This is a difficult and complex post to write without getting too much into my own personal life and exploits, and without writing a whole book. So I will start off with some passages:
1) He takes a cable tie and fastens it around my wrists, tightening the plastic.
2)“You know this contract is legally unenforceable.”
“I am fully aware of that, Miss Steele.”
“Were you going to tell me that at any point?”
He frowns at me.
3a1) “Anal intercourse doesn’t exactly float my boat.”
“I’ll agree to the fisting, but I’d really like to claim your ass, Anastasia. But we’ll wait for that.
I blink up at him. But if I’m trussed up, how’s that going to work? My brain is beginning to fog… hmm alcohol.
3a2) “And please, let’s try it for three months. If it’s not for you then, you can walk away anytime.”
“Three months?” I’m feeling railroaded. I take another large sip of wine and treat myself to another oyster. I could learn to like these.
3b)“So, what’s your general attitude to receiving pain?” Christian looks expectantly at me.
“You’re biting your lip,” he says darkly.
I stop immediately, but I don’t know what to say. I flush and stare down at my hands.
“Were you physically punished as a child?”
“So you have no sphere of reference at all?”
“It’s not as bad as you think. Your imagination is your worst enemy in this,” he whis-
“Do you have to do it?”
3c)“It’s caning that hurts the most.” I blanch.
“We can work up to that.”
“Or not do it at all,” I whisper.
“This is part of the deal, baby, but we’ll work up to all of this. Anastasia, I won’t push you too far.”
“This punishment thing, it worries me the most.” My voice is very small.
“Well, I’m glad you’ve told me. We’ll keep caning off the list for now.”
3d)“I want you to know that as soon as you cross my threshold as my submissive, I will do what I like to you. You have to accept that and willingly. That’s why you have to trust me. I will fuck you, any time, any way, I want – anywhere I want.”
3e) “And if I break one of the rules?”
“Then I’ll punish you.”
“But won’t you need my permission?”
“Yes, I will.”
“And if I say no?”
He gazes at me for a moment, with a confused expression.
“If you say no, you’ll say no. I’ll have to find a way to persuade you.”
I pull away from him and stand. I need some distance. He frowns as I stare down at
him. He looks puzzled and wary again.
“So the punishment aspect remains.”
“Yes, but only if you break the rules.”
4a) You didn’t at any time ask me to stop – you didn’t use either safe word.
You are an adult – you have choices.
Quite frankly, I’m looking forward to the next time my palm is ringing with pain.
4b) from Fifty Shades Freed:
“You asked me earlier today if I hated you. I didn’t understand why, and now—” He stops, staring down at me as if I’m a complete conundrum.
“You still think I hate you?” Now my voice is incredulous.
“No.” He shakes his head. “Not now.” He looks relieved. “But I need to know . . . why did you safe word, Ana?”
I blanch. What can I tell him? That he frightened me. That I didn’t know if he’d stop. That I begged him—and he didn’t stop. That I didn’t want things to es- calate . . . like—like that one time in here. I shudder as I recall him whipping me with his belt.
I swallow. “Because . . . because you were so angry and distant and . . . cold. I didn’t know how far you’d go.”
5) For the first time, I’m wishing he was — normal — wanting a normal relationship that doesn’t need a ten-page agreement, a floggers, and karabiners in his playroom ceiling.
6-) “Relationships like this are built on honesty and trust,” he continues. “If you don’t trust me – trust me to know how I’m affecting you, how far I can go with you, how far I can take you – if you can’t be honest with me, then we really can’t do this.”
6a) “Shall I give you a tour of the grounds?” he asks me quite openly.
I know I’m meant to say yes, but I don’t trust him.
6b) I swallow. Do I trust him? Is that what this all comes down to – trust? Surely that should be a two-way thing.
6c) I have to earn your trust, but by the same token, you have to communicate with me when I am failing to do this. -sent in one of the many infamous e-mails from Christian to Ana
6d) “Please don’t be angry with me,” I whisper.
His gaze is impassive; his gray eyes cold shards of smoky glass.
“I’m sorry about the car and the books,” I trail off. He remains silent and brooding.
“You scare me when you’re angry,” I breathe, staring at him.
7a) I flush and stare down at my hands. That’s what I’m hindered by in this game of seduction. He’s the only one who knows and understands the rules. I’m just too naïve and inexperienced.
7b) “Christian. You just don’t fight fair.”
“I know. I never have.”
7c) I’m so confused by my reaction. I remember him saying – I can’t remember when – that I would feel so much better after a good hiding. How can that be so? I really don’t get it. But strangely, I do. I can’t say that I enjoyed the experience, in fact, I would still go a long way to avoid it, but now… I have this safe, weird, bathed in afterglow, sated feeling. I put my head in my hands. I just don’t understand.
8) And then this evening, he actually hit me. I’ve never been hit in my life. What have I gotten myself into? Very slowly, my tears, halted by Kate’s arrival, begin to slide down the side of my face and into my ears. I have fallen for someone who’s so emotionally shut down, I will only get hurt – deep down I know this – someone who by his own admission is completely fucked up. Why is he so fucked up? It must be awful to be as affected as he is, and the thought that as a toddler he suffered some unbearable cruelty makes me cry harder. Perhaps if he was more normal he wouldn’t want you, my subconscious contributes snidely to my musings… and in my heart of hearts I know this is true. I turn into my pillow and the sluice gates open… and for the first time in years, I am sobbing uncontrollably into my pillow.
I am momentarily distracted from my dark night of the soul by Kate shouting.
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing here?” “Well you can’t!”
“What the fuck have you done to her now?” “Since she’s met you she cries all the time.” “You can’t come in here!”
Christian bursts into my bedroom and unceremoniously switches on the overhead light, making me squint.
9) So what shall we do for half an hour?” I blink innocently at him.
“I can think of a few things,” he grins, gray eyes bright. I gaze back impassively as my insides clench and melt under his knowing look.
“On the other hand, we could talk,” I suggest quietly.
His brow creases.
“I prefer what I have in mind.” He scoops me onto his lap.
“You’d always rather have sex than talk,” I laugh, steadying myself by holding on to
his upper arms.
“True. Especially with you.”
10) “Are you going to hit me?”
“Yes, but it won’t be to hurt you. I don’t want to punish you right now. If you’d caught me yesterday evening, well, that would have been a different story.”
Holy cow. He wants to hurt me… how do I deal with this? I can’t hide the horror on my face.
Where should I even start? The easiest is the quick one first. Cable ties have one purpose. They are meant to hold things together as tightly as possible with no give. Even small ones can withstand a tremendous force. They are thin and rough. On the back of your wrist the radial nerve travels from your thumb and first two fingers, meets at the wrist, and travel up the arm. This nerve is very sensitive. A tight thin binding over it, such as a cable tie, can cause radial neuropathy. This condition can result in loss of use in the hands and wrist, and can require surgical repair. A good Dom would not use these binds on a beginner, if at all. The point of BDSM isn’t to take chances on something with such a high risk of permanent injury. First fail on Christian’s part, that indicates he’s not truly into BDSM, is that this is one of his preferred methods of tying women up. Soft rope and silk ties are much safer, yet are often his back-up.
A true BDSM relationship MUST have trust.
No safe relationship can exist in the BDSM world without trust. You must trust a Dom to not take risks he (can be a she, but I’ll default to the supposed positions of Christian and Ana) has not been properly trained in and he needs to be aware of a sub reaching her limits, even if she doesn’t use the safe word. A sub must be able to tell her Dom her limits without shame or fear of reprisal. The Dom must be trustworthy enough to abide by her limits without question. Without trust you have a dangerous situation in which someone can be injured or killed.
Early on Christian gives Ana a contract written in what sounds like legalese, and he takes advantage of Ana knowing nothing. We’re talking about a woman who was surprised a penis can go “down there.” Ana had to find out on her own that the contract wasn’t legally binding, even if she signed it. She realizes that he would let her believe it was binding. So he was willing to start out on a lie. Of course he turns it around on her by asking, “You’d think I’d coerce you into something you don’t want to do, and then pretend that I have a legal hold over you?” Her answer is to simply tell him yes.
While on the issue of trust, let’s hop down to number 6. On the one hand, Christian admits the need for trust. Number 6- is 100% correct. However they lack trust in each other. Ana can’t trust someone who started out on a lie. Christian can’t trust someone too scared of him to tell him the truth. They do not have an open relationship in which they can talk and discuss things.
A true BDSM relationship MUST have communication.
Jump down to number 9. Sex trumps talking in the sort of relationship that needs open communication more than any other casual relationship.
True BDSM relationships MUST have consent, not coercion.
This is something a lot of fans of these books don’t understand. Consent can be revoked. Signing a contract (which she hasn’t done) is not legally binding. Even in the middle of a sex act both parties have the right to revoke consent. Failure from the other party to immediately stop turns the consensual sex act into rape. This is why there are safe words. Part of the thrill can be in saying “No,” so another word will be used to mean no, a word you wouldn’t usually say in the bedroom. Pineapple, red, banana, bumbershoot, Beam Me up, Scotty (presuming you’re not having Star Trek role play). So Ana signing it later means nothing.
Both 3a1 and 3a2 show Christian plying Ana with alcohol to obtain consent. As we all know, alcohol inhibits the ability to give sound judgement. However alcohol also prevents a person from giving legal consent. Christian using an inhibitor to coerce an extremely naïve young women into consent that is not valid is a crime. Those in the BDSM world take consent very seriously. Christian…does not.
True BDSM relationships MUST have respect.
Re-read 3a-3e, though most than those apply here. Ana tells Christian what she doesn’t like and doesn’t want to do. She doesn’t want anal sex, but he does, and so it’s going to happen. She feels railroaded because she is being railroaded, and being given alcohol at a fast rate. Ana doesn’t want pain, but he wants to cause it, and so she’s going to get it, like it or not. She doesn’t want to be caned, and Christian will remove that from the list “for now.” It needs to be off the table PERIOD unless ANA willingly consents.
Number 3e is particularly troubling. Christian just pulled a verbal slight of hand. Did you see it? He starts off telling her her permission is needed for him to punish her, but very quickly twists that permission into being given by breaking a rule. Unfortunately she doesn’t understand a lot of the rules.
This ties in with much of the rest of this post. How can there be trust without respect? Respect without communication? How can willing consent be given without communication and a respect for boundaries? Just let this one sink in. We could argue that the lack of respect is the root problem. He doesn’t respect Ana as a person with feelings and needs, and she’s too afraid to respect him.
True BDSM relationships MUST have understanding.
Understanding is an integral part of negotiation and giving consent. Both of those require being informed. Numbers 7a-7c are a few examples. Ana doesn’t understand. She’s naïve and inexperienced, Christian changes the rules instead of “fight[ing] fair” (and he clearly doesn’t care), and she is so confused by her feelings and thoughts that she can only sum it up with an admission of not understanding. Without this, there goes informed consent and the ability to negotiate.
True BDSM relationships MUST have negotiation.
This gets the participants on the same page. The world of BDSM is so much broader than the vanilla world, and it’s really easy for two people to want drastically different things. When Ana tried negotiating what she didn’t want, Christian overruled her. He got her drunk, knowing she wasn’t much of a drinker, and kept filling her glass, and then ignored her protestations.
They were so far from finding common ground that Ana comes to believe that Christian is “fifty shades of fucked up.” If Christian were a true Dominant with a submissive who matches his desires, then what he wants wouldn’t be a problem at all. Instead, because they are so far apart, Ana believes that BDSM itself is abnormal.
True BDSM relationships MUST have a lack of genuine fear.
This one is a bit tricker to explain and reference, especially considering that something called fear-play exists. The difference between fear-play and genuine fear is that one causes a positive adrenaline response (not unlike skydiving or bungee-diving where the risks of true hard are small, but the activity is such that the body still experiences a rush of adrenaline and endorphins), while genuine fear invokes a fight-or-flight response. The fear Ana experiences in number 10 isn’t the positive fun kind of fear. She is truly scared she will be harmed. Number 8 shows her fear. That devastation is the result of her having been scared of what he was doing to her. This scene will get it’s own section in just a moment.
True BDSM relationships MUST be Safe, Sane, and Consensual or Risk-Aware Consensual Kink.
Safe, Sane, and Consensual, known as SSC, and should be self-explanatory by this point. Risks must fall on the safe side, must happen while sane, and be entirely consensual. Those last two are always necessary. SSC would include things like spanking and some light bondage. Add in alcohol, fear, a lack of education and understanding, ignoring boundaries, etc, one of which happens in almost every example above, and you lack consent.
Risk-Aware Consensual Kink, known as RACK, swaps out the “safe” part of SSC for being aware of risks of a chosen scene’s activity. Suspension, choking, electricity, knives, and so on, are all inherently unsafe. But with RACK, the participants measure the risks with the potential pleasures and make the informed decision to proceed. Since these sorts of activities never came into play, this one is irrelevant as far as the books are concerned.
However there was no SSC for the vast majority of scenes. True legal and valid consent was rare. The activities were technically safe, sane is in a grey area, and consent…
True BDSM relationships MUST have respect for safe words.
On rare occasional a scene may not have safe words. The participants may have been together a couple decades, or they have another system worked out. When a safe word is used, not only should the scene stop immediately, but the Dom should ensure the safety and wellbeing of the sub and never guilt her for using the word. She may be overwhelmed and need a break, have a leg cramp, need to go to the bathroom, or just be tired and want to stop. The reason doesn’t matter. It’s not about the Dom at that point. It is about the sub and her need to stop and calling an end to the scene.
In number 4, Christian chided Ana for now using the safe word in a scene that overwhelmed her. She is new to sex at all, not a seasoned pro, and even long-time subs can forget (addressed in the section below). This is why a Dom must be in control and pay attention and know when to call a scene. Disturbingly he’s looking forward to a replay. I couldn’t copy an entire chapter due to limitations on the fair use act and copyright laws. However the full context is he’s pretty upset that she used it, and the end result is Ana felt bad for using it, like she failed, even though her reason harkens back to genuine fear and a lack of trust. It wasn’t that he had accidentally gone too far and she wanted to stop. Ana wouldn’t trust him to stop later. He was angry and disconnected. A Dom not in control of himself is a dangerous Dom. Ana sensed she was in real danger of real harm because Christian wasn’t in control of himself, and it terrified her.
So shame on Ana for not using a safe word, but what happens when she does? This happens once, in Fifty Shades Freed. Christian sees it as a slight against him, and sure enough, he puts her on the spot. You can be Ana’s not going to use the safe word again. She’s upset the man who already scared the living daylights out of her in the best of times, and now she’s legally bound to him in marriage.
Yes, even after marriage (which happened only a couple months after meeting), the terror and lack of trust remains. Readers are supposed to believe this is part of a BDSM-inclusive, romantic, loving relationship.
True BDSM relationships MUST have a Dominant who accepts the responsibilities and duties of being a Dom.
I’m just going the let this one mostly speak for itself. Read that link and the above examples will start sending up red flags all over. Those same rules are posted all over the internet.
An example of Christian breaking a Dom responsibility that I didn’t post as an example was in the spanking Ana initiated at the end of the first book. Though she didn’t use the safe word, he had a responsibility to watch out for her and should have realized that, after only knowing each other a couple weeks, with her having been a virgin at the start, she wasn’t ready for a force-force beating, and he should have called an end to the scene. She was being harmed, but he was excited to be going all out on her.
Sometimes a long-time sub won’t use a safe word even though a scene needs to stop. She can be overwhelmed very easily and not remember. We’re all had something happen when we couldn’t remember something something basic. I saw a child fall and slam her head against against sharp river stone, and forgot the number to 9-1-1, and several years ago I was in a long tunnel going 55MPH when the lights in the tunnel went out, and it felt like a year before I could remember that my car had headlights and where to turn them on since I was focused on being too scared to stay on the gas and ram into something and too scared to hit the break and be rear-ended. We have ALL had things happen where no-brainers are forgotten. If we’re lucky, we’ve forgotten the easy things because we were so overwhelmed by happiness. Think about the new daddy who rushes to share the news, and can’t remember how to say “boy” or “girl.” At times, even without something big happening, we forget words. They’ll be in the tips of our tongues, but we just can’t remember even though we knew what it was when we started speaking a sentence.
Now add to that fear a swirl of hormones clouding your brain, and it becomes easier to understand how a sub in a good, safe relationship can still forget a safe word.
Add to that fear of what would happen if the safe word is used, or knowing you’ll be shamed or guilted later, or punished (outside of a BDSM-way) for it in some way. Ana is often afraid that if she doesn’t please him, he will hurt her worse in ways she doesn’t want. if Christian took Dom responsibilities seriously, Ana wouldn’t be afraid of him.
Instead he tells her that it was her fault she was hurt because she could have stopped him in her overwhelmed state. It matters not that she’s often scared of what would happen if she says no. Consent given out of fear is not consent. Not saying “No” (or the safe word equivalent) because you’re scared and overwhelmed doesn’t mean “Yes.”
I want to touch mack on number 8. That pieced followed number 9 from my 10 Scary Pieces from Fifty Shades post, in which Christian entered Ana and Kate’s apartment without consent (Kate wasn’t home and Ana’s last communication to Christian was a “joke” e-mail that she didn’t want to see him again – Christian broke in to “remind” her why she liked being with him…in other words, he intended to have sex with someone he believed didn’t want to see him again…in other words, he intended to tape her). Once again, fans call this a part of BDSM, as if a sub has no right to say No. After the rape scene itself, Christian left. The sex that happened was without consent, and included coercion and the threat of making sure an uninvolved third party became involved, and when it was over and Christian left, true fear and hurt set in.
If this had been a consensual scene from the onset, that is, initiated without any fear of being truly hurt or of retaliation, and without the belief Ana didn’t want to see him (a good Dom will NEVER EVER EVER intend for force sex with someone who has made it clear that it wasn’t wanted, and at this point, Christian believes she doesn’t want it), then this would be a sub-drop. The rush of hormones that comes with sexual activity can be higher when it’s riskier, just like the rush you get from the risk of sky-diving. A Dom needs to soothe a sub back to a place of stability. However Christian isn’t a Dominant. He’s domineering.
Christian had his way with Ana, and then walked out. Ana experienced not only the crash in hormones (again, this rush happens even with stranger-rape in an alley and is a natural physiological response that isn’t wiped out by fear for your life, and it’s cruel to use this response to say a victim must have really wanted it), but the realization started to set in that what was going on and was really screwed up. This isn’t BDSM!
Kate arrived home before Christian barged back in uninvited, and her words to him tell a lot. Ana isn’t happy, she’s scared, and she’s often crying, and this has only been since this relationship started. A good BDSM relationship will not result in someone being so depressed, especially to the point others know something negative is going on. Kate sees it. And then another point to Christian not respecting boundaries – Kate tells him he’s not allowed in to their home, yet he ignores her and forces his way into Ana’s room.
If this isn’t a BDSM relationship, then what is it? What do you have when a relationship lacks consent, communication, trust, respect, negotiation, and includes fear and hitting that the receiver of the blows doesn’t want and is blamed for?
I’ll close this post with the reason Christian gave Ana for why he likes doing what he does, and let you make of it what you will.
“I like to whip little brown-haired girls like you because you all look like the crack whore-my birth mother.”