So, this is it. The big kink-fest we have all been waiting for is about to commence. Christian is showing Ana his ‘playroom’. It’s described as smelling faintly of citrus and apparently, it has a ‘womb-like’ feel. I’m sorry. Womb-like? This is either supposed to be a) a sexy image, or b) some misguided attempt to be all Freudian and deep. Whichever it is meant to be, it fails miserably. There is nothing sexy about being spanked (whoops, spoiler) in a room that resembles a uterus, and there’s nothing particularly meaningful about it either, it’s just weird.
There are cuffs and restraints everywhere, riding crops hanging from the walls, ropes, shackles, a massive wooden ‘X’, an iron grid on the ceiling and a four-poster bed covered in red leather and satin. It’s the most ostentatious, pretentious wank-fest of a sex den you’ve ever heard of.
Predictably, Ana finds it a romantic setting. Oh good, that bodes well. “I walk towards the bed and run my hands down one of the intricately carved posts. The post is very sturdy, the craftsmanship outstanding.” Don’t you just hate it when you’re tied to your lover’s red leather four poster bed, being flogged and spanked for his pleasure, and you notice the awful craftsmanship of the bedposts? Such a mood-killer.
Christian tells Ana that he’s a ‘dominant’, and that he wants Ana to submit herself to him in all ways possible and become his 'submissive'. “Why would I do that?” asks Ana. “To please me,” replies Christian, without a trace of humility or irony or anything.
According to Christian, there are strict rules Ana must follow, but she will be rewarded for following them. “It’s all part of the incentive package. Both reward and punishment.” They sound like they’re discussing a gym membership, but whatever.
When Ana asks what she gets from this arrangement (a very fair question, for once), Christian simply says: “Me.” Doesn’t sound like a great incentive package to me, I’d prefer unlimited use of the spa facilities and my twelfth month free, thanks.
He continues telling Ana about his incentives. She has to stay at his apartment Friday through Sunday, in her own room, submitting fully to Christian’s every wish and desire. I’m no expert on the sex industry, but this ‘incentive package’ now sounds less like a gym membership and more like prostitution.
Christian leads Ana back to the kitchen and tells her that unless she signs the consent form, they will have no further relationship, and that this is the only kind of relationship he’s interested in. Ana asks why Christian is the way he is, and what led him there.
“That’s kind of hard to answer. Why do some people like cheese and other people hate it? Do you like cheese?” replies Christian. Whoa, this just got seriously deep. Christian Grey is a regular Nietzsche. Philosophy at its finest, right there. But wait for it, Ana has her own pearls of wisdom to add. “We’re talking about cheese… holy crap,” she muses.
Have I missed something? Is cheese discussion somehow significant to the furthering of a relationship? Does it have some profound, metaphysical connotation that I’m oblivious to? My best friend gets a cheese board every single Christmas. Sometimes she puts cheese on top of cheese and eats it, and I highly doubt even she would give a lump of cheddar this much consideration.
Christian commands Ana to eat and she questions him further about his proposal. He tells her that he’s hurt women in the past, and that if she agrees, he’ll be physically punishing her, and it will hurt. “I think I feel a little faint,” Ana contemplates. “I take another sip of wine. Alcohol – this will make me brave.” Yeah, what a great idea. Get yourself so drunk that you lose the inability to make rational decisions at this crucial time. Actually, Ana’s decision-making is dubious enough when she’s sober. It probably won’t make a bit of difference.
When she’s eaten approximately three grapes, Christian takes Ana into his study and shows her the entire contract which she’s supposed to sign. Because this is fan-fiction, and fan-fiction readers go crazy for this sort of thing, E. L. James has typed up the entire contract, word for word. There are extensive paragraphs detailing the limitations of what Ana can eat and wear, how often she has to sleep, how often she has to exercise and how often she has to wax/shave. I wish I was kidding, seriously. Ana has to submit to having a personal trainer, she has to go to the beauty salon of Christian’s choosing whenever he sees fit, she’s not allowed to snack between meals and she has to have all of her clothing approved by Christian. But then I guess, for a girl with no ambitions, like Ana, this all sounds pretty cushy.
Next, there is a list of ‘hard limits’. These are actions that are absolutely forbidden and won’t be carried out by Christian under any circumstances. Highlights include no fire play, no acts involving children or animals (the fact that he feels the need to specify this is beyond wrong), no acts involving gynaecological medical instruments (but those are so fun!) and no urination or defecation. Honestly Christian, you call yourself sexually enlightened?
Christian asks Ana whether there’s anything she’d like to add, and having never held a guy’s hand until about a week ago, she’s obviously clueless. Ana has to finally ‘fess up to Christian and admit that she’s a virgin.
Christian is shocked, then angry (the nerve of her! How dare she preserve her virginity for someone she cares about!). I find it hard to believe that Christian ever thought Ana was anything but a virgin (the clues are all there), but there you go.