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April 5th, 2013


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gehayi
04:52 pm - Fifty Shades of Grey--Final Thoughts [Sporker--GEHAYI]
Blurb | Table of Contents | Spitefic Master List



Fifty Shades of Grey – Final Thoughts


GEHAYI: So. Final thoughts about Fifty Shades of Grey. Truthfully, I hadn’t thought of saying anything until Mervin asked me. Then I realized that I had a LOT to say about this book.



PLOT

There isn’t one. This “novel” is more like a series of self-contained vignettes, all following the same pattern: Ana is mainly interested in sex with Hellspawn if it includes a long-term romance, while Hellspawn wants a short, pale brunette that he can fuck and beat. On occasion, he does beat Ana without her consent and then tells her that she loved it. He also uses rape both as a threat and as a punishment.

Ana tries a few times to draw the line, but it doesn’t work. She says no to BDSM? He breaks into her house, ties her to her bed and attempts to, and I quote the book, “fuck her into submission.” She rolls her eyes at him? He spanks her hard and then fucks her. She won’t allow him to finger-fuck her in front of his parents? His response is to physically carry her to his parents’ boathouse for a beating, a “punishment fuck” and orgasm denial. She goes to visit her mother in Georgia? He stalks her across the country. And all of this is presented as loving and romantic.

In fact, this book is basically an apologia for those who commit physical and emotional abuse, for not only does it present all of the above as loving and romantic, it tells victims of abuse that they should assume the responsibility of being abused for their abusers’ sakes. Ana tells herself that threats, nonconsensual beatings, orgasm denial, “punishment fucks” and stalking are simply Hellspawn’s way of expressing love and affection, and that if he needs to hit her, she will have to put up with it in order to keep his affection. (In the next book, we find that this is useless, as he tells her that he has never loved anyone and does not know how. So Ana, though she doesn’t know it, is trying to gain the affection of a self-confessed sociopath.)

Please note the words “put up with it,” for Ana does not, as a rule, like being hit and tries to get away from it. This is not our interpretation. THIS IS IN THE TEXT. The one exception occurs when she is trading being spanked with ben wa balls inside her for information about Hellspawn’s backstory. It’s the closest thing that we have to Ana consenting to be hit…and, fundamentally, it’s prostitution. She’s trading sex for goods.

In between the threats, the stalking and the abuse…well, they fuck. A lot. It’s very dull, very bland fucking. Sex scenes from one part of the book are frequently recycled into near-identical scenes. And all of them, except for the last one, are filler. Except for the last sex scene/beating, which actually causes something relevant to happen, the sex scenes are monotonous. And none of them are passionate or loving, save to someone who hasn’t read many sex scenes and who’s skipping over the rest of the book. They do not affect the plot. Ana goes from sexually apathetic to sexually insatiable without it affecting what passes for her personality; Hellspawn doesn’t even change that much.

There is less of a plot here than there is in Twilight…and that takes effort.



CHARACTERIZATION

Hoo boy. Well, let’s start with our mains, who, we are told, are hopelessly in love.

Anastasia Rose Steele was intended to be an Expy of Bella Swan. James is a Twihard, so this was supposed to be a flattering depiction. Reading between the lines, you can tell that James wanted Ana to be innocent yet passionate, an intellectual who suddenly swept away by a torrent of emotion for someone who’s her economic, social and sexual opposite.

What James created is a shallow, brain-dead liar who is emotionally about twelve years old. And I can prove every bit of this.

First, Ana falls in love by authorial fiat simply because Hellspawn is physically attractive, rich and gives Ana orgasms. She knows nothing about Hellspawn and understands even less. By the next book, she’s admitting that she doesn’t know the man she’s supposedly in love with at all.

Now, to be fair—and this undoubtedly confuses a lot of fans—Ana does call what she feels “true love.” However, her reactions to her sexually active roommate show that Ana has serious issues with women having sex when they aren’t in love with their partners. Ana cannot cope with the guilt of wanting to have sex with a man that she barely knows, so she tells herself that this is true love. That, in her mind, makes having sex with Christian Grey acceptable. There is a difference between loving a person and loving to fuck, but neither James nor Ana ever admits this.

Second, Ana is stupid. She is painfully, abysmally stupid.

Part of the problem is that James wanted to go the historical romance route and have Ana be a naïve young virgin. Given Ana’s status as a Bella Expy, this isn’t surprising; Bella was a virgin before marriage, and a relatively unsophisticated one. Also, the naïve and virginal woman is a common trope in historical romance and erotica. Depending on the era and the heroine’s social class, this can make sense. Ana being the naïve virgin is fundamentally shorthand for, “This is the heroine; she’s a good girl.”

However, given the ubiquity of sex in modern books, movies, TV shows, advertisements, songs, comedy routines and the entire Internet, not to mention the frequency with which things like sex, date rape vs. stranger rape and physical and emotional abuse come up in the news, law, politics, medicine, and society itself, there is no fucking WAY to make Ana’s total ignorance of anything sex-related even vaguely plausible in this book. James takes the only route that she can by stating that Ana doesn’t read “modern books” and having her be utterly disdainful of anything published after 1950, doesn’t read or watch the news and knows nothing of the Internet or email. Unfortunately for the story, utter ignorance of the Internet makes no sense for a college student, who would have to use the Internet to do research for various term papers and to read articles professors had posted online as class assignments. Ana was not insanely sheltered by a zealously devout parent like Carrie White was, nor was she essentially kept in a crate like veal until her mother released her into the wild at age twenty-one.

It doesn’t help that James turns Bella up to eleven thousand for Ana. Bella was a virgin until she married Wardo, yes, but she wanted to have sex with Wardo. Ana not only doesn’t want sex when the story begins, she doesn’t know anything about sex. She has never read anything involving sex—which tells me that she doesn’t deserve her English degree, as Chaucer and Shakespeare are infamous for including a lot of sexual puns in their work. (In fact, one of the Canterbury Tales is all about cocks. Yes, these cocks are roosters. The pun is played up to the Nth power.) Ana does not know what her genitals are called—though, weirdly, she knows what a clitoris is. She’s not only never masturbated but has never thought about it one way or the other until Hellspawn brings the matter up. She does not recognize flirting or lines; she does not know about roofies. She does not know that a man taking an unconscious woman home, undressing her, and then spending the night in bed next to her is inappropriate. At one point, she calls ordinary, vanilla penis-in-vagina sex “perverse.” She never, ever realizes that she has a right to say “no”—or that a man hearing the word “no” should listen and comply.

Ana is so unaware of anything sexual when the book starts and is so bowled over by the fact that sex feels good that she comes across as either developmentally disabled or a very naïve child. Her vocabulary and actions support the latter, for she sounds remarkably young. Her usual emotional reaction to Christian Grey—that of dull surprise—is expressed through phrases like, “Holy cow,” “Wow,” and the eternally repeated, “Oh, my.” She puts her hair up in pigtails to make herself LESS attractive to Grey…which backfires, as he likes the fact that she looks much younger. She has two imaginary friends who display the emotions that she doesn’t want to own, like doubt, shame and desire for things she doesn’t think she should have, like sex. The inner goddess expresses lust by dancing, spinning, skipping and cartwheeling. The subconscious expresses fear by, in Ana’s words, “hiding behind the couch.” Ana gets giggly to the point of delirium over an email from Grey. And she says in the book that her roommate has tried telling her about sex and that she instantly clamped her hands over her ears.

And then there’s Christian Trevelyan-Grey. Or, as Ket, Mervin and I ended up naming him, Gaston Hellspawn Bedbug. I usually call him Hellspawn for short, which gives you a general idea of how likable I find him. In fact, I’m just going to quote Internet reviewer Confused Matthew:

“Our supposed hero and protagonist...IS AN ASSHOLE! I mean, he doesn’t listen to anyone, he’s not very nice, he treats everyone around him like shit, and he only cares about himself!”

Let’s clear up one thing right now. Hellspawn does not love Ana. He tells her in the text precisely what he likes about her: she has a good body and a smart mouth. It can be inferred that he likes fucking her body while her smart mouth gives him an excuse to hit her. Her thoughts and her personality—they’re not factors. And yes, I know that Ana doesn’t have a mind or a personality, but James thinks she does…and yet the relationship, on both sides, is solely based on physical attraction. And again—this is not my interpretation. This is what James wrote her characters saying.

Furthermore, Hellspawn has no interest in Ana’s likes or dislikes. Indeed, he ignores Ana’s attempts at setting hard limits, telling her that physical punishment and anal sex will NOT be taken off the table, despite her objections. He begins this relationship on the presumption that Ana’s interview was an experienced sub’s attempt at flirting with him. According to the follow-up story from his point of view, he orders his minions to begin compiling a dossier on her THIRTY MINUTES after she leaves.

He did NOT fall in love with her in thirty minutes. Rather, he saw a shy, frightened, insecure young woman who was clumsy and easily intimidated by the suggestive comments he made during the interview. He was also deeply angry with Ana for asking if he was gay and wanted to beat her for asking. Part of his reason for pursuing a relationship is so that he will have an excuse to beat her for this. He says this to the reader—and we are supposed to approve.

By the end of the book…yes, by then he’s started telling Ana that he wants “more” from a relationship and claims to be trying to give her “more.” However, his actions say something else. For example, he tries to pass off one glider date as the “more”—the affection, emotional intimacy and love—that Ana craves. He is wildly jealous of anyone that Ana spends time with who isn’t him—and I’m not talking about dates. I’m talking about family, friends and bosses giving interviews. He often becomes irritated that Ana wants him to talk to her and tell her personal things. And he becomes violently angry with her whenever she doesn’t understand what he wants or expects (such as the purpose of safewords or his desire to have her beg for a spanking), never mind when she all-too-rarely uses the word “No.”

I ran Christian Grey through Gavin de Becker & Associates’ Risk Evaluation Test. Based on his actions in the first book, he got a) 8 out of 10 for risk and b) a 154 out of 200 for quality of the assessment. (It could have been higher, but he did not own a handgun or share children with Ana. Both of these things will become factors in the next two books, so Ana’s situation will only become worse.)

Now, I don’t know how bad 154 is (though a risk of 8 out of 10 sounds pretty bad)…but de Becker & Associates kept imploring me to call the police on this (unnamed) controlling, manipulative, lying, abusive stalker-rapist and get his nameless victim to safety and shelter IMMEDIATELY. They pegged him as unstable, violent, rigid, and completely unable to deal with anything that challenged his viewpoint or the way that he saw himself. Interestingly, they said that people like him rarely kept jobs for long; any crisis at work or challenge from a co-worker or rival would reduce him to a state of rage. He simply wouldn’t be able to cope with any opposition. They also said that he had many traits shared by serial rapists and serial killers. And they found his frequent drinking to be a sign that he was becoming less and less stable.

Does that give you a general idea?

Other than these odious traits, Christian Grey doesn’t have a personality. James believes, or claims to believe, that she created a tormented soul with a tragic past who just needs to be loved. Oh, and we’re supposed to forget all about the occasions when Ana openly says that she finds him “intimidating,” “scary,” “threatening” or “menacing,” because after all, he’s pretty, rich, smells great and gives Ana orgasms. So clearly this is a tale of the Truest! Love! EVER!

As for everyone else…

Not one has a consistent or developed personality. What they are, basically, are a series of skills—mostly informed skills, as we rarely see their alleged talents being put to use—and one or two quirks. Kate Kavanagh, who began life as James’s version of Rosalie Hale, is probably the most developed, but because Stephenie Meyer wrote Rosalie so that she would do whatever the plot required of her whether that made sense for her personality or not, James did the same thing. We are told that José Rodriguez is Ana’s friend, but the second time that we see him, he’s forcing kisses on a protesting but very drunk Ana. Ray Steele, Ana’s stepfather (who also seems to have adopted Ana somewhere along the line, since her surname is Steele and her biological father’s was Lambert), supposedly loves Ana like his own child and has a wonderful relationship with her…yet Ana is embarrassed by his lack of fashion sense, lies to Ray at every turn about Hellspawn and allows Hellspawn to lie to the man as well, and is relieved that Ray is fundamentally so trusting. Ana claims to be close to her mother, Carla…yet, again, she lies to her, finds her humiliating, and ditches her without a second thought.

This happens over and over again. I suspect that it happens because James was bored to tears with every scene that didn’t involve Hellspawn and that she was in a hurry to write the sex scenes with him. She wasn’t interested in dealing with any character who wasn’t Bella Swan her stand-in or Edward Cullen her fantasy boyfriend.



SEX SCENES

Ah, the sex scenes. Otherwise known as “the only reason that most fans picked the book up in the first place.” I have two words for James’s sex scenes: “vanilla” and “boring.”

I am not saying that vanilla sex necessarily is boring, either in fiction or in real life. No. I mention that the sex is vanilla because James is at such pains to tell us, through Ana, how dark and edgy and perverse the sex is.

And…it’s not. That’s not a matter of opinion. This is what happens between Hellspawn and Ana:

Chapter 8—Standard, penis-in-vagina sex. Hellspawn himself calls it “vanilla.”

Chapter 9—Mutual rubbing of genitals. In-bath blowjob performed by Ana. Mild bondage involving neckties. Cunnilingus followed by penis-in-vagina sex.

Chapter 10—Hellspawn threatens to fuck her against her will in the elevator—that is, he threatens to rape her—for not moving fast enough to suit him and for answering her own phone and speaking to the caller.

Chapter 12—Ana sends her email, refusing a BDSM relationship. Hellspawn enters her apartment without her or her roommate knowing how he got there and proceeds to “use sex as a weapon” (Ana’s words) and “fuck her into submission” (Kate’s) through mild bondage, blindfolding, iceplay and penis-in-vagina sex. It never occurs to Ana that a guy using sex as a weapon to get what he wants is not a good thing and is, in fact, rape.

Chapter 14—Ana dreams of being naked, shackled to a bed and hit in the clit with a leather riding crop.

Chapter 15—Hellspawn threatens to rape Ana on the hood of her new car if she doesn’t accept it. Cowgirl position. Also, Hellspawn tops from the bottom.

Chapter 16—Ana is hit (for the first time in her life) and then raped (penis-in-vagina) as punishment for rolling her eyes. The text makes clear that this is definitely both violent (Ana later refers to it as “assault and battery,” which is legally accurate) and non-consensual; Ana is terrified and humiliated, screaming and trying to escape throughout.

Chapter 18—Ana is handcuffed and ordered to stand against a St. Andrew’s cross (which would be a very poor brace for her). Christian, who has heard about her dream, hits her on the ass and in the clit with a leather riding crop, then fucks her. Then, when she’s exhausted, he takes her over to the bed, binds her hands above her head with cable ties and orders her to hang onto a post while he fucks her vaginally from behind.

This chapter is the one of the two semi-kinky sections in the book. However, it’s marred by James’s ignorance of how bondage furniture works and of how human bodies work, as well as the tone, which features a very exhausted Ana.

Chapter 19—Ana goes to the house of Hellspawn’s parents without any underpants. This is because he stole her underpants and Ana doesn’t want to be humiliated by having to beg for them. Hellspawn decides to take advantage of this, but when he attempts to finger-fuck her in front of his parents, Ana keeps her legs closed. This leads Hellspawn to carry her to his parents’ boathouse, where he plans to beat her and rape her—though he calls it “a punishment fuck”—and deny her an orgasm.

Chapter 20—Ana fucks Hellspawn “willingly.” She tells him afterward that she did this so that she wouldn’t be hit, which means that she fucked him under duress. This was NOT consensual.

When they return to his place, Ana proposes a trade—sex for information about him. He agrees. He inserts ben wa balls coated in his saliva into her body and then orders her to “ask him.” This almost provokes another assault, as Ana doesn’t know that he wants her to beg for a spanking. Then he spanks her and has standard, missionary position sex with her. Neither appears aware that what just happened was essentially prostitution—sex in exchange for goods.

Chapter 21—Before breakfast, Hellspawn and Ana have sex on his desk.

Chapter 23—Hellspawn orders Ana to fondle various parts of her body, which she has no interest in, and then puts his hands over hers and fondles her, which she likes. This is followed by the infamous “tampon scene,” where Hellspawn rips a tampon out of Ana’s bleeding vagina and then immediately jams his penis inside her. After they both orgasm, they have very conventional sex in a bathtub and, it’s implied, similar sex in his (hotel) bedroom.

Chapter 24—Ana considers fucking Hellspawn in a field. While in IHOP, they talk about having sex there.

Chapter 25—Hellspawn orders Ana into his “playroom.” Once again, Ana’s thoughts make it clear that this is not consensual:

“You can get ready in your room. Incidentally, the walk-in closet is now full of clothes for you. I don’t want any arguments about them.” He narrows his eyes, daring me to say something. When I don’t, he stalks off to his study.

Me! Argue? With you, Fifty Shades? It’s more than my backside’s worth.


There is talk about safewords. Ana clearly does not know what safewords are for and barely remembers what hers are. Hellspawn then threatens to orally rape her if she says something he doesn’t like:

“Don’t start with your smart mouth in here, Miss Steele. Or I will fuck it with you on your knees. Do you understand?”

He also tells her that he doesn’t want her to use safewords tonight. He then blindfolds her, puts earbuds in her ears, turns on an iPod, cuffs her wrists and ankles so tightly that she can’t move—thus making hand signals impossible—and alternately touches her with a fur glove and hits her with a flogger. He teases her with orgasm denial. When she screams, he squeezes her ass until it hurts and she shuts up—so clearly any safewords telling him to slow down or stop wouldn’t be welcome, either.

This—the sensory deprivation scene—is the second fairly kinky section. However, it is marred by Hellspawn’s threats, Ana’s momentary fear, Ana’s complete ignorance of safewords or her own right to stop a scene, and Hellspawn physically punishing her for crying out. He doesn’t care about his partners’ comfort, pleasure or well-being. He would be better off fucking a RealDoll.

Chapter 26—Ana tells Hellspawn that she dislikes being hit as much as he dislikes being touched. She then asks Hellspawn to hit her as hard as he can to see if she can tolerate his tastes. He spanks her six times, each time painfully hard. Again, Ana focuses on enduring it. When it’s over, she tells him that this isn’t for her.

Broken down like this, it’s easy to see that the consensual sex is pretty standard. There’s nothing particularly shocking about missionary position, blowjobs, cunnilingus, cowgirl or necktie bondage.

Sadly, however, James doesn’t know the difference between consensual BDSM and abuse. The two semi-kinky scenes demonstrate that Hellspawn stinks as a Dom, for he has no concern for Ana’s physical safety. In Chapter 18, he puts her shoulders in a position that could easily dislocate them. In Chapter 25, he binds her wrists and ankles so tightly that there’s a real risk he cut off circulation. He performs no aftercare, either. Moreover, he never explains anything to her and becomes angry when she doesn’t understand everything instantly. He tells her what her safewords are without explaining what they’re for and then makes it clear that she isn’t to use them. When she cries out in protest, he punishes her physically for daring to express this.

And this is BEFORE we get in the issue of the three canonical rapes and Hellspawn’s repeated rape threats.



RAPE

The rapes are explicitly spelled out as unpleasant for Ana; she even refers to "her body betraying her" when she orgasms during one of them. They are blatantly nonconsensual. They involve a woman being frightened, being intimidated, putting out as a way of avoiding injury or trying very hard to escape from someone much bigger and stronger.

However, the fans swear up and down that there are no rapes in the book and that Ana consented to everything.

Now, part of this—a large part of it—is probably because the fans are skimming the book while thinking of it as a romance. Therefore, they aren’t seeing the rapes as rapes but as rough sex between two people who deeply love each other. The fact that this isn’t what was written in the text is irrelevant.

But it occurs to me that there might be another reason why the Twimom-equivalents are clinging so very hard to the idea there are no rapes in this book:

Maybe some of them—even many of them—went through the same thing.

Ana defines rape as many older people do—something violent that happens between strangers in dark alleys. She never shows any awareness that rape could happen between people who know each other, that it can happen on dates…that, in fact, rape is what happens when one person refuses sex, isn’t in a position to consent to it, or only consents under duress—and someone else fucks them anyway. She doesn’t know that the coercion can be emotional rather than physical. (Oddly, however, she does understand that children and teens of either sex can be raped and sexually manipulated, and she fiercely despises pedophiles.)

True confession time. This was basically my mindset when I entered college thirty years ago, though I was also aware that marital rape and incest existed. Neither of these things had been issues for very long. I first recall hearing about husbands raping wives (it goes without saying that no one was talking about wives raping husbands, as the law generally assumed that rape was penetrative) in 1974. I was twelve. And most legal experts thought that the very concept was both ridiculous and unprovable. The legal presumption was that once a woman married, she was legally in a state of “perpetual readiness.” The husband had the legal right to demand sex at any time…and while women could turn their husbands down, the husband could insist. And many did. There were no consequences for this. It wasn’t so much as a misdemeanor.

As for incest…it depended on the state. In some states, it was a felony for a father to rape his daughter. In others, it was only a felony if she was a virgin. So the first time counted, but any subsequent rapes didn’t. And in some states, it was a misdemeanor.

Laws that classed parent-child rape as a misdemeanor were published in books of humor.

In 1980, I barely knew that date rape existed…and I certainly didn’t believe that it was common. I hadn’t dated anyone yet; this was partly due to strict parents who didn’t want me to start dating too young and partly due to being absolutely horrible at flirting. I didn’t know anyone who admitted to being date raped; it was the stuff of TV movies, not reality. And roofies? They didn’t appear in America until 1983 to 1984. Certainly no one in 1980 warned college freshmen about them.

It was a very, very different world.

James would have attended college about the same time that I did. So would many of the Twimoms who are her fans. Remember, this is “mommy porn.”

If you put Ana Steele in the 1970s to 1980s—in a world where the Internet is confined to scientists and military intelligence, where AOL will not exist for thirteen years, where there is no email, no instant messaging, no in-depth research or casually looking things up online, no banking or doing business online, no Wikipedia—then her sexual ignorance and inability to research both make sense. She might have been able to look up a psychological study on BDSM in a card catalog in that era (I did), but she would have had no opportunity to talk things over with people into the Lifestyle on Fetlife.com. And depending on the college’s library, there might not have been much available about sex. She might have read Everything That You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask if it was in the library—though I doubt if she would have dared to take it out—and yet garnered most sexual information from implications and comments in fiction and in magazines.

James was writing Bella Swan through the filter of her own decades-old memories. Ana is a time traveler—and James doesn’t even know it. That may also explain why a lot of the older fans identify so strongly with Ana. She’s the girl they remember being.

And what does all this have to do with the rapes in Fifty Shades of Grey?

One thing that I keep seeing in the comment sections on interviews with James and reviews of this book are long, rambling anecdotes about how this or that woman was just like Ana. That she was naïve when she went off to college; often the word used is “innocent.” That they didn’t know much about sex and didn’t feel comfortable discussing it with anyone. That they couldn’t possibly have talked about it online the way that teenagers do now. That they don’t understand much about the Internet or computers even today. And, over and over, that they’d never been “with” a boy, that they’d never fallen in love, that there had never been anyone who mattered to them…

and then they met their Christian Grey.

Some of them report being swept off their feet at once. Others mention that they didn’t like him initially—he was “too forceful” or “he lost his temper so easily.” Some even say that they turned him down. And then they say the words that chill me: “But he was insistent. He wouldn’t take no for an answer.”

And oh, do they get upset when someone pops up in the comments and says that a man—even one with a bad temper—SHOULD take no for an answer.

I’ve noticed that few of these women talk much about their husbands beyond defending the marriage and saying that it’s fantastic. They talk instead about how long they’ve been married, how many kids they have, how happy they are and that the sex is wonderful. This qualification is tacked onto the beginning or the end of such stories, seemingly to reinforce how deep the love is. Because you can’t have sex without love, apparently.

Meanwhile, I’m wondering how many of these women, not knowing that date rape was even a possibility and believing that they’d been swept away by passion and love, married their rapists.

Not all, obviously. Not even most. People like things for many, many different reasons. You can’t make a definite statement and have it apply to all members of a group. But some, I think. The ones whose comments all sound disturbingly the same.

If that’s the case, then maybe it’s not too surprising that at least some of the older fans tend to be so zealous in their defense of the book. They see Ana as very much like they were at her age. Ana can’t be dumb and naïve, unaware that she’s being raped and abused; that invites unwelcome comparisons.

Is this so? I don’t know. The comments make me suspect it is, but I have no proof. It strikes me as possible, though. And it also explains, to some extent, why the book is so popular.

It’s reassuring.

Not to us, obviously. And many fans view this solely as a fantasy, or see it as little different than any other romance novel. But to women who don’t want to think about abuse and rape in relation to themselves? I think that it could be, because James tells them exactly what they want to hear. It’s not abuse or rape; it’s rough sex! Ana doesn’t dislike it; she just needs to get used to it and trust that Grey won’t hurt her. He isn’t selfish, cold, or misogynistic—he just doesn’t know how to express his emotions and needs acceptance and reassurance. He’s not irrevocably screwed up psychologically; her love can make him better. Despite the book showing one thing, Ana, over and over again, states something else, telling herself and the fans who claim that they have their Christian Grey what they long to believe.

Which is incredibly sad, really.



JAMES, BDSM AND DOMESTIC ABUSE

Some of you have mentioned the interview by Sam Goodwin in which James talked about domestic abuse. Aside from some comments about her sons, this is the entire article…with commentary, of course.

Author EL James says that it was by chance she came across the real inspiration being her writing “Fifty Shades of Grey” and about sadomasochistic sex. According to a report by The Telegraph, “while browsing in a bookshop in Hampstead some years ago, she picked up Macho Sluts, a collection of eye-wateringly explicit stories of dominatrixes and dungeons by American author Pat Califa [sic].”

According to Wikipedia, Macho Sluts was published by Alyson Publications in 1988. This instantly made me sporfle, because Alyson Publications (now Alyson Books and owned by the Advocate) specializes in LGBTQ fiction and non-fiction. It always has. This particular book was billed as “lesbian fiction.”

Wikipedia describes the book this way:

Exploring S/M fantasy concepts, it includes the stories “The Calyx of Isis” and “Jessie” along with six other shorter works, “The Finishing School”, “The Hustler”, “The Surprise Party”, “The Vampire”, “The Spoiler”, and “A Dash of Vanilla”. It includes lesbians, gay men, and those of indeterminate sexuality, with their broad ranges of fantasies.

On its original publication the book was sold in a plastic shrink wrap with a free badge stating “Macho Slut.”


I’ve never read any of Califia’s stuff. However, I did find a paper for a site called Lacan.com—Lacan being a controversial French psychoanalyst—critiquing “The Calyx of Isis.” Here’s the description of the plot, such as it is, without all the page numbers.

“The Calyx of Isis” is a “big, red-brick warehouse” renovated into a feminist amusement park that caters to all sorts of women, be they “bisexual, transsexual homosexual, heterosexual” or “try-sexual, as in ‘I’ll try anything’”. Drawn by the notoriety of the venue, Alex comes to ask its owner Tyre to produce an “erotic theater” that should realize the “fantasy for a lot of bottoms”, in which Alex’s lover Roxanne will be “abused” by a pack of top tops, or experienced sadists, and her love for Alex be tested and witnessed by the pack. Hence the story is made up by a slow-motion portrayal of specialized skills in torturing and pleasure-rendering demonstrated by each of the invited tops, and with an extra help: the chauffer of Tyre is asked to “stick around", thanks to her strapped on, “phallic” cock.

After everyone is exhausted, Califia ends “The Calyx of Isis” with a narration that analyzes in Tyre’s place. Pondering on “the fair-market value of that much love”, Tyre asks Alex:


“Where can you go from here? Even this has got to run out of steam eventually.”

Alex thought about it for a long time. “Sell her?” she said.

It was only half a joke. Tyre nodded, absorbed it. Would it be a permanent transfer of rights, or would there be a time limit? Would all privileges be sold, or simply a portion of them? Who would be able to afford such an exotic delight?




Let’s just recap. James’s first exposure to S & M fiction featured a woman arranging for her lover to be repeatedly raped for money, and then talking about selling her as a sex toy—and this is not consensual. It’s done to test Roxanne’s loyalty and love. Exactly why she should be loyal or loving toward someone who treats her like this, I have no clue.

This was sold as “erotic romance.”

ETA: To be fair, Tyre does express reluctance to arrange this since there's no way of knowing if this is what Roxanne wants and telling her that she's being tested would invalidate the test. Alex sarcastically suggests giving Roxanne a safeword, and Tyre agrees that thsi would work--but we never see her give Roxanne the safeword. Roxanne is brought to the warehouse "mummified," gagged and in a body bag. Once the bag is unzipped, the other women--yes, the tops are all women--start with suspension play. On a woman who can't move or speak.

I have the feeling that James imprinted on it the way that werewolves imprint on infants ducklings imprint on their mothers.

“It was my first taste of something really hardcore, and I thought: this is interesting. After that, I read some more BDSM [bondage and discipline, dominance and submission and sadomasochism] and wondered: what would happen if someone from that world met somebody who didn’t know anything about it?”

Well, you wouldn’t have RACK—Risk Aware Consensual Kink—which is important in BDSM. Being aware of the risks and the need to keep each other safe (physically and emotionally) and consenting freely…that matters. If you have someone who has no fucking clue what she’s getting into, then you’re getting into dubious consent and exploitation right from the beginning.

James does not seem to be aware that this is even a PROBLEM. She should be. If she did a quarter of the research she claims to have done, she should have picked that much up.

James, along with the accolades, has received a lot of criticism for her book and there has been a lot of things said about her way of writing.

Namely, that she can’t do it. She doesn’t even know how to use the mechanics of the English language—spelling, grammar, punctuation and capitalization—and I would consider that to be a fundamental requirement.

“Journalists and critics think: ‘why are people reading this and not my stuff?’

“Why aren’t people reading MY stuff?” Oh, so everyone who criticizes you must be jealous! They couldn’t possibly dislike your trilogy because it’s badly plotted, badly characterized, badly crafted and just plain bad!

…you’re just piling up the Suethor points, aren’t you?

I didn’t set out to be Tolstoy.

Which is a pity. I’ve never been able to get through his novels, but he wrote some damned fine short stories.

I wrote it for myself, for fun.

And then publicized it—and had your friends publicize it—on Twitter, Facebook, your website, various journals, podcasts and so on. You promoted the hell out of it. Three times. That’s not just “writing it for yourself.” You marketed it even when it was a fanfic.

The majority of people who read it love it - and quite a lot of people have read it,” she smiles.

According to Amazon, as of February 25, 2013, 17,822 people have reviewed it. Of these, 7,608 people have given it five stars; 1,944, four stars; 1,572, three stars; 1,602, two stars; and 5,096, one star. On balance, that means that 9,552 people think that it’s very good or excellent and 8,270 think that it’s mediocre, not very good, or poor. That’s 54 % (rounded up) to 46%. I’d say that was pretty close. It’s a majority, yes, but by no means a huge one.

Also, Amazon has a habit of taking down vituperative reviews as abusive; we have no clue if any reviews have been removed in this case, or, if so, how many. Nor do we know how many print books, if any, have been returned or how many ebooks, if any, have been deleted.

“It made me feel slightly less of a pervert when other people enjoyed the fantasy as well...”

James is juggling chronologies here. There’s quite a gap between 1988 and 2009—which is when Snowqueens Icedragon first posted Master of the Universe. I doubt if that was her first fanfic. However, I can’t find out when her first story was posted. And there’s always the possibility that Twilight wasn’t her first fandom nor Snowqueens Icedragon the first screen name under which she wrote.

But let’s suppose for the sake of argument that it was her first fandom and her first fanfic. Even so, she can’t have been too surprised that other people shared her taste for BDSM fic.

First, BDSM Edward/Bella is a large subgenre in Twilight fanfic—and has been since the first book came out. If she was reading the kind of thing that she writes—and most people do that—she had to know there were other people who liked this genre. Second, she was marketing it and getting others to do so as well. And you can’t just market; you have to market to someone. Third, she had an intended target audience: Twifans and Twimoms who liked BDSM Bedward. And fourth, SHE SUBMITTED THE MANUSCRIPT TO TWO PUBLISHERS. You don’t submit manuscripts for publication if you don’t think someone somewhere will buy and enjoy the books!

Could she have felt like less of a perv to know that other people shared her kink? Sure. But that was back when she was a fanfic writer. James is making it sound as if she just woke up one day and gosh-darn-it, there were all these people who liked the same thing and oh my stars, she had no idea!

James says she “freaks out” when she hears people say that her book encourages domestic violence. “Nothing freaks me out more than people who say this is about domestic abuse,” she says.

Please note what freaks her out. It’s not that she depicted a relationship that some see as abusive. It’s not that abused women and rape victims in the hundreds find her books disturbing and triggering.

It’s the fact that they’re saying it out loud.

Because it’s harshing her buzz.

Don’t believe me? Read on.

“Bringing up my book in this context trivializes the issues, doing women who actually go through it a huge disservice. It also demonizes loads of women who enjoy this lifestyle, and ignores the many, many women who tell me they’ve found the books sexually empowering.”

James? I need to explain some things to you.

1) BDSM IS NOT THE SAME THING AS PHYSICAL AND EMOTIONAL ABUSE.

Newsflash, James—no one gives a damn whether or not Hellspawn ties Ana up or spanks Ana. As long as Ana’s okay with it and knows what she’s consenting to, that’s okay. The following things, however, demonstrate that this is a very, very twisted and abusive relationship:

a) Ana’s outright lack of consent in many scenes;

b) Her dubious consent in others (she doesn’t know anything about BDSM save what she reads in one Wikipedia article that upsets her so badly that she never reads anything else, nor does she know how it differs from conventional sex…or that it differs at all);

c) The multiple beatings and rapes (Chapters 12, 16 and 19-20), and Ana’s desire to escape from both;

d) The fact that Hellspawn clearly feels entitled to beat and rape Ana without her consent…and for very small offenses;

e) Ana’s perpetual description of him as “scary,” “menacing,” “intimidating,” and so on, as well as her description of her subconscious “hiding behind the couch” when he’s around;

f) Ana’s obvious immaturity (her language and behavior are more reminiscent of an overawed girl of eleven or twelve than a college graduate);

g) Ana’s obvious immaturity being a turn-on for Hellspawn, whereas her flashes of independence anger him (he’s an emotional pedophile, if not a physical one);

h) Hellspawn’s frequent lies (such as the contract labeled “submissive” even though he doesn’t want her submission to end in the bedroom; he wants a master-slave relationship with her 24/7 with no end in sight);

i) Hellspawn’s stalking (beginning a dossier on her a half hour after the interview ended, tracing her cell phone and following her cross-country);

j) The complete lack of trust in this relationship (Hellspawn is forever threatening Ana with beatings and rapes for looking at, talking to or even speaking of another male, while Ana is convinced that every woman in the world wants Hellspawn and that he’ll dump her the second he finds someone prettier);

k) The fact that neither of them progresses past the jealousy and lack of trust in the course of an entire book;

l) The relationship is isolating, leading Ana to lie to her family and friends and to pull away from them (because Ana believes that the NDA forbids her to say anything, even though she never read it);

m) Hellspawn keeps telling Ana how she feels and overriding her when she expresses an emotion or an idea that’s different;

n) Ana feels that she must do what Hellspawn wants, in bed or out or he’ll a) be violently angry, b) punish her (i.e., hit her, rape her, deny her orgasm, etc.) or c) dump her—in other words, her entire motive for accommodating him is fear;

o) The narrative absolves Hellspawn of responsibility for all of his controlling and abusive actions, blaming women for them instead (his birth mother for being poor, not feeding him enough and dying; his adoptive mother for being too demanding; Mrs. Robinson for turning him to BDSM and sexually enslaving him at fifteen—not because, as Ana states, because he was underage, but because he’s a MAN, and it’s implied that men shouldn’t be subs or sex slaves; and Ana for…well, every occasion when he gets mad at her); and

p) The book embraces the idea that all a woman needs to make her life complete is her Male True Love who will give her all the wonderful sex in the world…and if she doesn’t have him, she doesn’t have anything.

Any one of these things would make the relationship problematic—and the last two are so reactionary as to make me wince. Sixteen of them? Hellspawn and Ana are in a horrible, horrible relationship—not because of the consensual sex they’re having but because of, oh, everything else.

2) MANY OF THOSE SAYING THAT THIS IS AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP ARE PEOPLE WHO ARE INTO BDSM.

They clearly are not demonizing themselves, James. What they object to is NOT consensual and informed BDSM, but the conflation of dominance in the bedroom with abuse everywhere.

3) THE CRITICS HAVE NO OBJECTION TO WOMEN ENJOYING SEX OR DOING WHATEVER SEEMS FUN TO THEM. I haven’t seen a single critic saying anything against either one. They do want women to be free to consent and to know what they’re consenting to. Neither one is a bad thing.

4) Most importantly, TALKING SERIOUSLY ABOUT RAPE AND ABUSE WITHIN RELATIONSHIPS DOES NOT TRIVIALIZE THE PROBLEMS. You cannot solve problems unless you talk and think about them seriously. By refusing to discuss either, by blocking abuse victims, rape victims and victims of domestic violence from contacting you, and by failing to acknowledge just how abusive the relationship between Anastasia Steele and Christian Trevelyan-Grey is, you are perpetuating an already horrible situation and are preventing conversation that could lead to solutions.

YOU ARE MAKING SOMETHING THAT IS ALREADY BAD EVEN WORSE.

AND YOU ARE DOING SO OUT OF VANITY.

Because this? It’s very simple. All you had to say was:

“I was writing something very much in line with romance tropes and with the first BDSM that I ever read. I’m not part of the BDSM Lifestyle and I don’t have an insider’s view of how such relationships are supposed to work. This isn’t a blueprint for a real-life relationship, nor should it be. While Ana and Christian are supposed to be in love in the book, his actions are often disturbing to Ana—and are even illegal.

“And I think that it’s very important that we discuss what’s acceptable in relationships in reality and fiction, why there’s such a difference, and what this says about society’s view of women, love and relationships.”

There. Five lines.

That doesn’t tell the fans that they can’t enjoy the book. It doesn’t tell the fans that they’re awful for enjoying the book.

It does say that there is a difference between fantasy and real life—which is something that some fans get but that others, who claim to be actively looking for a man just like Christian Grey, obviously do not.

It says that behavior that some people fantasize about would be dangerous, disturbing, abusive and/or illegal in real life.

It says that abuse is an important topic and that those who have suffered abuse should be heard, not silenced.

And Ket and I aren’t the only ones saying that this book romanticizes abuse. Here. Have a link to an entire blogring of people commenting on the abusiveness in these books. And a couple to commentaries by Jenny Trout. And one to Kody, an abuse survivor who tried to contact James on Twitter…and got blocked almost instantly.

Is this the worst book ever written? No. Many more poorly written books exist.

But it is the book that I hate the most. I hate the writing style, the lack of editing, the total absence of plot, the characters so wooden that they might as well be sequoias, James’s presentation of an abusive, manipulative, controlling stalker-rapist douche as her male lead, the lack of consent being touted as romantic and sexy, and Ana’s sheer inability to think.

Whether it will remain the book that I hate the most remains to be seen.

After all, we still have two more books to go.



Blurb | Table of Contents | Spitefic Master List

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[User Picture]
From:_pandemonium
Date:April 13th, 2013 06:40 pm (UTC)
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*de-lurks and applauds*
[User Picture]
From:gehayi
Date:April 13th, 2013 07:05 pm (UTC)
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You're very welcome. Wish us luck with the next book!
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From:cosmowatt
Date:April 13th, 2013 06:42 pm (UTC)

Thank you so much for doing this sporking!

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I have hated these books with the white-hot intensity of a thousand burning suns and your sporking shows exactly why these books are so horrible. I actually started reading these books online but then my sister got physical copies. You're exactly right when you say that the women who read these books and enjoy them are only skimming the text. I recently told my sister that the book had absolutely nothing to it except for the terrible sex scenes and she told me that obviously I needed to go back and read them again. I also told her about how the author lifted certain scenes from Tara Sue Me's The Submissive, and she got very defensive. The only point of your sporking that she was able to pick up on was Ana's raging stupidity. She is the same age as Ana and so knew how ridiculous it was that she had never used the Internet. I think that part of the reason some women find the books so edgy is because they have never been exposed to contemporary erotica. I know that my sister has only read five contemporary erotic novels. . . and three of those were FSoG. You and Ket have done a great job of dissecting this great failure and I look forward to reading your sporking a of the next two books. It only gets worse from here, and your sporkings might actually help me finish the second book.
[User Picture]
From:gehayi
Date:April 13th, 2013 07:23 pm (UTC)

Re: Thank you so much for doing this sporking!

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I also told her about how the author lifted certain scenes from Tara Sue Me's The Submissive, and she got very defensive.

So plagiarism twice over? Eeesh.

You're exactly right when you say that the women who read these books and enjoy them are only skimming the text. I recently told my sister that the book had absolutely nothing to it except for the terrible sex scenes and she told me that obviously I needed to go back and read them again.

I think that part of the reason some women find the books so edgy is because they have never been exposed to contemporary erotica.

Which is remarkably silly. Okay, not everyone knows about fanfic, but there are plenty of erotic novels marketed to women. And they aren't hard to find; most mainstream--a.k.a. male/female--romance publishers have several lines of erotica (a common pattern is one sweet, one spicy and one allegedly sizzling), to say nothing of Harlequin's/Mills & Boon's BDSM line. If you like threesomes...well, menáge a trois has become a subgenre in romance. If you like stories about gay guys or lesbians in consensual relationships, there are publishers for both of those things--and they aren't necessarily graphic or all about the sex. As with everything else, there's a huge range. The bottom line is that erotica is more than available to women, and has been for quite some time. Publishers haven't been ignoring the market.

And yes, I agree with you. Most women who love this haven't read erotica. I don't understand why it never occurred to any of them to look for it.

You and Ket have done a great job of dissecting this great failure and I look forward to reading your sporking a of the next two books. It only gets worse from here, and your sporkings might actually help me finish the second book.

Why would you WANT to?
[User Picture]
From:idiotalchemist
Date:April 13th, 2013 06:49 pm (UTC)
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That pretty much sums up the whole thing. It's horrific abuse apologising. It's rape, and I reiterate my previous claims that Ana is secretly a preteen, making this pedophilia as well.

There is a literary couple that I believe Ana and Ramsay resemble, however: Antonia and Ambrosio from the Monk. If you know anything about that book, you understand exactly what I'm talking about.
[User Picture]
From:gehayi
Date:April 13th, 2013 07:04 pm (UTC)
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There is a literary couple that I believe Ana and Ramsay resemble, however: Antonia and Ambrosio from the Monk. If you know anything about that book, you understand exactly what I'm talking about.

Oh, God, they so do. The only difference is that Matthew Gregory Lewis wasn't trying to convince that using a magic mirror to watch Antonia naked or that plotting to rape her and use something to keep her from resisting were GOOD ideas. And at least Ambrosio ends up dead and damned for all eternity, which is SO much better than what happens to Hellspawn in this series.
[User Picture]
From:celticlonging
Date:April 13th, 2013 07:45 pm (UTC)
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"On occasion, he does beat Ana without her consent and then tells her that she loved it." - No. No. Just...no. That's horrible.

"it tells victims of abuse that they should assume the responsibility of being abused for their abusers’ sakes." - THAT'S EVEN WORSE.

Ana being the naïve virgin is fundamentally shorthand for, “This is the heroine; she’s a good girl.” - Yeah. And a trope in really old romance novels is "If she's not a virgin, it's not rape."

"when Ana openly says that she finds him “intimidating,” “scary,” “threatening” or “menacing,” because after all, he’s pretty, rich, smells great and gives Ana orgasms." - There's the really old romance novel thing again! Take BDSM away from the book, set it back forty or so years and it could pass as one! I'm serious.

"You can get ready in your room. Incidentally, the walk-in closet is now full of clothes for you. I don’t want any arguments about them.” He narrows his eyes, daring me to say something. When I don’t, he stalks off to his study." - See above comment.

"The husband had the legal right to demand sex at any time…and while women could turn their husbands down, the husband could insist. And many did. There were no consequences for this." - The legal right??? Who thinks up laws like that?

"In some states, it was a felony for a father to rape his daughter. In others, it was only a felony if she was a virgin. So the first time counted, but any subsequent rapes didn’t." - That's evil. That is just pure evil.

"I wrote it for myself, for fun." - OK. I'm going to be honest here. I write fanfiction (in The Pit), and I've got an ongoing novella on FictionPress. I write for fun - and judging from the reviews, people like my stories. But that's all they'll ever be. I would never get my stories published (with the possible exception of the novella after A LOT of sprucing up). Just wanted to say that.

MANY OF THOSE SAYING THAT THIS IS AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP ARE PEOPLE WHO ARE INTO BDSM. - Wow.

I hope I never meet a man like Christian Grey.
[User Picture]
From:gehayi
Date:April 13th, 2013 08:58 pm (UTC)
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Yeah. And a trope in really old romance novels is "If she's not a virgin, it's not rape."

It's also an argument frequently used against hookers and promiscuous women--they can't be raped, because look at all these OTHER guys they've slept with. That's like saying that someone can't be murdered, because look at all the other opportunities people had to kill them!

There's the really old romance novel thing again! Take BDSM away from the book, set it back forty or so years and it could pass as one! I'm serious.

You're right. I remember the old romance novels. I suspect James does, too.

The legal right??? Who thinks up laws like that?

The same ones who decided that a father could rape his daughter with few if any legal consequences, I'd guess.

It's really hard to explain the attitude back then. Under law, a husband and wife were one person, and that person was the man. A woman was presumed, under law, to have consented to sex with her husband by marrying him. Marriage meant that she was giving up the right to say "no"--and husbands who refused to take "no" for an answer were lauded as "real men" who were giving their women what the women really wanted. This was so pervasive that it showed up in Disney comedies marketed to kids. A man who accepted "no" from his wife was portrayed in the media as "henpecked," cowardly, and what we would now call a wimp but was then called "a Caspar Milquetoast." Not much of a man, in other words.

"In some states, it was a felony for a father to rape his daughter. In others, it was only a felony if she was a virgin. So the first time counted, but any subsequent rapes didn’t." - That's evil. That is just pure evil.

Yes, it is, but I can remember that argument being used, just the same.

OK. I'm going to be honest here. I write fanfiction (in The Pit), and I've got an ongoing novella on FictionPress. I write for fun - and judging from the reviews, people like my stories. But that's all they'll ever be. I would never get my stories published (with the possible exception of the novella after A LOT of sprucing up).

Quite a lot of fanfic writers take the "shaving off the serial numbers" route when going pro. I've got a clockpunk AU novella that I'm trying to expand--it needs a lot of expanding--and rewrite for publication; it's based on one Shakespeare play and one anonymous play that might have been written by Shakespeare but was probably written by someone else.

But most people actually try to make the characters their own. James didn't. Ana and Hellspawn are, despite the supernatural elements being removed, quite obviously Bella and Wardo. José is Jacob. Kate is Rosalie; Ethan is Jasper. Mia and Elliot are Alice and Emmett. Rocky--I mean, Carrick--and Grace are Carlisle and Esme. Ray and Carla are Charlie and Reneé. Ana's mother lives in Savannah, Georgia with a golfer instead of Jacksonville, Florida with a baseball player. Ana allegedly grew up in Las Vegas instead of Phoenix. Instead of Carlisle being the doctor, Carrick is a lawyer while his wife is the doctor. Ana lives in Vancouver, Washington before moving to Seattle instead of residing in Forks. Hellspawn is consistently described as cold, hard and pale--though it makes zero sense for an allegedly human character to have skin that is cold and hard.

On and on it goes, parallel after parallel. James didn't try to springboard off of this and create her own stuff, which is what most former fanfic writers do. She was content to piggyback on someone else's stuff.

MANY OF THOSE SAYING THAT THIS IS AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP ARE PEOPLE WHO ARE INTO BDSM. - Wow.

I think that's the best refutation that the books have. The people who know what the fuck they're talking about say that the books are wrong.

I hope I never meet a man like Christian Grey.

Man, I hope no one here does.


[User Picture]
From:carakasla
Date:April 13th, 2013 08:07 pm (UTC)
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With the recent headlines regarding the Stuebenville (so?) case, and Rehteah Parsons, and the the girl in California, it makes the fact that James rudely brushed away the criticisms even WORSE. Young boys are raping unconcious and intoxicated girls, taking pictures, and posting them online. Then these girls are ostrisized by their communities and two of them even committed suicide.

I guess that is what pisses me off the most. James, whether she likes it or not, is in a position to affect and inspire people. She can't just push these issues under the rug. She decided to publish this. She needs to grow up and deal with how the world works.

ANYWAYS. Great sporking. I send lots of chocolate and alochol! Next one is going to suck, isn't it?
[User Picture]
From:idiotalchemist
Date:April 13th, 2013 09:01 pm (UTC)
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YES. Precisely. The fact that those events were able to happen, and the fact that there are idiots out there who EXCUSE these atrocities, highlights just how dangerous the ideas that this book and others (like Hush, Hush) promote.

As an aspiring librarian, I absolutely abhor censorship on a gut level, but I'm beginning to sympathize because of things like this.
[User Picture]
From:detritius
Date:April 13th, 2013 08:53 pm (UTC)
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It says that behavior that some people fantasize about would be dangerous, disturbing, abusive and/or illegal in real life.

This is something that I think should be discussed more. Like, I'm into fanfiction. I frequent kink memes when the mood strikes me. I've read, written, and enjoyed some objectively sick shit. But that's stuff that's appropriately labeled, self-aware, and in no way promotes the behaviors in question. And just because I enjoy reading or writing about something doesn't mean I or other people who are into the same things would enjoy or even attempt it in real life. A lot of the people I've seen kinkshaming others online don't seem to get this. And it's weirdly confined to stuff with sexual connotations. I mean, I've never seen anyone claiming that a slasher movie aficionado actually wants to be chased around by a serial killer.

On the flipside, I balk at people shipping and fantasizing about things that are relatively tamer than some of the stuff I like because I can tell they're idealizing it and using it as a template for acceptable real life relationships. That's what bothered me about Twilight, and it's even worse in 50 Shades of Gray, because while Edward is definitely a problematic and abusive boyfriend, at least he's too faintly asexual to try to rape Bella (Bella borderline sexually assaulting and harassing him at points is another story). And Twilight seems a little easier for even fans to shrug off, because since Edward's a vampire, most fans I've seen have despaired of ever finding one in real life, not realizing that they really, really wouldn't want to. Christian is a human man so, as you've mentioned, you see a lot of women wishing for, or bragging about "their very own Christian Gray." Because 50 Shades isn't a fantasy story, readers are more likely to see it as a possibility -- and it is. It just doesn't end the way they think it will. And it makes me sick that this very popular book is out there romanticizing and promoting abusive relationships, and the author doesn't even care about the people who could get hurt because of it. James's dismissive attitude absolutely disgusts me.
[User Picture]
From:ldegnan
Date:April 14th, 2013 12:52 am (UTC)
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That's pretty much how I feel as well on both counts. I've been known to read some kinky works on occasion, and I've gotten a taste for darker dub-cons that border into non-con territory over the past few months. Yet outside of the realm of fantasy I'd never engage in anything I like to read about, except maybe attempting a potential dub-con scene with a willing partner if I ever find someone who is into the same stuff as I am. Everything else? It's staying within the stories I read and the art I look at - especially the stuff that involves unwilling partners. Having a kink and actually engaging in it are two different things.

Personally I think I'd have been fine with FSoG if James just put on her Big Girl Panties and wrote disclaimer at the front of the book stating that the contents weren't to be taken as a template for actual relationships. I've read some explicit stories where all the characters treat non-consensual behavior favorably, even the victim eventually gives in, but the author goes out of their way to say that it's simply playing on a kink and not to be taken as an endorsement of that sort of behavior. James would still be a horrible author, but she could have at least gained some brownie points in my mind for discouraging people from taking the contents of the book as a how-to guide to the perfect relationship. Yet she'll never do it, particularly now that she's personally appointed herself as the 'protector' of the BDSM lifestyle. To admit wrong doing would be to admit her little fantasy has flaws, and to admit that she understands next to nothing about actual BDSM. That and a disclaimer might cut into the profits of the book, as then the fans wouldn't have a leg to stand on when defending it. So it's not going to happen.

Personally I just hope that erotica becomes more mainstream after the success of this series, and that more people ignore James' views and seriously discuss the issues behind this series. It probably won't happen, but I can hope.


Edited at 2013-04-14 12:56 am (UTC)
From:(Anonymous)
Date:April 13th, 2013 09:31 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Predatory, sees nothing wrong with rape, likes to beat women and uses BDSM as an excuse. What a catch!
I feel sorry for Ana and anyone who had to deal with a Christian Grey for their first and long-term relationship. For once, I'd like to read a best-seller that has a nice guy as a love interest and most of the conflict to be external rather than 'I can change him, momma!' But evil assholes are in now, but soon Alveras, elven singe-father, will kick Grey and this horrible series into the abyss of shame and obscurity where they belongs.

-Dragonturtle Monk
[User Picture]
From:gehayi
Date:April 14th, 2013 07:58 am (UTC)
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For once, I'd like to read a best-seller that has a nice guy as a love interest and most of the conflict to be external rather than 'I can change him, momma!'

You and me both. I have no clue why evil assholes are in now, either.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:April 13th, 2013 10:11 pm (UTC)

The Logical Conclusion- Part 3

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((I borrowed Sharon Leibowitz, Grey's thirteenth ex, from Das Mervin's epic spitefic "Lucky Number Thirteen". It's on TwiSpiteFic and it is awesome, so be sure to check it out. Hope you don't mind, Mervin
Also, if anyone wanted to, I dunno, contact me or something I have an account on Wattpad.com. My username is AnonymousDonor. So, there you go. This bit took me forever to do, but I'm actually kinda proud of how it turned out.))

Kate took in the purple bruises that mottled Ana's face and arms. She could only assume that they continued across the rest of her body, but it was hidden beneath a blanket and even the thought of it made her stomach twist violently. Honestly, Kate wasn't sure what she had been expecting. It was a terrible sight and she knew for a fact that it would be burned into her mind's eye forever. Nothing Kate ever did, no amount of therapy, would take away this single image of Ana lying so still in a sterile hospital bed and looking so small, so fragile. Like she would break if she was so much as touched.

She's already been broken, the dark, twisted corner of Kate's mind whispered. She shut the voice down and did her best to ignore the sick truth that lay within. Ana had been broken. Even if her face hadn't been swollen with the evidence, Kate knew that no one could interact with something like Christian fucking Grey and come out whole on the other side. Something like that changed everything and it took a tremendous amount of work to even try and get things back to the way they were. Not that anything would go back to the way it was. Kate wasn't naive enough to hope for that, nor foolish enough.

Kate had never been afraid of change. She embraced the twists thrown her way as simply how life worked. Not once had she complained as her parents left behind another vista in some foreign country to live someplace else. Not once had she minded the multitudes of different relationships that became a part of her and then quickly disappeared again. But even the most hardened, independent person needs something to hold onto. Kate had been buffeted on the winds of change and she had always been searching for the piece of stability that would keep her sane. Then she'd met Ana. Innocent Ana, who blushed at Kate's comments and implications and made her feel like maybe, just maybe, this one thing could last forever.

Kate glanced down at her hands, still clenched in her lap. She slowly eased her fingers apart and glanced over at Ana. Her arms were lying on top of the blanket and her palm was faced up, as if inviting Kate to take it. Fear, irrational and breath taking, gripped at Kate as she stared at that hand. Could she hold it? Would Ana take the comfort and be oblivious to the deeper meaning, as usual? Or would she shake Kate off in disgust and send her way?

What do I want her to do? The question had leapt from nowhere, stunning Kate. It made such a horrible sense to her. Punishment... Before this thought process could continue, however, the door opened once more. Kate glanced up to see Amanda with a tray balanced on one hand.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:April 13th, 2013 10:12 pm (UTC)

Re: The Logical Conclusion- Part 3

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"I brought some food. The chicken isn't that bad," Amanda murmured, her voice gentle. She walked over to Kate and proffered the meal tray, sighting when Kate made no move to take it. When she next spoke her voice took on a firm, commanding note. "You need to eat, Kate, or you'll faint again." After a moment of rebellious hesitation, Kate took the food before turning away from the nurse. She kept her eyes steadily on the tray in her hands as she lifted the cover and studied the meal within. A moment later there was another sigh, and then the soft tapping of shoes as Amanda walked away. Kate listened for the click of the door to signal the departure of the blonde woman before picking up a fork. The chicken didn't look that bad.

————————


Kate wasn't entirely sure how much time was going by. She'd finished picking at the meal, and Amanda had been in to check on her several times. A different nurse had come by once or twice to glance at Ana's chart and fiddle with the bags of liquid pumping into her. To Kate everything seemed a blur. Time didn't pass normally. Once she found herself glancing at the clock every couple minutes. The next an hour had passed. Food was placed in front of her once more and Kate managed several bites. Short, restless naps were all the sleep she got. The rest of the time was spent sitting sentinel by Ana's bedside, guarding her as she slept. Protecting her.

It was when Kate was rousing herself from another power nap that she saw the twitch. Early morning light was streaming into the room, making everything thing seem a little brighter and illuminating Ana's moving hand. It clenched slightly and Kate was immediately up and approaching the bed. She leaned over it, gazing at Ana and praying, desperately praying for something good to happen. As if the universe was actually listening to her, Ana's eyes flicked open for a moment before drifting shut again. Kate felt her heart beginning to pound harder as a wildly broad grin spread across her face. And then Ana's eyes began to open again, this time without closing. Ana gazed at Kate through half lidded eyes for a few seconds and Kate fought the urge to hug her best friend and never let go.

"Hey, Ana. Hey," Kate whispered softly, bringing a hand up to Ana's shoulder.

"Kate?" Ana's voice was raspy and she nearly choked on the single syllable, forced to take in a deep breath. Kate had never heard her name sound so good before.

"Yeah, Ana. It's me, I'm here. You're okay, you're okay," Kate replied, though the last words were as much for her benefit as Ana's.

"W-where am I? What... Why?" Ana's questions faded out, leaving only the slightly confused expression.

"You're at a hospital, but you don't need to worry about anything, okay? You're okay!" Kate felt her own joy beginning to bubble over, despite Ana's troubled frown. She was awake and talking and not still and lifeless. The change was absolutely amazing. The color in Ana's cheeks, the way her forehead crinkled when she didn't quite understand, those beautiful eyes which Kate hadn't been sure she was ever going to see again... All of it combined in the most beautiful woman Kate had ever seen and it took all of her willpower to resist any more touching then a hand on Ana's shoulder.

"W-why? What happened? Kate?"

The joy Kate has felt at seeing her best friend awake was beginning to abate as Ana's words became more panicked, her expression of vague confusion shifting into alarm. Kate patted the other girl's shoulder gently, fighting back the fear and trying not to put any pressure on the bruises that were there. It wasn't time for her to worry, it was time for her to be strong for Ana.
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From:gehayi
Date:April 13th, 2013 11:46 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Sorry, that was a typo. Hellspawn got 8 out of 10 for risk assessment and 154 (not 54) for the quality of the assessment. Here's what de Becker & Associates said:

ASSESSMENT RESULTS: 8 on a scale of 1 to 10

Based upon the information you have provided, and with a quality level of 154 out of a possible 200, this situation appears most similar to cases that -have- worsened and escalated. On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being assigned to the worst situations), this situation is a 8. Some similar cases have escalated to include worsening abuse, substantial violence, and even homicide. This situation definitely carries a high risk for Ana, and steps to enhance safety and wellbeing are called for.


I also think "HOW CAN THERE BE MORE OF THIS?" whenever I remember that it has even less of a plot than Twilight.

Oh, it's easy. These books are James's daydreams. Book 2 features Ana getting showered with riches and having tons of sex. Book 3 features more sex and DA BAYBEEZ. (Which sounds like a band name.) And yes, there are people who hate Hellspawn and Ana, but James keeps them shoved safely in the background so that they don't burst her fragile bubble.


Edited at 2013-04-13 11:47 pm (UTC)
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From:thecuriouskitty
Date:April 14th, 2013 01:22 am (UTC)
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Thank you for sporking these books so that I didn't have to read them - I picked them up in a bookstore and flicked through the first few pages, but the writing was so terrible I simply could not continue.

It slightly terrifies me that so many people are oblivious to things that seem so patently self-evident to me - like sex should be consensual, and it's not consensual if someone has sex because they are afraid to say no; hot, rich men can be bad people, i.e. beauty does not equal goodness; your value is not related to your virginity, etc., etc. -
[User Picture]
From:gehayi
Date:April 14th, 2013 07:44 am (UTC)
(Link)
Thank you for sporking these books so that I didn't have to read them

You're welcome! I'll tell Ket.

- I picked them up in a bookstore and flicked through the first few pages, but the writing was so terrible I simply could not continue.

I understand completely.

It slightly terrifies me that so many people are oblivious to things that seem so patently self-evident to me - like sex should be consensual, and it's not consensual if someone has sex because they are afraid to say no; hot, rich men can be bad people, i.e. beauty does not equal goodness; your value is not related to your virginity, etc., etc.

A-freaking-MEN.

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From:gehayi
Date:April 14th, 2013 07:38 am (UTC)

Re: I Have No Words

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Oooh. Thank you! Wet Mr. Darcy makes me smile; his expression just says, "Yes, I meant to do this. What of it?"
[User Picture]
From:otakukeith
Date:April 14th, 2013 03:10 am (UTC)
(Link)
The stuff about 'Macho Sluts' is revealing. A lot of erotic fiction involves what gets labelled "non-con" or "dub-con" on the Internet, so it's not surprising that James found some. What's weird is that in her subsequent reading, she apparently didn't find anything (fiction or non-fiction) where the difference between safe/sane/consensual BDSM and fantasy ravishment or real-world rape/abuse was spelled out. Or (more likely) she did but ignored/didn't understand it.
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From:gehayi
Date:April 14th, 2013 07:26 am (UTC)
(Link)
I'm guessing she ignored and/or didn't understand those issues, and I think that's part of what steered her wrong. The other part is fanfic itself. She took it as given that Bella and Wardo had a loving, considerate, passionate relationship, because she's a Twifan. So she didn't write them behaving in kind, considerate ways toward each other, partly because Meyer didn't write that and partly because James believed that such behavior was already obvious. To her original audience...Twifans who loved BDSM Bedward and who probably knew as much about BDSM as she did...it probably did read as the truest of true love. (After all, if you can make yourself believe that Bella Swan is a good and decent person who deserves to live happily ever after, you make yourself believe ANYTHING.)
[User Picture]
From:sissyblade
Date:April 14th, 2013 03:15 am (UTC)
(Link)
Congratulations, guys! Care for some chocolate muffins? Or a pie with ice cream?

I've heard that the second book was worse than this one. Considering that we've basically dealt with... you know... RAPE AND ASSAULT AND BATTERY (and tampons and jaywalking--wait, scratch jaywalking) in this book, is the piss poor excuse of Hellspawn on why he couldn't form a loving relationship just the icing on a crap filled cake in the next one?

Some "sexually empowering" book that was. Bad porn films are more erotic than that thing. (And bad porn films can be riffable, so there's a two for one.)
[User Picture]
From:gehayi
Date:April 14th, 2013 06:52 am (UTC)
(Link)
Oh, thank you! They both sound delicious!

It's stated outright in the next book that he has literally never loved anyone. Not his birth mother, not his adoptive parents, not his siblings. No one. Ana's case of "I can CHANGE him, Mama!" gets even worse. Hellspawn sees this as an opportunity to manipulate Ana on every possible occasion, hinting that if she just does X, it will mean "more" to him. "More" is book code for "love and affection'--you know, those emotions he himself admits that he's never felt? Ever? Since infancy?

So far, I haven't run into any rape and assault, but Hellspawn is more than making up for it with his lies--which are transparently false. Also, if possible, Ana becomes even stupider in the next book, though Stacy is still in there slugging. We're up to Chapter 5, and I want them both to die in a fire.
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From:zelda_queen
Date:April 14th, 2013 03:36 am (UTC)
(Link)
You know, I was trying to think of an analogy for Grey's behavior that divorces his abusiveness from the idea of "Oh no, he just has a hobby that makes hitting people okay! D:" Here's what I got:

Ana is a college student who is incredibly naive about the world of animation. While she studies old animation shorts in in college - Betty Boop, Little Nemo, etc - she knows virtually nothing about the stuff of today. In fact, she never even watched cartoons as a child.

One day, she meets Grey. Grey, as it turns out, has a deep, dark secret - he is a massive anime fan. He uses his vast amounts of money to go to conventions across the country, and has a Red Room filled with very revealing costumes and hentai anime and manga. Ana is extremely shocked by this all. The most she knew of modern cartoons was Spongebob, which is too bizarre for her tastes. But Grey is very hot and rich and claims he loves her, and wants her to join him in his love of anime and such things.

At his encouragement, she decides to look up anime online. She looks up a site for Sailor Moon and has to leave almost immediately. She's shocked by how revealing the outfits are, how two women are lovers in it, how the characters are *naked* while transforming, and how the protagonist is alluded to having premarital sex with her boyfriend. She believes that anime is completely perverse and sexual, and Grey tells her as much. For their first date, he makes her watch Miyuki in Wonderland, which completely freaks her out. The only thing she finds enjoyable is sitting next to Grey, on the sofa. He tells her that this is an accurate representation of all anime, and that she shouldn't let anyone tell her differently. He also convinces her not to talk to her friends or family about what they watch, because they surely won't understand and will ridicule her for watching it.

Grey continues to have Ana watch sexually explicit and violent anime with him. When she refuses one such session, he humiliates her by mailing the entire series, Kodomo no Jikan, to her home. He becomes angry with her when she insinuates that she didn't enjoy a series that's essentially child pornography, and she pretends she liked it just to keep him around. When she refuses another session, he hacks her computer so that she gets ads for inappropriate anime DVDs and manga collections popping up constantly. She refuses to humiliate herself by begging him to remove the virus, and gets around it by taking it to a computer help center to have them fix it. Angry at her defying him further, he forces her to wear a shirt in public that says she's a yaoi fangirl. This deeply upsets her, but she does it to please him.

When Grey finds out that she intends to visit her mother, he pulls strings to follow her to Savannah, Georgia. While there, he heavily pressures her into attending an anime convention with him. He "gifts" her a very revealing cosplay outfit, which she doesn't feel comfortable wearing at all. She tries to get around this by ordering online a cosplay outfit that's more conservative, and which she actually likes. He responds by letting her wear it and then "accidentally" ripping the top when they get to the con, thus forcing her to wear his own outfit (which he, of course, brought along just in case such a thing happened).

Throughout the whole ordeal, he never makes any effort to introduce Ana to more tame examples of anime or manga. He doesn't show her shows marketed to families, or ones that are fluffy romances. He never lets her make suggestions as to what they watch, or let her pick out the cosplay outfit he wears.
[User Picture]
From:zelda_queen
Date:April 14th, 2013 03:36 am (UTC)
(Link)
Now, people actually familiar with anime culture no doubt read that and responded with "... The f -?" Any of them could point out the many things wrong with it, starting with the idea that manga is all tentacle rape and violence and sex. It's obvious that Grey's problem isn't his love of anime. It's the fact that he uses anime as a way to upset and humiliate Ana. His behavior isn't an indicator of anime culture. It's proof he's an ASSHOLE. And all it does is riddle anime culture with unfortunate implications - that it's perverse and disgusting, that it can't be artful or beautiful or deep at all, that it simply CAN'T be tame or family-friendly, that the yaoi or yuri or any other non-hetero aspects are automatically gross and as perverse as tentacle rape, etc.

... And I'm not sure if that went where I wanted it to, but hopefully it makes sense? ^^;
[User Picture]
From:commander30
Date:April 14th, 2013 04:45 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I kind of want to make love to this entire entry, because it outlines everything that is horrible and wrong about the books so perfectly. I want to share it on my Facebook and LJ pages, but since that could be baiting the fans and that's a no-no, I'll just add this to my memories instead.

You two deserve all the chocolate in the world for dissecting the book so thoroughly, and while I know doing books 2 and 3 will just be even worse, I'm still looking forward to your insights. :)
From:(Anonymous)
Date:April 14th, 2013 05:19 pm (UTC)

This will be long (Part 1)

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"There isn’t one. This “novel” is more like a series of self-contained vignettes, all following the same pattern: Ana is mainly interested in sex with Hellspawn if it includes a long-term romance, while Hellspawn wants a short, pale brunette that he can fuck and beat. On occasion, he does beat Ana without her consent and then tells her that she loved it. He also uses rape both as a threat and as a punishment."

That's it. That's it and the next two books have even less!? I. Don't. Even. As I already said somewhere else, my one shot fanfictions have more plot than this and this is, what, like 500+ pages long (like Twilight)? HOW? How can this happen? Even if it boils down to "Will they, won't they", the concept can be done entertaining with engaging characters and real conflict and...oh. Wait. James can't write and thinks Hellspawn is the best thing ever. Never mind, then.
Still, I cannot get over the fact that this "story" contains so much NOTHING and so much AWFUL and FAIL at the same time. *sets the damned book on fire*

"Second, Ana is stupid. She is painfully, abysmally stupid.
[...]

It doesn’t help that James turns Bella up to eleven thousand for Ana. Bella was a virgin until she married Wardo, yes, but she wanted to have sex with Wardo. Ana not only doesn’t want sex when the story begins, she doesn’t know anything about sex. She has never read anything involving sex—which tells me that she doesn’t deserve her English degree, as Chaucer and Shakespeare are infamous for including a lot of sexual puns in their work. (In fact, one of the Canterbury Tales is all about cocks. Yes, these cocks are roosters. The pun is played up to the Nth power.) Ana does not know what her genitals are called—though, weirdly, she knows what a clitoris is. She’s not only never masturbated but has never thought about it one way or the other until Hellspawn brings the matter up. She does not recognize flirting or lines; she does not know about roofies. She does not know that a man taking an unconscious woman home, undressing her, and then spending the night in bed next to her is inappropriate. At one point, she calls ordinary, vanilla penis-in-vagina sex “perverse.” She never, ever realizes that she has a right to say “no”—or that a man hearing the word “no” should listen and comply."

And this is also awful. Ana is supposed to be a modern girl (yes, a "girl", since I refuse to call her a woman) and therefore, she should at least know about sex/should be aware of it in some way or the other. I'm 28 years old and still a virgin, simply because I haven't met a man yet I would like to sleep with. I simply can't imagine to have sex with a man I don't love. That's how I am. But if a woman enjoys having sex without any emotional attachement? Well, good for her. As long as she respects her partner(s), male or female, and the sex is consensual and safe, it's okay. Yes, I hate slut shaming (and most of all the double standard that goes with it). What would James say to this? That I'm not a slut, but since I'm already so close to thirty, I must be a prude? I'm not sure how James would react to me telling her that I started reading smut fics and porn when I was fifteen? And no, she doesn't deserve her English degree. I have a degree in English Literature (as a minor subject) and there was a lot of talk about Shakespeare's puns and innuendos in just one course. James, your female protagonist couldn't exist in real life, she is literally too stupid to live. When she's supposed to be the "heroine" of your book, then why did you write her like this!?

"Let’s clear up one thing right now. Hellspawn does not love Ana. He tells her in the text precisely what he likes about her: she has a good body and a smart mouth. It can be inferred that he likes fucking her body while her smart mouth gives him an excuse to hit her. Her thoughts and her personality—they’re not factors. And yes, I know that Ana doesn’t have a mind or a personality, but James thinks she does…and yet the relationship, on both sides, is solely based on physical attraction. And again—this is not my interpretation. This is what James wrote her characters saying."


[User Picture]
From:zelda_queen
Date:April 14th, 2013 05:44 pm (UTC)

Re: This will be long (Part 1)

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I think the Shakespeare thing could be summed up when my last Shakespeare class analyzed one of the Bard's sonnets. It was a nice one, in which the writer was talking about how his love might not seem fantastic to others, but he still loves her. On the surface, there's nothing remotely sexual about it. But when the teacher asked us to analyze it, I pointed out a line where we're told that the woman's breath "reeks". I said I wasn't the smartest on oral hygiene of the time, but it brought to mind morning mouth. The teacher said that yes, people in that time had ways of sweetening their breath. Chances are that the writer is speaking of his lover having morning mouth, thus implying that they were sleeping together.

I think in every single literature class I took - fairy tales and folklore, detective fiction, science fiction, Chaucer, medieval fiction, Gothic fiction, early American literature, Dickens, Austen, Shakespeare and even children's literature - had SOME examination of sexuality. Plenty of times it wasn't flat-out stated, of course. Like with my Shakespeare story, it was through examining symbolism and metaphors. That James - and thus Ana - seems unaware of the sexual content of those works just seems to show that they have no clue of the concept of close readings. The idea of symbolism or examining word choice or sentence structures seems completely foreign to them. Which, as Gehayi has been saying, means there's no way in heaven or hell that Ana got her English degree period, let alone with a 4.0 GPA.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:April 14th, 2013 05:58 pm (UTC)

This will be long (Part 2)

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Sorry, word count...

To the last paragraph above: Yes. It's in the fucking text. It's right there and this is still sold as a romance. WHAT?! You know, if the "based on physical attraction"-thing were actually acknowledged, I could accept it (if you ignore all the other issues). There's nothing wrong with a one night stand or a relationship that's based on sex (again, between people who consented to it). But the problem is, this is supposed to be True Love. This is supposed to be a real, consensual, romantic relationship between two people who love each other, who care for each other. It's the opposite and this is even stated in the text! How can anynone lack so much reading comprehension and not notice this when it's so terribly blatant? I want this series to be unwritten so much, you have no idea.

As for Christian Grey, I won't touch this horrifying character anymore. He's even worse than my own villains (I have two in my novel, servant and master)! I don't understand this. How can you write such a disgusting character and present him as the hero?! It's so obvious! How can you, as the writer, not notice how he is!? You created him! Sure, he's supposed to be Edward, but James managed to make Hellspawn so revolting that even Edward Cullen would be preferable! You know, I like the trope of the "Bad Boy", but only when done right - meaning, when the Bad Boy in question does have redeeming qualities and gets character development, becomes a better person and stops being a complete asshole. What's so great about a Bad Boy as a love interest, when he STAYS an asshole and still gets everything he wants? *looks at James, Meyer, Fitzpatrick and the like* Well? Care to explain, ladies?

"James, along with the accolades, has received a lot of criticism for her book and there has been a lot of things said about her way of writing.

Namely, that she can’t do it. She doesn’t even know how to use the mechanics of the English language—spelling, grammar, punctuation and capitalization—and I would consider that to be a fundamental requirement.

“Journalists and critics think: ‘why are people reading this and not my stuff?’

“Why aren’t people reading MY stuff?” Oh, so everyone who criticizes you must be jealous! They couldn’t possibly dislike your trilogy because it’s badly plotted, badly characterized, badly crafted and just plain bad!

…you’re just piling up the Suethor points, aren’t you?"

And here I thought she was less Suethor-ish than Meyer. Guess not. Look, James: English is my second language, my first one is German. I'm not perfect and still make mistakes in English, but I love it and try to be as correct as I can. I love every language, because different languages are awesome. I'd like to learn French and maybe Italian. You don't seem to care about your first language at all and that's really sad, especially for a writer, fanfiction or published.

To you, Gehayi and Ket, there's only one thing I can say: You did a wonderful job, your sporkings were great to read and very entertaining (besides the terrible stuff you had to deal with). Keep up the good work!
*gives you tons of chocolate and booze, brain bleach and a nice set of weapons and torture items for Hellspwan*

Autumn
[User Picture]
From:lang_ea
Date:April 14th, 2013 06:04 pm (UTC)
(Link)
One thing that I keep seeing in the comment sections on interviews with James and reviews of this book are long, rambling anecdotes about how this or that woman was just like Ana. That she was naïve when she went off to college; often the word used is “innocent.” That they didn’t know much about sex and didn’t feel comfortable discussing it with anyone. That they couldn’t possibly have talked about it online the way that teenagers do now. That they don’t understand much about the Internet or computers even today. And, over and over, that they’d never been “with” a boy, that they’d never fallen in love, that there had never been anyone who mattered to them…

…and then they met their Christian Grey.


That is such a chilling statement. I've only encountered two women who feel like this, and it's seriously depressing to see them feel this way towards men and relationships. I don't know if any of them were like my mom, where they were treated badly by men (and didn't know it) and somehow wound up with a far better partner (and even then, some of them feel disappointed by them in one way or another). Really, I hope most of these women wound up like my mom, because there's nothing scarier than women admitting that they married or started a family with a man like Christian Grey.

Still, really amazing afterword of the book. You've summarized everything perfectly and gave every damning evidence the book has to offer.
[User Picture]
From:insanepurin
Date:April 14th, 2013 06:53 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Is this the worst book ever written? No. Many more poorly written books exist.

But it is the book that I hate the most. I hate the writing style, the lack of editing, the total absence of plot, the characters so wooden that they might as well be sequoias, James’s presentation of an abusive, manipulative, controlling stalker-rapist douche as her male lead, the lack of consent being touted as romantic and sexy, and Ana’s sheer inability to think.


This. I judge a book based on how angry it makes me. So while a book could technically be written worse than 50 Shades (characterization, plot, style, etc.), it could only be my personal second worst because it didn't annoy me as much. As I wrote in my Goodreads review of 50 Shades, there's books I hate because they either bored me, pissed me off, or both. And 50 Shades is that magical latter category.

But what ultimately makes 50 Shades the worst for me is all of the Unfortunate Implications and E.L. James' disgusting attitude toward rape and abuse victims. I thought Searching For David's Heart (a Lifetime-esque Christmas book) was obnoxious and unbearable, but at least it didn't promote misogyny and encourage relationships with abusive men. Neither is it popular and touted for being "revolutionary" for its horrible ideas.

Edited at 2013-04-14 06:55 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:sweettalkeress
Date:April 14th, 2013 07:00 pm (UTC)

Lemme try out a little experiment here...

(Link)
I wonder if the following sounds anything like what was going through the author's head when she wrote this book...

"The heroine of Fifty Shades of Gray was idyllic in every way. Gorgeous, of course, but shy and quiet. She wasn't loud and bitchy and would never insult or bully anyone. She was just so nice. Christian Gray was really mean to her, but that was just because he didn't know how to show his true feelings. It wasn't rape, though, because they were in love. Ana just needed a little convincing, she was too passive. She was such a wonderful bottom."

For the record, this is a modified paragraph about what's supposed to be going through the head of a Yaoi fangirl stereotype.

Edited at 2013-04-14 07:04 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:dioschorium
Date:April 14th, 2013 07:13 pm (UTC)
(Link)
She might have read Everything That You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask if it was in the library

Speaking of truly pernicious bestsellers, David Reuben's magnum opus also belongs on the list of the all-time worst popular books. I'd go into detail about it here, but I'd rather just link you to my review of it. Seriously, Ana would have been better off imagining the nitty-gritty details of sex than receiving information about them from that wretched tome.
[User Picture]
From:gehayi
Date:April 14th, 2013 07:22 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I don't remember most of the negative bits, though I do remember the part about male homosexuality. I recall it because I'd read a fair number of biographies about gay men at that point (though considerably less about lesbians) and what Reuben said just didn't fit the biographies. I decided that he was, like many people, silly about gayness, which was a shame. I recall wondering what the hell he was scared of.

I was thinking more in terms of something period that would have told 1970s-1980s!Ana that various forms of sex existed, which is more info than she seems to possess here. It might even have gotten her curious enough to do some actual research or ask Kate some questions about sex that--GASP!--weren't related to Hellspawn.
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:April 14th, 2013 11:11 pm (UTC)
(Link)
This is by far the angriest any fiction book has made me.
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From:kagyakusha
Date:April 15th, 2013 04:09 am (UTC)
(Link)
I can't agree more with all of this!!

I went on TV to talk about Fifty Shades, and the producers censored me
when I brought up these issues because (*gasp*) I used the term BDSM.
I can say "fifty shades of grey is popular" but I can't point out its flaws
[User Picture]
From:gehayi
Date:April 15th, 2013 04:12 am (UTC)
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That's just ridiculous. The book itself uses the term! (Not correctly, but it does.) What channel?
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From:tsukasabuddha
Date:April 15th, 2013 05:57 am (UTC)
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I'm having flashbacks to A Dance with Rogues, a fan module for the videogame NWN1. The creator of that also claimed she did it for her own fun, the main love interest is a rapist, and the game is mostly smut. And there are people who love the dark and tortured rapist.

I was thinking of trying to spork it because it relies on text so much, as it is an older game. But the horribleness is just so massive.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:July 17th, 2013 03:12 pm (UTC)
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Loathe as I am to defend that module, it is worth noting that Vico (the rapist) is more-or-less explicitly shown to be a psychopath, the romance is not really presented as something to aspire to, and there are other stabler and nicer love interests available. I would argue that ADWR comes under the same slightly less disturbing kink-meme-esque noncon/dubcom thing. Still trash though :D
Granted, I still find it very worrying that some people actually like Vico...
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From:aprilp_katje
Date:April 16th, 2013 12:53 am (UTC)
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::applauds wildly::

Excellent summation of everything that is wrong with FSoG.

I first recall hearing about husbands raping wives (it goes without saying that no one was talking about wives raping husbands, as the law generally assumed that rape was penetrative) in 1972. I was twelve. And most legal experts thought that the very concept was both ridiculous and unprovable. The legal presumption was that once a woman married, she was legally in a state of “perpetual readiness.” The husband had the legal right to demand sex at any time…and while women could turn their husbands down, the husband could insist. And many did. There were no consequences for this.

You know, I remember having a heated argument with a co-worker about this in the early 1990s. I don't recall how it came up, but in response to a reference about marital rape, this co-worker commented that there was "no such thing" as a husband raping his wife. This co-worker must have been in her mid-40s at the time, and I was around 24 or so. Another co-worker who was about my age and I both immediately jumped in with our "yes there is" responses, but no matter what we said, our denier was unmoved. I remember having the awful realization that she probably was invested in believing this because if she accepted what we were saying, she'd have to admit to herself that she'd been subjected to marital rape.

Edit: Watching Damages on DVD, I realize that the theme song, "When I am Through With You," is a perfect fit for this book:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNU2nOo1EwM

Edited at 2013-04-18 11:34 pm (UTC)

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