Okay, again, I think I've been very patient and very good about keeping my inner English major, schoolmarm-ish grammar-nazi down. I've tried to ignore or explain away James's grammatical slip-ups.
But, seriously, where are her editors? Where are the copy editors on this thing? Millions of these books have sold and there are so many comma errors, my English major mind is ready to explode.
THIS I don't actually blame James for though. Too few people know how to use commas correctly. And I'm not even going to pretend like I get it right 100% of the time; I don't. But this book passed through publishers' hands. People for whom the English language and all its grammatical intricacies are their chosen profession and personal passion.
Someone—deity knows who—thought this was worth selling. It's filled with inaccuracies, both factual and syntactical—not to say anything for its deeply problematic plot—I don't know how or why I expect its grammar to be spot on. But one would hope that there would be one—just one—part of this novel that someone could have taken the time and effort to get right.
Well, perhaps there was one thing. For my very limited, almost non-existent knowledge of piloting, James obviously is very proud over the fact that she did research on helicopters and the lingo they use during take-off and whatnot. I don't know anything about helicopters or pilot lingo myself, but it at least appears that James Googled it. She devotes most of the chapter to this—three to four pages on almost exclusively this, seriously—a decent amount of word-count in novel-terms. Clearly, she's quite proud of herself and thinks Grey's competency as a pilot is important. Important enough to make sure she got it right.
Couldn't she have extended the same courtesy to the rest of her novel? Particularly the main, recurring theme of kink and romance in this BDSM, romantic, erotic novel?
Even the things I liked about the novel are being destroyed with alarming speed in this chapter. James is ruining my lovely Caps/uncaps theory. It was the most interesting thing about this atrocious novel, really the only thing I was actually looking forward to reading, and James destroys it.
Why is "Company" in Caps when it's referring to Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc? There is no reason for it. I get the attempt for humor in Chapter Five, where Ana quips about the difference between Grey's "company" and his "Company," hence why I didn't say anything. It's not funny—and would have been better done through italics—but I get it. But to continue doing so...there's no reason for it—believe me, I tried for an embarrassingly long time to look for one. To force it to fit into pattern.
When I'd first proposed this theory, the friend of mine who is also reading this novel for the same reasons that I am asked me if I REALLY thought that James was smart enough to knowingly employ such word games. Truthfully, I didn't. But I had hoped for, at most, perhaps a strange, instinctual urge in James—a glimmer of kinkiness in her so-obviously vanilla mind, the tiniest peek at understanding of that which she clearly doesn't—or, at least, a happy accident that would provide some kind of literary analysis to this otherwise rather dismal attempt at BDSM erotica. I mean, for the first three or four chapters, the pattern held fairly well. It seemed too good to just be incidental.
My friend had replied that she thought that James just has no idea how capitalization, as well as commas, work.
The further I read into this, the more I'm inclined to agree.
More's the pity.
And this pattern of authorial give-then-promptly-and-cruelly-take-away continues. I was quite happy when Grey told Ana in this chapter that she doesn't have to do anything she doesn't want to do. It's responsible and admirable and right. It's a phrase that really ought to exist in each and every piece of BDSM erotic fiction out there. Because consent is king in kinkland. Without it, everything done—from the severest caning to the most chaste of kisses—is assault. This one, lone, simple phrase is what makes everything that happens in kinkland not only okay, but fucking awesome.
But, unfortunately in James's world, it's also entirely false. Grey has reflexively high-handed his way this entire relationship, never taking Ana's opinions or desires or input into his decisions. Ever.
Also, her responding assertion that she NEVER does anything she doesn't want is CLEARLY wrong. This novel is filled, from start to finish, with examples of people making her do things that she doesn't want to do. Or at least things that she's very ambivalent and conflicted about. Even Ana knows that she's lying. The very next sentence, her very next thought, doubts her own convictions about that statement, saying that there isn't anything she wouldn't do for Grey.
And Grey is more than willing to take full advantage of that fact. I mean, by Ana's own admission, Grey is a "cell-phone-tracking, helicopter owning, stalker" who knows where she works, lives, and drinks. All without ever asking her. By tracking her phone and deity knows what other means, he's keeping restraining-order-inducing tabs on Ana. Yet, James seems to fully approve of these red-flag tactics, finding this attractive and elevating it to the heroic.
James takes the very thing that BDSM stands upon, freely given and fully informed consent, and knocks it on its ass. James steals our first and last legitimacy, the one thing we can use in our defense against all the prejudiced cries of criminal deviancy and depravity. Without it, we are the worst images that the vanilla public as a whole fears. Without it, we become the very thing we—as kinksters—fear most and fight so stridently against. Without that basic and most fundamental element, we become the stereotypes of the rapists and the raped. Nothing more than the helplessly abused and their demonic abusers.
This is NOT who we are. It is the exact opposite of us and what we do. And, if James had done even one Google search or taken one trip to the public library, she would have seen the many, many kinksters who have explained this. Who've tried to provide education and understanding to those who would claim the contrary.
But, again, what did I really expect? Even Shades' most sexually open and experienced character, Kate, becomes shamefully prudish and naive in this chapter. Kate can't say the word "sex." She becomes weepy and depressed and shame-driven over one-night stands. She goes goo-goo eyed over Grey's brother Elliot, acting like a lovestruck preteen herself, after a single, alcohol-colored night. Is Seattle really THIS repressed? That even the somewhat sexually savvy, sexually liberated are burdened by such adolescent shame? From those I know who've been to Seattle, I wouldn't think this were true. I mean, Dan Savage, whom I love beyond telling, is based in Seattle.
And, what's worse, is that James celebrates Ana's ignorance and passivity. Why is Ana's libido her "inner goddess?" Why does she need separate identities to express her desires? It robs her of agency and self-awareness and self-accountability. It means that Ana doesn't have to examine her own desires and sexuality. Or even her choices or behavior. Because it's not really Ana acting. It's her inner goddess. Her subconscious. It's not her fault or her responsibility. She's just along for the ride, being driven by inner forces that she so-obviously can't control.
This is a dangerous and false viewpoint. One that has gotten far too many people in trouble. One that could get someone seriously hurt in the most mundane and vanilla of circumstances. Add in the high-risk, complicated, complex elements of kink and you're all but guaranteed disaster. If Ana isn't ready to accept and acknowledge what she wants—wholly and unreservedly—she doesn't deserve to have those wants realized. She hasn't done the work to deserve them. She needs to go back home and curl up with her safe, little books and leave real life and reality to those brave, bold, and ready enough to deal with it. Those that can be trusted, armed with knowledge and awareness, not to blindly and eagerly sign away their personal and physical safety.
In Shades' case, Ana is quite literally signing her safety away with a lavish scribble on the dotted line. Like I've said before, I don't like non-disclosure agreements. First, depending on where you live—and the judge you get—these types of NDAs aren't terribly binding. And for good reason. Were these NDAs truly legally binding, you are essentially signing away your right to alert authorities if something bad—like abuse or rape—happens. What's worse is that, even though they aren't legally worth the paper they're written on, it can make an uneducated, logic-deprived person—like Ana—not report abuse or rape when it happens because her abuser has now added the existence of this agreement to the usual feelings of shame and worry involved in reporting. Agreements like this make victims feel like they're responsible for their own abuse. That they agreed to it. That they caused it. That they asked for it. Naive girls like Ana won't want to report and will feel like they can't because they'll think—utterly incorrectly—that they've signed away their right to.
Second, let's say a very stupid, probably prejudiced judge ACTUALLY does uphold such a flawed agreement, YOU ARE ESSENTIALLY SIGNING AWAY YOUR RIGHT TO ALERT AUTHORITIES IF SOMETHING BAD—LIKE ABUSE OR RAPE—HAPPENS. No one should be trying to get people to sign these agreements. Not for any reason. And, certainly, no one should be agreeing to sign these types of agreements. Not for ANY reason.
Third, kinksters have a personal responsibility to choose the people they play with well. If you're so worried about whether the person you play with will use your play as blackmail later, you REALLY shouldn't be playing with them in the first place.
BDSM is all about trust. The relationships that are built in this world should have a solid foundation of trust. Without it, everything crumbles, if you're lucky. It explodes horrifically, if you're not.
This is how rape and abuse—and erroneous charges of rape and abuse—happen. If you're being responsible, you shouldn't need these kind of agreements to bind you in the first place. Each other's best interests should be always and already be at the heart of your relationship. If it's not...what are you doing even thinking about playing with each other?
Last note, I do like that James had Ana and Kate practice the buddy-system check-ins, where Ana contacts Kate when she arrives in Seattle.
However, first, check-ins can't be in text form or in any form that can easily be forged. What's stopping a predator from stealing a victim's phone and sending an impersonal, dashed off text? You can't prove that it's you sending that text easily. Calling can provide basic voice recognition. It's not foolproof, but it's better than a text.
Second, it's all well and good to contact your friend at the start. But you need to make plans to contact them at the end of an encounter too. Make sure that they know another call is coming in a couple of hours and that, if that call doesn't come, something's gone wrong. Without this extremely important part, that first call isn't really worth much.