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November 29, 2012

The ESC Reads 50 Shades of Grey: Chapter 10

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 10

Summary: Ana meets Christian's mom, who is thrilled to meet her because Christian has never introduced her to a girl before and so she always thought he was gay. Christian takes Ana home and tells her to research the contract that he gave her and BDSM in general so she'll know what she's getting into. He gets annoyed when she says that she wants to be able to discuss sex with Kate since she has no frame of reference and needs a friend to talk to, as if this is a totally unreasonable request. Ana and Kate compare notes about having sex with the Grey men. José calls Ana a million times to apologize for making a pass at her, and says "Dios mio" a lot in case we forgot that he's the Latino character in our story. We learn that Christian was "seduced" by a friend of his mother's when he was 15 and that she's the one who showed him the ropes (and whips, floggers, nipple clamps, etc.) of BDSM. That "showed him the ropes" joke was terrible and we apologize. This book sucks and we're really hurting so sometimes we just lash out like that. Oh, and we also learned that Ana's subconscious is a shapeshifter.

Sexiness factor (scale of 1-10): 0

Plot Holes, Fact Checking Fails, and Other Observations:
He gazes at me. He’s amused, his eyes dancing with mirth. He kisses my forehead quickly and beams at me. “Another first,” he acknowledges, but I have no idea what he’s talking about.
That's okay because we never have any idea what either of you are ever talking about.
Christian glares at me. “So the photographer called?”
Crap. “Yes.”
“What did he want?”
“Just to apologize, you know – for Friday.”
Christian narrows his eyes. “I see,” he says simply.
Dude, it's none of your business who was on the phone or why.
“This is the contract. Read it, and we’ll discuss it next weekend. May I suggest you do some research, so you know what’s involved.” He pauses. “That’s if you agree, and I really hope you do.” He adds, his tone softer, anxious.
“You’ll be amazed what you can find on the Internet,” he murmurs.
Internet! I don’t have access to a computer, only Kate’s laptop, and I couldn’t use Claytons’, not for this sort of ‘research’ surely?
She's a college student but she has no access to a computer? And just the way she is so incredulous is kind of ridiculous - Research? Internet!? What's that?
“I’ll just make a call,” I murmur. I just want to hear Kate’s voice.
He frowns. “The photographer?” His jaw clenches, and his eyes burn. I blink at him. “I don’t like to share, Miss Steele. Remember that.” His quiet, chilling tone is a warning, and with one long, cold look at me, he heads back to the bedroom.
She's not even calling José! Sure, maybe she could have tried communicating that fact to Christian rather than just standing there blinking at him, but again, it's none of his business and there wouldn't be anything wrong with it even if she was calling him, because he's just a friend and she hasn't even agreed to anything with Christian yet. Dial it down a fucking notch.

Ana's subconscious, inner goddess and other invisible friends:
I despair at my clothes. Maybe I should take Christian up on his offer of clothes. My subconscious purses her lips and mouths the word ‘ho’. I ignore her.
Did Ana just slut-shame herself? That's almost impressive.
I stare at him, unable to articulate anything – even my subconscious is silent.
So for once her subconscious is actually acting like... a subconscious?
“Oh… by the way, I’m wearing your underwear.” I give him a small smile and pull up the waistband of the boxer briefs I’m wearing so he can see. Christian’s mouth drops open, shocked. What a great reaction. My mood shifts immediately, and I sashay into the house, part of me wanting to jump and punch the air. YES! My inner goddess is thrilled.
Ana's inner goddess really needs to get out more if this is all it takes to thrill her. Maybe she and the subconscious can have a girl's night or something.
“Yeah, took almost a year to have my first orgasm through penetrative sex and here you are… first time?” I nod shyly. My inner goddess sits in the lotus position looking serene except for the sly, self-congratulatory smile on her face.
Setting aside the whole inner goddess thing (most because we're running out of ways to point out how stupid it is), we have to give E L James one point here for at least somewhat acknowledging how ridiculous Ana's magical multi-orgasmic first time was.
Too obvious, Steele! My subconscious glares at me, wagging her long skinny finger, then morphs into the scales of justice to remind me he could sue if I disclose too much.
This sounds like a dream you would have after taking too much cold medicine before bed.

BDSM Analysis:

We get some important info about Christian's past in this chapter, so we're going to include the whole section:
“Why have you never had vanilla sex before? Have you always done… err, what you’ve done?” I ask, intrigued.

He nods slowly. “Sort of.” His voice is wary. He frowns for a moment and seems to be engaged in some kind of internal struggle. Then he glances up, a decision made. “One of my mother’s friends seduced me when I was fifteen.”

“Oh.” Holy shit that’s young! 
“She had very particular tastes. I was her submissive for six years.” He shrugs. 
“Oh.” My brain has frozen, stunned into inactivity by this admission. 
“So I do know what it involves, Anastasia.” His eyes glow with insight. I stare at him, unable to articulate anything – even my subconscious is silent. 
“I didn’t really have a run-of-the-mill introduction to sex.” 
Curiosity kicks in big time. “So you never dated anyone at college?” 
“No.” He shakes his head to emphasize the point. The waitress takes our plates, interrupting us for a moment. 
“Why?” I ask when she’s gone. 
He smiles sardonically. “Do you really want to know?” 
“I didn’t want to. She was all I wanted, needed. And besides, she’d have beaten the shit out of me.” He smiles fondly at the memory. 
Oh, this is way too much information – but I want more. “So if she was a friend of your mother’s, how old was she?”

He smirks. “Old enough to know better.” 
“Do you still see her?” 
“Do you still… err…?” I flush. 
“No.” He shakes his head and smiles indulgently at me. “She’s a very good friend.” 
“Oh. Does your mother know?” 
He gives me a don’t-be-stupid stare. “Of course not.” The waitress returns with venison, but my appetite has vanished. What a revelation. Christian the submissive… Holy shit.
And here's some of Ana's reaction to this news when she's thinking it over later:

He’s such a complicated person. And now I have an insight as to why. A young man deprived of his adolescence, sexually abused by some evil Mrs. Robinson figure… no wonder he’s old before his time. My heart fills with sadness at the thought of what he must have been through. I’m too naïve to know exactly what, but the research should shed some light.
One of the most common criticisms of 50 Shades is that it doesn't portray a typical or "normal" or healthy BDSM experience, and so it's potentially sending a lot of people the wrong message about what these kinds of relationships are usually like. That's fair, but at the same time we have to defend E L James somewhat by acknowledging that she never claimed she was writing a how to book or the definitive portrayal of a D/s relationship. There are red flags flying all over the place in this chapter.

Obviously that doesn't mean that anyone should stop criticizing the book or pointing out all of the ways that ELJ gets it wrong. (We're certainly not going to.) We're just saying that we think she was at least aware of the fact that Christian and Ana's relationship was pretty dysfunctional right from the start. After this chapter it should be pretty clear to most readers that this setup is less than ideal - a man who was "initiated" into D/s relationships at age 15 by a woman old enough to be his mother, and a naive and inexperienced young woman getting in way over her head with a man that she believes was sexually abused by an "evil Mrs. Robinson".

That being said, there are still plenty of inaccurate and problematic messages that James does send (intentionally or not) in the coming chapters, so stay tuned.

Some of the worst writing in the chapter:
He grins, leaps up off the bed, and pulls on his jeans, no underwear!
OMG no underwear! Qué escándalo!
“I have no clean clothes in here.” I am filled with sudden panic, and considering what I’ve just experienced, I’m finding the panic overwhelming. His mother! Holy crap. I have no clean clothes, and she’s practically walked in on us in flagrante delicto. “Perhaps I should stay here.”
Do people in the real world actually use the phrase "in flagrante delicto"? Seriously, leave a comment if you've said or heard or even thought of this phrase recently. I think the last time I heard it, I was watching Clue. Speaking of which, here is a representation of how we feel about 50 Shades of Grey:

He’s wearing a black leather jacket. He certainly doesn’t look like the multi-multi-millionaire, billionaire, whatever-aire, in these clothes. He looks like a boy from the wrong side of the tracks, maybe a badly behaved rock star or a catwalk model. I sigh inwardly, wishing I had a tenth of his poise.
Shut up, Ana.
Beside the elevator, I can see the black 4x4 Audi, but it’s the sleek, black sporty number that blips open and lights up when he points the key fob at it. It’s one of those cars that should have a very leggy blonde, wearing nothing but a sash, sprawled across the hood.
Oh, one of those cars. Got it.
He smiles his dazzling head-cocked-to-one-side smile, and my stomach pole vaults over my spleen.
So her inner goddess does yoga and now her stomach is pole vaulting? Can't wait to hear about how her pancreas is really into rhythmic gymnastics.
“What’s vanilla sex?” I ask, if anything to distract myself from the intense, burning, sexy look he’s giving me. He laughs.

“Just straightforward sex, Anastasia. No toys, no added extras.” He shrugs. “You know… well actually you don’t, but that’s what it means.” 
“Oh.” I thought it was chocolate fudge brownie sex that we had, with a cherry on the top. But hey, what do I know?
Nothing, Ana. You know nothing. You especially don't know how to describe things in a way that doesn't make you sound like a complete moron.
“My first time was horrid,” she continues, making a sad comedy face.
A sad comedy face? What, like one of those clowns with the one tear coming down?
My mind drifts to last night, and this morning… and the incredible, sensual sexuality I’ve experienced.
Sensual sexuality? This is like when Cosmo writes articles about how to have the sexiest sex ever.
Kate blushes. Oh my… Katherine Agnes Kavanagh goes all Anastasia Rose Steele on me.
And on that note, the Evil Slut Clique is about to go all "we need a fucking drink" on this stupid book.

Conclusion: There was a lot going on in this chapter, but the whole setup with Christian's mother at the beginning may be the thing that bugged us the most. She's thrilled and relieved to meet Ana even though Ana isn't particularly charming and doesn't say anything remotely interesting during their meeting, purely because she realizes that Christian and Ana are fucking and that probably means that her son isn't gay like she always thought. This whole not-at-all-homophobic-and-ridiculous situation is played for laughs because E L James is a terrible writer and this book blows. Get ready for the next chapter, when we'll finally get a look at this contract that we've been hearing so much about.



Anonymous said...

"Can't wait to hear about how her pancreas is really into rhythmic gymnastics" really made me make the most ridiculous snork-laugh.

Anonymous said...

You guys are killing me with these chapter reviews. I'm laughing so much that I feel like a lunatic when reading.

Please keep them coming.

Rosemary said...

So are you going to read the rest of the book? Thanks!