Solar-Powered Africa and Sexy Sex Baths: Chapter 7 of EL James’s “Grey”

breakfast

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Because Fifty Shades of Grey operated as a romantic fantasy wherein a plain girl is swept off her feet by a rich, handsome man, EL James didn’t necessarily need to justify why a modelesque 27 year old billionaire would be interested in a mousey college student with no personality. We could just accept that it was intended as a particular female fantasy where the whole point is that an “average girl” gets to live the life of an American capitalist princess.

The trouble is that this explanation doesn’t fly when we’re telling the story from Christian’s perspective, especially because this book (Grey) tries to imply that this is also his fantasy — wherein he, a modelesque 27 year old billionaire, is swept off his feet by a largely unremarkable college student. Which is a problem because Christian is only too happy to let the reader know that he’s aware that he’s very handsome and very rich and very impressive, even if he’s a terrible scary dark monster who hates himself because of his darkness.

That said, there is some attempt to explain Ana’s magical attractiveness; For instance, Christian confirms what we suspected from the original books — that despite her protests about how terribly plain she is, Ana is good-looking and thin (Christian mentions that she’s thin about 3 times a chapter). And that Christian is into pale brunettes, and she is a pale brunette. So fine — she’s his physical type.

But where the book needs to do considerable legwork is in convincing the reader that despite the fact that Ana is both very sexually inexperienced and totally unaware of his lifestyle, Christian still thinks she’s his ideal woman within moments of meeting her — and it needs to answer how and why she manages to unfreeze his dark scary ice heart.

mousey

Awkward virgins in cardigans: what every playboy longs for.

Even if this book is largely just a retread of the original, this is perhaps the one real opportunity for EL James to explore a character that never made much sense and give him more depth and dimension. Does she do it?

Read on:

I wake with a start and a pervading sense of guilt, as if I’ve committed a terrible sin.

Is it because I’ve fucked Anastasia Steele? Virgin?

Well, guilt is a good start, I suppose. Although of course it’s not guilt for having manipulated her — it’s guilt over having fucked a virgin cuz she might be a Stage 5 Clinger, right, bro?

Ana sleeps the sound sleep of an innocent. Well, not so innocent now. My body stirs as I watch her.

I could wake her.

Fuck her again.

Does he mean that she looks like a child while she’s sleeping? And if so, why does he immediately think about rolling her over and fucking her? The way this book correlates childhood with sexuality is deeply, deeply disturbing. I’m sure I’ll have more opportunity to rant about that later in passages where the connection is clearer, so I’ll leave it for now.

There are definitely some advantages to having her in my bed.

I know I’ve beaten this dead horse to a pulp, but I hate that he always talks about sex like this — and while she’s asleep. It always sounds like something he’s going to DO to her, not something they’re going to do together.

Grey. Stop this nonsense.

Fucking her was merely a means to an end and a pleasant diversion.

He goes back-and-forth for a while between his internal argument of “It was so great!” and “But really you were just breaking her in for the BDSM!”

I get what EL James is trying to do — namely establish that he’s in denial, that he enjoyed plain ol’ missionary, and that he’s interested in her for more than just her looks, or for her potential as a Sub. I get that. But it’s so clunkily handled and makes no attempt to satisfy the questions that she’s having him ask.

Why does he find her so attractive? Why is he so drawn to her? The character may not know, but the author should.

Christian continues to feel guilty (for the wrong things), and so he has a sad piano moment by himself in the darkness of his heart:

Back in the living room I sit down at my piano. This is my solace, where I can lose myself for hours. I’ve been able to play well since I was nine, but it wasn’t until I had my own piano, in my own place, that it really became a passion. When I want to forget everything, this is what I do. And right now I don’t want to think about having propositioned a virgin, fucked her, or revealed my lifestyle to someone with no experience. With my hands on the keys, I begin to play and lose myself in the solitude of Bach.

It’s at this point that I feel like EL James is deliberately fucking with me. Where she’s going, “Here it is — he recognizes everything that he’s done wrong, and everything that’s he’s going to do wrong… but he doesn’t want to think about it. So here’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 1.”

piano

I come here to think about Africa.

Ana comes out because he’s playing the piano in the middle of the fucking night while she’s trying to sleep, and he’s surprised that he woke her up. Then, for reasons unknown to the reader because she’s meant to be super plain and uncultured, she’s able to correctly identify the composer as Bach — and remember that Christian just told the reader that it was indeed Bach — but because Christian must seize any and every opportunity to take Ana down a peg, the following exchange happens:

“That was a beautiful piece. Bach?”
“Transcription by Bach, but it’s originally an oboe concerto by Alessandra Marcello.”

You uncultured swine.

“It’s exquisite, but very sad, such a melancholy melody.”

Melancholy? It wouldn’t be the first time someone has used that work to describe me.

There aren’t enough eyerolls in the world.

And, because EL James has no concept of subtlety, she literally flashes back to a time when Leila (his crazy ex-sub from the second book) called him melancholy.

That’s it. That’s the whole flashback. I won’t bother quoting it. It’s effectively: “Sir is melancholy.” “Am I?” “Yes.” “Oh.”

They head back to bed, where Christian makes Ana feel insecure and then makes her feel insecure for feeling insecure.

There’s blood on my sheets. Her blood. Evidence of her now-absent virginity. Her eyes dart from the stains to me and she looks away, embarrassed.

He’s going to be really understanding about it, right?

“Well, that’s going to give Mrs. Jones something to think about.”

She looks mortified.

Because you’ve involved a stranger in something extremely private and sensitive, and she’s obviously not comfortable with that because it’s her first time.

It’s just your body, sweetheart. I grasp her chin and tip her head back up so I can see her expression. I’m about to give her a short lecture on how to not be ashamed of her body, when she reaches out to touch my chest.

Fuck.

I step out of her reach as the darkness surfaces.

No. Don’t touch me. 

I will continue to drive myself crazy with the problem of authorial intent, but does anyone think that EL James is smart enough to recognize the really problematic issue of Christian lecturing Ana about why she shouldn’t be self-conscious about her own body and its functions, but then flips out as soon as she violates his physical barriers?

And maybe she’s just afraid of blood, you egomaniacal sexist.

Finally, they go to sleep and Christian has a dream. These fucking dreams, man. I need to stop and explain.

So up until now, I’ve avoided covering these really, really terrible dream sequences that EL James has littered throughout the book. All of them seem to be flashbacks to Christian’s childhood — first with his birth mom, and then later with his adoptive family. They’re terrible for a few reasons, but the main one being that they usually involve violence and sexist language. Also because they make Child Christian sound like a malfunctioning robot. So because this is probably the only dream sequence where nobody gets called a crack whore or is beaten to a pulp, I’ll give you a taste of what I’ve been saving you from:

Mommy is happy today. She is singing.

Singing about what love has to do with it.

And cooking. And singing.

My tummy gurgles. She is cooking bacon and waffles.

They smell good. My tummy likes bacon and waffles.

They smell so good.

That’s also the shortest one. So again, you’re welcome.

As you’ve probably already guessed, this is an awkward transition into Christian waking up and realizing that Ana is cooking bacon and waffles — which his tummy likes. And this is neither the first nor the last time that Christian will link his dead mother with his new girlfriend.

I’m not going to touch on that yet because there’s more coming. But the connections between the women he likes to sleep with and the woman who gave birth to him are as weird as you’d think they would be. And this issue may go toward answering the question of why he loves Ana, but in ways that you’re not ready for.

Let’s join these two exhausting narcissists in the kitchen:

She’s whisking eggs, making breakfast, her braids bouncing as she jiggles from foot to foot, and I realize she’s not wearing underwear.

Good girl.

I don’t even know.

She has to be one of the most uncoordinated females I’ve ever seen. It’s amusing, charming, and strangely arousing at the same time; I think of all the ways I can improve her coordination.

Anyone who says “females” should be boiled alive, but given that this book about BDSM contains almost no actual BDSM, I’m still fascinated to know how he thinks he’ll be able to improve her coordination. Is he going to teach her choreographed dance moves in-between paddlings? Does a good caning allow you to make a more graceful ball change? We’ll never know.

I think she’s embarrassed, because I caught her dancing. Taking pity on her, I offer to set places for breakfast and add, “Would you like me to put some music on so you can continue your…er…dancing?”

Her cheeks pink and she looks down at the floor.

Damn. I’ve upset her. “Please, don’t stop on my account. It’s very entertaining.”

I think she’s embarrassed because I caught her dancing, so now I’m going to purposefully make fun of her and then act surprised that she’s even more embarrassed. You can’t find worse characterization than this.

With a pout she turns her back on me and continues to whisk the eggs with gusto. I wonder if she has any idea how disrespectful this is to someone like me…but of course she doesn’t, and for some unfathomable reason it makes me smile.

The thing about having a very particular sexual lifestyle is that you have to be prepared to explain it to a prospective partner. And yet possibly the weirdest thing about this book it seems as though — in a book that made its fortune by pretending to be about BDSM — it ultimately implies that BDSM is a defect or a form of mental illness that the lead needs to be cured of.

Why does it please him that she defies him? Because deep down he doesn’t want to be kinky. And I’d probably have a bigger issue with this idea if it wasn’t for the fact that he’s fucking terrible at his kink anyway.

Sliding up to her, I gently tug one of her braids. “I love these. They won’t protect you.”

Not from me. Not now that I’ve had you. 

This is more creepy child/sexuality stuff. In the original book, Ana puts her hair in pigtail braids so that she’ll seem innocent and young and he won’t do scary sex to her because she feels self-conscious and unsure. Christian interprets her action correctly (somehow) and finds it quite erotic. I want to move past this passage because it makes my insides sad.

We’ll also scoot past all of this boring breakfast stuff. Basically Christian muses that it’s super crazy that he’s helping set his own table because he’s rich, then reveals that he stocked his cupboards with Ana’s favorite type of tea, which Ana interprets (correctly) as Christian assuming that they would wind up in bed together:

She frowns when she sees [the tea]. “Bit of a foregone conclusion, wasn’t I?”

“Are you? I’m not sure we’ve concluded anything yet, Miss Steele,” I answer with a stern look.

And don’t talk about yourself like that.

I add self-deprecation to the list of behaviors that will need modifying.

Christian Grey is so gross that little sentences like these almost fly under the radar, and yet I’d argue that they’re actually the most insidious examples of why he’s such a textbook abuser. It bothers him that she feels bad because he made her feel bad, so he’ll be sure to stamp out her response to his actions, rather than change his own actions — but it’s all wrapped up in language that’s pretending to be about helping her.

Keep that in mind with the following exchange:

“Just how sore are you?” I’m surprised by an uneasy sense of guilt. I want to fuck her again, preferably after breakfast, but if she’s too sore that will be out of the question. Perhaps I could use her mouth this time.

gross

Then, because nothing about this book is subtle, he actually voices it:

“I wondered if we should continue your basic training.”

“Oh.” She startles.

Yes, Ana, we can have sex during the day, too. And I’d like to fill that smart mouth of yours.

Sex during the DAY? He violates ALL the sex taboos, y’all.

Christian and Ana fight about the fact that she’s not eating, and he wants her to eat, even though she hasn’t signed the contract and doesn’t technically have to do anything he says yet. And then EL James fucks with her readers just a bit more:

As I watch her place a forkful of eggs in her mouth, I relax. She’s quite challenging in her own way. And it’s unique. I’ve never dealt with this. Yes. That’s it. She’s a novelty. That’s the fascination…isn’t it?

It’s your book, EL. You tell me.

Ana calls Kate, Christian thinks about how thin she is while she’s on the call, and then they talk about the NDA agreement for a bit because Ana wants to be able to talk to her closest friend and roommate about her first sexual experience, which of course Christian can’t allow. So instead he’s going to be her one and only resource for sexual information, which is a great idea when his advice is stuff like this:

“It’s mostly about pleasure, Anastasia. Believe me. Besides, your roommate is making the beast with two backs with my brother. I’d really rather you didn’t [talk to her].”

The beast with two backs.

The beast with two backs.

beast

Christian Science

They go and have a bath. But not just any bath — a sexy sex bath. I’m so bored.

The tub fills quickly as she watches me. Normally, I would expect any woman I was about to bathe with to have her eyes cast down in modesty.

But not Ana.

Because she hasn’t signed anything yet, and you didn’t tell her that this is something you’d expect, so she’s not consciously defying anything. You moron.

She doesn’t drop her gaze, and her eyes glow with anticipation and curiosity. But she has her arms wrapped around herself; she’s shy.

It’s arousing.

And to think she’s never bathed with a man.

I can claim another first.

Virgins are so great you guys. Especially because you can be extra condescending with them:

She’s still wearing my shirt and I take the iPod from the breast pocket and place it by the sink. “Water and iPods — not a clever combination.”

It’s always a good idea to sound like someone’s Dad right before you have a sex bath. Or right before you say this:

“Anastasia, you’re a very beautiful woman, the whole package. Don’t hang your head like you’re ashamed. You have nothing to be ashamed of, and it’s a real joy to stand here and look at you.” Holding her chin, I tip her head back.

Don’t hide from me, baby.

I’m going to ask this again: How does this book not end with him murdering her?

Anyway, they have their sexy sex bath — he says all the same things he did in the first book. His cock concurs a bunch and it’s silly but largely boring. And there’s plenty more of this:

What is it about her inexperience that is so arousing? Is it that I’m enjoying all her firsts?

Probably.

She gives him a blowjob and it’s so amazingly, unbelievably good that he’s sure she’s done it before. She confirms she hasn’t and he’s relieved (because of her virgin magic). Then, before she’s had time to think, he coerces her into agreeing to the arrangement she very clearly does not understand yet:

“Say yes.”

“To what?” she whispers.

“Yes to our arrangement. To being mine. Please, Ana.” And it’s the closest I’ve come to begging in a long time. I kiss her again, pouring my fervor into my kiss. When I take her hand, she looks dazed.

Dazzle her further, Grey.

Yeah, make sure she can’t think clearly! What a good way to enter into a serious sexual relationship.

In my bedroom, I release her. “Trust me?” I ask.

She nods.

Why? Why does she trust him? EL James, for the love of fuck, do a little work into making your characters remotely believable.

“Good girl.”

Good. Beautiful. Girl. 

Ew.

Time for more training, Miss Steele.

Her lips part as she inhales…she’s excited.

Gently I tug both her braids. “You look so young with these.” But they’re not going to stop me.

cringe

No words. Only gifs.

He ties her up and they start to have more sexy sex, and Christian makes sure to remind the reader that Ana’s body doesn’t belong to her, even though — I can’t say this enough — she hasn’t agreed to anything yet:

I blow gently up and down over her pubic hair.

“I like this,” I mutter. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen pubic hair up close and personal like this.

I tug it gently. “Perhaps we’ll keep this.”

Though it’s no good for wax play.

I’ve just realized… does that mean Christian is fully waxed? Because if so, at least he’s holding himself to the same standards. Somehow I doubt that’s what James meant.

But somehow I doubt that’s what James meant.

Let’s get back to the extra sexy sex talk that made these books international bestsellers:

She’s wet.

Wet and waiting.

“Oh, baby. I love that you’re so wet for me.”

Is she wet, though? Can anyone confirm if she’s wet? It’s important that I know if she’s wet.

Anyway, all of that wetness goes to waste because — you’ll never believe it — Christian’s Mom shows up. Oh, man! Awkward! And she totally thought he was gay! Which is funny because EL James uses homosexuality as a mad-cap punchline throughout the series. Because gay people are so gay all the time!

But not only is Christian not gay, he’s not even Christian:

“Why aren’t you at church this morning?”

“Carrick had to work, so we thought we’d go to evening Mass. I suppose it’s too much to hope that you’ll come with us.”

I raise an eyebrow in cynical contempt. “Mother, you know that’s not for me.”

God and I turned our backs on each other a long time ago.

What a little drama llama.

Ana and Grace meet each other, it’s really boring, then Ana gets a call from Jose which is annoying to Christian (of course):

“So the photographer called?” I sound gruff.

“Yes.”

“What did he want?”

“Just to apologize, you know–for Friday.”

“I see.” Maybe he wants another shot at her. The thought is displeasing.

Because men who apologize for their actions are sinister and cannot be trusted.

Taylor clears his throat. “Mr. Grey, there’s an issue with the Darfur shipment.”

What the fuck is Taylor’s job that he would know this? Isn’t he Christian’s butler? Who is telling him these things? Does he also work for Christian’s company? None of these questions will be answered, so I don’t know why I bother.

Instead, please enjoy a little more Solar Africa Business:

“Christian, hi. The report back from Darfur is not good. They can’t guarantee the safety of the shipments or road crew, and the State Department isn’t willing to sanction the relief without the NGO’s backing.”

Fuck this.

“I’m not having either crew put at risk.” Ros knows this.

“We could try and pull in mercenaries,” she says.

“No, cancel–”

“But the cost,” she protests.

“We’ll air drop instead.”

“I knew that’s what you’d say, Christian. I have a plan in the works. It will be costly. In the meantime, the containers can do go to Rotterdam out of Philly and we can take it from there. That’s it.”

“Good.” I hang up.

Don’t they understand that he’s the best damn Africa food solar powered businessman in the goddamn world? Stop busting his balls, Darfur!

Christian stops thinking about Darfur and focuses instead on pretending that he wants Ana to read up on the BDSM lifestyle so that she knows what she’s agreeing to (even though he’ll coerce her to say yes before she’s ready about 30 times over the course of a few days). When she admits she doesn’t have a computer, Christian Grey asks the obvious:

No computer? How can a student not have a computer? Is she that broke?

I love that the way EL James chooses to answer critics of the original books who were similarly incredulous that a recent college grad didn’t have regular access to a computer is to turn it into a class issue — even though Ana pays no rent and seemingly pays no tuition and has a part-time job while going to school.

“I’ll just make a call,” she says, her voice soft and hesitant.

“The photographer?” I snap. She looks guilty.

What the hell? “I don’t like to share, Miss Steele. Remember that.” I storm out of the room before I can say anything else.

What a fucking child.

Is she hung up on him?

Was she just using me to break her in?

Fuck

Yes. She used you to “break her in” so her no-longer-virginal magic vagina would be ready for the guy that she refused a few nights ago and has repeatedly assured you she’s not interested in. If this is EL James’s attempt to make Christian seem insecure, she’s failing — he just seems like an idiot who can’t remember anything and doesn’t understand basic human speech.

Maybe it’s the money. That’s a depressing thought…though she doesn’t strike me as a gold digger. She was quite vehement about me not buying her any clothing. I remove my jeans and put on a pair of boxer briefs. My Brioni tie is on the floor. I stoop to pick it up.

What’s the money? You just said you were worried that she wasn’t into you, but now you think she’s into you for your money? And she let you “break her in” because you have money? That doesn’t make any sense. And juxtaposing him calling Ana a potential gold-digger with him name-dropping a luxury brand is too deliciously stupid. I say, as I type on my yet-to-be-released MacBook Air Plus while sipping a gold flake smoothie from my Qdo double walled glass tumbler, handmade by Scandinavian craftspeople.

But even though Christian’s worried that maybe Ana’s just with him for his money (even though he knows she isn’t because she’s repeatedly stated that she isn’t), he calls one of his random workers whose job seem to entail anything he needs at a given moment, and asks that he send Ana a brand-new, unreleased Apple computer — even though he hopes she’s not a gold-digger.

Christian drives Ana home in his expensive car because he’s rich, but he hopes she’s not into that or anything. They stop for lunch at a fancy restaurant, which he hopes she isn’t into, and where service workers and women continue to be the worst people on the planet:

“Two glasses of pinot grigio,” I order from the waitress, who’s making eyes at me from beneath blond bangs. It’s annoying.

All women are into this dude?

ALL women? Ana wants a Coke, but Christian can’t allow that. Then she doesn’t eat enough of her meal, and for the first time the book touches on the fact that — even though Christian’s obsession with food is obsessive and weird — Ana might just have an actual eating disorder, which Christian will make sure to treat in the worst way possible:

“That’s it? That’s all you’re going to eat?”

She nods, placing her hands in her lap, and her mouth sets in that mulish way she has…and I know it will be a fight to persuade her to clean her plate. No wonder she’s so slim. Her eating issues will be something to work on, if she agrees to be mine.

But it turns out that she can’t eat because she’s too horny. They talk about the fact that she’s horny. It’s boring.

He finally drops her off at her apartment where she reveals that she’s wearing a pair of his underwear because she’s WILD. This gives Christian a lot to think about, because despite supposedly being into a hard-core kink, he’s really turned on by mundane shit.

Later, he puts his lust to the side so he can think about Solar-Powered Africa Business and the poor:

Picking up my latest read, I settle onto the sofa. It’s a book by two renowned economists who examine why the poor think and behave the way they do.

Ah, yes. “The poor.” Why do those lower beings insist on being so poor? I hope these renowned economists can shed some light on the problem.

An image of a young woman brushing out her long, dark hair comes to mind; her hair shines in the light from the cracked, yellowed window, and the air is filled with dancing dust motes. She’s singing softly, like a child.

I shudder.

Don’t go there, Grey.

I open the book and start to read.

Why do the poor brush their hair in dusty rooms? Christian will get to the bottom of it — or, at the very least, these renowned economists will.

And so endeth Chapter 7 of this horrible, horrible book.

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7 thoughts on “Solar-Powered Africa and Sexy Sex Baths: Chapter 7 of EL James’s “Grey”

  1. I feel horrible for you that you have to read this book, but I love that you make me laugh. Thank you for the recaps!

  2. Pingback: What Would You Like to #AskELJames? | Tea Leaves and Dog Ears

  3. This is one of those moments where “Grey” suffers for not actually being Twilight. The “Edward is attracted to Bella because she has (to him) uniquely appealing blood” thing is wacky and more than a little creepy, but it did the job. Notsomuch applicable to Christian though.

    Personally I figure Christian mostly falls for Ana because, to him, “mousy virgin college student” is exotic for him. He seems to mostly be surrounded with model-esque socialites. They did a similar thing in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” (“I am so sick of dating willowy blondes all the time. OMG, a dumpy brunette! Squee! \o/”). It was pretty offensive there, too.

    (Christian’s “she’s a novelty” thought backs up this interpretation).

    • Yeah… and I guess part of the trouble is that while I might buy that from the adorable John Corbett, I don’t quite buy it from a guy who really loves to have the best of everything. Unless his big thing is that he’s enjoying My Fair Lady-ing her.

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