Here we are for part three of the feminist angled read through of E L James’s Fifty Shades of Wrong. If you haven’t already, make sure to catch up on parts one and two. This section will cover chapters six through 11. As usual, be warned that spoilers are inevitable.
By Cedar Goslin
In chapter six we discover that not only Christian Grey a disturbed, abusive pig with unhealthy sexual desires, but he has a name for it! Grey claims to be a participant in the BDSM lifestyle, and he would like to be Ana’s “dominant,” making her his “submissive.” Well, at least that explains the contract. And the fact that the cover of the third book is a pair of handcuffs… I suppose I should have seen this coming. Anyway, not being familiar with the particulars of BDSM relationships, I took the time to do some research. To over simplify what I’ve learned, relationships between dominants and submissives are consensual agreements between two participants in the lifestyle, each of whom have a desire to be in their particular role for whatever reason. Before entering the relationship, the couple designates mutually agreed upon rules, and each party establishes hard limits (things they absolutely will not do) and soft limits (things they are wary about, so the other party should take care to remember that). One of the mantras of the lifestyle is everything must be “safe, sane and consensual.” I intend to neither condemn nor condone the actual BDSM lifestyle, but what I will do is prove that Christian Grey and Ana Steele’s relationship is not a mutually consensual relationship, BDSM or otherwise. Indeed, it is abuse in kink’s clothing.
Ana is too inexperienced and emotionally unstable to choose this lifestyle. Think back to your own first romantic relationship. It probably took place on the threshold of puberty, and involved mostly hand-holding, or a kiss if you were feeling particularly amorous. There were certainly no handcuffs, riding crops or nipple clamps involved; not only were you too innocent (I should hope) to see anything sexual about those objects, but you were also too young to have discovered what your own personal tastes consisted of. You have to keep in mind that Ana is a 21-year-old child with absolutely no sexual or romantic experience. Her decision to venture into the BDSM lifestyle is no more informed or valid than a middle school student’s would be, even if it has legal standing. Not to mention, the contract that Grey expects Ana to sign seals her into this twisted relationship for three months. At this point, Ana should be gradually introducing herself to the sexual world and gently experimenting, not signing a three month contract that gives some creep permission to beat and rape her.
Even if Ana could legitimately consent to domestic violence, she doesn’t want to. Typically, the sort of agreement Grey is asking for is made by two people previously interested in the lifestyle, but Ana was not. When Grey told her the nature of the relationship that he wanted, she was severely disappointed– she cried. But by then she was already falling for Grey, charmed my the dazzle of his money and fame just like any child would be. Because Ana apparently isn’t smart enough to know when heed the warning of her best friend and run, she agrees to Grey’s terms, but only because she believes that she can change him and get him to commit to a more traditional relationship. This misguided decision shows an obvious lack of maturity and common sense on Ana’s part. Not only is she agreeing to a dangerous situation that she isn’t comfortable with, but she’s entering a relationship under the assumption that she can change her man. I think we all know that never works out. The fact that she’s going about this in such an ignorant way just emphasizes the fact that she is incapable of understanding the severity of what she’s agreeing to.
Christian Grey is a manipulative sociopath. As much as he pretends to care about the legal work, from the beginning Christian Grey had no intention of initiating a BDSM relationship in the proper way– or in giving Ana a choice. BDSM relationships, when done properly, take place between two consenting adults, each of which who have an interest in the BDSM lifestyle, and who understand fully what they’re getting into. As previously
covered, Ana can neither give her informed consent, nor is she interested in the BDSM lifestyle. She also doesn’t understand what she’s getting into, and Grey wants it that way. When he began pursuing Ana, and she was daring to dream about flowers and romantic walks in the park, he never thought to mention the fact that she could expect no flowers from him, but he would love to chain her to a wall and hit her a cane. Grey did everything he could to make Ana fall in love with him, knowing very well that she was charmed by him. But, if he wasn’t interested in romance, why did Christian want to inspire such feelings in Ana? The answer was simple: he was manipulating her. He knew that she would have no interest in taking part in his idea of a relationship, so rather than be straight forward, he tricked her into falling for him, hoping that if she liked him enough she couldn’t say no– if nothing else, Grey is excellent at getting people to do what he want, as he so modestly boasts. It is clear that Grey’s intention all along was to manipulate Ana into consenting to his sick fantasy by the absurd lengths he goes through to charm her; he even admits to being angry with Ana because her actions “forced him to show his hand” too early.
Grey is unfit to participate in a BDSM relationship–or any sort of relationship for that matter– because he’s incapable of caring for anyone other than himself. It becomes very clear that he’s incapable of empathy rather early on. Whenever Ana is upset by their arrangement– such as her initial hurt at discovering that he wants to harm and control her– he is unable to see things from her point of view, or understand why she’d be bothered. When he shows any concern, it’s not for Ana, but rather for how her attitude will impact the relationship he desires. Someone like Christian Grey is naturally abusive and completely self centered; such a man cannot be trusted to respectfully hold the role of dominant in a BDSM relationship.
This relationship is not consensual. Christian Grey began playing the role of Ana’s “dominant” before ever even informing her that he was interested in that kind of relationship. Recall how he constantly “scolded” her, stalked her cell phone, showed up at the bar to get her without
permission, and changed her commute arrangements without permission so she would have to go get coffee with him. There’s a word for that, kids, and it’s not “romantic.” It’s psychotic. Christian Grey has been domineering and abusive from the get go; the fact that he brought up consent papers after he’d already established an unhealthy relationship with Ana does not change that.
And speaking of those consent papers, apparently Grey didn’t see fit to mention to Ana that they weren’t legally binding. He presented them as official documents, and someone as young, naive and ignorant as Ana would understandable under the impression that if she signed the contract she would be bound by it. Clearly, he intended to make her think that she did not have the right to withdraw consent. Refusing to let someone withdraw consent is just as bad as never getting it in the first place: it is rape.
In an actual consenting BDSM relationship, both parties are supposed to be able outline a list of things that they don’t want to do– as mentioned before, these are called hard limits. Mr. Grey, however, merely uses the hard limits clause to give Ana a false sense of control. She tells him that she doesn’t want to participate in anal fisting or anal sex. Rather than accept her preference like a decent human being, Grey says that he’ll agree to the fisting, but he’d “really like to claim her ass.” And then the discussion is closed, and it is determined that anal sex will take place whether Ana likes it or not.
So…BDSM relationships are intended to be safe, sane and consensual, but the evidence above proves that Christian and Ana’s relationship meets none of those qualifications. The relationship takes place between an insecure, emotionally unstable little girl in an adult’s body and an abusive, stalking sociopath. As if that wasn’t enough to be a recipe for disaster, this is a non-consensual relationship: Grey began dominating Ana before he told her his intent, he attempts to remove her ability to withdraw consent, and he refuses to respect or accept the things that she does not want to do. My friends, but this is not a romantic book, but rather the tale of a victim of stockholm syndrome and her serial rapist.
Keep an eye out for the next installment of my read through of Fifty Shades of Grey. I have to admit that it’s been slow going because I can’t help but picture Ana as the child that E L James portrays her to be, so reading this garble makes me sick to my stomach. But I will persist! Your input is welcome and appreciated. In the meantime, enjoy another wonderful audio read through of everyone’s favorite rape novel.
And here is part four.