Christian shows up at Ana’s apartment in jeans and a leather jacket. “I take a moment to admire the pretty,” thinks Ana. “I thought we’d celebrate your graduation. Nothing beats a good Bollinger,” says Christian. Have I ever mentioned how much I absolutely hate these two characters? They drink the expensive champagne out of teacups and it’s all
maddeningly adorably quaint and romantic.
Ana tells Christian she doesn’t want the Tess first-edition book, but Christian says that as his submissive, she must accept it. Christian gets angry. Ana tells him that she might donate it to charity. Christian is still angry. “The atmosphere between us is now tense. I don’t know what to do. I stare down at my fingers. How do I retrieve this situation?” I don’t really understand what Ana has supposedly done, nor why Christian is so angry. Does nobody else find it intensely disturbing that she is assuming that Christian’s anger is all her fault, even though she’s done absolutely nothing even remotely wrong? Her meekness and his domineering nature are the recipe for a very dangerous, abusive relationship, dressed up as ‘BDSM’.
Christian goes on to explain that he will buy her many expensive presents as a result of their ‘arrangement’. Prostitution bells are a-ringin’. They carry on drinking Christian’s champagne, with Ana becoming steadily more suspicious that Christian is trying to get her drunk. Oh, good. Psychological abuse, prostitution and dubiously consented sex due to alcohol consumption. This chapter is just full of fun already.
Christian grills Ana, and I mean grills her about what she’ll do when she moves to Seattle. She tells him about her interviews for the internships. “You were going to tell me this when?” Christian asks. Maybe she’d have said something if you stopped getting unreasonably angry at nothing in particular, buying her extravagant presents and trying to get her pissed enough to sign your contract. Give the girl a chance.
“Don’t be obtuse, Anastasia, which publishing houses?” he scolds. Yes, that’s right, scolds. Scolding her for not telling him, in all the two weeks they’ve known each other, what her plans for her whole future are. Ana rolls her eyes.
“Next time you roll your eyes at me, I will take you across my knee,” says Christian. This is getting serious now. “He fills my cup and I drink practically all of it,” says Ana. Just so you know, in this five-minute conversation up to now, she’s drained her cup no less than three times. They start to go over the soft limits (which are written up in full in the novel, for the third time, as though we’ve all forgotten what they are in the ten pages since the last time they were completely listed) that Ana doesn’t want to agree to. She says that anal intercourse doesn’t necessarily appeal to her.
“I’d really like to claim your ass, Anastasia. But we’ll wait for that. Besides, it’s not something we can dive into. Your ass will need training. It’ll need careful preparation.” Her ass needs training? I get the feeling that in the movie version of this book, there might be some kind of fitness montage here, with Ana working out in a gym while Christian times her on a stopwatch to see how long it takes her to crush a grape between her bum cheeks. Or that’s what would happen if I directed it, anyway. Ana drains another cup of champagne, taking the tally to about five in about as many minutes. The important point here is that Ana doesn’t initially want to do anal, but Christian shrugs off her concerns and talks her into it.
They move onto use of sex toys. “Butt plug? Does it do what it says on the tin?” asks Ana (can you imagine any other uses for it with a name like ‘butt plug’?). I don’t think you have to be particularly debauched to know the function of a butt plug at twenty-two years old. It’s called ‘not living life under a rock’. Christian laughs at her because she’s so inexperienced. I’m not laughing anymore, I’m shaking my head and wondering what in the world the author was thinking when giving her protagonist the approximate life experience and sexual knowledge of a twelve-year old. Again, Ana doesn’t really want to use butt plugs, but Christian persuades her to give it a go. Coercion.
Discussion moves to bondage. Suspension is a no-no for Ana, and she’s nervous about being gagged in case she can’t use a safe word. As she’s trying to articulate these fears to Christian, we get this: “My brain is beginning to fog… hmm alcohol.” Yeah, perfect, and just as Christian planned it, I assume. Needless to say, Christian persuades her into trying it. Are we sensing a general theme here? There isn’t even any point in them sitting to discuss this contract because whenever Ana has an issue with something, Christian completely disregards her concern and says that they’ll try it anyway.
Next up for discussion is the amount of pain Anastasia would like to receive. On the list are: caning, whipping, biting, paddling, hot wax and genital clamps. Ana is very nervous about all of them. “This is part of the deal, baby,” coaxes Christian. “There, that wasn’t so bad was it?” He’s essentially gotten her to agree to almost everything on the contract, by refusing to listen to her concerns, laughing at her inexperience and getting her drunk.
The last thing on the discussion list is the ‘hearts and flowers’ that Ana so badly wants. Christian has agreed to try it out (how good of him), but on one condition: that she accepts his graduation present. He takes her outside and there’s a shiny, red Audi sitting outside. “I am appalled on one level, grateful on another, shocked that he’s actually done it, but the overriding emotion is anger.”
You’ve let him get you drunk and talk you into participating in all of the things which you’re so nervous about on his ridiculous contract, you’ve allowed him to manipulate you into thinking you’re doing something wrong by donating the Tess books to charity, he’s forced his way into your graduation ceremony, ruined the moment of handing over your diploma by quizzing you about your love-life, and he gets angry whenever another guy even looks your way… but the thing you’re most annoyed about is the fact that he’s bought you a new car?! God, don’t you just hate it when your rich boyfriend buys you a brand new Audi because your old Beetle is falling apart at the seams? I know I do. But boy, do I love that psychological abuse that he subjects me to.
Ana finally warms to the car (didn’t take long, there’s a sex scene coming up and I assume E. L. James was anxious to get to it. Character development is boring). “Thank you for the car, sir,” she says. “You are one challenging woman, Ana Steele,” responds Christian (hahahahahaha, okay, sure she is).
Christian drags Ana back inside to get her naked, as he so succinctly puts it. “Please don’t be angry with me,” Ana whispers. “I’m sorry about the car and the books. You scare me when you’re angry.” Urgh. Urgh. Poor Ana. This is psychological abuse. He has managed to make her feel guilty about her own feelings, and she’s begging him not to be angry with her for it. This is about as much as I’ve been able to relate or feel sorry for Ana in the whole book, and I’m not even sure E. L. James intended it that way.
Christian doesn’t even apologise. He starts taking her clothes off. “His well-manicured fingernail gently grazes down my back.” Christian goes for manicures, drinks white wine and knows what a halter-neck is. Not that I’m suggesting anything.
He unzips her dress and starts touching her boobs. “Shall I make you come this way?” he asks. No, because you can’t. You can’t. (To the very nice anonymous lady who commented on a previous post saying that this was possible, please make yourself known to me! I have many questions…)
Ana gives him another blowjob (it’s perfect, of course) and then there’s a whole big clumsy section about her putting a condom on Christian. E. L. James gets her realism and her erotica completely confused. Personally, I’d prefer a little more realism in the way the characters interact when they’re not having sex, and a little less realism in the gory details of Ana ripping open the condom wrapper to find it all “rubbery and tacky in [her] fingers”. That’s turning nobody on.
The next page or so is the description of Christian and Ana having sex, except it all… looks… like this… as though… E. L. James’… cat has got its… paw continuously stuck… on the full stop… key, and she’s not… even bothered to… correct… it… afterwards. The punctuation in this book is diabolical. I understand it’s supposed to have a breathlessly, heady sort of feel, but it’s so fucking annoying that I can’t bring myself to read it enough to properly analyse it and bring you the hilarious parts. Well, except for maybe this: “The thought pushes me, weighted with concrete, over the edge, and I climax around him… shouting incoherently.” Weighted with concrete? I don’t even understand the metaphor in that, what’s it supposed to mean?! I do like that she clarifies that she’s ‘shouting incoherently’ though, as though the last page of narration has been anything but incoherent.
Alcohol count: practically a full bottle of Bollinger in approximately ten minutes.
Orgasm count: just the one, concrete-weighted and all (now at eight in total).