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September 3, 2013

The ESC Reads 50 Shades of Grey: Chapter 11

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 11

Note: They're baaaaaaack! Yes, it is the long awaited return to our 50 Shades recaps. We're sorry it's taken us so long to get back to these... but we JUST DIDN'T WANT TO! We're convinced that reading this book was slowly making us dumber, so we just needed to take a break. But we've gotten a bunch of requests for us to continue, and now that the casting choices for the 50 Shades of Grey movie have been announced we felt like it was the right time to start torturing ourselves for your entertainment again.  So from now on when you read these recaps, you can picture Charlie Hunnam as Christian Grey and Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele:

Summary: In this chapter we finally get a look at this contract we've heard so much about. It's long and boring and full of vaguely sexual-but-not-sexy parts, much like this book itself. Christian buys Ana a laptop so she can "research" BDSM (something E L James maybe should have done before writing this book). They email each other a lot and nothing else really happens.

Sexiness factor (scale of 1-10): 0... unless you find legal paperwork exciting.

BDSM Analysis: Oh the infamous contract! We've been hearing about it for so long... and now we finally get to see it! It's...... totally unimpressive, and definitely something that would never hold up in court, which makes the excessive legal jargon seem even sillier. (In fairness, neither of us has ever signed a BDSM contract, so if you have and this looks legit to you feel free to school us in the comments.) Here are some of our "favorite" parts... 
The following are the terms of a binding contract between the Dominant and the Submissive.
Ah, only one line in and already a problem! We're not lawyers or anything, but even we know that this is not a binding contract. A binding contract is a written agreement that can be enforced by the power of the law. This "contract" could never be legally enforced, so therefore it's not legally binding. Of course, knowing Christian he probably means that he's going to bind her with the sheer force of his hotness or something.
The fundamental purpose of this contract is to allow the Submissive to explore her sensuality and her limits safely, with due respect and regard for her needs, her limits and her wellbeing.
Really Christian? Is the fundamental purpose of this contract really to allow Ana to explore her sensuality? You sure about that? It seems to us that the actual fundamental purpose of the contract is to allow Christian to explore his sensuality with Ana. That's not to say that Ana's needs are completely disregarded, but let's not pretend that this little arrangement is for her benefit, when obviously he's the one pushing for this kind of relationship. What better way to convince her to go along with it than to pretend that it's for her, right?
Any breach shall render it void with immediate effect and each party agrees to be fully responsible to the other for the consequence of any breach.
Fully responsible? In what way? Since the contract isn't legally binding, there's no way to be fully responsible for any breach of said contract, and no explanation for what 'being responsible' would actually entail.
The Submissive will make herself available to the Dominant from Friday evenings through to Sunday afternoons each week during the Term at times to be specified by the Dominant (“the Allotted Times”). Further allocated time can be mutually agreed on an ad hoc basis.
 We think they should've called this part the "Beck-and-Call Clause". And is there any more romantic phrase to describe spending time together than "ad hoc basis"?
The Submissive accepts the Dominant as her master, with the understanding that she is now the property of the Dominant, to be dealt with as the Dominant pleases during the Term generally but specifically during the Allotted Times and any additional agreed allotted times. 
Property? Ick. We understand that there are real D/s relationships where the participants might use language like this with a full understanding and agreement of what it means for them, but it doesn't come off the same way in this context since E L James went out of her way to make Ana so inexperienced and so clearly in over her head with all of this.
The Submissive shall not touch or pleasure herself sexually without permission from the Dominant.
No problem here since we already know that Ana doesn't do any of that anyway, since ELJ was so determined to tell a story in which Christian "owns" every last drop of Ana's sexuality.
The Submissive shall submit to any sexual activity demanded by the Dominant and shall do so without hesitation or argument.

The Submissive shall accept whippings, floggings, spankings, caning, paddling or any other discipline the Dominant should decide to administer, without hesitation, enquiry or complaint. 
Yeah good luck with that "without hesitation" part... this is Anastasia Steele. (And "enquiry"? Yet another example of E L James failing to update the language from British to American English. Sloppy editing.)
In case of illness or injury the Dominant shall care for the Submissive, seeing to her health and safety, encouraging and when necessary ordering medical attention when it is judged necessary by the Dominant.
So if she gets injured or sick while she's with him, he gets to decide whether she needs medical treatment or not? Is Christian a doctor in addition to being a super successful millionaire businessman who plays the piano brilliantly and is the most gorgeous man on the planet and a sex god blah blah blah whatever...actually, I wouldn't put it past E L James to say that he was.
Sleep: The Submissive will ensure she achieves a minimum of eight hours sleep a night when she is not with the Dominant.

Food: The Submissive will eat regularly to maintain her health and wellbeing from a prescribed list of foods (Appendix 4). The Submissive will not snack between meals, with the exception of fruit.
One thing we've noticed (that continues throughout the entire book) is the very problematic combination of Christian's controlling food issues and Ana's borderline disordered eating. Her eating habits are horrible and his attempts to police her eating habits are almost as bad - even though he has a point about the way that Ana eats (or doesn't eat), the crazy control-freak way he handles it is creepy.
Clothes: During the Term the Submissive will wear clothing only approved by the Dominant. The Dominant will provide a clothing budget for the Submissive, which the Submissive shall utilize. The Dominant shall accompany the Submissive to purchase clothing on an ad hoc basis. If the Dominant so requires, the Submissive shall during the Term wear adornments the Dominant shall require, in the presence of the Dominant and at any other time the Dominant deems fit.
Okay we're not going to lie, he almost had us at "clothing budget", but can you imagine anything more annoying than shopping for "approved" clothing with Christian Grey?

Exercise: The Dominant shall provide the Submissive with a personal trainer four times a week in hour-long sessions at times to be mutually agreed between the personal trainer and the Submissive. The personal trainer will report to the Dominant on the Submissive’s progress.
Personal Hygiene/Beauty: The Submissive will keep herself clean and shaved and/or waxed at all times. The Submissive will visit a beauty salon of the Dominant’s choosing at times to be decided by the Dominant, and undergo whatever treatments the Dominant sees fit. All costs will be met by the Dominant.
The trainer part is actually not a terrible idea - Ana's going to need to get into better shape if she's going to keep up with Christian Grey in bed, but it's still kind of hard to reconcile the type of D/S relationship that Christian wants with the concept of body autonomy. Bondage, discipline, etc... sure, I get it... but when it gets to the point that your Dominant is choosing not just the style of your pubic hair, but who your bikini waxer is, it's too much for me. (No disrespect to anyone in this kind of relationship, but that's where it would definitely cross the line for me.) On the plus side at least he's letting her choose when she wants to work out with the trainer - there would be no clothing budget big enough to get me out of bed for early morning workouts.
Personal Safety: The Submissive will not drink to excess, smoke, take recreational drugs or put herself in any unnecessary danger.
Okay, it's a good rule of thumb to do any of the above... but if he's so against drinking to excess, why does he keep filling her full of wine all the time? And who gets to decide what constitutes "unnecessary" danger? Knowing how controlling Christian is, letting Ana leave the house might qualify as unnecessary danger in his mind.
Personal Qualities: The Submissive will not enter into any sexual relations with anyone other than the Dominant. The Submissive will conduct herself in a respectful and modest manner at all times. She must recognize that her behavior is a direct reflection on the Dominant. She shall be held accountable for any misdeeds, wrongdoings and misbehavior committed when not in the presence of the Dominant. Failure to comply with any of the above will result in immediate punishment, the nature of which shall be determined by the Dominant.
 A "respectful and modest manner"? Is that the 'don't act like a slut" clause? As ever, Christian is a dick. It also doesn't make much sense - if their D/s relationship is a secret, how will any "immodest" behavior of hers reflect on him? And how will he know about "misbehavior committed when not in the presence of the Dominant"? Is he planning on having her followed 24/7? Actually knowing Christian, he probably is planning on doing that. Never mind.

Hard Limits
No acts involving fire play.
No acts involving urination or defecation and the products thereof.
No acts involving needles, knives, cutting, piercing, or blood.
No acts involving gynecological medical instruments.
No acts involving children or animals.
No acts that will leave any permanent marks on the skin.
No acts involving breath control.
No activity that involves the direct contact of electric current (whether alternating or direct), fire or flames to the body.
Did he really have to specify that children and animals were off limits? One should hope so, because that's illegal. And he says no fire play, but also no "fire or flames". Okay, we get it. He hates fire. No fire! (Also, the fact that he specified no urination, defecation or the products thereof is a nice touch. It's all about the closing those potential loopholes.)

Also - continuity issue: In chapter 7 when we're first introduced to this part of the contract, it says "needles, knives, piercing, or blood". Now it says "needles, knives, cutting, piercing, or blood." Sloppy proofreading!
Soft Limits
To be discussed and agreed between both parties:
Which of the following sexual acts are acceptable to the Submissive?
• Masturbation
• Fellatio
• Cunnilingus
• Vaginal intercourse
• Vaginal fisting
• Anal intercourse
• Anal fisting
Ana better get a dictionary because we're pretty sure she's never even heard the words "fellatio" or "cunnilingus" before, let alone know if they are acceptable acts to her.  Which, again, and we know we keep bringing this up, but how can Christian expect her to agree to some of this stuff that she's either never experienced, or barely experienced only with him?
Is swallowing semen acceptable to the Submissive?
We already know it is, because she already did that... who can forget that soapy blow job?
Is the use of sex toys acceptable to the Submissive?
• Vibrators
• Dildos
• Butt Plugs
• Other
I think this is indicative of E L James' lack of research, because Christian Grey is supposed to be sexually experienced and he can only think of three kinds of sex toys? And Ana is supposed to agree to "Other" or discuss whether other sex toys would be acceptable when she's never even seen a vibrator before?
Is Bondage acceptable to the Submissive?

• Hands in front
• Hands behind back
• Ankles
• Knees
• Elbows
• Wrists to ankles
• Spreader bars
• Tied to furniture
• Blindfolding
• Gagging
• Bondage with Rope
• Bondage with Tape
• Bondage with leather cuffs
• Suspension
• Bondage with handcuffs/metal restraints
Zzzzzzzzzzz...see above. There's a whole chapter of this!
What is the Submissive’s general attitude about receiving pain?
Where 1 is likes intensely and 5 is dislikes intensely: 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5

How much pain does the submissive want to receive?
Where 1 is none and 5 is severe: 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5
This is kind of interesting. Pain is pretty subjective... that is, we all have our own individual thresholds for pain (and those who have never experienced much pain, don't even really know what theirs are). So if she says that she wants to receive pain up to level 3, how is Christian really supposed to know what that means? How do either of them know what "severe" is means to the other?
Which of the following types of pain/punishment/discipline are acceptable to the Submissive?
• Spanking
• Paddling
• Whipping
• Biting
• Nipple clamps
• Genital clamps
• Ice
• Hot wax
• Other types/methods of pain
Too bad he didn't ask her all of these questions about her pain tolerance before he 'slammed into her' the first time they had sex.

Ana's subconscious, inner goddess and other invisible friends:
I stare at myself in the bathroom mirror. You can’t seriously be considering this… My subconscious sounds sane and rational, not her usual snarky self. My inner goddess is jumping up and down, clapping her hands like a five-year-old. Please, let’s do this… otherwise we’ll end up alone with lots of cats and your classic novels to keep you company.
So the subconscious and the inner goddess really aren't the same fictional person. And Ana's subconscious is apparently literally talking to her, if she actually sounds a certain way. (It's also a little concerning - but not surprising - that "sane and rational" is not the usual state of her subconscious.) And really, I'm sorry, but fear of becoming a spinster cat lady is not a good enough reason to enter into a relationship that makes you uncomfortable. Period. This is especially true when you're still in college and have no reason to be worrying about becoming a spinster cat lady anytime soon. And these three-way conversations between Ana, her subconscious, and her inner goddess remind me of the DID storylines from One Life to Live. (You know you watched it too, don't lie.)
Well, at least I got my way this weekend. My inner goddess stops jumping and smiles serenely. Oh yes… she mouths, nodding at me smugly.
Oh, I wish I’d never met him. My inner goddess shakes her head at me. She and I know it’s a lie. I have never felt as alive as I do now.
Here's a question to ponder: Ana's inner goddess is inside her (hence the term 'inner').  So when she shakes her head at Ana, is she looking at Ana from the inside? Is she nodding and shaking her head at Ana's spleen or whatever?

Plot Holes, Fact Checking Fails, and Just Plain Old Bad Writing:
Holy Fuck. I can’t bring myself to even consider the food list. I swallow hard, my mouth dry, and read it again.
Hilarious, that after reading all that, the innocent and inexperienced Ana barely bats an eye at "anal fisting" or "genital clamps" but can't bring herself to even consider the food list. (Of course it does go back to our earlier thoughts about her eating issues.)
My head is buzzing. How can I possibly agree to all this? And apparently it’s for my benefit, to explore my sensuality, my limits – safely – oh please! I scoff angrily. Serve and obey in all things. All Things! I shake my head in disbelief.
Okay, as annoyingly dramatic as Ana is... we're actually glad that E L James at least had her object to some of the same stuff we objected to. It's ridiculous for Christian to expect Ana to agree to this contract given the circumstances.
Every weekend? That’s too much. I’ll never see Kate or whatever friends I may make at my new job – provided I get one. Perhaps I should have one weekend a month to myself. Perhaps when I have my period, that sounds… practical.
Yeah Christian, Ana needs time to hang out with all the many many friends she's going to make at her new job that she doesn't have yet! Not that it's an unreasonable request. But of course she's going to tell him it's about her having her period and not because she just wants some time to herself.
Am I submissive? Maybe I come across that way. Maybe I misled him in the interview. I’m shy, yes… but submissive? I let Kate bully me – is that the same?
I don't know, Ana, do you let Kate fist you or put genital clamps on you or tell you what foods you can eat? Then no, it's probably not the same.  But you are weak and a pushover. And a moron.
 “Okay, what is it?”

“It’s a MacBook Pro.”

“Of course it is.” I roll my eyes.

“These aren’t available in the shops yet, ma’am; the very latest from Apple.” How come that does not surprise me? I sigh heavily.

“It’s got the latest OS and a full suite of programs, plus a one-point-five terabyte hard drive so you’ll have plenty of room, thirty-two gigs of RAM – what are you planning to use it for?

“Uh… e-mail.”

“E-mail!” he chokes, bemused, raising his eyebrows with a slightly sick look on his face.

“And maybe Internet research?” I shrug apologetically.

He sighs. “Well, this has full wireless N, and I’ve set it up with your Me account details. This baby is all ready to go, practically anywhere on the planet.” He looks longingly at it.

“Me account?”

“Your new e-mail address.”

I have an e-mail address?

He points to an icon on the screen and continues to talk at me but it’s like white noise. I haven’t got a clue what he’s saying, and in all honestly, I’m not interested. Just tell me how to switch it on and off – I’ll figure out the rest. After all, I’ve been using Kate’s for four years. Kate whistles, impressed when she sees it.

“This is next-generation tech.” She raises her eyebrows at me. “Most women get flowers or maybe jewelry,” she says suggestively, trying to suppress a smile.
I don't even know what to say about this entire exchange. Next generation tech! It's still really hard for us to believe that Ana has made it through four years of high school and four years of college without a computer. But she's so fucking stupid. "Just tell me how to switch it on and off - I'll figure out the rest." Really? If you can't figure out how to turn the computer on yourself, then how the fuck are you going to figure out how to use it? Also, the "all ready to go, practically anywhere on the planet" part is pretty funny. This laptop is special because it can be used anywhere on the planet... like all laptops.

We were also skeptical about the tech aspect of this exchange, so we did a little research. The general consensus is that at the time that the book takes place, it would be very unlikely to find a MacBook Pro, even one that isn't in stores yet, that has storage space for a hard drive that large and that much RAM. Yes, we know what it says about us that we took the time to do this.
“Ana,” he smiles his dazzling toothy all-Hispanic-American smile, and I can’t be angry with him anymore.
What the fuck is an all-Hispanic-American smile? We know that "All American smile" is an expression, but it no longer makes sense if you add Hispanic- in front of it. You can have an All American smile and be Hispanic-American, without having to specify. (Or do Hispanic-Americans have different smiles?) The whole thing is fucking stupid and vaguely racist. We get it E L James, you want us to remember that you have a "Hispanic-American" character in your book.
“Hey, Ana,” he murmurs. “You’ve really forgiven me?”

“José, you know I can never stay mad at you for long.” He grins.
Yeah, what's a little attempted date rape among friends? No biggie.

I can’t wait to get home. The lure of e-mailing Christian, and maybe I can begin my research project. Kate is out somewhere, so I fire up the new laptop and open my e-mail. Sure enough, there’s a message from Christian sitting in the inbox. I’m practically bouncing out of my seat with glee.
From: Christian Grey
Subject: Working for a living
Date: May 23 2011 17:24
To: Anastasia Steele

Dear Miss Steele
I do hope you had a good day at work.

Christian Grey
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc. 
I hit reply. 
From: Anastasia Steele
Subject: Working for living
Date: May 23 2011 17:48
To: Christian Grey

Sir… I had a very good day at work.
Thank you.

From: Christian Grey Subject: Do The Work!
Date: May 23 2011 17:50
To: Anastasia Steele

Miss Steele
Delighted you had a good day. While you are e-mailing, you are not researching.

Christian Grey
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc. 
Dude. He emails her, she answers, and he basically yells at her for wasting her time on email. Hello! She wouldn't be emailing instead of researching if you hadn't emailed her first, dumbass. If she hadn't answered, he probably would've been like "why haven't you answered my emails?" Is this ELJ's idea of romantic, witty banter?
From: Anastasia Steele
Subject: Nuisance
Date: May 23 2011 17:53
To: Christian Grey

Mr. Grey, stop e-mailing me, and I can start my assignment.
I’d like another A.

I hug myself. 
From: Christian Grey
Subject: Impatient
Date: May 23 2011 17:55
To: Anastasia Steele

Miss Steele

Stop e-mailing me – and do your assignment.
I’d like to award another A.
The first one was so well deserved. ;)

Christian Grey
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc. 
No, you hang up first.

Can we just acknowledge that half of this chapter is filler - the contract, the endless and pointless email exchanges, etc. Lazy, lazy, lazy writing. Also, every time Ana emails Christian he answers right away - good to know that running your own huge successful business isn't that time consuming.

I fire up Google. 
How do you "fire up" Google? She typed "Google.com". It's a search engine, not an actual engine.
From: Anastasia Steele
Subject: Internet Research
Date: May 23 2011 17:59
To: Christian Grey

Mr. Grey
What would you suggest I put into a search engine?


From: Christian Grey
Subject: Internet Research
Date: May 23 2011 18:02
To: Anastasia Steele

Miss Steele
Always start with Wikipedia.
No more e-mails unless you have questions. Understood?

Christian Grey
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.

Christian really is a dick. One- That was a question. Two- He didn't fucking answer it. She's asking for keywords to search for (since she clearly knows nothing about this sort of thing) and he basically tells her to use Wikipedia, but still doesn't tell her what to search for in Wikipedia. Although really, once again Ana is the stupid one - she has a whole contract full of terminology to look up. Why is she asking him?

But also... Wikipedia! Hahaha! Way to get serious about that research guys!

Have you ever actually typed 'Submissive' into Wikipedia? No? We're guessing E L James didn't either. When you search for 'Submissive', it redirects to 'Deference'... HOT! There's very little reference to sexuality at all, let alone BDSM.
Half an hour later, I feel slight queasy and frankly shocked to my core. Do I really want this stuff in my head? Jeez – is this what he gets up to in the Red Room of Pain? I sit staring at the screen, and part of me, a very moist and integral part of me – that I’ve only become acquainted with very recently, is seriously turned on. Oh my, some of this stuff is HOT. But is it for me? Holy shit… could I do this? I need space. I need to think.
Ewwww. We don't want to know about any of Ana's moist and integral parts. Now we're feeling kind of queasy ourselves. We need space. We need to think. Especially if we're going to consider recapping Chapter 12 in the near future.

Conclusion: Christian Grey is still a controlling jerk, Ana and all of the voices in her head are still clueless, computers are fun, E L James is still a horrible writer, and this book still sucks! We can't wait for this upcoming film to sweep the 2015 Academy Awards.