Tuesday, February 3, 2015

50 Shades of Grey Review - Chapter Seven

So the chapter opens on Grey’s decadent playroom. And...

Actually, Grey’s playroom sounds pretty amazing. And, to be fair, a part of me is jealous and sad, which is making me a little spiteful, because despite the unfortunate color-scheme, that room sounds like sooo much FUN to a girl like me. I WANT that room! I would know what to do in that room. Tons of really fun toys and equipment. The perfect place for a play party. I’m not the biggest fan of it being so red and “womb-like” or the idea that red leather is supposed to be the kinky equivalent of soft and romantic. I mean, I like red leather as much as the next kinky girl, but again it’s just one facet of kink. I’m a girl who values variety, in color, texture, and material. Red leather and satin are all well and good, but good, ole cotton has it’s uses too.

I’m also a little surprised by the lack of black. I know red’s a pretty standard color for kink. Kinksters tend to like it. It has a whole history of connotations and symbolism wrapped up in it, but to have no black in his room seems odd. Black is another one of those common colors in the BDSM world—a stereotype of kink that exists because it’s true—and carries an impressive symbolic reputation of its own. It seems odd that James deliberately avoids it.

I'm probably the worst person to ask, since I've been dreaming of dungeons since preadolescence, but I'd think all black with highlights of red is really more our stereotype. It's what you see most often in movies and TV. And, to be fair, it's what you most often see in real life—again, it's a stereotype that exists for a reason. The all-red room reminds me of the honeymoon suite in a bad Vegas hotel.

I was actually a little intrigued by the “funny-looking feathery implements” next to all his paddles and whips and crops. As a primarily sensation-play kinkster, I was really hoping that Grey would keep a wide and varied collection of toys, some hard, some soft, some stinging, some thudding, etc. I was hoping that the feathery implements would, well, have feathers on them. An odd choice in toys, to be sure—more like a cat toy than a kink toy—but...all right. To everyone’s kink their own. I’ve seen people trail feathers along partner’s bodies before, between, and after the hard toys to help create levels of sensation. I can definitely see the appeal of that.

Come to think of it, I remember a very fun night involving a French maid's outfit and a feather duster. Sometimes cliches can be a good time. So, sure, bring on the feathery implements.

But, no, alas, it’s just that Ana has never come across a flogger before. 

Or a feather, apparently, as I don’t understand how a flogger is terribly feathery.

Again, like I said in the last chapter’s review, I’m a huge fan of the fact that James is saying a lot of the right stuff. That it’s Ana’s decision to enter into this type of relationship. That nothing will happen without her expressed consent. That Grey doesn’t want to permanently hurt or harm her, that that isn’t what this is about. That, until they complete actual negotiations and agreements, she isn’t his to order around. That they HAVE actual negotiations and open communication. That she has a discussion about hard limits. James actually deserves a little pat on the back for at least including it—there are many in the mainstream who don’t—even if she doesn’t quite know exactly what to do with it. At least, it made it in.

I even like the distinction James makes between Doms and sadists. A lot of people confuse the two. While there’s often some amount of crossover between the two, they aren’t the same.

My problem is that Grey seems to categorically deny that he’s a sadist. Except I can’t imagine that you would own that many toys and equipment meant to inflict pain without being some kind of a sadist. To be honest, a really hardcore one at that. None of that stuff is cheap. That room, that must have cost a small fortune, is a sadist’s dream. You wouldn’t own all that stuff unless you planned to use it. A lot. And take great pleasure in doing so.

Even if those toys were just meant to be strange wall-hanging attempts at intimidation, Grey could impress/terrify people in other, much less expensive ways. That's a lot of time, money, and effort to spend on empty threats and hollow scare tactics. Because no one—I don't care HOW rich you are—would spend this much money on toys and equipment they only plan to use when absolutely necessary. It's such a waste. Grey could be buying more helicopters and gliders and $14,000 first editions. 

The Doms and tops I’ve met who aren’t much into sensation play, who really pretty singularly love the mental games in role play and power dynamics, don’t have a ton of toys. They have no reason to. Doms who use toys purely to punish and not to play have no reason to accumulate such a wide variety of toys meant to cause a wide variety sensations. Especially, when, really, a hand can get the job done quite well, I promise. 

Either Grey is just really that shit with his money—how did he end up with so much?!—or he really, really, really likes his toys. The only reason to have such an array is because you’re interested and intrigued by the many, many, many sensations these types of toys can achieve. While that doesn’t necessarily make you a true sadist—though I hate and hesitate to use terms and labels like that—you really must have a good-sized sadistic streak in you. 

Something in him made him go to those sex shops or kink sites and buy those toys. Something in him squeed enough when he saw it to spend the money. That furniture—the St. Andrew's Cross, the spanking benches, the leather bed—none of that is cheap. All of that was specially made, specially ordered. It was a big deal to get it, even for a rich guy. Grey HAS to—just HAS to—have a sadistic side. He wouldn't own all this stuff without it.

However, I think James is trying to avoid that term in the same way she tries to avoid cliches and simple words—and the color black too, I suppose. She’s trying to avoid the bad press the word “sadist” has gotten in the mainstream. She wants to say that Grey is kinky—so she gives him all the toys and tools and appropriately furnished space—as that seems the easiest, most obvious, least complicated, and least complex way to say so. But she doesn’t want him to be THAT KIND of kinky, so she vehemently says he’s not a sadist, despite that her easy, obvious, uncomplicated, and simple way of expressing his kink kinda screams that he is.

But what I find most fascinating—more than the toys and equipment and definitions and titles—is the typo on page 74 where Grey tells Ana that “This is the only sort of relationship I’m interesting in.” Not interested in, interesting in. It’s probably just a typo, but it feels like a Freudian slip.

If it’s James’s Freudian slip, obviously, part of her realizes that her characters and story are terribly flat and the only saving grace she has from a marketing standpoint is the scandalous, salacious aspect of kink to tantalize potential sexually repressed readers who don’t know any better and just want to be shocked and titillated.

However, if it’s Grey’s slip, THAT is interesting and telling. It shifts focus. So much of this scene is about what Grey wants and what Grey demands. He wants Ana to submit to him. He wants Ana to follow his rules. He wants Ana do do what he wants. He wants Ana to please him. That would all imply that BDSM interests him, that he’s interested in kink.

But saying that it’s the only way he feels interesting shifts things to his partners, in this case Ana. As if he feels boring and uninteresting without it. As if all his confidence and dominance and arrogance rests and relies on his standing as a Dom. 

As if he’s not actually kinky. Or confident. Or successful. As if all his power and grandeur is tied to this and, without it, he’s nothing. As if he’s really—underneath all the forced charade and rather bumbled games—just as painfully, boringly, blandly vanilla as Ana. As if, in reality—stripped of all the red leather accouterments—they’re a perfect, empty, vapid match.

::sigh:: I know I was warned about it, but—dear deity—why does James include the actual agreement in her book? If ever summary were needed, this would be it. Particularly as James doesn’t seem to know even the most basic of things about D/s relationships. 

Like the fact that the word “submissive” really shouldn’t be capitalized. I know it’s supposed to resemble a legal contract and legalese tends to play fast and loose with capitalization—much like James herself—but it is, before it’s anything else, a D/s contract. A contract agreeing that the sub is allowing the Dom a position of power over them. The capitalization is used to emphasize that feature. It’s a grammatical representation of that very specific power exchange that is the exact point of a D/s relationship.

Also, this is how I know I’m NOT a sub. I could NEVER agree to what Grey is asking. Not that there’s anything particularly wrong with it, so long as everyone knowingly and willingly agrees to it. But Grey is making demands on Ana's eating, sleeping, and exercise habits, not to mention making sweeping changes to her financial, living, and sexual autonomy. 

I know that there are D/s relationships where this happens, but this is Ana’s first foray into kink. Don’t you think you ought to baby step her into this before you start demanding 24/7—the, uh, mythical, unseen, oft talked of unicorn relationship of kink? The most controversial, most debated, most difficult to achieve and maintain relationship in kinkland? To see if this is something Ana would even be interested in before you start laying down conditions this strict, specific, and binding? Perhaps—just maybe—start off slowly and build up to an agreement like this?

Statistically, few kinky women would agree to a contract as exacting as this; you really think that a vanilla virgin who can’t even say “sex” without blushing like a schoolgirl can handle this? Though I suppose only the really hardcore, established subs and the really inexperienced, ignorant, vanilla uninitiated WOULD agree to something like this. Anyone else would scoff and leave. Grey has no right to ask this of Ana and Ana has no business agreeing to it.

Both of them—and James herself—need an immediate introduction to Kink 101.

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