Okay, everyone. I’ve had a really lovely day, mooching around Christmas markets with one of my best friends. I’ve tried so many free cheese samples, I’ve probably had my dairy intake for the week. My mood is good. LET’S DESTROY ALL THAT BY RECAPPING ANOTHER CHAPTER OF GREY!
So, when we last left Grey, he had sent a laptop to Ana, who inexplicably didn’t even have an email address, despite being a college student, and he was chilling at home, reading books about poor people, whilst having daydreams in which he infantilised his dead mother.
So, you know, the usual.
Now, just in case anyone was thinking “well, he seems to be pretty into Ana, maybe he really likes her as a person,” let me just clarify that HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, NO. Because literally in the first couple of sentences of chapter 8, he’s thinking of her not as a person, but a project:
It’s after one in the morning when I go to bed. Staring at the ceiling, I’m tired, relaxed, but also excited, anticipating what the week will bring. I hope to have a new project: Miss Anastasia Steele.
I love it when a guy thinks of me as a project, don’t you, ladies?!
Then immediately after that brief opening, it’s suddenly half six in the morning and Grey’s going for a jog. Because it’s very important that we know that he doesn’t sleep well without Ana and that he keeps himself fit, like the big, manly, God-like creature he truly is.
He’s also nothing if not over-dramatic, because his internal monologue tells us:
Today the streets are paved with possibility.
Will she respond to my e-mail?
Will she let me control literally every detail of her life? Who cares, I’ll do it, anyway. Oooh, it’s so exciting!
There’s a brief and boring paragraph about him rearranging meetings so he can work from Portland (because his full name is Christian Stalky McStalkerson Grey) and then he decides to email Elena, who has apparently been texting him over the weekened (super healthy). He tells her he’s sorry not to have gotten back to her sooner and says he’ll let her know if and when he’s next free. He tells her that the “latest results for the beauty business look promising” and he adds “Good going, ma’am.”
Have I mentioned that I find this aspect of the story super healthy?! It’s definitely totally cool for him to be talking this way to the woman who raped him. Yep. Totally fine.
As he sends his email, he ponders what Elena would make of Ana and vice versa. Then, as if by magic, he gets an email from Ana:
To: Christian Grey
I slept very well, thank you—for some strange reason—Sir.
I understood that this computer was on loan, ergo not mine.
I don’t know about you, but this definitely sounds like a young, American student to me. Yep. They say “ergo” all the time.
Christian is pleased by the email, even though he’s frustrated by the fact that she seems unwilling to keep the computer:
“Sir” with a capital S; the girl has been reading, and possibly researching. And she’s still talking to me. I grin stupidly at the e-mail. This is good news. Though she is also telling me that she doesn’t want the computer.
Well, that’s frustrating.
I shake my head, amused.
He responds telling her that the computer is on loan indefinitely. Because if Christian Grey says something is happening, it really doesn’t matter whether or not someone else consents.
After his reply, we have a dull and frankly pretentious paragraph about how Christian’s company is working on a solar powered tablet and that “Bringing affordable first world technology to the third world is something (he’s) determined to do.”
Is he your hero, yet? He’s definitely mine.
Ana emails back (because EL James is nothing if not determined that we read all their damn correspondence, rather than see them communicating face to face). She tells him that she neither needs or wants a computer indefinitely, which is laughably stupid, particularly for someone who wants to work in publishing. She also quips “some of us have to work for a living,” which causes Grey to sadly realise it’ll be the last email he gets from her for a little while. He’s annoyed by the fact that Ana won’t accept the computer, but tells himself at least it means she’s not “acquisitive,” whereas most of the women he’s known have been gold-diggers. He tells us that Leila was the other exception and then we get another weird Leila flashback:
“Sir, I am not deserving of this beautiful dress.”
“You are. Take it. And I’ll not hear another word on this. Understand?”
“Good. And the style will suit you.”
Ah, Leila. She was a good submissive, but she became too attached and I was the wrong man. Fortunately, that wasn’t for long. She’s married now and happy.
Yeeeeaaaah, Leila’s super happy…
I guess EL tossed that line in there to make it look like Grey really thinks Leila’s fine, so her later mental breakdown comes as a surprise, but let’s face it; we’re all familiar with what happened in the original trilogy, so this line just comes across as crass and insensitive.
So, typical Grey.
He rereads Ana’a email and is annoyed by her “some of us have to work for a living” line.
The sassy wench is implying I don’t do any work.
Well to hell with that!
I spy Fred’s rather dry summary report open on my desktop and decide to set the record straight with Ana.
Okay, firstly: Sassy wench?! It doesn’t sound like something a young, American business tycoon would say. But this grated on me for reasons I couldn’t work out for ages, until I realised that my abuser used to say “wench” all the time. He deliberately used it as a misogynistic slur, too. So, if EL James was going for a “haha, he’s so cute with his teasing insults” vibe here, what she actually gave me was “hey, remember the guy who abused you?!” I mean, I get that constantly with these books, but this was like a little bonus mini-trigger. Thanks, EL.
Secondly, you’re pissed off that Ana’s implied that you don’t do any work, so you decide to prove how much work you do by… Emailing her instead of working?! Dude, your logic sucks.
P.S.: I work for a living, too.
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.
That tagline – the CEO bit – is at the end of every single email, by the way. Which, sure, if you have an email signature, it comes up in every email you send (mine is “‘it’s a good thing to be strange, normalness leads to sadness.’ – Phil Lester,” in case you’re wondering, because that’s the quote I live by), but do we really need to see it every time?! I can only assume that EL James couldn’t fill the book with actual plot, so had to make do with cramming in pointless words, instead. I mean, I’m leaving out the fact that with each email, EL also includes the sender, subject line and time stamp.
Oh, and in case you think I’m kidding, Christian immediately gets an email from Elena, in which we get HER bloody tagline, sender and subject line, too:
From: Elena Lincoln
Subject: The Weekend
Date: May 23 2011 08:33
To: Christian Grey
Christian, you work too hard. What’s in Portland? Work?
For The Beauty That Is You™
I just find this hugely irritating. But then, the same can be said about the whole franchise, so…
He emails back, telling her it’s work stuff, because he knows if he tells her the truth, she’ll have loads of questions. Which, you know, she has zero right to know the answers to.
We get yet another boring paragraph about Grey’s oh-so-important work, then Taylor comes in purely so EL James can shoe-horn in a scene in which Grey comes across as the freaking hero of the piece. It doesn’t work, because in his internal monologue, Grey has already huffed that the interruption is annoying and he’s disappointed that it’s Taylor and not – for some inexplicable reason – Ana. All I can say to EL James on this is if you want to have people actually think your hero is a good guy, make him one. Because this scene smacks of desperation, written by an author who’s read criticism of her hero, yet is too arrogant to change him in any way:
“Taylor, I don’t think I’m going to need you for the next couple of days. Why don’t you take the time to see your daughter?”
“That’s very good of you, sir, but her mother and I—” He stops, embarrassed.
“Ah. Like that, is it?” I ask.
He nods. “Yes, sir. It will take some negotiating.”
“Okay. Would Wednesday be better?”
“I’ll ask. Thank you, sir.”
“Anything I can do to help?”
“You do enough, sir.”
He doesn’t want to talk about this. “Okay. I think I’m going to need a printer—can you arrange it?”
“Yes, sir.” He nods. As he leaves, closing the door softly behind him, I frown. I hope his ex-wife isn’t giving him grief. I pay for his daughter’s schooling as another incentive for him to stay in my employment; he’s a good man, and I don’t want to lose him.
YOU DO ENOUGH, SIR. YOU ARE MY HERO. YOU ARE A SEX GOD AND PROBABLY THE ONLY MAN ON THE PLANET WHO CAN SOLVE WORLD HUNGER. I ADORE YOU AND AM NOT WORTHY OF YOU. ALL THOSE PEOPLE WHO SAY YOU’RE AN ABUSIVE CONTROL FREAK ARE JUST JEALOUS AND PROBABLY HAVEN’T EVEN READ THIS BOOK.
As Grey’s working day finally ends, he starts wondering how Ana’s day at work was. This – naturally – starts him thinking kinky thoughts…
I wonder how her day at Clayton’s has been, pricing cable ties and measuring out lengths of rope. I hope one day I’ll get to use them on her. The thought conjures images of her tethered in my playroom. I dwell on this for a moment…then quickly send her an e-mail. All this waiting, working, and e-mailing is making me restless. I know how I’d like to release this pent-up energy, but I have to settle for a run.
Let me tell you, Christian, all this emailing is making me bored and annoyed. Also, notice that so far in this chapter, he’s thought of Ana as a “project” and now, yet again, as merely a sex object. Are you all in love with him, yet?!
He emails her asking if she had a good day at work. She replies saying that she did and she calls him “Sir” again.
Now, remember how he was the one who emailed her? Well, he’s now annoyed that she’s replying, because somehow, he’s decided that if she’s messaging him, it means she hasn’t done the BDSM research she promised she’d do. You know, despite the fact that earlier, he was praising her for calling him “Sir” and thinking that it proved she’d done some research. Christian Grey is a man who will never, ever let you win. If you do what he wants, he’ll find a way to criticise.
He responds, telling her:
Delighted you had a good day.
While you are e-mailing, you are not researching.
YOU LITERALLY EMAILED HER FIRST, YOU TOTAL AND UTTER MORON.
But when she replies to his email, suggesting he stops contacting her if he wants her to research, he takes a brief moment out of his busy schedule of harassment to reduce her to a sex object again, then replies telling her not to email him.
Seriously, look at this shit:
From: Anastasia Steele
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 laugh out loud. Yes. That A was something else. Closing my eyes, I see and feel her mouth around my cock once more.
Bringing my errant body to heel, I press send on my reply, and wait.
* * *
From: Christian Grey
Date: May 23 2011 17:55
To: Anastasia Steele
Stop e-mailing me—and do your assignment.
I’d like to award another A.
The first one was so well deserved. 😉
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.
STOP EMAILING HER IF YOU DON’T WANT HER TO REPLY, YOU PUBIC LOUSE.
And hey, you know what I said about never being able to win with him? You know how he literally just told her not to reply?! Well…
Her response is not as immediate, and feeling a little crestfallen, I turn away and decide to go on my run.
You TOLD her not to reply, you dickhead. If you wanted her to reply instantaneously, maybe don’t tell her not to?!
Of course, because the universe hates me, Ana then replies before Grey has even left the room. She asks what she ought to be typing into a search engine and he realises – shock, horror – that maybe he should have given her some books. And of course, he doesn’t give her the help she actually needs, instead thinking:
Numerous websites spring to mind—but I don’t want to frighten her off.
Perhaps she should start with the most vanilla…
Or maybe, juuuuust maybe, you could actually be honest with her about how far you want to take this, thus leaving her informed enough to give consent? But that would require you not being a massive tosspot, so…
He tells her to always start with Wikipedia, which is probably not the best advice, but okay. He then – laughably – adds:
No more e-mails unless you have questions.
Are you sure, this time?! What if she takes more than three seconds to respond and you’re left crestfallen again?! I CAN’T COPE WITH ALL THE DRAMA IN THIS HUGELY EMOTIONAL AND NOT AT ALL POINTLESS CHAPTER.
Naturally, because not only does our universe hate me, but every universe that may exist beyond it hates me too, Ana replies telling him he’s bossy and he responds “you’ve no idea” and then yet again tells her to stop emailing him. Thankfully, he then decides to go for a run before Ana can distract him again and I am saved from having to throw my laptop across the room.
Phew. I really can’t afford a new one.
As a side-note, I am about 90% sure all of these emails featured in the original book, too. So, technically, EL James is plagiarising herself. Or, at the very least, she’s being exceptionally lazy.
Anyway, Grey goes off on his run and starts thinking about Ana:
Miss Steele has questions. She is still in the game—this is not a “no.” Our e-mail exchange has given me hope.
Whereas their email exchange gave me a strong desire to pour acid into my own eyes.
As I run under the Hawthorne Bridge I reflect on how at ease she is with the written word, more so than when she’s speaking. Maybe this is her preferred medium of expression. Well, she has been studying English literature. I’m hoping that by the time I get back there’ll be another e-mail, maybe with questions, maybe with some more of her sassy banter.
Yeah. That’s something to look forward to.
I CAN’T WAIT FOR MORE EMAILS!
When he gets back to his hotel room, he has dinner (served by “Miss Dark, Dark Eyes, again”) and begins reading some work stuff about a brownfield site in Detroit. This annoys him, because although his childhood hunger makes him want to feed the world (and let them know it’s Christmas time), apparently having lived in Detroit doesn’t make him want to provide employment opportunities for anyone living there, or do anything that might boost the local economy. Because Grey’s an asshole. You know, just in case you missed the memo.
Now, these email exchanges he’s been having with Ana have, up until now, been utterly boring and supremely irritating, but it was when I reached this point in the chapter that I remembered just what is about to happen. So… Trigger warnings. All the trigger warnings.
Ana sends Grey the following email:
From: Anastasia Steele
Subject: Shocked of WSUV
Date: May 23 2011 20:33
To: Christian Grey
Okay, I’ve seen enough.
It was nice knowing you.
And Grey’s immediate reaction is to think:
I read it again.
It’s a “no.” I stare at the screen in disbelief.
Just “It was nice knowing you”?
What. The. Fuck.
I sit back in my chair, dumbfounded.
He asks himself if maybe she’s joking (a line I am utterly convinced EL James only included because of the amount of justified criticism his reaction to the email had in the first book), but dismisses it as “some joke!” ie “not a very good one, if she’s trying to make jokes.” So, the point is, he is – whatever EL James tries to insist – taking her email as a serious “no” to his proposal. At this point, a good Dominant – sod it, a good human – would either respond asking what it was that made Ana say no (and therefore inadvertently clear up the whole “it was just a joke” thing), or take her at her word and cease contact.
We all know that’s not what Grey does.
Here, have a puppy, just in case things are about to get bad:
She thought it was more than nice when her head was thrown back as she came.
Don’t be so hasty, Grey.
Maybe it’s a joke?
I pull my laptop toward me to write a reply.
* * *
From: Christian Grey
Date: May 23 2011
To: Anastasia Steele
But as I stare at the screen, my fingers hovering over the keys, I can’t think of what to say.
How could she dismiss me so easily?
Her first fuck.
Christian Grey: the guy who doesn’t realise that just because he took her virginity, that doesn’t mean she owes him the rest of her life. We’re meant to believe he’s built a business empire, despite this level of non-intellect. Okie dokie.
Having realised that he can’t find the right words for an email, Grey ponders the situation further:
Get it together, Grey. What are your options? Maybe I should pay her a visit, just to make sure it’s a “no.” Maybe I can persuade her otherwise. I certainly don’t know what to say to this e-mail. Perhaps she’s looked at some particularly hardcore sites. Why didn’t I give her a few books? I don’t believe this. She needs to look me in the eye and say no.
No, she really doesn’t. Okay, you and I both know the email was a joke, but at this point, Grey doesn’t. And yet he’s already thinking about going round to her apartment to persuade her to change her mind. He thinks she somehow needs to say no to him in person for it to actually count.
And so, of course, he sets out to her place:
Yep. I rub my chin as I formulate a plan, and moments later I’m in my closet, retrieving my tie.
This deal isn’t dead yet. From my messenger bag I take some condoms and slide them into the back pocket of my pants, then grab my jacket and a bottle of white wine from the minibar. Damn, it’s a chardonnay—but it will have to do. Snatching my room key, I close the door and head toward the elevator to collect my car from the valet.
He is literally heading to her apartment to have sex with someone who, as far as he is aware, just said no to him.
For those of you at the back, still insisting this is not a book featuring an abusive rapist as the “hero”:
HE THINKS SHE HAS SAID NO TO HIM, SO HE’S ON HIS WAY TO HER APARTMENT TO HAVE SEX WITH HER. THINKING SHE DOESN’T WANT HIM. THAT WOULD THEREFORE BE SEX WITHOUT CONSENT. SEX WITHOUT CONSENT IS RAPE. YOUR HERO IS PLANNING TO RAPE THE HEROINE.
I just want to remind anyone reading this to exercise self-care, first and foremost. If you need to stop reading at any time, please do. If you find you can’t come back to these recaps, I don’t blame you in the slightest. Put yourself and your wellbeing first.
On arrival – in more “EL James is clearly not of this planet” news – Grey does briefly think about whether or not he should be turning up at Ana’s apartment. But less because she’s said no to him and more because it might make her think he’s a hearts and flowers type and he doesn’t want to give her the wrong freaking idea. I kid you not:
AS I PULL UP in the R8 outside the apartment she shares with Kavanagh, I wonder if this is a wise move. I’ve never visited any of my previous submissives at their homes—they always came to me. I’m pushing all the boundaries that I’ve set for myself. Opening the door of the car and climbing out, I’m uneasy; it’s reckless and too presumptuous of me to come here. Then again, I’ve already been here twice, though for only a few minutes. If she does agree, I’ll have to manage her expectations. This won’t happen again.
He then even confesses to himself:
Getting ahead of yourself, Grey.
You’re here because you think it’s a “no.”
So, yep, you read that correctly. EL James has just confessed in black and white that Grey has turned up at Ana’s apartment, with condoms and therefore planning on having sex with her, because he thinks she doesn’t want him.
Don’t you dare tell me this guy isn’t a rapist. Don’t you damn well dare.
Kate answers the door to him and she is – naturally – surprised to see him, seeing as Ana hasn’t mentioned that he might be coming over. Grey literally pretends to want to give Ana a romantic surprise when Kate says that she’ll go and tell Ana that he’s there:
“No. I’d like to surprise her.” I give her my most earnest and endearing look and in response she blinks a couple of times. Whoa. That was easy. Who would have thought? How gratifying. “Where’s her room?”
How gratifying that I’ve convinced her best friend that I’m a decent guy and not a rapist who’s turned up to fuck a hugely naive girl into agreeing to let me do whatever I like with her for the rest of her life.
I hate him. I hate him so much I may die.
He finds Ana’s bedroom, thanks to Kate’s instructions, having left his jacket and the wine in the living room. He opens the door and sees that Ana is wearing sweats. EL James has once again only thrown this observation in here because we know that Grey’s going to ignore Ana saying “no” soon and we know from Ana’s perspective that she’s only saying no because Grey is kissing her feet and she worries they’re smelly from running; this is clearly EL’s way of trying to say “see! HE DID KNOW THAT! He knew she didn’t really mean no!” and it is total and utter bullshit. She might have been wearing sweats because she’s packed all her other clothes for moving to the new apartment. Maybe she wears sweats around the apartment in the evenings because they’re comfy?! There’s no way you can associate “wearing sweats” with “when she says no, she’s only saying it because she’s been exercising and might smell.”
Anyway, she’s reading the contract and has earbuds in, hence not hearing Grey enter her room, uninvited. He looks at her and her bedroom and thinks of the sexual possibilities the scene presents (I wish I was kidding):
Standing there for a moment, I watch her. Her face is scrunched in concentration; her hair is braided and she’s wearing sweats. Perhaps she’s been for a run this evening…perhaps she’s suffering from excess energy, too. The thought is pleasing. Her room is small, neat, and girlish: all whites, creams, and baby blues, and bathed in the soft glow of her bedside lamp. It’s also a little empty, but I spy a closed packing crate with Ana’s room scrawled on the top. At least she has a double bed—with a white wrought-iron bedstead. Yes. That has possibilities.
Possibilities that you believe she has just said no to, you disgusting piece of shit.
When Ana notices him and jumps, he thinks:
Yes. I’m here because of your email.
“I felt that your e-mail warranted a reply in person.” I try to keep my voice neutral. Her mouth opens and closes, but she remains mute.
Miss Steele is speechless. This I like. “May I sit?”
She nods, continuing to stare in disbelief as I perch on her bed.
“I wondered what your bedroom would look like,” I offer as an icebreaker, though chitchat is not my area of expertise. She scans her room as if seeing it for the first time. “It’s very serene and peaceful in here,” I add, though I feel anything but serene or peaceful right now. I want to know why she’s said no to my proposal with no discussion whatsoever.
He feels anything but serene or peaceful. Good to know. It sounds as though he’s feeling annoyed or mad. Which is definitely the right mood in which to go to someone’s house with the intention of having sex with them, despite your belief that they’ve turned you down.
Eventually, Ana offers him a drink.
“Would you like a drink?” she squeaks.
“No thank you, Anastasia.” Good. She’s found her manners. But I want to get on with the business at hand: her alarming e-mail. “So, it was nice knowing me?” I emphasize the word that offends me most in that sentence.
She’s found her manners?
SHE’S found HER manners?!
YOU have chosen to ignore her saying “no.”
YOU have turned up unannounced at her apartment.
And you question HER manners?! I hope you die in the most painful manner possible. I hope rats eat your face off, but really slowly. I hope your sentient penis decides it no longer wants to be attached to such a heinous cretin and breaks free, leaving you with a gangrenous stump.
Ana tells him she thought he would reply by email, rather than in person. Because Ana is not a psychopath.
Instead of responding to her comment, Grey says:
“Are you biting your lower lip deliberately?” I inquire, my voice sterner than I’d intended.
Because Ana, you know that if you bite your lip, Grey simply cannot help himself. You’re asking for it. This book makes me want to burn down the entire planet.
Grey starts harping on about their chemistry and he begins trying to seduce Ana:
We gaze at each other.
And the air almost crackles between us.
Can’t you feel this, Ana? This tension. This attraction. My breathing shallows as I watch her pupils dilate. Slowly, deliberately, I reach for her hair and gently tug on the elastic, freeing one of her braids. She watches me, captivated, her eyes never leaving mine. I loosen her second braid.
“So you decided on some exercise?” My fingers trace the soft shell of her ear. With great care, I tug and squeeze the plump skin of her earlobe.
He asks her why she was exercising and she explains that she needed time to think about him. He reminds her that she said it was “nice knowing” him and asks if she meant in the Biblical sense. Ana nervously quips that she didn’t think he’d be that familiar with the Bible and he tells her that he learned a lot from Sunday school, internally adding:
Catechism. Guilt. And that God abandoned me long ago.
I could not give less of a shit. In fact, I’d high-five God if I could.
“Well, I thought I should come and remind you how nice it was knowing me.” The challenge is there in my voice, and now between us. Her mouth drops open in surprise, but I glide my fingers to her chin and coax it closed. “What do you say to that, Miss Steele?” I whisper, as we stare at each other.
Suddenly she launches herself at me.
Somehow I grab her arms before she can touch me, and twist so that she lands on the bed, beneath me, and I have her arms stretched out above her head. Turning her face to mine, I kiss her, hard, my tongue exploring and reclaiming her. Her body rises in response as she kisses me back with equal ardor.
Oh, Ana. What you do to me.
Sure, she’s responsive. But he didn’t know she would be. Fans will insist “he did know! Because of their TRUE LOVE,” but they can sod all the way off, quite frankly. And notice “Ana, what YOU do to ME.” As I said earlier, everything he does is somehow her fault.
He asks if she trusts him and she nods, because although she’s not a psychopath, she is being manipulated by an abusive git and therefore not thinking straight.
He ties both of her wrists to the bedstead with his tie.
She wriggles beneath me, testing her bindings, but the tie holds fast. She’s not escaping. “That’s better.” I smile with relief because I have her where I want her. Now to undress her.
Grabbing her right foot, I start to undo her sneakers.
“No,” she grumbles with embarrassment, trying to withdraw her foot, and I know it’s because she’s been running and she doesn’t want me to remove her shoes. Does she think perspiration would put me off?
“If you struggle, I’ll tie your feet, too. If you make a noise, Anastasia, I will gag you. Keep quiet. Katherine is probably outside listening right now.”
She stops. And I know that my instincts are right. She’s worried about her feet. When will she understand that none of that stuff bothers me?
Nope. No, a billion times no. Biiiiig bag of nope.
He does not “know” she’s embarrassed in case her feet are sweaty. EL James knows that’s why Ana’s saying no. Ana knows that’s why she’s saying no. But Grey doesn’t and writing it as though he does, with his whole “sweetheart! As if that would put me off!” is clumsy and actually, damn offensive. It’s also way too late. We already know he doesn’t give a shit. We’ve seen him receive “no” in an email and purposefully come over with the intention of having sex with Ana to change her mind. It doesn’t matter that it was a joke, because he didn’t know that, either. This is EL James, yet again, having read all the perfectly valid criticism of this rape scene (someone saying “no” and the supposed hero then threatening them and carrying on anyway rather than stopping and asking what was wrong is rape), thinking: “well, if I write it from his perspective and make it clear that he knows she’s only saying no because her feet smell, then everyone will have to shut up because I’ll have proved how great he is.”
You can’t prove that he doesn’t care about consent literally paragraphs earlier, then expect us to fall for his sudden ability to understand why a woman is saying no. You certainly can’t expect us to be cool with him threatening her, when we’ve already seen him sexualise this woman and make several internal comments about wanting to do things to her without any thought of whether she’d consent.
Here’s a tip, EL James: Have him stop and say: “Are you worried your feet smell? Don’t worry about that; I’m not worried about that.” Just because the line wasn’t in the original book, doesn’t mean you can’t shove it into this one. If you want to address the very real and, again perfectly valid criticism of this shit show by rewriting the story from the villain’s perspective, have him remove the trainer and say: “You smell fine, Anastasia.”
Don’t have him hear the word “no,” decide it must be because of her stinky feet and then have him threaten her without actual verbal confirmation as to why she’s saying no. Because the way you’ve written it? You’ve made him a rapist. Now, I know you’re a lousy writer (I’ve read all your books – they’re literally dreadful), but are you so bloody stupid you can’t understand why people got upset the first time around?! Are you so arrogant that you actually believe that by having Grey apparently read Ana’s sodding mind when you retell the story from Grey’s perspective, that will make everything okay, rather than you doing anything to actually undo the harm you caused by writing a rape scene as romance?!
Grey removes his shirt, now that Ana can’t touch him, then he pulls Ana’s t-shirt up over her eyes and uses it as a blindfold. Then he tells her he’s going to get a drink.
Hey, anyone wondering if Grey will be less of an asshole during this brief interlude?!
It’s time for him hate on Kate and slut-shame her for no reason! AGAIN!
Kavanagh looks up from where she’s sitting on the sofa, reading, and her eyebrows rise in surprise. Don’t tell me you’ve never seen a shirtless man, Kavanagh, because I won’t believe you. “Kate, where would I find glasses, ice, and a corkscrew?” I ask, ignoring her scandalized expression.
“Um. In the kitchen. I’ll get them for you. Where’s Ana?”
Ah, some concern for her friend. Good.
What is your problem, you total and utter waste of oxygen??!!
Grey makes a deeply unfunny joke about Ana being “a little tied up,” but says she wants some wine. He follows Kate into the kitchen and she explains it’s all a bit untidy because they’re still getting ready for the move. Then this exchange happens:
“We still have to pack in here. You know Elliot is helping us move.” Her tone is critical.
“Is he?” I sound uninterested as I open the wine. “Just put the ice in the glasses.” With my chin I indicate two glasses. “It’s a chardonnay. It’ll be more drinkable with the ice.”
“I figured you for a red-wine kind of guy,” she says, when I pour the wine. “Are you going to come and help Ana with the move?” Her eyes flash. She’s challenging me.
Shut her down now, Grey.
“No. I can’t.” My voice is clipped, because she’s pissing me off, trying to make me feel guilty. Her lips thin, and I turn around to leave the kitchen, but not before I catch the disapproval in her face.
Fuck off, Kavanagh.
No way am I going to help. Ana and I don’t have that kind of relationship. Besides, I can’t spare the time.
a) It’s a reasonable question. Elliot has only known Kate five minutes and he’s helping.
b) You and Ana don’t have any relationship beyond you fucking and abusing her.
c) You do literally nothing beyond send childish emails and bark orders all day. You can spare the time. You’re just too much of an asshole to.
He goes back into the bedroom, gets naked and starts spitting wine into Ana’s mouth. It wasn’t sexy when I read it in the first book and it sure as hell isn’t sexy now.
Taking a sip of wine, I lean down and kiss her, pouring the wine into her mouth. She laps it up, and deep in her throat I hear a faint hum of appreciation.
“More?” I ask.
She nods, smiling, and I oblige.
“Let’s not go too far; we know your capacity for alcohol is limited, Anastasia,” I tease, and her mouth splits in the widest of grins. Leaning down, I let her have another drink from my mouth, and she wriggles beneath me.
And notice he just has to shame her for the time she got drunk and he stalked her and took her back to his hotel room. Yep, she was definitely the bad one in that situation.
He spits ice into her mouth – mmm, sexy – and then deposits ice and wine into her navel. Now, I have a thing about my belly button (not a sexy thing, more a HORROR thing, which, if you want distracting from this awfulness, you can watch me talk about in this YouTube video), so quite frankly, this whole part makes me feel kind of sick.
But then so does this whole franchise.
He starts asking how “nice” this all is, because you know, she told him it was “nice knowing you” and that made his penis shrivel up and die or something. Ana is not allowed to spill the wine from her navel, or he’ll punish her.
Then he threatens orgasm denial on a woman who hasn’t consented to that, whilst congratulating himself on turning her “no” into a “yes,” like the creepy and disgusting maggot he is:
Whining and panting beneath me, she’s tensing but managing to stay still. “If you spill the wine, I won’t let you come,” I warn.
“Oh. Please. Christian. Sir. Please,” she begs.
Oh, to hear her use those words.
This is not a “no.”
Because you have gone over to her apartment uninvited, ignored her when she said “no” and pretended it’s because you knew she had smelly feet, and then manipulated her with sex into saying “yes.” Because you are scum.
This chapter has gone from being mind-numbingly boring, thanks to the incessant emailing, complete with bloody subject headers and signatures, to being unimaginably grotesque in its unashamed glorification of an abusive man, all in the space of a few paragraphs. I am starting to think EL James needs actual medical help and I don’t say that to be funny or to make light of any kind of mental health issue, but because I quite genuinely cannot understand how someone can write a character as shockingly abusive as Grey, hear from survivors and anti-abuse campaigners as to just how triggering and offensive the character is and think “I’ll write the story from his perspective” and make it worse, without being genuinely messed up. I’m sorry for whatever happened to you to make you think this is okay, EL, but it doesn’t excuse what you’ve done any more than your lousy bastard character is excused by his experiences.
We get an epic (by which I mean bad) description of what Ana tastes like:
She tastes of wine and need and Ana.
Thanks for that.
What does need taste like? What does Ana taste like? Who needs actual writing ability?!
And, despite Ana not consenting to orgasm denial, he (yet again) starts doing it:
And she kisses me back with a hunger I’ve not felt in her before. I cradle the top of her head, keeping her in place, and continue to kiss and finger-fuck her. As her legs stiffen, I drop the pace of my hand.
Oh, no, baby. You’re not coming yet.
And then they have an exchange during which Ana confesses that her email was just a joke. And Grey once again confirms – internally at least – that he didn’t know she was joking. I want him thrown into the sun.
“How nice is this?” I ask, as I wrap my fist around my erection.
“I meant it as a joke,” she whimpers.
Thank. The. Lord.
All is not lost.
“A joke?” I query, as my fist slides up and down my cock.
“Yes. Please, Christian,” she begs.
“Are you laughing now?”
“No.” Her voice is barely audible, but the little shake of her head tells me all I need to know.
This is not sexy. This is not romance. This is not, as EL James likes to tell journalists, with a completely straight face: “A passionate love story.” This man has gone over to a woman’s house after she sent him an email that he believed was rejecting him. He went there with the sole purpose of having sex with her in order to change her mind. She said no during foreplay and he threatened her (and do not even go there with the “he knew she was only saying no because of her feet” thing, because we’ve gone over that and it’s crap). He practised non-consensual orgasm denial on her. And now he thinks he’s won.
This. Is. Abuse.
They have sex, she comes on command like some kind of horny Jack Russell and then she tells him the sex was “nice.”
“That was really nice,” she says with a mischievous smile.
“There’s that word again.” I smirk at her.
“You don’t like that word?”
“No. It doesn’t do it for me at all.”
“Oh—I don’t know…it seems to have a very beneficial effect on you.”
“I’m a beneficial effect now, am I? Could you wound my ego any further, Miss Steele?”
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with your ego.” Her frown is fleeting.
Dr. Flynn would have plenty to say about that.
If you consider a guy turning up at your house to have sex with you because he thinks you’ve said no to him to be “a very beneficial effect” of having used the word “nice,” I can give you some numbers for abuse helplines, because no.
Also, Doctor Flynn is a quack, Grey. And even if he wasn’t, anything he did have to say would be ignored by you, because you’re a dick.
Maaaaan, I want this chapter to end.
Ana asks why Christian doesn’t like to be touched and he tells her he just doesn’t and kisses her forehead to distract her from asking any further questions on the subject. Because open, honest communication is one of those pesky things you really don’t need in a relationship, as long as you have all the important stuff, like stalking and lack of consent.
Ana tells him she really was just joking in her email and that she’s still considering his proposal, but she has some questions, which she would have sent to him later had he not interrupted her. Grey makes a lame “coitus interruptus” joke (which sounds like a spell you don’t learn at Hogwarts) and Ana congratulates him on his sense of humour (HAHAHAHAHA, no girl), causing him to reply:
“Only certain things are funny, Anastasia. I thought you were saying no—no discussion at all.”
Only certain things are funny. Things on his terms and things he says. Duh.
Ana asks if Grey has ever been collared and when he says yes, she asks if Mrs Robinson did it and Grey thinks that description of Elena is hilarious:
“Mrs. Robinson?” I laugh out loud. Anne Bancroft in The Graduate. “I’ll tell her you said that; she’ll love it.”
“You still talk to her regularly?” Her voice is high-pitched with shock and indignation.
“Yes.” Why’s that such a big deal?
“I see.” Now her voice is clipped. She’s mad? Why? I don’t understand.
Again, we’re meant to believe this guy is intelligent.
Look, Grey, I despise you with such vehement passion that it could power an entire continent, but let’s be very real, here: You were raped by Elena. You were underage, you were, in your own words, Fifty Shades of fucked up and therefore couldn’t give full, legal, informed consent. You may have liked the stuff she did to you and you may think it’s acceptable to still be chummy with her, but Ana is right, here.
Ana goes on to explain that it isn’t fair that Grey has someone from the lifestyle that he can discuss things with, whereas she has nobody. He suggests that he introduces her to some of his former subs and Ana is understandably unimpressed:
Is this your idea of a joke?” she demands.
“No, Anastasia.” I’m surprised by her vehemence and shake my head to reinforce my denial. It’s perfectly normal for a submissive to check with exes that their new Dominant knows what he’s doing.
“No—I’ll do this on my own, thank you very much,” she insists, and reaches for her comforter and quilt, pulling them up to her chin.
What? She’s upset?
“Anastasia, I…I didn’t mean to offend you.”
“I’m not offended. I’m appalled.”
I’m not as informed about the BDSM scene as I could be, but surely Grey can tell that Ana, being hugely inexperienced and really, really into him (which, despite his supposed lack of confidence, he has actually referenced himself several times), won’t want to talk to his exes about what they’re doing in bed?! And I’m surprised Grey would even suggest it, seeing as he’s a shitty, awful Dom and would be called out as such by most people in the community if they knew how he operated.
He asks her if she’s jealous and inwardly thinks: Sweetheart, I had a life before you.
So, you know, it’s cool for him to have had “a very active life,” but the mere idea of Ana so much as kissing anyone before him is unacceptable. Good to know.
Ana asks him if he’s staying over and Grey tells her no:
What? Of course not. “I have a breakfast meeting tomorrow at The Heathman. Besides, I told you, I don’t sleep with girlfriends, slaves, subs, or anyone. Friday and Saturday were exceptions. It won’t happen again.”
Those two times, where I was all over you and desperate to sleep next to you and when I treated you like a girlfriend were the exceptions and I will now arms length the crap out of you until I next feel like making another exception.
This guy is such an asshole.
Of course, Grey’s incredulous at the idea of Ana kicking him out, but she does just that:
“Are you kicking me out?”
This is not how this is supposed to go.
What the hell?
Disarmed again, by Miss Steele. “Well, that’s another first,” I mutter.
Kicked out. I can’t believe it.
“So nothing you want to discuss now? About the contract?” I ask, as an excuse to prolong my stay.
“No,” she grunts. Her petulance is irritating, and were she truly mine, it would not be tolerated.
“God, I’d like to give you a good hiding. You’d feel a lot better, and so would I,” I tell her.
“You can’t say things like that. I haven’t signed anything yet.” Her eyes flash with defiance.
Oh, baby, I can say it. I just can’t do it. Not until you let me.
Because he CARES about CONSENT, guys!
Ana asks him to pass her sweatpants to her, which causes him to think of her as bossy and he quips “yes ma’am,” admitting inwardly that he’s making fun of her, because she won’t get that it’s a reference to her being a Domme, like “Mrs Robinson.” Hahaha, I love a guy who mocks me in ways I don’t understand or know about.
Grey makes out that he gives the tiniest of shits about Ana’s emotional wellbeing as she walks him to the door:
“You okay?” I ask, and brush her lower lip with my thumb. Perhaps she doesn’t want me to go—or perhaps she can’t wait for me to leave?
“Yes,” she says, her tone soft and subdued. I’m not sure I believe her.
He thinks to himself that he doesn’t want to go and leave her seeming so uncertain, but he doesn’t say anything, because that would resolve this pointless drama and we can’t possibly have that. But let’s be honest, if you didn’t really want to leave someone, because you were worried they weren’t okay, you’d say “are you sure you want me to go? I’ll stay if you need me to.” Again, and I feel like this is going to come up a lot as the story goes on, this concern for Ana’s wellbeing is tossed in because EL James got a lot of justified crap for having him turn up at her place, have sex with her and then walk out on her. So, we get him internally worrying about whether he ought to go, not because he actually gives a damn, but because so much of these books were written as a big “screw you” to EL James’s critics. Too bad that in writing them, she proved us all correct.
Grey gets into his car and is confused by the fact that Ana hasn’t waited to wave him off:
When I look back, she’s gone.
Shit. What just happened? No wave good-bye?
I start the car and begin the drive back to Portland, analyzing what’s taken place between us.
She e-mailed me.
I went to her.
She threw me out before I was ready to leave.
For the first time—well, maybe not the first time—I feel a little used, for sex. It’s a disturbing feeling that reminds me of my time with Elena.
She said no to him in an email.
He went over anyway, planning on sex.
She kicked him out when he offended her.
Now he feels used?!
Find a really tall building, Christian Grey. One near a really busy road. Walk to the top of that building. And leap the heck off.
He wonders whether it’s just the thrill of the chase that he’s enjoying so much, or whether it’s Ana that’s having this all-new effect on him. But he doesn’t dwell on it for too long, because he’s too busy being pleased with himself for what he did that night:
And on a positive note, that was one hell of a nice way to spend an evening. I smirk in the rearview mirror and pull into the garage at the hotel.
I know he’s fictional, but can I hire a hitman, anyway?
Because we simply can’t end this chapter without yet another bloody email, once Grey’s back in his hotel room, he sends one to Ana:
From: Christian Grey
Subject: This Evening
Date: May 23 2011 23:16
To: Anastasia Steele
I look forward to receiving your notes on the contract.
Until then, sleep well, baby.
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.
And I want to add, Thank you for another diverting evening… but that seems a little over the top. Pushing my laptop aside because Ana will probably be asleep, I pick up the Detroit report and continue reading.
And that, thank HEAVENS, is where this horrific chapter ends.
Here’s another puppy for making it through:
Seriously, this was horrendous and awful and if anyone feels like defending Fifty Shades to me, or telling me what a great guy Christian Grey really is, please take those words you were planning on typing, shove them up your own backside and wait until you crap them out into the toilet where they belong.
I’m feeling pretty gross, right now. I’m sorry if you are, too. I’m going to go to bed and dream of cutting Christian Grey’s penis off with a rusty spoon. Take care of yourselves and I’ll be back with more of this genuinely awful shite next week.