Sexy Contracts and Demon Spawn: Chapter 9 of EL James’s “Grey”

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We pick up the next day with Christian Grey whining about Detroit. I can’t remember whether or not the book has bothered to explain the Detroit issue to the reader, but it probably hasn’t. So what you need to know is that Christian was born in Detroit (because of course he was), and he doesn’t want anything to do with that horrible shit hole ever again. You know, unless it offers some great tax incentives. He’s a man of his word… as long as that word is “money.”

The thought of siting the electronics plant in Detroit is depressing.

To add another layer of bullshit to this, I love that Christian — who’s passionate about helping the world’s poor — doesn’t want to locate his solar-powered Africa tablet factory in a job-starved city because of that one time he was hungry there. Brilliant.

I loathe Detroit; it holds nothing but bad memories for me. Memories I do my damnedest to forget.

Please try harder.

They surface, mainly at night, to remind me of what I am and where I came from.

It’s at this point that I do have to wonder, once again, about the amount of research that EL James put into these books. Because I can’t be the only person who’s uncomfortable with the fact that she centred Christian’s horrible, impoverished origin story in a predominantly black city. And then had the gall to make him a super attractive white man who “overcame” his early struggles — by being adopted and raised by rich white people from the Pacific North West.

Even EL James’s treatment of Seattle offers a Friends-esque white-washing of the city wherein the only black people who appear are window dressing, and often just used to make Ana seem nice (read: non-racist).

But since we’re not going to get any people of colour for quite a long time, I think I can put those thoughts to bed with the knowledge that at the end of the day, like everything else she’s written, it’s probably a combination of apathy and ignorance:

But Michigan is offering excellent tax incentives.

Oh, well, fuck it then.

It’s hard to ignore what they are proposing in this report.

I have no idea what that means.

I toss it on the dining table and take a sip of my Sancerre. Shit. It’s warm.

Thinking about poor people makes me so thirsty for properly-chilled wine, goddamnit.

Given EL James’s love of flashing price tags, I’m somewhat surprised she doesn’t go a bit more specific with the wine. But what I’m more surprised (read: not surprised at all) about is that she has a character who lives within reasonable driving distance of one of the greatest wine regions in the world, and is passionate about climate change, but would prefer to drink wine that has to be flown in from Europe instead.

Just saying.

And if we’re going to get really snobby, I feel like it’s fair to say that someone who regularly puts ice in their wine probably doesn’t know that much about wine — especially when he has a dedicated wine fridge.

Anyway, Christian gets an e-mail from Ana who has responded to Christian’s Dom/Sub agreement contract with her amendments and questions. And then — and here is where I know EL James is deliberately fucking with her readership — she has Christian pull up a copy of his own contract. Which we then have to sit through. The same contract that is printed TWICE in the original book. Twice.

She can’t take two seconds to explain to you who Elena or Taylor or Leila are, or why Detroit is so terrible, or what the fuck his company even does, but she is going to make you re-read the appalling long legal document full of shit like “Does the submissive agree to the use of butt plugs?” all over again.

God she’s so awful.

And THEN, because that isn’t bad enough, she re-prints all of Ana’s objections and proposed changes again. At least this time it’s punctuated with Christian’s responses, but Jesus fuck. If I was a fan of this book series, I would feel like I had been sold a lie with this book. It’s so lazy it ought to be criminal.

Anyway, you already know that Christian can’t really allow Ana to make corrections or objections to the contracts, so here are some of his inner musings about the contract amendments you’ve already read:

4. As you are aware, you are my only sexual partner. I don’t take drugs, and I’ve not had any blood transfusions. I’m probably safe. What about you?

Another fair point! And it dawns on me that this is the first time I haven’t had to consider the sexual history of a partner. Well, that’s one advantage of screwing a virgin. 

The darkly misogynistic language that she frequently inserts into Christian’s head isn’t so much alarming as it is depressing. Is this what EL James thinks that the average man sounds like in his private thoughts? One thing critics don’t talk enough about is how this book is as misandristic as it is misogynistic.

Anyway, he goes through her corrections a little more (mostly hoping he won’t actually have to concede to any of them), and then we get this:

12: I cannot commit every weekend. I do have a life, or will have. Perhaps three out of four?

And she’ll have the opportunity to socialize with other men? She’ll realize what she’s missing. I’m not sure about this.

Whenever the book hits right on its problems, I feel at a loss for words. Yes, if she goes out with friends, and other men, she’ll realize that being afraid of someone you’re meant to love is not a healthy and natural part of a relationship. I know that what the book really means is “she’ll want to have more of a ‘normal’ relationship with dates and bowling alleys and bars,” but this does still come back to the essential problem that Christian does intentionally isolate her from her friends and family because he’s worried that they’ll convince her to leave. Because he does know — and says it often — that people would be appalled with him if they knew what he wanted to do with her. But this is brushed off as “kink-shaming,” rather than people showing concern for an abusive relationship. Either way, though, how does the book so casually move past sentences like these, and carry on acting like any of this is ultimately romantic or sexy?

And speaking of his refusal to concede:

Rules:

Sleep–I’ll agree to six hours.

Food–I am not eating food from a prescribed list. The food list goes or I do–deal breaker.

Well, this is going to be an issue!

First of all, how will he even know how long she sleeps for? Oh, right — it’s Twilight fanfiction. He’s going to sneak into her window and watch her.

edward

Let me help you with that REM cycle.

Would she be punished for insomnia? And second, fuck this dude. Because these passages where he goes, “We’ll see about that!” prove that this contract is meant to be iron-clad, and she’s just meant to agree to it. The fact that she thinks she has room to negotiate is yet another freedom he’s slowly going to collapse as a method of control.

To that end, he muses that this is the most thorough response he’s ever received, and that he’s pleased she’s taken it seriously, so he orders her to go to bed (right after she told him she wanted to re-negotiate the sleep order) several times until she stops replying to him.

Then, sitting in bed reading his book about poor people, he acknowledges that he’s worried about her getting the “wrong idea” aka. the idea that this is going to be a mutually-beneficial, consensual, and respect-based relationship:

I need to remind her of what I expect from our relationship. I don’t want her getting the wrong idea. I’ve strayed too far from my goal.

You just gave her a ten fucking page contract which lays out precisely what you want from the relationship. But because she dared to take you at your word and come up with a counter-offer of what she’s comfortable with, you need to shut it down. Starting with crazy shit like not helping her move:

“Are you going to come and help Ana with the move?” Kavanagh’s words remind me that unrealistic expectations have been set.

Because Kate mistakenly assumed that if you could take off from work in the middle of the day to fuck Ana, helping the two of them move on a weekend might not be a massive waste of your important time.

Perhaps I could help them move?

No. Stop now, Grey.

Opening my laptop, I read through her “Issues” e-mail again.

Fuck you and your scare quotes. You asked her to take this seriously, she did, and now you’re being deliberately flippant about it.

I need to manage her expectations and try to find the right words to express how I feel.

Finally, I’m inspired.

You already managed her expectations with a TEN FUCKING PAGE CONTRACT.

Anyway, he e-mails her with the definition of “submissive,” as a reminder that she needs to realize that he actually has no interest in conducting a real BDSM relationship — he just wants her to do whatever he asks without safe words, respect, consent, or mutual pleasure.

He falls asleep, smugly assuming she’ll find it amusing (which he knows she won’t, so I wish EL James would stop having him lie to the reader), and then has another Sad Robot dream:

His name is Lelliot. He’s bigger than me.

He laughs. And smiles. And shouts. And

talks all the time. He talks all the time to

Mommy and Daddy. He is my brother.

Why don’t you talk? Lelliot says again and

again and again. I jump on him

and smack his face again and again and

again. He cries. He cries a lot. I don’t cry. I

never cry. Mommy is angry with me. I

have to sit on the bottom stair. I have to

sit for the longest time. But Lelliot never

asks me why I don’t talk ever again. If I

make my hand into a fist he runs away.

Lelliot is scared of me. He knows I’m a

monster.

Fun family memories.

Fun family memories.

So… that happened. Let’s all take a moment to process the fact that EL James has now officially correlated the desire to cause pain for malicious reasons with a character who enjoys BDSM for a sexual purpose. Let’s dwell on that, and then move on.

Christian wakes up, goes for his trademark run & shower, and is back at his hotel room in record time for more business. But what he’s really waiting for is an e-mail from his girlfriend, because he clearly doesn’t have a real job.

She hasn’t e-mailed him by 7:30am, so he’s pissed. He goes into the bathroom to hate himself:

I glare at the gray-eyed prick who stares back at me from the mirror as I shave. No more. Forget about her for today.

First he shaved his asshole, now his dick. He’s nothing if not thorough.

I have a job to do and a breakfast meeting to attend.

Sure you do, Christian. Sure you do.

Sure you do, Christian.

And again, because EL James is determined to prove that Christian has a job — despite all evidence to the contrary — we’re made to sit through his breakfast meeting where he discusses his solar-powered tablets that are definitely real.

“Freddie was saying Barney may have a prototype of the tablet for you in a couple of days,” Ros tells me during our videoconference.

I mean, they even named his fake business partners “Barney and Fred” because they’re obviously fucking with him.

“I was studying the schematics yesterday. They were impressive, but I’m not sure we’re there yet. If we get this right there’s no telling where the technology could go, and what it could do in developing countries.”

It’s already there you massive idiot. Along with BDSM, does Christian Grey think he invented solar power and WiFi outside of the West?

“Don’t forget about the home market,” she interjects.

“As if.”

Christian, pictured with business partner Wilma and Betty.

Christian, pictured with business partners Wilma and Betty.

Anyway, because it’s really important that Christian always keep his private life private, he jokes to his second in command, Ros, that he’s working on a “merger” in Portland, and she winkingly hopes it works out. Because his private life needs to be really, really private. Nobody can know. Unless he tells them — in which case anyone can know.

Christian takes about three more paragraphs to do business in his hotel room, then drives to Ana’s university to do even more business — while secretly hoping to see Ana:

As we approach the long driveway I can’t help looking out at all the students to see if I can spy Miss Steele. Alas, I don’t see her; she’s probably holed up in the library reading a classic.

Unlikely, since she never reads.

Anyway, Christian’s Mom calls and acts like a real bitch, asking how his day is going, and whether he’s in Portland because he’s visiting Ana. And even though he is in Portland visiting Ana, he’s angry that his mother assumed that that was why he was there. He sets his mother straight by telling her that he’s obviously in Portland on business. You know, Portland — that famous telecommunications hub. Then thinks this:

Oh, Good Lord. My mother is someone else whose expectations I have to manage.

I don’t want to think about how he’s going to do that.

What this long and stupid phone conversation was really meant to set up, however, was that Christian’s mother wants Christian to pick up his sister, Mia, from the airport. He agrees to do it — even though he’s super busy always. This will be semi-relevant later.

Christian gets a response from Ana, where she counters his “submissive” definition with the definition for “compromise,” which amuses him (and pisses him off), and then — because you’ve all been waiting breathlessly for his return, Christian gets a call from El Dude Supremo:

My phone buzzes. It’s Elliot.

I live for these moments.

“Hey, hotshot. Kate’s asked me to hassle you about the move.”

“The move?”

What other move could he be talking about?

“Kate and Ana, help moving, you dipshit.”

I give him an exaggerated sigh. He really is a crude asshole.

What EL James gets wrong about American slang and speech patterns can only be described as performance art of the highest order.

Anyway, sadly we just get a plodding, monosyllabic back-and-forth from here on out and Christian eventually hangs up, having told Elliot to fuck the fuck off. Anyway, he can’t help them move — because now he needs to pick up Mia. See? I told you it would be semi-relevant.

Ana e-mails back, asking to set up a time for their contract negotiation, and Christian is angry that Ana thinks she should be able to drive herself there. They fight about it, she accuses him of being intractable, he reluctantly agrees, all the while thinking stuff like this:

If our meeting goes as planned, her contrary behavior will be a thing of the past.

Because she’ll be in a shallow grave somewhere.

Finally, she signs off her last e-mail with an “x,” and because EL James needs to start ham-fistedly turning this gargoyle into a man, she has him inexplicably act like a lovestruck teenager:

My mood has lifted as I head to the hotel gym.

She sent me a kiss…

You guys have already slept together several times, dude.

Ugh, whatever.

I wish I had bought a hard copy of this book so I could have the pleasure of burning it once I’m finally free of this project.

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6 thoughts on “Sexy Contracts and Demon Spawn: Chapter 9 of EL James’s “Grey”

  1. Pingback: Please Don’t Have Sex in a Restaurant: Chapter 10 of EL James’s “Grey” | Tea Leaves and Dog Ears

  2. “The darkly misogynistic language that she frequently inserts into Christian’s head isn’t so much alarming as it is depressing. Is this what EL James thinks that the average man sounds like in his private thoughts? One thing critics don’t talk enough about is how this book is as misandristic as it is misogynistic.”

    It’s tempting to say that Christian is clearly meant to be anything but average and that portraying one particular character as a dick isn’t casting judgement on an entire gender. But Elliott sounds like a painful stereotype too. And Jose is kind of a dick too. Hmm. Maybe the moral of the story is “people suck”?

    (For now I’m still keeping a question mark over whether the book itself is misogynist or just telling the tale of a main character who is.)

    “So… that happened. Let’s all take a moment to process the fact that EL James has now officially correlated the desire to cause pain for malicious reasons with a character who enjoys BDSM for a sexual purpose. Let’s dwell on that, and then move on.”

    You’re just now realising now that Christian’s desire to inflict pain does not come from a healthy place? That was hardly a secret even in the first trilogy.

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