GJ Reads Grey, Chapter 3

Want to go back? Read the previous chapter or the first chapter.

Yes, it’s time. Let’s read some more of Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Christian. Alright… Deep breath… Let’s go.

One of my fave things about Fifty Shades is E.L. James’ awkward attempts to set it in the U.S. despite having very little practical knowledge of her settings. Her characters consistently talk like Brits, in a way that’s glaring to any North American reader, and it’s hilarious. (Example: in this chapter, Ana says, “I’ve never left mainland USA.” Okay then.) James’ geographic ineptitude also shows up in her descriptions of locations. Chapter 3 starts out with Christian going on a jog in Portland, and he’s careful to explain that he jogs “down Southwest Salmon Street toward the Willamette River.” It reads a bit like a tourist brochure.

After his scenic jog along the Willamette, Christian returns to his hotel to get ready for his photoshoot with Ana et al. for Kate’s newspaper article.

Breakfast has been delivered and I’m famished. It’s not a feeling I tolerate – ever.

I vaguely remember from the first book (of which I admittedly only read half) that Christian has issues with food, presumably dating back to his time as the submissive of an abusive older woman. I’m intrigued to read more about this in Grey.

My hair is wet from my shower, but I don’t give a shit. One glance at the louche fucker in the mirror and I exit to follow Taylor to the elevator.

Uh. Couple things. A) I had to look up the word “louche.” Can’t say I’ve ever heard that one before. It means “disreputable or sordid in a rakish or appealing way,” which, yeah, that’s totally Christian. And B) WHAT A DOUCHE. (Which rhymes with louche, incidentally.) He thinks soooo highly of himself. It’s annoying as a character quality, but it also doesn’t ring true. Wouldn’t someone in his psychological position be more insecure than this? I’m no psychology expert, but… somehow I doubt E.L. James is one, either.

As the photoshoot begins, Grey gets introduced to Ana’s photographer friend José, and this interaction devolves into another one of Christian’s masculinity competitions for Ana’s affections. (At Drunk Feminist Films, we shouted “Broformance!” and took a drink every time this happened. We got hammered.)

Christian observes that Ana’s friend Kate is more active, engaged, and bossy than Ana, which apparently indicates that Ana is “a natural submissive.” Right, ’cause how someone acts at a weird publicity event with a bunch of strangers is a clear sign of how they like to have sex. Brilliant logic, Christian.

He asks her on a coffee date, and they hold hands on the way to the café. One of the most jarring things about the Fifty Shades movie, for me, was how quickly the characters ramped up to intimate physical contact – me and a gaggle of sex bloggers yelled at the screen when Christian started stroking Ana’s face on their first date, for example. I had forgotten that this weird forwardness happens in the books as well.

Ana tells him she wants tea with the bag on the side (?! what is the point of this?) and then Christian orders it for her, calling it “bag-out tea,” which made me laugh really hard and I’m not entirely sure why. He also orders her a muffin even though she explicitly tells him she doesn’t want anything to eat. More of Christian’s food issues here, plus one of the first instances of Christian directly ignoring one of Ana’s requests, which will be a recurring theme in this book.

I watch her dunk the teabag in the teapot. It’s an elaborate and messy spectacle. She fishes it out almost immediately and places the used teabag on her saucer. My mouth is twitching with my amusement. As she tells me she likes her tea weak and black, for a moment I think she’s describing what she likes in a man.

…What? …This whole passage is so fucking weird. I can’t even. What?!?

They chat over their coffee and tea for a bit, and Christian continues to refer to their budding relationship as a “deal” in his internal monologue, like this is a merger and not a date. Cool, yeah, your cold and businesslike approach to romance is really charming and not at all off-putting.

Their conversation is supposed to feel like flirty banter, I think, but E.L. James is the worst, so it reads like two British robots playing 20 Questions.

And it’s with great pleasure and a smirk that I remind her that she’s interviewed me already. “I can recollect some quite probing questions.” Yes. You asked me if I was gay.

I swear they have referenced that particular “misstep” at least four times so far. As if asking someone if he’s gay is the most horrible, embarrassing thing in the world. I am unsure what decade Christian thinks he’s living in.

“Do you always wear jeans?” I ask. “Mostly,” she says, and it’s two strikes against her: incurable romantic who only wears jeans… I like my women in skirts. I like them accessible.


Her body is pressed against mine, and the feel of her breasts and her heat through my shirt is arousing. She has a fresh, wholesome fragrance that reminds me of my grandfather’s apple orchard.

Is this supposed to be sexy?!

This is, by the way, the incongruous face-touching incident that I mentioned earlier. Ana almost walks out in front of a speeding cyclist, because she’s Such A Klutz!, and Christian saves her life or whatever, so now their bodies are touching. Yawn.

He almost kisses her, but then decides against it because Ana “wants hearts and flowers and [he doesn’t] do that shit.” He tells her to steer clear of him because he’s not a good match for her, and then immediately afterward, he says, “Breathe, Anastasia, breathe.” How arrogant is this fucker that he thinks his rejection caused her to stop breathing and start panicking?!

She disappears into the building, leaving in her wake a trace of regret, the memory of her beautiful blue eyes, and the scent of an apple orchard in the fall.

And so ends chapter 3, leaving in its wake a trace of louche douche, the memory of awkward face-touching, and the scent of bag-out tea.

Want to keep reading? Here’s the next instalment.

GJ Reads Grey, Chapter 2

Want to go back? Read the first chapter.

Time for more close-reading of Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Christian. Are you banging your head against a desk yet?

You might remember that chapter 1 ended with Christian running a background check on Ana. (Ooh, how romaaaantic!) Chapter 2 begins with the results of that background check, including such riveting information as Ana’s birthdate, address, social security number, and bank balance. Yep, E.L. James sure knows how to pen a page-turner.

Christian pores over this information while sitting in his car in the parking lot of the hardware store where Ana works, because Christian is a fucking creep.

I’d tried to resist. I’d waited five days, five tedious days, to see if I’d forget about her. And I don’t do waiting. I hate waiting… for anything.

This doesn’t bode well for Christian’s grasp of the concept of consent – which sometimes involves (gasp!) waiting until someone is ready.

Christian briefly considers telling his therapist, Dr. Flynn, about his “lascivious” feelings for Ana, because he’s worried he’s “behaving like a stalker” (yes, Christian, I’m glad you figured that out). But he decides against this because he doesn’t want Flynn “hounding [him] about his latest solution-based-therapy shit.” Hey, Christian, I hate to break it to you, but solution-based therapy would probably do you a lot of good right about now.

This chapter brings us the first direct reference to Christian’s penis (oh joy). His “cock twitches in response” when he sees Ana sucking a bagel crumb off her finger at the hardware store counter. “Maybe this will stop if I fetter, fuck, and flog her,” he posits to himself. Uh, okay.

His opening line to her at the hardware store is, “Miss Steele. What a pleasant surprise,” which is pure frightening bullshit. He has sought her out at the random-ass shop where she works, in the creepiest possible way, and he’s trying to convince her it’s a coincidence. He’s attempting to manufacture a meet-cute and it’s gross.

She’s dressed in a tight T-shirt and jeans, not the shapeless shit she was wearing earlier this week. She’s all long legs, narrow waist, and perfect tits. … I’ve flown in from Seattle just to see you, and the way you look right now, it was really worth the journey.

It genuinely worries me that there are men out there who think this way, who view women this way. I know that this book is going to try to convince me that Christian develops romantic feelings for Ana, and begins to care about her as a person, but it’s going to be hard for me to scrub this objectifying inner commentary out of my brain when we get to that part of the story. She’s nothing but a sex doll to him at this point. It gives me the heebie-jeebies.

It’s starting to grate on me that E.L. James has her characters use the word “shall” so often. I can’t remember anyone, real or fictional, using that word with any degree of sincerity in the past 30+ years – and yet Christian and Ana are dropping “shalls” all over the place like that’s the way 21st-century humans naturally talk. Uh, no. This dialogue reads like a misinformed martian wrote it.

As she passes [the masking tape] to me, the tips of our fingers touch, briefly. It resonates in my groin. Damn!

Is any of the ~”sexy”~ stuff in this book going to actually be sexy? Judging by this positively boner-killing excerpt, I’m guessing no.

He buys some obviously kink-intended hardware goods from her, and she asks if he’d be willing to pose for some photos for her friend Kate’s article. All the while, he’s calling her “the delectable Miss Steele” in his mind. Ew.

Then Ana’s coworker Paul shows up, bringing out even more of Christian’s horrible side (which isn’t really a side so much as it is his entire personality). He thinks, “Who the hell is this prick?” and “Get your fucking paws off her,” and calls Paul an asshole. Okay, James, we get it: Christian is possessive as fuck. He hasn’t even asked her out yet and he thinks he owns her.

I have to know whether there’s a hope in hell she might consider what I have in mind. How can I ask her? Am I ready to take on a submissive who knows nothing? She’s going to need substantial training. Closing my eyes, I imagine the interesting possibilities this presents… Getting there is going to be half the fun.

Grey’s thoughts so far have painted him as extremely socially out-of-touch. It is beyond inappropriate to be thinking this far ahead into a sexual future with someone, and angling for a specific and manipulative outcome, when nothing romantic or sexual has even happened between them yet. He’s like a serial killer who’s set his sights on his next victim. It’s chilling.

After Christian leaves the hardware store, he gets into his car, informs his driver he’ll be staying in Portland for the weekend, and then contemplates taking a hike to “walk this strange hunger out of [his] system.” I’m not sure I can imagine anything more brooding than that.

After the hike, he spends several hours moping around in his hotel room waiting for Ana to call. When she finally does, they set up the photoshoot for the next morning. It’s still a perfectly chaste interaction but Grey is thinking about tying her up and fucking her, because he’s Grey.

How the hell am I going to close this deal?


Next week, we’ll do chapter 3. Think you can handle the idiocy?

Want to keep reading? Go to the next chapter.

GJ Reads Grey, Chapter 1

As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, there’s a new Fifty Shades book. Because E.L. James totally needs more money, right?

It’s called Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Christian. And as much as I hate E.L. James’ writing, as much as I loathe the campaign of kink miseducation she’s inadvertently created with her shoddily-researched “literary” empire, I just couldn’t stay away. I was too curious. I had to get my hands on this goddamn book.

I mean, it’s not like this is a surprise. I have seen the Fifty Shades movie FOUR TIMES, after all (most notably, at Drunk Feminist Films and while eating pizza and riding a Sybian). I endured these viewings and half of the first book despite pretty much hating every second of both, because, I guess, I’m even more of a masochist than Anastasia Steele.

(Is Ana even a masochist, though? Emotionally, maybe… but sexually, I don’t get the impression that she’s as into pain as Christian wants her to be. Anyway, that’s a can of worms for a whole ‘nother day…)

So without further ado, I’m gonna start a series of blog posts wherein I review and pick apart Grey, chapter by chapter. I can’t guarantee I will get through all the chapters; it’s an absurdly long book. But for as long as I can bear to read this garbage, I will blog about it. Because what’s the point of reading shitty shit if I can’t even snark on it?

(Incase you needed to be told: THERE BE SPOILERS AHEAD!)

Chapter 1

Grey opens with a dream Christian is having wherein he is a child, but I’m so used to E.L. James’ terrible writing that I thought it was just Adult Christian’s inner monologue for a while.

I have three cars. They go fast across the floor. So fast. One is red. One is green. One is yellow. I like the green one. It’s the best.

The dream Christian is having is actually a memory of his drug dealer/prostitute mother, who calls him “Maggot” and otherwise largely ignores him. Because that’s what drug addicts do, right? And because sad childhoods inevitably lead to sexually fucked-up adulthoods, right? Guh. This book is pissing me off already.

After Christian wakes up, he goes for a run on his treadmill while watching the “morning business news” on TV. One of my favorite features of the Fifty Shades franchise is how little E.L. James knows about business, or even the business that her main character is the boss of. The phrase “business meeting” is repeatedly used in the first book and movie. Like… can you do the tiniest bit of research on the lingo of the world you’re inhabiting? Or at least be the slightest bit more specific than “business” in all the many, many contexts you use that word?

Later in the day, Grey meets with his personal trainer, who is named Bastille. It’s like James is trying to make a historical reference, something about how Christian’s physical fitness and aggression serve to protect him from emotional vulnerability the way the Bastille fortress protected the French in its day. But I dunno. It doesn’t quite work. I mean, what kind of a name is Bastille?

My mood is as flat and gray as the weather.

Oh, Christian, what an original thought.

At work now, Christian is scheduled to be interviewed by journalism student Kate Kavanagh for her school’s newspaper. Grey and Kate’s father have “done business together” (yup, another vague reference to “business”) and Christian is “curious about his daughter.” Is he planning to mack on Kate?

Of course, Kate’s fallen ill, and Anastasia Steele has been sent as her replacement. Though Christian initially “repress[es his] natural annoyance at such clumsiness” when she falls headfirst through his office door (what a kLuTzZz!!), he’s immediately caught up in her “powder blue and guileless” eyes that seem to be able to “see right through” him, and then all of a sudden he’s wondering “what [her skin] would look like pink and warmed from the bite of a cane.” Yikes. This guy is an instantaneous predator. Straight creepin’.

She gapes at me, and I resist rolling my eyes. Yeah, yeah, baby, it’s just a face, and it’s only skin deep. I need to dispel that admiring look from those eyes but let’s have some fun in the process!

Oh my god, I hate this guy.

A bashful, bookish type, eh? She looks it: poorly dressed, her slight frame hidden beneath a shapeless sweater, an A-line brown skirt, and utilitarian boots. Does she have any sense of style at all?

Uhhh, Christian Grey is definitely having a Miranda Priestley moment.

He goes on to remark to himself that Ana can’t possibly be a journalist because she lacks assertiveness and seems submissive. As a journalist myself, yes, I can say it is true that you need to be assertive. But what the fuck is this conflation of weakness and passivity with submissiveness? Being a sexual submissive is incredibly active in many ways and requires strength and tenacity. This is exactly the kind of bullshit misconception that the Fifty Shades series is infamous for peddling.

As she fumbles and grows more and more flustered, it occurs to me that I could refine her motor skills with the aid of a riding crop. Adeptly used, it can bring even the most skittish to heel. The errant thought makes me shift in my chair. She peeks up at me and bites down on her full bottom lip. Fuck! How did I not notice how inviting that mouth is?

I wish I could shake Ana by her shoulders and tell her to get the fuck out of there. This dude is not safe.

Literarily speaking, can we talk about how James writes the entire book as Christian’s inner monologue but also occasionally italicizes certain phrases, as if to say, “Look, these are Christian’s thoughts”? The whole book is Christian’s thoughts. I’m confused by this choice. I’m confused by E.L. James’ entire approach to writing, actually.

The interview continues. Ana asks a bunch of smart questions and Christian answers them patronizingly while thinking about fucking her mouth and whipping her ass. What a charmer.

The chapter ends with Christian making a call to some guy named Welch to ask him to run a background check on Ana. Helloooo, stalker.

No surprise here: chapter 1 of Grey was every bit as creepy and worrisome as I expected. And E.L. James’ writing was just as bad as I remembered. Hip hip hooray for the modern literary industry!

Want to keep reading? Go to the next chapter.

Review: Something Forbidden Butt Plug

I’ve tried a lot of butt plugs in my day, but the Something Forbidden is easily the worst-designed of all of them.

It’s from the official Fifty Shades of Grey collection, meaning it was co-designed by E. L. James, so really, I should’ve guessed it would suck. But I thought that the other co-designer, Lovehoney, would know better, given that they actually make and sell sex toys (including the Sqweel, which I like). But nope. This butt plug is straight-up terrible.

Let’s go through the concerns I have with it, from most horrifying to least:

First off, the base is the WORST base I have ever encountered. It’s ring-shaped, and it is made of incredibly floppy, squishy, thin silicone. I can squish the base completely flat between two fingers with minimal effort. This means that whenever I wear the plug, I am constantly terrified that the base is going to smush together and the whole toy is going to slip inside me, necessitating a mad dash to the emergency room. Not fun.

Secondly, the words “Fifty Shades of Grey” are carved into the side of the plug. Not only is that a lot of tiny text to have to scrub with an old toothbrush during the cleaning process, but also – the text is engraved on the plug itself, not the base. So you’ve got a shit ton of text that can easily become encrusted with, you guessed it, actual shit. And lube, and whatever else. And it’s not that easy to clean. Gross. Major, major design flaw.

Thirdly, there’s a big seam running all the way around the plug. This isn’t the kind of thing I usually notice on sex toys (maybe my butt just isn’t that sensitive?) but I know it drives other people nuts, so it’s worth noting.

If the Something Forbidden were overhauled and those three glaring problems were fixed, I could see it being a decent plug for the kind of audience the Fifty Shades collection is aiming for: vanilla folks who have never or seldom tried kink before (including anal play). This plug is a good size for beginners, at 1″ in diameter, and it has a nicely tapered tip that makes it easy to insert. It also plays well with my favorite lube; I didn’t find I needed to reapply, even after an hour of wear.

The plug comes with a lovely silver-grey storage bag with the words Fifty Shades of Grey printed on it. While it’s obviously not the most discreet storage solution in the world, I still appreciate it. Too many companies forget the importance of including a storage bag, especially with lint-happy silicone toys like this one.

But overall? Please, please, please, don’t buy this plug. It’s a Colossal Butt Hazard. If you want something similarly sized and shaped, but 100% more safe, I highly recommend Tantus’s Meteorite, Slim, or Little Flirt. Or you could pay $60 for the best butt plug ever and never have to worry about your butt’s needs again.

Just stay the fuck away from the Something Forbidden. I do, indeed, forbid you to put it in your butt.

Thanks so much to PinkCherry for providing me with this toy!

Sharing the Sexy #28

• Here’s a wonderful piece on Sophia Wallace’s Cliteracy project.

• Apparently they cast the lead actors for the Fifty Shades film adaptation. I am confused about why they chose that dude to play Christian, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt til I see the movie!

High school can suck for queer kids. Keep yo’ head up!

• We-Vibe won the legal battle, so Lelo can’t sell the Tiani in the US and Canada anymore! I’m glad I already have one, I guess…

How to ask a trans* person about hormones and surgery without being a dick about it.

An eloquent response to that shitty girl-shaming mom-blogger post that’s been circling the interwebs this week.