Sunday, February 2, 2014

Let's Read Fifty Shades of Grey: Chapter 15!

ANNOUNCEMENT: I will be speaking at the University of Chicago Sex Week again this year!  I'll be talking about "Sex Outside The Lines" at 7pm on Saturday, February 8, on the second floor of the Logan Center (915 E 60th St.)  It's free and open to the public, and last year was a great time, so I highly encourage you to attend if you're in the area.

Well, here we are.  Past the halfway point.  Before I get into this one, I want to tell you a little bit about my weekend.  (Graphic BDSM coming. FYI.)

On Saturday night, I went to a kink party with Rowdy and his girlfriend Artemis*.  We walked around for a bit watching people scening, then I asked if they wanted to do a scene where they both topped me.  They did, so I stripped down to underwear and we talked.  I told them I wanted to be punched and flogged, mostly on the back over the shoulderblades, and we agreed how I would let them know if I was having a good time or a bad one.

And then they started hitting me.  Rowdy and Artemis took turns, first bare-knuckled and then with leaden sap gloves, then with a heavy leather flogger.  It started out slow with a lot of "how's that? harder?" and quickly got more primal.  For a while I was laughing with every blow, then gasping as the pain built up.  While Artemis punched me, Rowdy held me from the front, hugging me to his chest as I alternately giggled and moaned.  Artemis dug her fingers deeply into my back, grabbing the bruised and tender muscles, twisting them.  That's when I started to slip into a trance.  I closed my eyes tightly and stopped laughing and everything turned inward.  The blows stopped being "pain, but good" and started being "good, but good."  Rowdy and Artemis took turns a few more times.  They were holding my hair, kissing each other over my shoulder, biting my skin.  I was less and less aware of time and of what specifically they were doing, and more aware of... flying.  Just flying through endless inner space on a rocket made of endorphins and sweaty leather.

I came back to Earth on a plushy sofa, with Rowdy holding me and kissing me and giving me sips of water.  "That was amazing," we both said.  "I love you," we both said.  "My back feels funny," I said.

*Oh, right.  Rowdy broke up with Sprite like three years ago and he's been dating Artemis for more than a year now and she's pretty awesome.  Probably should've mentioned this at some point.

So that's real BDSM for you.  It's not the only way you can do BDSM, for sure--there's a million ways--but I think it's not a bad example.  I asked for it, and I could have stopped it without fear of retaliation.  My tops asked me--and gave me--what I wanted, not merely what I could tolerate.  The whole thing was full of a spirit of fun and experimentation, not anger or bitterness.  And I loved the hell out of it.  I didn't come away thinking "that wasn't so bad" or "I had that coming." I came away thinking "I feel fucking fantastic."

So you can see why I'm completely appalled and disappointed by the way my beloved kinks are presented in Fifty Shades of Grey.  It's one of the most joyous things in my life, and it's being forced on someone who hates it, and E.L. James is saying this is okay and sexy.  It breaks my damn heart.

Content warnings for this chapter: Emotional abuse, you know the drill. Also rape threats and graphic sex immediately following rape threats.

I head into the kitchen. Nervous, butterflies flooding my stomach, it’s like having a panther or mountain lion all unpredictable and predatory in my living room.
See, this really isn't supposed to be how you feel about a partner.  I've been nervous having new partners over, but it's been a good nervous, like I have a big celebrity in my living room and I'm overly eager to impress them.  Not the kind of nervous where maybe they'll eat me.  (And yes, this includes kink partners.  I might be nervous about what a scene will be like with them--although even that's a happy nervous--but I'm not nervous just having them around me.)
“I bought these [first-edition books] for you,” he says quietly his gaze impassive. “I’ll go easier on you if you accept them.” I swallow convulsively. “Christian, I can’t accept them, they’re just too much.” “You see, this is what I was talking about, you defying me. I want you to have them, and that’s the end of the discussion. It’s very simple. You don’t have to think about this. As a submissive you would just be grateful for them. You just accept what I buy you because it pleases me for you to do so.”
Okay, so a submissive would do what he tells her to, but she isn't doing that, therefore she isn't a submissive, therefore they shouldn't have a D/s relationship.  Sounds pretty clear-cut.

(This isn't really true, because being a submissive doesn't actually mean a person never has any opinions about anything, but if he's going to claim that, let's take it to its logical conclusion.)
You can pretend to be a car, like his other possessions, my subconscious makes an unwelcome vitriolic return. I ignore her. [...] ‘Ho’ my subconscious mouths at me.
Her subconscious is such an asshole.

Honestly, is anyone in this book not an asshole?  The only people I can stand are Ana's dad and Kate, and that's only because I keep picturing them as Billy Burke and Ashley Greene.
“Shall we go through the soft limits?”
This book uses a weird definition of "soft limits."  Generally in BDSM, hard limits are things you absolutely won't do, and soft limits are things you generally won't do but might be willing under certain circumstances.  In this book, hard limits are about SM, soft limits are about sex and bondage, and neither matters because he's going to do whatever he wants anyway.
“I have a couple of interviews for intern places.” “You were going tell me this when?” He arches a brow. “Err… I’m telling you now.” He narrows his eyes. “Where?” For some reason, possibly because he might use his influence, I don’t want to tell him. “A couple of publishing houses.” “Is that what you want to do, something in publishing?” I nod warily. “Well?” He looks at me patiently wanting more information. “Well what?” “Don’t be obtuse, Anastasia, which publishing houses?” he scolds. “Just small ones,” I murmur. “Why don’t you want me to know?”
Every fucking conversation with this guy is like this.  I don't think there's been a single time they've talked when Ana's answers were good enough for him.

...No, wait, there was.  When he first asked her out, that very first coffee date, she told him about her family and he listened.  He didn't pick on every damn thing she said or force her to talk about what he wanted, he listened politely and shared things about himself.  He wasn't exactly warm, but he was appropriate.  It was only once they were dating that he started berating her every time they talked.

...What kind of romance writer includes a goddamn grooming phase?

And it's one of those things where even if this relationship wasn't abusive, it just sounds like no fun at all.  They never have any conversations where they come up with goofy in-jokes and laugh until they can't breathe, or stay up too late sharing "I've never told anyone this story before" secrets, or give each other unbearably cutesy little kisses on the nose.  All they ever have is tense stand-offs. It's about as romantic as a traffic court hearing.
“No fisting, you say. Anything else you object to?” he asks softly. I swallow. “Anal intercourse doesn’t exactly float my boat.” “I’ll agree to the fisting, but I’d really like to claim your ass, Anastasia."
No no no no.  You don't get to say shit like "I don't consent to not have anal sex with you."  Consent does not work like that.

It pisses me off that they're calling this kind of thing "negotiation."  Because no.  This is not negotiation.  Negotiation is where you work out things you will both enjoy doing.  It's where you say "anal intercourse doesn't float my boat" so your partner says "how 'bout vaginal?" and you say "yay!" It's supposed to end with a "yay!"  It's not supposed to end with "well, I have to do things I don't want, but not everything I don't want, so I guess that's a compromise."
“Besides, it’s not something we can dive into,” he smirks at me.
I'll don't know if I'll be able to top this image from Jenny Trout's FSoG recaps.  But I'm willing to try.

“Your ass will need training.”
"Sit up. Roll over.  ...Speak."
“So, what’s your general attitude to receiving pain?” Christian looks expectantly at me. [...] “Do you have to do it?” “Yes.” “Why?” “Goes with the territory, Anastasia. It’s what I do. I can see you’re nervous. Let’s go through methods.”
The hell he "has to" do it.  This shit isn't medically necessary.  It's something people do for pleasure.  The only relevant "territory" for SM is the ground between a person who wants to give pain and a person who wants to receive it. Ana doesn't want to receive it.  End of story.
He shows me the list. My subconscious runs, screaming, and hides behind the couch. • Spanking • Paddling • Whipping • Caning • Biting • Nipple clamps • Genital clamps • Ice • Hot wax • Other types/methods of pain  “Well, you said no to genital clamps. That’s fine. It’s caning that hurts the most.”
E.L. James really doesn't get it.  If you're a bottom, you're most likely going to be turned on and intrigued by talking about different ways you could experience pain.  You're going to be like "whipping? caning? ooh, tell me more."  Not "oh god I don't even want to know."  How can Ana negotiate what kind of kink she's into when she obviously isn't into any of it?

Also, caning doesn't necessarily hurt the most.  Really depends how you do each kind of play and how the bottom's body reacts.  Personally, I'd put paddling at the top of the list.
“Come on, Anastasia, talking through all this, I want to fuck you into next week, right now. It must be having some effect on you too.” I squirm. My inner goddess is panting.
Her inner goddess may be panting, but she's not.  She's spent this entire conversation thinking about nothing but how terrified she is of BDSM and how little she wants to do it.
“Well then. Look, earlier today you were talking about wanting more,” he halts, uncertain all of a sudden. Oh my… where’s this going?  He clasps my hand.  “Outside of the time you’re my sub, perhaps we could try. I don’t know if it will work. I don’t know about separating everything. It may not work. But I’m willing to try. Maybe one night a week. I don’t know.” Holy cow… my mouth drops open, my subconscious is in shock, Christian Grey is up for more!  He’s willing to try! 
Oh man, what a steaming pile.  She starts to look like she's serious about not giving in to all his demands, and suddenly he's willing to have a relationship with her in the most manipulatively "but don't go thinking I like you" terms possible.

What kind of bullshit is this emotional time-share deal anyway?  You can't be in a romantic relationship with someone on Wednesdays and then feel nothing on Saturdays.  Even offering that is an unforgivable mindfuck.
“I have one condition.” He looks warily at my stunned expression. “What?” I breathe. Anything. I’ll give you anything. “You graciously accept my graduation present to you.”  “Oh.” And deep down I know what it is. Dread spawns in my belly. [...] Parked outside is a red hatchback car, a two-door compact Audi.
So even his mindfuck comes with strings.  Grrreat.

It's interesting (read: horrible) that not only does his "present" fill her with dread, he knows it will! There's not the slightest pretense here that he could give her a present because he wanted to make her happy, and she could accept it because it made her happy.
“It’s taking all my self-control not to fuck you on the hood of this car right now, just to show you that you are mine, and if I want to buy you a fucking car, I’ll buy you a fucking car,” he growls. “Now let’s get you inside and naked.” He plants a swift rough kiss on me.
Now, I'm not real up on formal gift-giving etiquette, but I'm pretty sure that once you've threatened to rape someone for not accepting your gift, you are no longer on the right side of Miss Manners.
Boy, he’s angry. He grabs my hand and leads me back into the apartment and straight into my bedroom… no passing go. My subconscious is behind the sofa again, head hidden under her hands. He switches on the sidelight and halts, staring at me.
I guess as long as literally the only word you read in this paragraph is "bedroom," it's sexy.
“I want to be inside you. Take my jeans off. You’re in charge.” Holy fuck… me in charge.  My mouth drops open. “What are you going to do with me?” he teases. Oh the possibilities… my inner goddess roars, and from somewhere born of frustration, need, and sheer Steele bravery, I push him on to the bed.
So this is weird.  He demands she fuck him, then when she starts going along with it, he suddenly tells her to top, although realistically the only authority she has here is "any color you want as long as it's fucking this guy."
I am fucking him. I am in charge. He’s mine, and I’m his. The thought pushes me, weighted with concrete, over the edge, and I climax around him… shouting incoherently.
...weighted with concrete?
He grabs my hips, and closing his eyes, tipping his head back, his jaw strained, he comes quietly. I collapse on to his chest, overwhelmed, somewhere between fantasy and reality, a place where there are no hard or soft limits.
It reads as "a place where he can do all kinds of things I hate," which isn't so dreamy, but I think it's meant as "a place where I don't need to worry he'll do things I hate," and now it's dreamy in the saddest possible way.


  1. I have to say I've read other summaries of this story and the thing that gnaws most fervently at my brain stem is this. Why does Ana talk to her subconscious so much? If it's her subconscious, why on earth is she even aware of it in the first place? How does a book like this even get made, and I don't understand how it becomes a best-seller other than massive irresponsible media promotion. Well anyway I just started reading this blog and have to say I like it so far, I really like seeing people take on the idiotic relationship mythology and backward thinking that Is seemingly ever present throughout this entire book.

    1. Oh it's me again, forgot to add: the BDSM scene you described at the beginning of the post was actually surprisingly hot… as a dude who's never really explored any of that (other than being whacked with a belt while drunk by an equally drunk girl at a "coyote ugly" style bar one night which I enjoyed more than expected) I was surprised at how vivid and even sometimes downright appealing that came across. So, thank you.

    2. Actually, I remember reading something about how it actually got popular without a huge marketing campaign. I figure a lot of it might have been fans of the fanfic buying it up, probably. Given that I remember reading that there was an entire imprint for self-pubbed Twilight books (and that the Twilight fandom is apparently rather self-contained and doesn't really interact with much of the rest of fandom) they seem to not have as big a problem with this type of thing as most fandom people do.
      Given that there was apparently an entire con thrown for the author... yeah, she had a lot of fans, even back then.
      (and yes, I read a lot of random things on the internet, shush)

    3. About your (completely justified) "if it's her subconscious, why is she aware of it?" question: try reading "subconscious" as "superego" and "inner goddess" as "id," and see if things don't suddenly make more sense. I really think it's just a case of the author not knowing her psychology terms.

    4. Neurite -

      I didn't even realize that, but those do fit nicely into superego and id!

  2. The "diving into your ass" memes made this post bearable. (I enjoy all of your posts, even the FSoG ones, but as you've said, they can get more dark and fucked up than funny and entertaining)

    On a side note, I'm going to Sin in the City at the end of the month and one of the workshops is on Story of O and FSoG. I was totally excited til I read the description and it referred to it as BDSM literature, which made my stomach wretch. I'm hoping that since these are seasoned members of the community, that it won't actually treat FSoG as legit, but we'll see.

    I also get to run the TNG hospitality suite, so I may not even get to go.

  3. You know, I've heard a lot of people say stuff about how you should be nervous around the person you're interested in (like bad nervous). I never really understood that, and I remember having a lot of doubts when I was first in relationships because I was just plain happy around them, not nervous. Now I'm wondering if I (and the other people who said that stuff) picked part of that up from Twilight, considering I was in middle school when it was popular.

    Then again, so many older fans of 50 Shades seem to think that being scared of your partner is a-okay and a reasonable compromise to make, so maybe that's not entirely where the idea comes from? Either way, I wish it would go away.

    1. It's so true. Every time I read these posts, I think of the women I know who love these books and how sad their relationships must be if this is the height of romance for them. Apparently most women live in a state of almost-hatred for their significant other???

      (I'm not that surprised by this revelation though, since the women I know who are in incredibly loving relationships based on respect, care and genuine liking for the other person want nothing to do with this series and the ones who love the books always seem to be in very, very scary marriages.)

    2. This type of discussion often reminds me of a post on TLP (which treads that thin line at the border of misogyny on occasion, but whatever. It's super interesting). It's about how people who haven't been in healthy relationships are often satisfied with abusive ones because the volume/intensity of emotion is a good substitute for the quality of the emotion, and they feel emotionally full even if they don't feel emotionally good.

    3. It's hard to wrap my head around, but I can still kind of process the idea that for someone who's never known the difference, they might think, "Ah yes, butterflies in my stomach - that means it's love!" They just don't seem to be aware that it should be "little kid on Christmas Eve" or "night before a big vacation" excitement, not "I have to go to the dentist" or "I have a major exam" anxiety. (And of course there's mixtures, like "my show is opening tonight, please let it go well and no tech failures" anxiety, but that's still GOOD anxious. I think.)

    4. I wonder if the being afraid you'll be attacked by a panther feeling supposed to be something like the feeling associated with a rape fantasy. I've done some scenarios with my partner involving role play of sexual assault, and they are intense because they are both emotionally disturbing and extremely pleasure-filled at the same time. Of course, these are pre-negotiated, stop any time things get too intense, and I'm here for you for cuddling and safety afterwards scenes, which is worlds apart from being afraid to walk into your living room because your partner might be there and who knows if they'll be hungry (I've been there, too, and it's not fun). But maybe this is the kind of feeling James is drawing from/trying to create?

    5. (Same Anon as above)

      Note to self--read whole comment thread before adding two cents. This is addressed AT LENGTH below.

      Glad to see some other people bringing up and discussing the appeal of the non-consent aspects, though!

    6. (Original Anon)

      I can see where that's coming from, and maybe I was tad harsh on the whole nervous aspect, but I would think that there still has to be some underlying trust there, which this book doesn't seem to have. I mean, rape fantasies are fine if only acted on with negotiation/a good understanding of what both/all people feel comfortable with. I just think that, in the case of this book, Ana seems to be actually worried he'll hurt her, and not in a way where she understands that she can safeword out of it, and I dislike that people are viewing this as a guideline for a relationship as opposed to a fantasy.

      As for society as a whole, I just think that telling people that it should be expected without the whole "if that's what both of you are into" added on to the end can make people think that bad situations they're in aren't actually that bad, or convince them they're overreacting.

  4. This entire book is just a constant descent into sadder and sadder territory. I don't mean sad as in pathetic, but genuinely sad. I just feel more and more down about the situation it's describing with each passing chapter.

    1. Yeah. I'm still reading the recaps because I feel like... well I've never even read critiques of 50SoG so I figured it'd be good to know what the damn thing that I'm pretty sure is just actual evil is actually about... but honestly? Each recap just makes me sadder and sadder. It's just so scary and unhappy and... ugh.

      Like I tell people all the time how I LOVE to go to (good) sex toy shops, because where else in our culture can you go to a store where EVERYTHING they sell is meant to make someone happy? Either you or someone you care about. Like AWESOME. I LOVE IT.
      But this book makes me feel so sad and scared. It's like the anti-(good) sex toy shop. And then it makes me go to the dark place of realizing there are probably fucked up abusers like in this goddamn book who go there and sully my awesome lovely stores by buying things that they are going to use to NOT MAKE SOMEONE HAPPY!? This is just WRONG. I HATE this.

      Can this book get thrown into a fire after Cliff is done with it? Or used as toilet paper or something?

    2. I believed the "bad nervous, as in just want to avoid, full stop"="attracted, really" when I was a repressed adolescent, because it helped me rationalize to myself that I really "liked" the boys I was supposed to be liking, I was just y'know, shy. And perfectly comfortable never getting over it.

  5. > The thought pushes me, weighted with concrete, over the edge,

    With Beefy McGoodfella, all your thoughts get measured for cement shoes!

  6. I hope I'm not being rude by saying this, and I want to say at the start that I haven't read this book and I only know about it from your (excellent and hilarious) fisking. But every time you update, I think of it, and I finally just had to say something.

    I think this is getting really hot. Because I get off on nonconsent and reluctance. I get off on rape and humiliation and someone treating me like I'm an object for their pleasure. And yeah, I kinda get off on imagining people in states of fear and reluctance. Maybe I shouldn't state it so baldly, but I dunno, I thought this blog was one of the few places I COULD state it baldly.

    Of course I would never treat someone the way this woman is being treated and I (hope I) would not tolerate this treatment from a friend or partner. It's atrocious. It is soooo beyond not okay in real life. That's why I get off on it. It's not "rough sex" or "punching". It's not SM erotica, it's D/s erotica. It's the psychological aspect of imagining someone who ignores other people's well-being, takes what he wants, and doesn't much bother with normal relationshippy things like in-jokes and laughter. Even though I would obviously run in the opposite direction if I met someone like that in real life. Not everyone is into reading about cordial relationships in which BDSM is "done right".

    I completely understand that it's popular and ubiquitous reading material, and may not be universally understood to be erotica, and that it promulgates shitty ideas about BDSM. I also get that it's triggering and shitty for people who have had these experiences in real life, and I wish that were not the case. But it's what arouses me, and I kinda get the feeling it arouses a lot of other people too, and I'm kinda tired of seeing my particular kinks repeatedly treated with incredulous horror.

    I have to wonder what the point is of painstakingly explaining that it would never work in real life. It feels to me kinda like going through Ocean's 11 with a fine-toothed comb, explaining that one should never commit bank heists. (Although I should clarify I think emotional and sexual abuse is way worse than robbing a bank. But the analogy stands.)

    1. Casino, I mean. They robbed a casino. Also, I want to reiterate that I soooo love your writing and you've taught me so much over the years, and thank you. Sorry about this dumb rant.

    2. Oh, and at the risk of spamming, I wanted to mention that of course this book is terribly-written and not-at-all-researched and contains a trillion inaccuracies, as you have established with these posts. But perhaps its popularity in the face of such blatant awfulness is testament to how many people are content to view it as straightforward erotica, good for one purpose only, like the cheap paperback one reads on the train.

    3. (This is a different Anonymous)

      That is certainly a valid opinion, and you are totally entitled to your pleasures. However, I would argue that this view is hampered somewhat by the author claiming it is a straight-up love story.

      I wouldn't mind if it was just a badly written book about D/s and dubious consent, but it's a badly written book about D/s and dubious consent where the author keeps coming out and saying, "No, this is a love story, this is how your relationship should be in real life." She keeps denying any aspect of wrongness. That is what make me uncomfortable. When she does acknowledge the sex aspect, she treats it as though this is how BDSM is in real life. I personally feel like this is very harmful, especially because this book has become many people's first experience with BDSM.

      If you want to get off on this book, go for it. Far be it from me to stop you. But I think it's good to recognize that the things that are wrong were probably not intentionally wrong, and that the book can be bad for people who don't know better.

    4. Original Anon here. That is certainly a good point; I expected that someone would bring it up. Personally, I think E.L. James would say "it's a love story!" regardless of what she actually believes about the function of her novel. She is looking for mainstream success, and this is the only way to get it. The societal stigma against masturbation material, especially where BDSM is concerned, basically mandates doublethink and hypocrisy among producers of mainstream sexual content.

      If you don't buy that, I'd also like to mention the significant precedent for this sort of thing. Many "love" stories contain perfectly horrific accounts of "love" between an abusive man and a guileless (barf), extremely virginal woman. Mild example: Rhett Butler doesn't give a damn. Protagonists in novels are not required to act morally; in fact, they're often monsters, which occasionally appeals even to those of us who prefer to keep real monsters out of our real lives.

      (I am not asserting that authors are always perfectly aware that the character they've created is, morally, a pile of shit. Many are doubtless oblivious; perhaps EL is one of these. Rather, I'm asserting that it's all right if people create stuff involving characters that treat each other badly.)

    5. @Anonymous: Listen, I get off on humiliation, on non-con and rape fantasies, on objectification, (and pain and (good-in-the-moment) fear.)
      I have a thousand problems with 50 shades, but the main one?
      This series of books was aggressively marketed as how-to guides, how to do consensual (safe) BDSM, how to fix your sex life, how to save your marriage, listen up dudes, this is what all women want. And fine, A marketing campaign alluding to the what-women-want trope in itself might not have been bad. But then there is the tie-in sex toy merch, and an author who seems to think she has written a self-help book, and who calls abuse survivors who point out similarities between their real life lived experiences and her book 'trolls'.

    6. Also (original anon again), regarding "people who don't know better", this seems to give people little credit. I understand you're talking about lack of familiarity specifically with BDSM, but I would argue that many ordinary Joes recognize that Grey is abusive and wouldn't tolerate this behavior IRL. If they are young or inexperienced, well, most books and movies and TV shows have the potential to instill dumbfuck ideas in the minds of our young people. I'm not in the habit of clutching my pearls over it.

    7. (whoops. accidentally created a new thread for this reply. going to copy/paste here. please feel free to delete other comment. I nicknamed myself for convenience.)

      Original loudmouth anon. Anonymous Maximus, assuming those criticisms are true, I'm on board. Valid and infuriating. Still, they seem not to be criticisms of the book itself, but rather how it was presented to the public by its excessively blithe author. I maintain that that's the kind of rationalization that happens when you try to shove erotica headfirst into mainstream readership, but even if I'm wrong about that and EL is a true twitwat, why would one pick through the content of the book? Simply to explain what most readers know - that rape and ignoring limits aren't acceptable in a relationship? Instead, why not critique the author's statements, the marketing ploys, the misguided and dangerous PR?

      Honestly, I wish we could all just look around, nod, and say "this is for getting people off". Even if EL can't bring herself to choke out the words, we should be able to.

    8. See, here's what I don't get. I know a lot of women who have submissive fantasies, nonconsent fantasies, rape fantasies, fantasies where they are physically and/or verbally abused. But what they all have in common is that they enjoy the sex. I know that there are people who do enjoy fantasies much closer to real rape, where the rape victim doesn't enjoy the sex, but there are a lot fewer of them because not-enjoying-things is a much rarer fantasy. I'm not saying it's wrong, I'm saying I'm confused as to why this book has such broad appeal given that it's a "unpleasant rape fiction" rather than a "enjoying it rape fantasy". Like, my rape fantasies don't normally end with me sitting on the bed feeling violated and crying!

      I mean, I guess that part of it is we're supposed to take her "inner goddess" as being the true barometer of how turned on she is, and "Ana" doesn't experience any sexual desire at all? But that seems like a lot of doublethink for such a popular novel.

    9. It's an interesting question. Speaking as a member of that minority that consumes erotica in which the characters genuinely don't end up enjoying themselves, maybe there are more of us than one generally supposes? Particularly because there are lots of people (myself included) who don't insert themselves into the narrative; they read from a third-person POV, so they're not thinking about the action happening directly to them. Ergo their own happyfuntimes don't conflict with the character's unhappy-notfun-times. Dunno, just a hypothesis. Maybe my perspective is hopelessly skewed by my own fantasies.

    10. I'm so glad someone else reads for a third-person POV. I often feel a bit weird for my minority fantasies.

    11. You know, the real reason I don't get this is just that the book never seems like hot non-con fantasy to me.

      Like, if CG were really powerful and strong, and dominated Ana with his iron will, I could see this. I'd still feel like there was way too much "this is literally how relationships should look" talk about this book, but I could see it. Except that he isn't sexily powerful. He's more just pushy and pissy. He whines and manipulates and bickers.

      I would say "this is unethical, but hot" about a guy who tells his sub that she has no choice, her ass will be trained. But a guy who basically goes "but I wanna train your ass and you already set a bunch of limits come on be faaaair"? That's neither ethical nor hot. He's just a giant, pardon me, pain in the ass.

      Of course, now I'm talking about taste more than ethics. But since a lot of real abusers are closer to CG's style than to the fantasy-evil-Dom, it makes all the "perfect man!" stuff about him much more troubling (and incomprehensible) to me.

    12. For the whole "rape fantasy where the victim is actually upset/miserable," I've seen that pretty often. I've run into a lot of fanfic that fits that description, and I even used to write some of it. Heck, one that I read didn't even have rape in it, but was entirely focused on this guy being tortured, with an emphasis on how it affected him emotionally, and there were a lot of comments on how hot it was (I think I remember two of those, on second thought, and one was 60 chapters). Admittedly, most of them have sadists as the target demographic, but not all.

      I don't remember any that were still written as romantic and desirable, though. All that I can think of acknowledged that it was unhealthy and very few of them even occurred in relationships. Most had plots more along the lines of someone being kidnapped and eventually saved, and they just took a long time to get to the rescuing part. Then again, I guess those were more specifically torture-focused than about D/s dynamics. Still, same focus on the protagonist actually hating it.

      Oh, and I agree with the problem mainly being the marketing and the way the author handled it. Still, I think one the worst things I've seen are the fanmade self-help books that advise you on how you can have a relationship like Christian and Ana. I ran into one that was even made by a marriage counselor. That one is called "A User's Guide for Fifty Shades of Grey: Hot Tips to Spice Things Up (Volume 1)."

      One of the comments even highlights the fact that the "wonderful" advice is based on gender (I'm going to take a wild guess and assume that femdom, non-binary people, and same-sex couples aren't acknowledged). I read the available excerpt, and so far it has indeed implied that all women like dominant men, indirectly denied the existence of asexuals, and stated that shaving and waxing is a must. Joy.

    13. it's D/s erotica.

      Not MY D/S erotica. I'm into being dominated, not being treated like shit. I think there's a distinction to be made here.

      Also, you say that books like this give folks very little credit, but I was sexually abused when I was sixteen, and though this was long before 50 Shades, nonconsent fantasies in porn were used as part of my grooming, to prove that this was what I "actually" liked. I was a child in the South; it wasn't like I had access to the Sex Positivity Library or some shit. Where the hell could I go to learn otherwise? I barely even knew what the Internet was back then.

    14. Alright, I'd like to throw my opinion into the hat.

      50 Shades of Grey, as a book, is...fine. I mean, it's badly written and it's full of unlikeable characters and situations that personally make *me* feel uncomfortable, but I understand that some people get off to that and I don't care. Ultimately, the text does not matter to me.

      But the wrapping, that is the problem. People say, don't judge a book by its cover, but sometimes you have to. How did most people learn about this book? Was it from someone saying, "This is a book full of dubious consent", or from someone saying, "This is an ideal love story"? The genre of the book can paint your perception of everything you read in it. Harry Potter does not make a good mystery novel, whatever its strengths as a fantasy book. Davinci Code does not make a good Sci-fi novel. And 50 Shades of Grey is a terrible, terrible romance. I will not argue its strengths or weaknesses as erotica, but as a straight romance with BDSM elements it is...actually pretty terrifying.

      It wouldn't *matter* that there's so much dubious consent if there weren't so many people holding it up as an example to be followed. Media shapes our opinion of the world around us. After cops shows and forensics shows became really popular, many people polled would overestimate by a huge amount how many murders happen every year. And when people are told that 50 Shades is how BDSM is in real life, and that it's okay to be afraid of your partner and that BDSM is something you should put up with to make your partner happy and that it's a good thing when people ignore your wishes, that's bad.

      50 Shades of Grey is harmful because it's pretending to be a standard you should hold yourself to, when in reality it is erotica about a woman who really, really doesn't seem to want to do the things she's being forced into.

    15. To the original anon -- thank you for posting. I haven't really gone looking for reasons why people like the book(s), because for the most part those who claim to like them seem to be in denial about the actual thematic content -- an extremely abusive relationship. For awhile I assumed there were people out there with your point of view, but as I've been reading Cliff's take on the book (the closest I've gotten to actually reading it myself) I sort of gave up the notion. It just seemed too abusive and unsexy.

      But D/s and non-consent aren't my fantasies. So thank you for sharing, and widening my perspective.

      Still: the cover was a tie, and I got the impression that the book was supposed to be a bondage fest, and yet here we are, halfway through, and (unless there's a scene from early on I'm forgetting) there has been zero actual bondage. Abs McBeefstick showed off his dungeon, Ana had a sexy dream, and that was it. I'm happy for you, original anon, but I'm pretty damn disappointed myself.

    16. There was that scene where he tied her wrists with his tie and then his mother showed up. Mmmm, yeah.

    17. OMG, ilk and unfeatheredowl, me three! I had never heard of other people having third-person fantasies also. Maybe we're less rare than we thought?

      I already feel a little less guilty about all the awful stuff I put anonymous non-existent fantasy-person through...

      Regarding the answers to Original Anon at 12:14 AM: nth-ing the idea that writing non-con porn that involves fear and reluctance is not the problem, marketing it as the ideal romance is, and adding the thought that this marketing is extra-not-okay because the stuff in the book mirrors so much real-life abusive bullshit that still gets excused and swept under the rug and romanticized for real.

      The rich powerful guy who gets away with rape and domestic violence, the abusive person who buys their partner expensive gifts to make up for the bruises, the ideas of "their unhappy past excuses their abusive behavior" and "I can love them better!"... these exist in current society, and really don't need to be any further reinforced.

      (And if EL James genuinely doesn't buy her own snake oil, and instead made the calculated decision to sneak this under the radar as an "ideal romance" because it wouldn't sell as a kinky non-con rape/abuse fantasy... accepting the risk that your work reinforces this kind of toxic bullshit just so you can sell your book is a pretty evil bargain to make.)

      As for giving people too little credit... alas, there are plenty of people going to great lengths to explain, apparently quite earnestly, why they do find the book romantic, and want their partner to be more like Christian Grey, and think the relationship is not abusive. I only wish we were underestimating people here.

    18. Another Anon here. I don't think the context can be handwaved away when it comes to this series. What other BDSM-themed series grabs the shelf space at your local bookstore, grocery store, or Costco? These books were ubiquitous. It's all very well to say that it's only one example of its type, but there aren't any other examples standing next to it to give any kind of context or contrast. Does anyone think that there's a reason why this series succeeded on such a grand scale when others would not? I do, and it has to do with rape culture. Anyone remember that magazine article, I think it might have been Time, that talked about how FSoG just goes to prove that no matter how powerful women may seem to be in real life, all they really want when they get home is for a dominant man to overpower them because it makes them feel all girly and precious? I do.

    19. Anon from 4:08 again but it's not really relevant to that comment.

      In reply to Anon at 3:15:

      Yes, those articles... I saw so many of them on different sites, and every single time I just wished I had the opportunity to sit the author down and educate them. Specifically, I just wanted to get them to understand the basic concept of "People have different preferences, and that is okay." I mean, I even saw some feminist sites talking about how all women liked being submissive in sexual situations. While they usually added that that didn't detract from their power in the rest of their lives, it still bothered me that they wouldn't acknowledge that some women prefer being dominant (or neither), and that men have just as much variation in their own preferences (and, you know, non-binary people too, though I feel that may be asking for too much).

      I mean, I'm glad that in the cases where women were the ones writing those articles, that they came to terms with their own feelings, but that doesn't mean they can assume everyone else is secretly just like them. As for the guys writing those articles in a rather gloating tone (especially PUAs...), I just generally rant at them and rage quit before I punch my computer.

    20. @Neurite: major upvote on everything you said, especially about how this mirrors and reinforces actual real horrible things, and many people aren't recognizing them as horrible.

      General reply: I'm another person with third-person fantasies, and whose fantasies tend to involve actually awful things they hate happening to people (this book doesn't do it for me, but that's a personal taste thing). And as far as I'm concerned, a major and absolute important thing for things like that is the fantasy-reality divide.

      Which is to say, some things are OK in reality. And some things can be very hot to imagine, but should never actually happen. And blurring the line between the two is not OK.

      If we lived in a perfect world, this would not be a problem. Anyone reading the hot-but-horrible things would know that they were not OK in reality. But, we don't. We live in a world where a lot of abuse and other awful things are pervasive and normalized. And that means that these things need to be explicitly marked. That a book like this has to start with 'this is an abusive relationship. It is not OK in real life in any way'.

      But it doesn't. And whether that's because the author thinks it's OK (what it seems like to me) or because the author knows it's not OK but doesn't care that it's reinforcing this normalization to other people, the damage is the same. There are 'future Mrs Grey' shirts in real life. There are people in real life who think this kind of relationship is totally fine and even romantic.

      There's nothing wrong with finding abuse erotica hot. But there is quite a bit wrong with perpetuating ideas in the real world that actually hurt people.

    21. I have a non-con fetish, but for me, one of the conditions is that it's agreed upon in advance, be it 3 weeks or 3 seconds in advance. Actually being raped wouldn't excite me nearly as much; I can stop non-con play any time by calling out a safeword if I need/want to stop. That safety, that control is only present in the fantasy, and for me it's necessary. Trust is a major part of sex in general for me, and if that trust is betrayed (sexually or non-sexually), I won't want sex with the person who betrayed me. Ever.

      It's like the difference between watching a slasher movie, and actually being on the run from a serial killer. You can enjoy one without at all being interested in the other.

    22. Hello people. It is good to see this addressed. Cliff also posted about getting off on non-con rape stuff --
      I am not posting this as a "gotcha, you're a hypocrite" or something like that. I also get off reading this guy's material, and in a very specific way I am not proud of -- like, I enjoy reading about this girl having no control and being degraded from a third person perspective. If I were to read of the same things happening to someone who wanted it and who was smiling and happy the whole time, I would lose interest. Same with the porn I watch occasionally -- when you smile, when you are just getting what you asked for and vice versa, it's not porn anymore, it's just other people making love, what's arousing about watching that? (honest)

      I understand that it's not "hot" in the sense, I would not want something like this for me. But I do get off on the imaginary abuse (and when I watch real porn I feel really bad, because the actresses are people and maybe it's not ethical to project all this shit on them -- and what if they have actually been forced into prostitution?) So, porn comics or erotica where you know this isn't real (you are not watching somebody get raped) are a better outlet for these fantasies that I have. I wish I could rewire myself - and sometimes I can get off on thinking about pleasant stuff, but it's hard and I *always* can get off by thinking of noncon stuff faster.

      So, it's possible that a lot of people have the same desire and get off on reading this book. I think, if I hadn't run into porn sites at the age of 12, which basically shaped "what sex is like for other women" and in conjunction with my upbringing "what YOU are too good to do", maybe I would have turned out differently. Maybe people do read this book with a mixture of "omg it's so hot that she's sooo degraded" and " I am too good for this obviously, I can just get off thinking of myself as a bystander"

      Obviously the marketing of the book is misleading, but I would be interested to see Cliff address the similarities (as well as the differences) between 50 shades and powerone's stories and mainstream porn - I think there is a connection there that is the key behind this book's success.

  7. I've been debating for ages whether to comment here, but since another Anonymous did, I figured I would as well. I don't think I'm the intended audience for your blog, but a friend sent me a link to it and I've been reading for quite a while. I really appreciate your writings, because while I often disagree with you, I respect how clear and articulate you are about your positions (er, pun not intended...).

    Anyway, based on your descriptions of this book (which I haven't read), it actually sounds pretty close to a lot of my fantasies! I've always fantasized about being kidnapped, raped, and held in captivity by a handsome and powerful man, who would control many aspects of my life. And in my fantasies I'm always just as miserable as Ana is in your descriptions. I think I must be some kind of emotional masochist.

    In real life I would definitely not date Christian Grey; that's way too much for me. But I have been in relationships that I think you might call abusive, but which I really enjoyed. In particular, I once spent some time living with a man who often had sex with me whether I wanted it or not, who basically wouldn't let me out of his house unaccompanied, and who did (to some extent) control what and when I ate. While I was there, I spent a good portion of my time miserable. We fought a lot and our dialogues were a little like the ones you quoted.

    There was no explicit consent or BDSM negotiation in the relationship; he never asked my permission for any of this. But I knew what I was getting into when I went to stay with him, and I went very willingly. I look back very fondly on the time I stayed with him, and could easily see myself having similar relationships in the future.

    Anyway, my point is, it's possible for people to want relationships like this; where you think "run away!", I think "hey, that sounds pretty nice". But I'm probably unusual, and I agree with you that the book sounds like a poorly-written piece of crap, and that it does BDSM a disservice. I have no intention of reading it.

    1. I don't quite follow... are you saying that you could easily see yourself in, and possibly prefer, relationships in which you "spend a good portion of your time miserable"? Or are you saying that you were ostensibly miserable but secretly loving it? Anyway, at a baseline level, wouldn't you agree that "doing things to another person which they do not want or enjoy" is, uh, bad news bears?

    2. Hmm, I think my comment probably exaggerated the amount of time I spent miserable. It felt like a lot, since there was some misery and conflict basically every day. But there was also a lot of really intense happiness, moreso than in normal life. And most of the time I was feeling neither happiness nor misery, but just screwing around on the internet.

      I think the level of misery in that relationship was not sustainable in the long run. But I do expect anyone I date to at least occasionally do things to me that I don't want or enjoy. To me, that's the whole point of submission. Anyway, I'm speaking purely from my own preferences and experiences, and I will refrain from commenting on whether certain behaviors are bad news for people in general.

    3. Hm, very interesting perspective. Thanks for your reply!

    4. No problem! Thanks for your whole comment thread above; without it I probably wouldn't have spoken up at all (and also it's just a very interesting discussion to read).

    5. But wait a minute. If you specifically want people to do things to you that you don't want... but you don't TALK about these things... doesn't it kind of bother you that this guy was totally okay with raping you? How is he supposed to KNOW that you actually are okay with it, on any level? How are you supposed to keep anything REALLY awful from happening to you? Because whatever your fantasy, surely there's some things that you just really aren't into on any level?

      I mean, I understand the concept of weird fantasies, but as someone who was sexually abused, and comes from a family of inter-generational sexual abuse, this just terrifies me. This was the sort of thing that I thought was REQUIRED in a relationship for the longest time, that I didn't have any choice over. And as a man, I'd be absolutely HORRIFIED if I was in a relationship with a woman who wanted me to make her miserable, but also never talk about it, so I could never tell whether I was actually abusing her or not!

    6. @LBT: Yeah, I think I know what you mean, at least kinda. I've had noncon fantasies for a hell of a long time, dating back to at least some time around first grade, when I thought that rape was being tied up naked and thrown into a burlap sack, to which my mind went "you know, that really doesn't sound too bad" because I guess I was too scared to admit to myself that I liked certain ideas even back then.
      I feel like on some level I NEED these things, but at the same time, they terrify me because I want these things. They're things that I absolutely don't want to happen to me in real life, and I think this is why I've thrown myself as far as I have into anti-rape activism.
      I think on one level, I'm absolutely terrified that I might have invited it somehow with what goes on in my head, or that if it happened, on some level, I might enjoy it.

    7. Ultimately though, I think the difference is you get something out of it that is ultimately positive for you. That seems to be the distinction. I have some similar stuff going on, not the same, but similar in a few ways--sometimes I like being beaten not because it's sexually arousing (which it is for me, to a point) but because I'm proving something to myself, or because it gives me a safe space to process, or I get off on the top getting off--but that doesn't change that it's what I want?

      I think pervocracy, by framing bdsm largely in a sexual sense, is sort of missing a few of the nonsexual aspects that appeal to a lot of people, and that's maybe what is prompting these anons with the 'but it's hot' stuff. Sure it might be hot, but do you actually want to be experiencing that longterm? Would you actually go into a relationship where that was a thing, where someone wasn't abusive because they know that it is actually within your bounds (including the boundaries of 'this is uncomfortable/miserable/painful but I can bear it and am willing to bear it) but because they truly do not care for your physical or mental health and safety, outside of a fantasy concept?

      I say this because I have some kinks which are truly not morally attainable in the real world, but I still find fantasy of it hot (loving or hating or being indifferent about someone so much that you want to eviscerate them and eat their heart/be eviscerated and have your heart eaten doesn't work out so good for realsies for various reasons. Nor does being turned painfully and gradually into stone) and I still prefer to find partners who find that hot IN A FANTASY context, no matter how realistic I like those fantasies to be, and despite sometimes finding proxies to evoke the fantasy in reality. real life for various reasons)

    8. First Anonymous (of this thread) here (the two responses after LBT aren't me). LBT, you raise really good points. I have no particular objection to discussing these things up front with a potential partner, I just don't see it as a requirement. In this particular case, it just felt unnecessary. This guy was controlling, but he wasn't actually a rapist, and (unlike Christian) he was willing to take "no" for an answer if I insisted strongly enough, especially when it came to sex. We reached my hard limits a couple of times, I asked him to stop, and he did. When I said he "had sex with me whether I wanted it or not", that was probably a bit of an exaggeration. Consent was opt-out, not opt-in, and I just wouldn't opt-out until I hit my hard limits. I demonstrated (what I thought was) pretty obvious reluctance in the cases where I didn't want it but didn't explicitly say "no", but I think he (correctly) assumed that if I didn't explicitly say "no", then at some level I was ok with it.

      I don't think he ever physically forced me to do anything; all his manipulation of me was emotional. He gave me orders, and I just didn't object because it was too much work to fight with him all the time. Any time I asked for something or said "no" to something or objected to the way things were done, he'd argue with me a lot and make it seem like my request was unreasonable. So that's the way in which he was controlling and perhaps according to you guys abusive.

      The answer then is, I kept anything REALLY bad from happening to me by saying "no". Also I could have walked out of his house at any point and never come back; he wasn't keeping me there by force. I know the signs of abuse, and for that reason he never had complete emotional power over me. I knew this wasn't a normal relationship and that I shouldn't let the things he said to me affect my self-worth. It would have been completely different if I thought this was the only possible kind of relationship, or if I thought all this stuff was required in a relationship and that I would be a terrible person if I didn't do everything he asked me to. Instead I took pride in my ability to submit to him as much as I did, considering how unreasonable his demands were. I think that made all the difference. I am definitely not advocating real abuse, or saying that it's not actually so bad. If I had actually taken his insults seriously, my self-esteem would be a piece of wreckage right now.

      To the Anonymous who asked "Would you actually go into a relationship where that was a thing, where someone wasn't abusive because they know that it is actually within your bounds (including the boundaries of 'this is uncomfortable/miserable/painful but I can bear it and am willing to bear it) but because they truly do not care for your physical or mental health and safety, outside of a fantasy concept?", my answer is "No, I would definitely not enter such a relationship." I only date people who actually care about me; otherwise I would not submit to them and allow them to push my boundaries and deliberately make me uncomfortable.

      So I guess my preferences are probably a bit less weird/extreme than I made them sound in my first comment here.

    9. I have to say, I read your entire description here and I don't come away thinking that they guy "wasn't really so bad." Your description just reinforces to me that this sounds like a guy who had no problem with coercing, bullying, and raping his partner. And he happened to be with someone who just so happened to like it - but there was no guarantee of that, and apparently no way for him to know that. Which leads me to conclude that he would have apparently been just fine if you had not been okay with it on some level.

      I mean, really, when you say that "I demonstrated (what I thought was) pretty obvious reluctance in the cases where I didn't want it but didn't explicitly say 'no', but I think he (correctly) assumed that if I didn't explicitly say 'no', then at some level I was ok with it"... no no no no no, that is not a reasonable assumption to make in any way. When a person demonstrates "pretty obvious reluctance" but "doesn't explicitly say 'no'," that usually means that they are not okay with it. On any level. The fact that you were was a fortuitous exception, one that he had no way of knowing about (since, as you say, you never discussed this with him).

      "It's not really rape if they only show clear signs of reluctance, but don't actually scream 'no'", "it's not coercive if I don't use actual physical violence, just emotional manipulation", "I'm not straight-up ignoring their objections, just arguing and nagging and belittling and gaslighting them into not objecting", "well I am not literally holding them captive by force"... these are not reasonable, defensible beliefs. These are abuser logic. And barring a conversation that establishes that "actually, in my case, this is okay, these are the rules I want you to play by", the person using this logic is an abuser.

      (And I admit I'm pretty upset that your comment seems to lend some credibility to this kind of logic. Toxic ideas like "they didn't fight back and yell 'no', so can't have been rape" and "if he was truly abusive, then why didn't she leave?" are still rampant in so many parts of our society, and do a lot of harm, so I have a pretty visceral reaction to them.)

      You say that in your case, you didn't let this guy's abuse truly affect your self-worth, he never had full emotional power over you, and in cases when you really, truly didn't want to have sex, you were able to say "no" clearly enough for him. For many, many people, this would not be the case. And again, because you did not discuss this with him, he had no way of knowing the difference. For all he knew, he could have been abusing someone who didn't have your extraordinary defenses.

    10. Ugh, sorry for the word dump. Just wanted to briefly clarify - my problem is not, at all, with your kink for having your boundaries truly pushed and transgressed, and experiencing a degree of true discomfort and misery. (Heck, I have some pretty similar kinks... maybe that's why I'm reacting so strongly here.)

      The relationship you describe, but with a clarifying conversation up front? I have no issue with. But I'm shocked that you say you don't think there's any requirement for it - that you don't see why that one distinction makes all the difference.

    11. Neurite, I just want to say thanks for your responses in this thread. I was in a relationship where I refused to see emotional abuse and partner rape for what it was, for almost four years. I used those same excuses to myself - "well, I didn't actually SAY no, I just resisted, so maybe he thought I wanted it", "well, I explicitly told him no earlier, but he kept trying and it was too much effort to have an argument over it, so I guess he must have changed my mind", "maybe I really am a shitty girlfriend for wanting to spend time with my friends and by myself, instead of with him all the time", and all the rest. I'm four years removed from that relationship now, but it still always helps to see someone reinforcing that no, those things are Not Ok if they haven't been pre-negotiated between the participants.

    12. Ditto what Hyacinthe said in thanking Neurite for the comments. And Hyacinthe - so sorry you went through that and I hope things are much better for you now.

  8. Ah, yes. That line about having sex on the hood of the car. Reading that line in another recap was the first time I felt like my programming was being manipulated. By which I mean, the line was appealing in theory, but in was horrifying.
    Or, perhaps it's just the general pattern of behavior that we've come to expect from him and it would be amazingly hot from a guy who was actually genuinely caring with his partner, I don't know.
    I kinda have a little gripe about the bit about having to be necessarily excited about something to try it, since you can enjoy things that you didn't think you would (or your body can learn to like them, as I found out) but... damn, this girl doesn't seem to be interested in anything and maybe I'm just being contrary to get my mind off how terrible that last bit with the "negotiation" is.
    Also, I'm not sure if this has been mentioned, but what is UP with Kate's characterization, anyway? (And yes, I know, she wasn't in this chapter, as far as I know, but I think I keep forgetting about this and it's been bugging me.) Like, one chapter she's warning Ana to stay away from Christian and going on about how he doesn't trust the guy, and the next she's excitedly asking about how their date went. I don't understand.

    1. Like, one chapter she's warning Ana to stay away from Christian and going on about how he doesn't trust the guy, and the next she's excitedly asking about how their date went. I don't understand.

      During my mocking, it was decided that Kate was trying to gather information for the police report later.

  9. So he feeds her half a bottle of wine while discussing limits. For some reason the phrase "The Submissive will not drink to excess" keeps coming to mind.

    But I'm glad they had this talk. It's important to discuss which limits are not important, which ones will be broken now and which ones need to be worked up to. That way there's no confusion.

  10. This book. It’s not something we can dive into.

    1. One does not simply dive into Ass-Mordor.

  11. Fifty Shades of Grey is Erotic Horror. It's from the viewpoint of somebody who is both terrified and sexually aroused by the same thing (in this case a specific person). I can't imagine another term for it. I'm not the one who made up that term. "" has a whole section of it. I read one set of stories featuring a magical school, succubi, and graphic descriptions of what it is like to orgasm to death. Two young wizards summon two succubi, one loses his soul through his dick, the other repeatedly gets fucked nearly the death again and again over a 21 part series.

    I can kind of understand the appeal. I'm not fully excluding myself when I note that the people who are into this might have learned a mental connection between sex and terror. There is also the anonymous poster above who said they have a sense of emotional masochism that drove them to pursue, intentionally, an abusive relationship. Either way some people get off on it. However I can't help but wonder how healthy is the sexuality of these people. My relationship with sexuality isn't entirely healthy either, (I fantasize about romantic relationships and sex constantly, constantly read sex focused blogs and books, but never ask out anyone out, I'm too scared to flirt, I always go for written erotica with a physically impossible element). The most obvious conclusion is that FSoG fans are sexually repressed. They are terrified of becoming sluts, too terrified to acknowledge their desires. I would speculate that many have been in abusive relationships for so long that the things feminists call abuse they call normal or even romantic.

    Going from the quotes above, it seems like Anastasia is suddenly REALLY into being a dominant. Obviously she's not actually in charge, but it sounds like the idea of it seems to excite her, (well assuming that exciting her "inner goddess" is the same as exciting the parts of her that hyper chaste women don't talk about). Meanwhile of course, things representing her submission get no apparent positive reaction. Maybe she is kinky, it's just that they are both dominants.

    1. Sadly, I don't think it's so much Ana being a dominant, as it is "I get to have some agency and decision-making? What is this unfamiliar sensation? It feels good!"

    2. Maybe the problem (well, one of them) is that E.L. James does a terrible job of portraying "scared yet aroused" in Ana. Because the "scared" is all very up front and realistic, while the "aroused" is outsourced to this inner goddess character doing cheerleading moves, it comes off seeming like Ana herself is only scared.

    3. Yeah, I don't really get the "aroused" thing coming across either. The first couple of chapters succeeded in characterising the "inner goddess" as remarkably similar to the part of my own mind that, when I was 14 or 15, would latch onto anything even vaguely erotic and go "OMG OMG OMG SEX OMG LOOK SEX OMG KISSING AND SEX OMG!" So now, I really can't see it as representative of Ana's desires - especially since, on the few occasions that she actually has seemed to be aroused or enjoy something sexual, James has dispensed with the "inner goddess" entirely and just written Ana having fun.

      If I had to characterise the inner goddess, I'd probably describe it as the whispering voice of teenage peer pressure which always mutters "If you don't do it you're frigid!" to adolescents in situations they'd really rather not be in. So indeed, just scared, not scared and aroused.

    4. Actually I agree. She is elated to be given some power, in isolation you could say she sexually attracted to that power, however the rest of the book sees Grey constantly taking over absolutely every drop of freedom and power she might have had, so she's only getting a little bit of what she should have had in the first place back.

      I thought of the inner goddess as her Freudian "id" which she's managed to psychologically detach from the rest of her psyche. In the real world, they have found that women think about food, sex, and sleep less than men, and women worry about what others think of them more. I took Anastasia Steele to be an extreme part of that. She feels base urges, but can't even conceive of these base urges as being coming from something inside, but still not quite a part of her. Like I said in a comment on the infamous Chp. 12, our protagonist, most likely the author and many of the readers feel a psychological need to distance themselves from their own sexual arousal, and I think most of the horrifying aspects of FSoG and Twilight are all in service of that need, (which is problematic in the first place).

      So reading "Ana's inner goddess dances!" actually means "Ana is excited, horny, hungry, etc." I wonder if specific goddess dances correspond to specific fundamentally human needs? Samba = sex, Polka = thirst, etc.

    5. 'They have found that women think about food, sex and sleep less than men'. It must be Vague Evo Psych Bullshit Generalisation Day! Seriously, why say this? The rest of the comment is insightful, but it's let down by this random bit of mansplaination

    6. I don't think this works as erotic horror. Because first, Ana isn't actually "terrified and sexually aroused by the same thing". It's different things. She gets aroused when they're doing sex or when she's staring at him, but not at all during the parts where he's talking about BDSM she's not into or when he's being emotionally abusive.
      Also, this isn't the right kind of feeling for erotic horror. The thing with that, as far as I understand, is the whole idea with the brain blurring the boundaries between heightened states, so fear can increase sexual excitement. But Ana's not terrified of Christian in that way - she's more like working through gross annoying things that make her nervous. There isn't really ever the heightened state about it, so much.

    7. Yeah. He'd be a lot sexier if he sprouted some tentacles or something.

    8. The boyfriend once found some Slenderman domination erotic mind control tentacle erotica.

      It wasn't sexier than Fifty Shades of Grey, but it was a hell of a lot weirder and funnier.

  12. If I were Ana, I'd take to passive-aggressively wrapping unwanted gift-Audis around telephone poles until he gave up or went broke.

    1. Hey, I'd sell it. And the first edition of Tess of the D'Urbervilles or whatever it was. "You gave it to me even though I didn't want it. That's what I do with things I don't want."

    2. "Thanks so much for the car! But like I said, I'm not really a car person and I'm perfectly happy with my old hoopty, so I took it back to the dealer and got a 90% refund that I used to pay off my student loans. Financial independence at last... sure has a nice ring to it, huh?"

  13. I'm seeing a lot of people, when they're talking about their rape fantasies, saying "I want", "I like", "I fantasize about". Ana doesn't want, or like, or fantasize. She's not into this at all. She's not into it and he's terrible at it anyway.

    Also, I was unaware that "D/s" erotica and BDSM erotica were different things. In my fandoms, they're used interchangeably. Should I not have labeled my lovingly consensual Marvel fic as D/s?

    1. Not an expert, but as far as I am aware, D/s is part of BDSM, but not everything in BDSM is D/s. D/s is specifically about dominance and submission, BDSM is more of an umbrella term. You can have people who are just into pain but not power dynamics, or just into rope play but not pain or power dynamics. Those people would be into BDSM, but not D/s.

      D/s can still be loving and consensual (and should definitely be at least consensual in real life circumstances), so your fic is labeled correctly as long as there are some power dynamics (be they long-term or temporary).

    2. Jumping on other Anonymous's bandwagon of helpful explaining, BDSM as an acronym stands for a bunch of things. Bondage/Discipline, Dominant/submissive (D/s), and Sadism/Masochism. D/s is part of BDSM, but it's not all of it.

    3. Should I not have labeled my lovingly consensual Marvel fic as D/s?

      Oh god please don't think this. I HATE the idea that D/S is necessarily being treated like shit. I'm a sub, and my taste is ONLY for the fluffy consensual stuff. I know other people aren't, but yes, D/S can be loving and consensual too.

    4. Agreed with the above people, and also I think it's the other way around.
      Describing something like this (as in, something utterly not-consentual with desire on only one side) as 'D/s erotica' works if you mean 'erotica for D/s people', but ends up being rather of an issue if you mean 'erotica about D/s'. If you want to talk about content, not audience, it's abuse erotica.

      Much like if I were to describe some of the stories I write, say about horrible prison camps, that might be SM erotica in the sense of being for SM people, but in content it's torture erotica.

    5. Sometimes people have fantasies that are voyeristic - ie, you get off on Ana being thrown around like that, without necessarily identifying with her or Gray, the two of them being just props in your mind who likes to think about this scenario, for some reason. The fact that it's wrong and noncon doesn't matter (or it just makes it better) if you are using the book as fap material. Maybe it makes it better when it's fap material sold as love story because then you can have your voyeristic, schadenfreude-y fap sessions while telling yourself it's a love story, ie, something women are supposed to like.

  14. Seriously, it sounds absolutely miserable. Horrible writing I get, unintentionally cringeworthy sex scenes I get (see bad writing), even fucked up ideas about gender and BDSM and so on. But, as you say: this feels about as fun as a root canal. If she were more honest or self aware it might actually be more like hate fucking, because everything except her stupid inner goddess screams "I actually don't even like this guy, why doesn't he leave me the hell alone?"

    Or, maybe that's just me.

  15. A new anon =)

    I like occasionally having surprise sex. Eg, walking around my house and suddenly being thrown to the ground. Took a long time to teach the boyfriend that (he really is far too nice to be participating in such things), he only got it with much convincing that I really was into it. I also like waking up to find him having sex with me (best way to wake up), and I like violent struggling sex (again, occasionally. Far too exhausting and time consuming to do every day).
    But there are two very key differences a) I am consenting without co-ercion. b) The safeword works.
    I have only once used the safeword, in these sorts of games, one of the sleep sex times, and I have never seen boyfriend move so fast in our years of dating. He immediatly stopped, checked that I was ok, then after finding out I really was fine, just wasn't in the mood for sex, asked if I would mind if he finished himself off. This was fairly early on too, and it help cement my like of him (I am not even sure if we were dating yet when this took place), not once did he whine that I had cut off his sex.

    And having said all that... The two times I have had people actually approach with me devious plans I responded much less willingly. Screaming blue murder and threatening to mace them if they came any closer sort of less willlingly.

  16. A lot of people have mentioned that so far Christian just seems really whiny, not hot, and that the whole thing just seems frustrating. I'm not in the habit of defending this book, but in this case, I think that was intentional. This is the "plot." This is the struggle they are overcoming. Based on what I've heard from fans, the D/s stuff is not there for porn purposes, it's there as the problem they have to solve, and the sex is just a plus, with the ultimate fantasy being changing/saving Christian. In other words, you guys are right, his attitude isn't hot, and it wasn't intended to be (as far as I can tell).

    1. Yeah, but the books are marketed as 'BDSM porn' and there's a load of tie-in stuff that's like, beginner's bondage kits and stuff, and ?????

    2. Yeah, which is why one of the most frustrating thing for me about this book (before I knew people were holding it up as a romantic ideal) was the marketing. It's like if someone based the whole marketing campaign of Titanic off "Oh look, icebergs! Aren't the beautiful?! And what about those class hierarchies?! They're truly every girl's dream. Buy your iceberg pendants today!"

    3. Oh, and there would be Titanic-themed cruises that featured Edwardian cosplaying and iceberg sightseeing!

  17. Cliff... Just a random reminder that we are out there...

    I don't understand how or why people can love pain...And I love that you love it, and that you love your poly life (am poly, so I "get" that).

    I also don't really understand how people can be comfortable doing scenes, or even showing up to a sex-oriented party...And I love that you love doing that.

    I'm physically female, and identify as such...And I love that you love identifying as male and presenting yourself as such...

    In other words, I'm among the...sadly, quite small...population that doesn't do what you do, or understand how (a lot of) it can be enjoyable...And it's totally fucking cool. We such peeps be out there, and we're a growing population...Your blog really helps with that :-)

    You rock my weird little world, bro.

  18. Heyyy the funny's back!
    I mean, it's still awfully terribly horrible, but now possible to do stuff besides stare and gape at that.
    And these images are RUINING my ability to just eat cereal like a normal person.

  19. I didn't read all the comments here so someone might have already mentioned this.

    But from what I can tell, having that small modicum of dominance/control seems to be the closest she's come to being legitimately turned on by a sexual act/scenario. Maybe there should be some story where she runs away has a fulfilling d/s relationship a dom?

    But I'm as non-kinky as they come, so maybe I'm missing something.

  20. The really weird thing is this doesn't even have the theoretical appeal of ''rich guy buys you stuff and insists you accept.'' In a fantasy context that could work fine as a ''yay expensive things bought for you and you don't have to feel guilty because you had no choice in the matter!'' But here it... really doesn't. There's no ''yay!'' here, just a worryingly realistic depiction of someone in an oncomfortable position having someone buy them things as a way to further violate their boundaries and assert control over them, to which they respond with *dread*. And then the author turns round and calls it a romance. Just.... dammit this is *not* how you depict a ''swept off your feet by Rich McPennybags'' fantasy.

  21. In regards to the anon comments above, I can say that I...understand where their POV is coming from. I've been in fandom for a very long time, and have read my share of rape-fantasy stories and even found them hot (although as I get older, I have less stomach for them). However, the core of those rape-fantasy stories tend to be that secretly, the rapee loves it -- or at least, the writer is more careful not to have so much time devoted to describing just how much the character hates it, is afraid of it, feels downright terrified and violated and all sorts of other horrific adjectives that bring the story out of that magical fantasy-land where things like rape can be condoned for the sake of story and erotica, and back into the world of reality where rape is a terrible, life-changing thing that should happen to absolutely no one.

    In large part this occurs because ELJ is a terrible writer with clunky prose with no idea whatsoever how to manipulate language to elicit arousal from the reader. I can't help but feel that a better writer with the same storyline and the same characters could make this a palatable, even hot story -- romantic, even.

    (And for those who have rape fantasies, it's important to note here that rape fantasies are just that: fantasies. If you're consenting to 'rape' it's not really rape. Consent is the key word here.)

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  23. Where are you? We miss you. :(

  24. Cliff, I'm waiting for your new posts desperately.
    Are you okay? :)

  25. A friend of mine is involved in BDSM and she told me about a time she and a friend of hers had recently topped her friend's girlfriend. It inolved flogging. The sub loved every second of it and the two doms were the ones to call an end to the scene. The sub was having so much fun that she wanted to continue and protested at them stopping, but the two doms were careful about not leaving her back and arse in a really bad state.

    That's a wonderful thing to me. Trust, caring, being responsible enough to not hurt somebody in a way that would take a long time to heal, recognising that the sub may not be entirely rational while high on endorphins. I don't know anything, but I bet my friend would be a good example of a responsible dom. :-)