Saturday, March 22, 2014

50 Shades of Smartass: Chapter 20

When we last left Christian and Ana, he had put her over his shoulder and was taking her to the boathouse for punishment spanking and fucking. But, to all of our surprises, she protests: "Please don't hit me." And "I don't want you to spank me, not here, not now. Please don't."

Christian is surprised and confused. This is new. "No one's ever said no to me before. And it's so--hot." My eyes hurt from all the rolling. Yeah, we can tell no one's ever said no to you. That's your problem, you spoiled child. Spoil a child too much and what they have will never be enough.

She tries to touch his face and kiss him and be sweet to him, like she's taming him somehow, but Christian's really MAD, because she closed her legs at the dinner table when he tried to touch her, and because Ana never said anything about Georgia, and because "you went drinking with that guy who tried to seduce you when you were drunk," which explains a lot of the core problems with this book, because what Jose did was not a seduction, it was an attempted date rape.

He's just all about the possessiveness. Sure, she can tell him she doesn't want the spanking, but he still puts his hand over her pussy sex and says "This is mine. All mine. Do you understand?" He's got his teeth clenched and he's breathing hard like he's having some kind of attack. Then he pushes her down on the couch, bent over, with her hands behind her head so she can't touch him, and fucks her back into submission. That's really what it is. He tells her "This will be quick, and it's for me, not you. Do you understand? Don't come, or I will spank you." He might just as easily have said "Now that you've humanized yourself in my eyes, I've got to turn you back into an object." Afterwards he tells her "Don't touch yourself. I want you frustrated. That's what you do to me by not talking to me, by denying me what's mine." You know, because the only way a woman should ever get off is when a penis makes her do it, because the penis is superior and gives man dominion over woman and whatever idiotic trip he's on.

This is all so far beyond bullshit now. I just want him to walk into a propeller.

The only way this asshole can think is in terms of his own sexual needs. Sorry, Ana, but Christian's already in a co-dependent relationship with his cock.

There are so many little things being dropped all over the place. Christian hands Ana her panties and says "You may put these on now" and Ana considers this "a small victory"? She calls his attack "unprovoked" and he whines "You kissed me" and she thinks that's cute and makes it all okay? Jesus, I'm actually glad when Mia shows up and screeches them back to the house, and I fucking hate Mia with every fiber of my being. Every character in this book has exactly one dimension, and Mia's is "spoiled brat who thinks everything she does is cute and thinks it's fun for other people when a 20 year-old acts like she's 6."

Elliot and Kate are leaving, and we're constantly told how their demonstrative affection is so annoying, you guys, and I still don't understand why that is. Ana and Mia are always offended by watching a couple in love be cute with each other, and, I mean, Ana, who are you to judge?

Stop everything for a moment: Ana and Mia? Ana...Mia? Like Ana/Mia, like Ana and Mia the nicknames for anorexia and bulimia? What the hell? And also, how fitting. In much the same way this novel is for idiots who think abuse is merely an intense variation on romance, the girls who go around talking about Ana and Mia are idiots who think eating disorders are merely a lifestyle choice. I hate this idiot book more and more with each chapter.

So, Kate and Elliot are leaving, and Anastasia is really mad about Kate antagonizing Christian, to which Kate answers "He needs antagonizing; then you can see what he's really like. Be careful, Ana--he's so controlling." Which is just funny and ironic, because so is Kate, when you really think about it. I used to see this happen all the time as a teenager: you have two friends, and one of them is clearly the dominant friend, and then the dominant friend gets pissed off when the submissive friend gets a boyfriend who becomes the new focus in her life. Cue the empty "You've really changed" whining.

The thing I have a problem with is that Kate could just sit down and talk to Ana about her concerns like a real friend, but instead just makes these passive-aggressive comments or drops these bombs in the middle of casual conversation, so it doesn't seem like she's antagonizing Christian at all: she's antagonizing Ana.

And it's not like that works with people, because Ana defensively thinks "I KNOW WHAT HE'S REALLY LIKE--YOU DON'T!" So, congratulations on putting her in the position of defending her abuser. By making catty, shady comments, you're just making her feel stupid, and she'll just respond by hewing more closely to the unhealthy situation she's in. I've seen that in a lot of relationships, too. Hell, I spent a lot more time than I should have with someone who emotionally and psychologically abused me just because my parents decided to have a big confrontation with me about how I was staying out too late. I felt forced into saying that I loved this person that I didn't simply because I was put on the irrational defensive.

Christian and Ana decide to leave, too, and his family is being very sweet and kind to her and accepting her with open arms, which Ana basically says is more than she can handle. I don't have a problem with that, because I understand those self-esteem issues very well. What I do have a problem with is Christian telling his family not to "spoil her with too much affection," because he doesn't want his toy discovering she's a thinking person who can make her own decisions. Classic abuser move: don't let her feel too good about herself, because that inspires independent thinking.

That he even has the balls later to praise her in the car--"Why are you so filled with self-doubt? It never ceases to amaze me."--is just more abuse. It's like he's training her to only expect reassurance from him and no one else. Again: classic abuser move.

So, Ana wants to go visit her mom in Georgia, so Christian asks if he can come with. You know, can't give her too much freedom, she might remember she's a person. The book sort of tries to play it like she's met his family, and now he wants to meet hers, but I can see through it. Since when is he interested in anything that happens to her unless it directly effects him? She says she's having second thoughts, and he's clearly starting to worry about her not signing up with him.

He's really confrontational here, wanting to know why she's having second thoughts. Dude, when a woman says she needs space to think, you be respectful and give it to her instead of, say, showing up at her apartment and fucking her into submission.

Here are some things Ana thinks, but doesn't say, about her second thoughts:

:: "Because I think I love you, and you just see me as a toy. Because I can't touch you, because I'm too frightened to show you any affection in case you flinch or tell me off or worse--beat me?"
:: "I don't want to lose him. In spite of all his demands, his need to control, his scary vices, I have never felt as alive as I do now."
:: "Deep down, I would just like more, more affection, more playful Christian, more...love."

She's deeply confused. She's got a lot of things to think about. It's like she knows she's in an abusive relationship but won't just pull the ripcord and get out. What she needs is time in a loving environment to sort it all out, and that's exactly what Christian doesn't want her to have. And then we get this gem:

"This man, whom I once thought of as a romantic hero--a brave shining white knight, or the dark knight as he said. He’s not a hero, he’s a man with serious, deep emotional flaws, and he’s dragging me into the dark. Can I not guide him into the light?"

That pretty much sums up everything that's wrong here. This love conquers all bullshit that so much of modern pop culture seems to be built around. You can't change a man into a better person by just staying in an abusive relationship: staying in the relationship is just positive reinforcement of his abusive tendencies. The idea that we should glorify an abusive relationship into a romantic one is just fucked up and wrong. And constantly trying to portray Christian as a broken child who needs love to be redeemed is disgusting and manipulative.

None of this in the book is deconstructed or contextualized. Because we're constantly in Ana's head and that's the only perspective we get, and she's that kind of socially awkward where she barely interacts with others, it's easy to see how he preys on her and how that predation is normalized. Attention = good feelings. Abuse = attention, therefore abuse = good feelings. Sex = good feelings. Abuse = sex, therefore abuse = good feelings. So, you know, if a man hits you against your will and rapes you and spanks you when you try to assert your feelings, it's just because he loves you and he's so broken that abuse is the only way he can show it. And if you're in an abusive relationship, just stay in it and try to fix it, because eventually you can redeem him by loving him enough. Remember what you learned and internalized on the playground: if a boy bullies and hits you, it's really only because he likes you.

But the same way Christian can't fuck Ana into liking BDSM, she can't love him into respecting her. It doesn't work that way.

This is a depressing, disgusting book.

So she finally says to Christian, again: "I still want more." And he promises to try. And we still have no idea if they're supposed to be a couple or a business arrangement, but they really need to pick one and stop being assholes. She also agrees to try, which I think she's clearly been doing. She's met him more than halfway on this stupid thing.

She even agrees to sign the contract on the spur of the moment, but Christian, in a rare moment of magnanimity, tells her to wait until she's come back from Georgia and had time to think. (Watch, though: I'll bet you a thousand bucks when she gets to Georgia it's constant emails and phone calls from him.) It's all just more manipulation to give her the illusion of free will, because even as he's telling her to take her time, he's asking her to stay over, and then when they get home, he immediately becomes controlling. It all becomes innuendo and orders and threats about when and where they'll eventually fuck, and then he starts being cute and of course she loves it, and it just all smacks of toying with her. He's trying to give her what she wants so that she won't think it's time to run when she lands in Georgia. (He's not going, which I hope means we'll eventually find out that he's Ana's mom's mysterious third husband, because when you're going this perverse mentally, you might as well go all in with your depraved bullshit.)

Christian's going to give Ana her vanilla sex and sleeping together, but she wants to touch him, too, and there's no way Christian's doing that. In fact, he gets really irritated and starts to throw one of his, I guess, sexy temper tantrums when she presses him on why. Protip: a relationship that is threatened by the truth is not a relationship worth having.

Ana thinks "I need to be able to show him affection--then perhaps he can reciprocate."

You're not studying chimps, Ana. You are talking about your relationship the way people talk about making contact with other species. Stop trying to fix him; you're not qualified. You were an English major.

So she tries to bargain background information--"I want to know you better"--for sex, which amuses him in that condescending way. He decides, instead, that he's going to put Ben Wa balls inside of her and spank her and then fuck her and then, if she's still awake, she can ask him a couple of questions. Because of course this is what happens. And she goes along with it, and he keeps telling her--reinforcing--that this is for their pleasure, not a punishment. (And certainly not to evade any personal questions, I mean, come on.) It's boring and endless--I mean, the sex isn't even that good, so I don't get the attention given to this book--and even afterwards he keeps trying to avoid her questions.

Finally, he lets out with: "The woman who brought me into this world was a crack-whore, Anastasia. Go to sleep." She died when he was four.

This is one of those moments that's presented like another psychological key, like this explains how broken he is and why he can't be touched, and it just makes Ana feel sorrier for him and what a victim he is and she thinks about the sad little boy he must have been.

She's got it wrong. Because it's really this: random misogyny. It doesn't explain away or excuse why he doesn't like personal closeness (foster family notwithstanding, apparently). It just explains that he feels he has a right to be an abusive rapist because women need to be punished for the woman that didn't make him feel loved.

Everyone needs psychiatric care. Including me, for reading this.

Six more chapters left, guys. 146 pages to go.

I want to leave you with two thoughts before I close out: Consent is not the absence of a no, it's the presence of a yes. And BDSM is not abuse, and abuse is not BDSM.

Stay safe, everybody.

1 comment:

Roger Owen Green said...

Good final message