has sex with her one more time. Then there are voices outside the bedroom door and Christian says "Shit, it's my mother!"

Sexiness factor (scale of 1-10): -2.17 (Trust us, we did the math.)

Appearances by Ana's subconscious, inner goddess and other invisible friends: 7
I feel a little sore, if I’m honest, and my muscles – jeez, it’s like I’ve never done any exercise in my life. You don’t do any exercise in your life, my subconscious has woken. She’s staring at me with pursed lips, tapping her foot. So you’ve just slept with him, given him your virginity, a man who doesn’t love you. In fact, he has very odd ideas about you, wants to make you some sort of kinky sex slave. ARE YOU CRAZY? She’s shouting at me.
Ah, the return of Ana's bitchy subconscious. We're not at all surprised that Ana and her subconscious would use a retro phrase like "give him your virginity", but once again it's frustrating that EL James can't describe Ana's mixed emotions about choosing to have sex for the first time with a complicated guy like Christian without falling back on the lazy and just plain weird option of having her subconscious yell at her about it.
My subconscious scowls at me… fucking – not lovemaking – she screams at me like a harpy. I ignore her, but deep down I know she has a point.
My inner goddess is doing the merengue with some salsa moves.
So her subconscious is always yelling at her and her inner goddess is always dancing. Wonder if they ever talk to each other. Or maybe later in the book they'll dance together. It'd be nice to see a little duet. Also, why is she doing merengue and salsa? She couldn't decide on one Latin dance? What, no bachata? It's not like ELJ knows the difference anyway.

From now on we're always going to picture Ana's inner goddess like this:

Plot Holes, Fact Checking Fails, and Just Plain Old Bad Writing:
It’s a beautiful May morning, Seattle at my feet. Wow, what a view. Beside me, Christian Grey is fast asleep. Wow, what a view.
Shut UP.
I am daunted by his kitchen. It’s so sleek and modern and none of the cupboards have handles. It takes me a few seconds to deduce that I have to push the cupboard doors to open them.
Once again EL James knows how to give us all the sexy details that we're looking for. We can't wait to find out what kind of countertops he has, or get an erotic description of his flatware pattern!
I find two welcome hair ties at the same time in my bag and quickly tie my hair in pigtails. Yes! The more girly I look perhaps the safer I’ll be from Bluebeard.


In a moment, he’s beside me. He gently pulls my pigtail. “I love these,” he whispers. “They won’t protect you.” Hmm Bluebeard…
We bet there are psychology students writing entire term papers about this passage as we speak.
“How would you like your eggs?” I ask tartly. He smiles. “Thoroughly whisked and beaten,” he smirks.
Shut up, Christian.
“Would you like some tea?”
“Yes, please. If you have some.” I find a couple of plates and place them in the warming tray of the range. Christian reaches into a cupboard and pulls out some Twinings English Breakfast tea. I purse my lips.
“Bit of a foregone conclusion, wasn’t I?”
They sell Twinings in every grocery store in America and English Breakfast is one of the most generic popular teas, but okay, we get it...he knew she would stay over, so he purposely bought some of her favorite tea, because he's super dreamy or whatever.
“I’ve never had vanilla sex before. There’s a lot to be said for it. But then, maybe it’s because it’s with you.” He runs his thumb across my lower lip. I inhale sharply. Vanilla sex?

“Come, let’s have a bath.” He leans down and kisses me. My heart leaps and desire pools way down low… way down there.
If Ana's still using mature adult phrases like "down there" to describe her feelings it's not too surprising that she doesn't know what vanilla sex means.
Oh! Turning to face him, I’m shocked to find he has his erection firmly in his grasp. My mouth drops open.

“I want you to become well acquainted, on first name terms if you will, with my favorite and most cherished part of my body. I’m very attached to this.”
It’s so big and growing. His erection is above the water line, the water lapping at his hips.
There's something so hilarious about E L James' attempts at painting a sexy scene. It's so big and growing! Maybe it's just us but there's something really corny about the way he talks about his penis. They are going to be on first name terms? But he never even tells us its name. What is its name!? Little Christian? Grey Love Machine? Yes, we know those are horrible but we resent ELJ for making us spend even five seconds thinking about this... that being said, if you have better and funnier name suggestions, leave them in the comments. And he's "very attached" to it... we sure hope so! Unless it's a detachable penis. (And if you now have that song playing in your head...you're welcome.)

Also, let's talk logistics here for a second - how is it that the water is only at his hips and his penis is above the water line? There are two of them in the bathtub... how low did he fill it that they can sit together in the tub and his hips and penis aren't submerged? We tried to reenact this with a Ken and Barbie in a butter dish for scientific purposes, but the results were inconclusive because Ken has no penis.
He releases my hand, leaving me to continue alone, and closes his eyes as I move up and down his length. He flexes his hips slightly into my hand and reflexively I grasp him tighter. A low groan escapes from deep within his throat. Fuck my mouth… hmm. I remember him pushing his thumb in my mouth and asking me to suck, hard. His mouth drops open slightly as his breathing increases. I lean forward, while he has his eyes closed, and place my lips around him and tentatively suck, running my tongue over the tip.
This has no chance of being remotely sexy to us because all we can think about in reading this section is how horrible his penis must taste right now. Why? Because of all of this we read earlier in the chapter:
He pours some expensive-looking bath oil into the water. It foams as the bath fills and smells of sweet sultry Jasmine.
I smile at him and reach for the body wash, squirting some soap onto my hand. I do as he’s done, lathering the soap in my hands until they are foamy.
The bath is filled with bath oil and body wash, which she just used to suds up his penis before putting it in her mouth. Our mouths are burning just thinking about it. (Let's be charitable and ignore the fact that Ana had to follow Christian's example to figure out how soap works.)
Hmm… he’s soft and hard at once, like steel encased in velvet, and surprisingly tasty – salty and smooth.
No. We don't believe that. There's no way it still tastes "salty". It tastes like jasmine bath oil and body wash and we all know it. Sure hope Christian is willing to let Ana have another thrilling experience using his toothbrush after all of this.
My tongue swirls around the end. He’s my very own Christian Grey flavor popsicle.
The next time someone tries to tell you how sexy these books are, quote the popsicle line back to them. And we realize we're harping on this point, but we really doubt that popsicles would be the first thing to come to our minds if we were in the middle of giving the oiliest, soapiest blowjob of all time. We also doubt that 'enjoying a man popsicle' is going to shoot to the top of the list of popular euphemisms for oral sex anytime soon.
He cries out and stills, and I can feel warm, salty liquid oozing down my throat. I swallow quickly. Ugh… I’m not sure about this.
We're not exactly turned off by the taste and/or texture of semen, but EL James really found a totally unappealing way of describing it. If you're trying to write something erotic the word "oozing" should probably be off the menu. We're also honestly a little surprised that Ana would swallow, considering that she's never even seen a penis before this weekend.
“Don’t you have a gag reflex?” he asks, astonished. “Christ, Ana… that was…. good, really good, unexpected though.” He frowns. “You know, you never cease to amaze me.”
I smile and consciously bite my lip. He eyes me speculatively.
“Have you done that before?”
“No.” And I can’t help the small tinge of pride in my denial. “Good,” he says complacently and, I think, relieved. “Yet another first, Miss Steele.”
Oh, there's just so much to question here. How is it exactly that she doesn't have a gag reflex? And how is it possible that she has never even seen a penis before last night, yet she can give an expert blow job? Really? Are we supposed to believe this? Without any instruction or guidance from Christian at all... she's that good? I guess we're just supposed to believe that this is her inner goddess at work, or that their amazing epic love is already so strong that she just subconsciously knows how to please him.

And why is he so happy about the fact that she hasn't done that before? Just the night before he was cursing and yelling at her for not telling him that she was a virgin, but now he's psyched that she's never sucked a dick before? Make up your mind Christian Grey! And is it just us or do we detect a small tinge of slut-shaming in Ana's "small tinge of pride in my denial" line?

Also, while we're sort of on the topic of eating (well, swallowing at least...okay, we're not on the topic at all but we wanted to mention it while we're thinking of it)...there's already been so many references to her not eating and to Christian trying to make her finish her food in past chapters that we're starting to wonder if she actually has an eating disorder. Her name is even "Ana"! (Spoiler alert: this name coincidence only gets weirder later in the book.)
Holy shit. He grabs my left foot, bends my knee, and brings my foot up to his mouth. Watching and assessing my every reaction, he tenderly kisses each of my toes then bites each one of them softly on the pads. When he reaches my little toe, he bites harder, and I convulse, whimpering. He glides his tongue up my instep – and I can no longer watch him. It’s too erotic. I’m going to combust. I squeeze my eyes shut and try to absorb and manage all the sensations he’s creating. He kisses my ankle and trails kisses up my calf to my knee, stopping just above.
It's official. EL James has a thing for feet. Again, no judgment, we're just observing.
I am panting and vaguely hear the rip of foil. Very slowly he eases into me and starts to move. Oh… my. The feeling is sore and sweet, and bold and gentle all at once.
Okay wait, earlier in the chapter he specifically said that they weren't going to have sex because she was sore, so they were just going to focus on "oral skills". Now he's going to have sex with her after all? And without even really warning her (unless you count vaguely hearing the rip of foil a "warning") or asking her if it's okay or if she's too sore? How lovely.

BDSM Analysis:
“The NDA, does it cover everything?” I ask tentatively.

“Why?” he turns and gazes at me while putting the Twinings away. I flush.

“Well, I have a few questions, you know, about sex.” I stare down at my fingers. “And I’d like to ask Kate.”

“You can ask me.”

“Christian, with all due respect…” My voice fades. I can’t ask you. I’ll get your biased, kinky-as-hell, distorted world view regarding sex. I want an impartial opinion. “It’s just about mechanics. I won’t mention the Red Room of Pain.”
Even though this conversation wasn't explicitly about BDSM, we found it problematic as far as it pertains to their pending "agreement" and relationship. She can't possibly give informed consent if he won't even let her get information about sex first. Truthfully, she should be informing herself about BDSM as well, but he won't even let her talk to her roommate/best friend about general sex questions? This is not a good start to a healthy relationship. (No comment on Ana's continued use of the ridiculous phrase "Red Room of Pain".)
Say yes,” he whispers fervently.

I frown, not understanding.

“To what?”

“Yes to our arrangement. To being mine. Please, Ana,” he whispers, emphasizing the last word and my name, pleading. He kisses me again, sweetly, passionately, before he stands back and stares at me, blinking slightly. He takes my hand and leads me back to his bedroom, leaving me reeling, so I follow him meekly. Stunned. He really wants this.

Again, he's pressuring her to sign the agreement - which would make her his submissive - without even giving her a chance to figure out how she feels about the situation. She's only just had sex for the first time ever and she still has no experience or knowledge about the BDSM aspects of sex...and this is supposed to be romantic? It's predatory and creepy and wrong.
“Trust me?” he asks suddenly. I nod, wide-eyed with the sudden realization that I do trust him. What’s he going to do to me now? An electric thrill hums through me.

“Good girl,” he breathes, his thumb brushing my bottom lip. He steps away into his closet and comes back with a silver-grey silk woven tie.

“Knit your hands together in front of you,” he orders as he peels the towel off me and throws it on the floor.

I do as he asks, and he binds my wrists together with his tie, knotting it firmly. His eyes are bright with wild excitement. He tugs at the binding. It’s secure.
Okay, this book makes no fucking sense. He went on and on about how he wouldn't touch her until he had the signed paperwork, but then they had sex all night. Now he's actually going to tie her up, even though she still hasn't signed shit and they haven't even discussed it first. She has no safe word - she doesn't even know what a safe word is - and knowing her, she probably wouldn't even speak up if she wasn't okay with what was going on. (Also, he's an experienced dom with a whole room full of toys and tools... and he's going to use a presumably expensive silk tie to bind her wrists? What is this, Cosmo?) We understand where EL James is going with this - Christian is breaking all of his rules because Ana is different and special and they're already totally falling in the truest love that ever loved. But what comes across to us is just that Christian is a horrible dom.

Collapsing on top of me, I feel his full weight forcing me into the mattress. I pull my tied hands over his neck and hold him the best I can. I know in that moment that I would do anything for this man. I am his. The wonder that he’s introduced me to, it’s beyond anything I could have imagined. And he wants to take it further, so much further, to a place I can’t, in my innocence, even imagine. Oh… what to do?

He leans up on his elbows and stares down at me, gray eyes intense.
“See how good we are together,” he murmurs. “If you give yourself to me, it will be so much better. Trust me, Anastasia, I can take you places you don’t even know exist.”
Again, he's so manipulative and creepy. He swears that it will be "so much better" if she gives herself to him and signs the agreement. Better for who? For him. Neither of them can really know if it will be "better" for her as well, because they have no idea what she actually likes in bed yet. Just because they're "good together" for vanilla sex and Ana's all excited that she finally had the first orgasms of her life doesn't mean that she will enjoy being dominated by him.


Caroline said...

Oh gross bath oil. I just can't get over that. Ew, ew, ew.

LS said...

In some sense, I can understand enjoying a story about a bad dominant. In real life we have rules and protocols because there are human lives and emotions in play. If a dominant oversteps their bounds in the real world, it can cause real harm. In fiction, the only thing at risk are fictional characters. And since it's fictional, we might even enjoy seeing things go further than they ought to in reality.

But the writing is god-awful. And Christian isn't a bad dominant because he's being too dominant, he's creepy, stupid, and more than a little whiny. ("Can't you see how good we are! Please sign it!" a dominant begging for someone to submit is never sexy.)

Anonymous said...

I can't get that song out of my head now! This blog is so much better than reading the book. Truly.

Anonymous said...

I am still wondering how she didn't drowned while giving the blow job... Obviously EL James was not given the chance to play all these things out.
Least erotic erotica ever. EVER. Your rating was not negative enough. In fact, it all makes me nauseous, uncomfortable, and angry.
As funny as your synopsis is, I still find this book extremely upsetting. Even more so that my middle/high school band director just read the series and posted her love for them on facebook.

Anonymous said...

I stumbled across these recaps, and I'm enjoying the heck out of them. I especially like that you are tearing the book into little bits without adopting an overwhelmingly obnoxious tone yourself--you know what I mean? There are so many 'joking' critics/reviewers that think the key to humor is screaming and cursing and foaming at the mouth, over dumb little things like a misused ellipsis. Or hoping the author will die in a fire, stuff like that. It gets old. Your review is much more believable than theirs, because you write like you have your head on straight! I really like that.

Finally, I have a question that I hope either you, or one of your readers can answer for me. Imagine you could pick a copy of Shades out of a reader's hand and replace it with something similar, but much better. What would that book, or books, be? I have a friend who really liked Shades, and wanted me to read it with her. I weaseled my way out of it, but I would like to read erotica along with her, just something less feh. Unfortunately, what I know about erotica you could stick inside a matchbox without taking out the matches first. Could someone please point me in the way of something Shades-like, but better? If the characters fight crime or steal cars, that's a big bonus. Thanks in advance for your time and trouble!

Anonymous said...

This whole thing (Shades) is creeptastic.

But I did swallow the first time I gave a blowjob (and every time since) (I think that might have been my first time ever seeing a penis, too...). It makes more sense to me than spitting it out. (Where am I going to spit it out? Why taste it again while spitting it out when I can just swallow?)