Flying is a Sex Metaphor, and Other Lazy Cliches: Chapter 18 of EL James’s “Grey”


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Take a long pull of scotch in your sky fortress and stare into the reticent night’s sky because it’s time for another recap.

I’m going to keep promising that these recaps will be more regular and I’ll probably keep failing to come through. But hey — they’re free and they’re slowly ebbing my capacity to love, so it’s roughly even.

We open with Ana whispering “Don’t leave me” in her sleep just as Christian wakes in his palatial Savannah hotel room overlooking the salty river of his soul. For those of you who’ve read the original series, you’ll know that Ana’s sleepy confession is information that Christian holds over Ana’s head for basically the rest of the book because he’s awful and because vague things people whisper in their sleep are essentially the same as iron-clad promises when it comes to relationships. I also like how often bad writers will have characters offer up nocturnal “confessions” because literally both times I’ve heard someone talk in their sleep it has made no sense and involves words that sound like something Lewis Carroll dreamed up on acid.

“Yes, Ana, the Jabberwocky does eat the elbow macaroni in the dooryard. I knew you felt the same.”

Anyway, he tells her that he’s not going anywhere and she replies, “I won’t leave you” which — again — is something he then throws in her face when she leaves him at the end of this book. Because he’s awful. But I’m sure EL James will make sure to remind the reader of this moment later so that we truly understand how nothing is ever Christian’s fault. He’s just a giant man baby robot, which is sexy for some reason.

Ana wakes up, they talk for a bit, he refuses to tell her what she said in her sleep. He remains awful. It’s also 4:57 in the Goddamn morning and he’s going to give her a “big treat” which involves her getting to watch him do one of his hobbies. Fun for everyone! But first, an awkward food scene:

Breakfast has arrived: pastries, a coffee for me, and Twinings English Breakfast tea for Ana. Fortunately the hotel stocks her favorite blend.

They literally stock Twinings English Breakfast tea in fucking WalMart and Target in the States.

WalMart and Target.

EL James has got to stop acting like this is the fanciest tea in the world. Of course they stock it. It’s like $5 for a pack of 50 bags. Anyway, Ana managed to fall back asleep in the time it took for the hotel staff to source this rare and exotic blend of tea from parts unknown:

It’s time to wake Miss Steele.

“Strawberry,” she mutters, as I sit down beside her on the bed.

What’s with the fruit?

It’s almost like the things people say in their sleep don’t make sense and can’t be used against them when they’re awake.

“Anastasia,” I summon her gently.

“I want more.”

I know you do, and so do I. “Come on, baby.” I continue to coax her awake.

She gripes. “No. I want to touch you.”

Shit. “Wake up.” I lean down and gently tug her earlobe with my teeth.

Of course she’s saying all of her unspoken desires in her sleep. And so really, doesn’t that make it her fault later on when she breaks her word? Of course it does. Poor Christian. Nothing is his fault, etc.

He keeps trying to wake her up, and then amuses himself with this not-horrifying thought:

Her reluctance to wake is amusing and different. In my previous relationships a sleepy submissive could expect to be disciplined.

But if he’s literally never slept with anyone before Ana, does that mean that Christian used to just walk into his submissives’ room in his apartment, blasting an airhorn and then beating them if they still seemed sleepy?

He’s so kinky!

She finally wakes up — again:

She opens one unfocused eye, studying me. “I thought you wanted sex,” she says, her relief obvious.

Always a great sign when your sexual partner is relieved that you don’t want sex. Seems like everything is healthy and normal here.

I suppress my laugh. “Anastasia, I always want sex with you. It’s heartwarming to know that you feel the same.”

And healthy and normal.

“Of course I do, just not when it’s so late.” She hugs her pillow.

“It’s not late, it’s early. Come on–up you go. We’re going out. I’ll take a rain check on the sex.”

Abusive AND pedantic. What’s not to love.

Ana asks to have a shower, but Christian laughingly refuses to let her have one. Which is great. She in turn refuses to eat, which he decides he can’t force her to do — to his great disappointment and frustration. Finally — because nothing is happening in this book — she announces that she wants to roll her eyes at him, but can’t, because if she does he’ll hit her (literally, yes). But hey — Ana wants to start really enjoying this world she’s been forced into, right? And shouldn’t all sex be about consent and pleasure? So it should definitely be a positive sign that she’s trying to enjoy his kink and participate in it, right?

Of course not:

“Well, a spanking would wake me up, I suppose,” she says, as if she’s weighing the option.

She’s considering it? It doesn’t work that way, Anastasia!

Yeah! God — what doesn’t she get about the fact that he only wants to hurt her when she doesn’t want him to?

They finally leave the hotel room after a whole lot of nothing happening, and because EL James is committed to describing all of the nothing that doesn’t happen in their terrible nothing lives, she narrates the following:

Outside, the valet is waiting with the Mustang. Ana arches a brow, impressed by the GT500.


Yeah, it’s a fun drive, even if it’s only a Mustang.


“You know, sometimes it’s great being me,” I tease her, and with a polite bow I open her door.


I will exhaust the internet’s entire cache of eyeroll gifs before this is over.

We then have to hear about Christian pulling out onto the highway because EL James is still super proud of having figured out Google. Christian refuses to tell Ana where they’re going but blasts some dank opera on his car stereo because he’s the fanciest fictional rich man in the world:

“What’s this?” Ana asks.

“It’s from La Traviata. An opera by Verdi.”

La Traviata. I’ve heard of that. I can’t think where. What does it mean?”

I give her a knowing look. “Well, literally, ‘the woman led astray.’ It’s based on Alexandre Dumas’s book La Dame aux Camelias.”


“Ah. I’ve read it.”

“I thought you might have.”

It honestly wouldn’t surprise me if he pulled her school records, found her book lists, and then specifically put relevant songs on his iPod just to have these conversations. If that sounds crazy, ask yourself: would that really be crazier than anything else he’s done thus far?

Anyway, Ana thinks the song is way depressing, so she plays Britney Spears instead because she’s not fancy like Christian is fancy.

“‘Toxic,’ eh?” I observe, with wry humor.

Is she trying to tell me something?

Is she referring to me?

Only in this terrible book is everything from the things someone mutters in their dream to the song they put on the stereo a secret message for the other character to interpret.

“I don’t know what you mean,” she says innocently.

Does she think I should wear a warning?


Does… does she think that she is tasting a posion paradise? Did she take a sip from my devil’s cup?

Should I intoxicate her now? With my loving now? Does she think she’s ready now? Is she ready now? Should I intoxicate her now? With my loving now? Does she think she’s ready now? DOES SHE?!

Miss Steele wants to play games.

So be it.

I turn the music down a tad. It’s a little early for this remix, and for the reminder.

You want to play games Miss Steele? How about I… turn the music down just a smidge. Ho ho! I’m so wild.

Anyway, the “reminder” Christian refers to is that the song was put on his iPod by his former submissive, Leila, who definitely won’t turn up later in this story like we already know she will. And — again — EL James can’t just narrate Christian saying something like, “It was Leila who put that on my iPod.” Instead, we get a totally superfluous flashback scene that adds nothing and takes up even more time in a story where NOTHING IS HAPPENING:

“Sir, this submissive respectfully requests Master’s iPod.”

I glance away from the spreadsheet I’m reading and study her as she kneels beside me, her eyes cast down.

She’s been exceptional this weekend. How can I refuse?

“Sure, Leila, take it. I think it’s in the dock.”

“Thank you, Master,” she says, and stands with her usual grace, without looking at me.

Good girl.

And wearing only red high heels, she teeters over to the iPod dock and collects her reward.

Thank God EL James wrote Grey to give us such searing insight into Christian’s mind, and into the other side of this rich and complex story. I would’ve racked my brain for ages wondering what Leila was wearing when she put Toxic on Christian’s iPod if EL James hadn’t finally — finally — put me out of my misery.

Christian flashes forward to the present, where nothing continues to happen, and tells Ana he didn’t put the song on his iPod (oh, wow — that flashback makes sense now! I could never have figured it out otherwise!).

As Britney continues at her sultry best, Ana drums her fingers on her thigh, radiating disquiet as she stares out the car window.

I like that Christian is well-versed in the Spears oeuvre. They keep talking around the subject of Christian’s former submissives, and he eventually gets annoyed with Ana for wanting too much information about him. She hits back with:

“Oh, Mr. When Is Your Period Due?”

“Anastasia, a man needs to know these things.”

“Does he?”

“I do.”


“Because I don’t want you to get pregnant.”

Not “I don’t want to get you pregnant,” of course. And I still need to stress that Christian’s lack of information about human reproduction is alarming for someone who is this committed to not knocking up his sexual partners.

“Neither do I. Well, not for a few years yet,” she says a little wistfully.

Of course, that would be with someone else…the thought is disquieting…She’s mine.

Disquieting again? Stop over-using your new big-girl words, EL James.

They talk a bit more about nothing, and then finally Christian pulls into the hangar and Ana pretends to be really excited that Christian dragged her out of bed at 5am so he can fly a glider plane in front of her. But shh, because men are talking. Namely Christian’s tow pilot, Mark Benson.

Oh, you don’t know what a tow pilot is? You must be poor.

“You’ve got a great morning for it, Mr. Grey,” Benson says. “The wind as at ten knots from the northeast, which means the convergence along the shore should keep you up for a wee while.”

Benson is British, with a firm handshake.

Between EL James exalting the rare exotic delights of Twinings tea, and then calling Benson “British” and having him use the word “wee,” I almost feel like she might be trying to write this book as though she were describing British people in the way she imagines an American would. Is “wee” meant to convey that he’s Scottish, but Americans can’t tell the difference between the nations and accents of Britain? And why make him British at all if that’s never going to be relevant? I’m so confused.

“Sounds great,” I answer, and watch Ana as she shares a private joke with Taylor. “Anastasia. Come.”

Yeah, Ana! Heel! No talking to the staff!

“See you later,” she says to Taylor.

Ignoring her familiarity with my staff, I introduce her to Benson.

I typed that last line without knowing that Christian was actually going to admit that he doesn’t want her treat his staff like humans. GOD he’s so awful.

Christian introduces Ana as his girlfriend, which is meant to be a HUGE moment for him because he’s an insane tyrannical child who demands signed sex documents from his partners but then acts like they should consider it a massive reward if he admits to fucking them in public.

Benson and Christian mansplain a little more for the audience’s benefit because EL James is real proud that she knows how to look things up on her mean machine. Like this:

“You’re hooked up to my Piper Pawnee,” he continues. “I’ll take her up to three thousand feet, then set you guys free. That should give you some flying time.”

“I hope so. The cloud cover looks promising.”


“It’s a bit early in the day for much lift. But you never know. Dave, my mate, will spot the wing. He’s in the jakes.”

“Okay.” I think “jakes” means restroom.


“You’ve been flying long?”

“Since my days in the RAF. But I’ve been flying these tail-draggers for five years now. We’re in CTAF 122.3, so you know.”


“Got it.”

The L23 looks to be in fine shape, and I make a note of her FAA registration: November. Papa. Three. Alpha.”


Somehow we made it through that conversation. Somehow.

And anyway, let’s get a move on — because Christian is excited to strap Ana into her seat because he’s kinky, remember? Did you forget that Christian likes kink sex? In case you didn’t know anything about kink sex — which you probably don’t, because you’re not rich or exciting like Christian Grey — kink sex sometimes involves tying people onto things, which is why Christian strapping Ana into a plane seat is very erotic for him. I’m glad EL James reminded me that he likes kink sex. I might have forgotten within the space of the last paragraph:

“First, we need to strap on your parachute.” Benson reaches into the cockpit and pulls out a parachute for Ana.

“I’ll do that,” I offer, taking the bundle from Benson before he has a chance to put it or his hands on Ana.

Only one man will get an awkward sky boner today, sir!

It’s great that he feels like he literally owns her, though. If it turns out that he doesn’t actually know the right way to put on her parachute, she can be comforted by the knowledge that her death could’ve been prevented if she wasn’t dating a controlling psycho — but hey, he called her his girlfriend. What a treat!

Christian then puts his sexy glider harness on Ana. They talk about how he likes strapping her into things (the subtext is sexual!):

Boy, she looks good in a harness.

Briefly, I wonder how she’d look spread-eagled and hanging from the karabiners in the playroom, her mouth and her sex at my disposal. But alas, she’s set suspension as a hard limit.

I’ve reached a point of not giving a fuck where I’m sure this analysis verges on unfair, but to me that last line feels like EL James wants to communicate to the reader that Ana’s hard limits are SUCH a bummer for Christian and if she was nice she would stop having her silly lady opinions which are getting in the way of his very important boner.

Vaguely British Benson wanders back into the scene to wish Ana good luck on her first glider flight. Christian is, naturally, ENRAGED WITH JEALOUSY:

“Call me Mark,” he replies, fucking twinkling at her. I narrow my eyes at him. “Okay?” he asks me.

“Yep. Let’s go,” I say, impatient to be airborne and to get him away from my girl.


August 23, 2008 Elliot MacFarlane, smokes a pipe while volunteering at the Kalamazoo Scottish Festival at the Kalamazoo County Fairgrounds Saturday. MacFarlane is the founder of MacFarlane's Company, a volunteer organization that uses presentations to teach people about the rich history and culture of Scotland. (Jennifer Harnish / Gazette)

On reflection, I’m definitely not being unfair.

Anyway, Christian and Ana fly around and it’s magical I guess. Nothing happens. Christian describes a bunch of plane stuff which I think is meant to impress us. Then he lets Ana take control of the plane, which is a METAPHOR for their relationship. And also for his dick:

“See the joystick in front of you? Grab hold.”

She tries to turn her head, but she’s buckled in too tight.


“Go on, Anastasia. Grab it,” I urge her.

My joystick moves in my hands, and I know she’s holding hers.


“Hold tight. Keep it steady. See the middle dial in front? Keep the needle dead center.”

We continue to fly in a straight line, the yaw string staying perpendicular to the canopy.

I get it, EL.

I get it.

You can stop now.

“Good girl.”

My Ana. Never backs down from a challenge. And for some bizarre reason I feel immensely proud of her.

Sad Robot feel proud, etc.

“I am amazed you let me take control,” she shouts.

“You’d be amazed what I’d let you do, Miss Steele. Back to me now.”

Oh, you guys — I think this might be a metaphor for their kink relationship.

Remember — because he’s kinky?

Do you remember?

They land the plane and Christian immediately tries to fuck Ana in the middle of the field because his moneydick has been activated by the magic of flying:


Filled with adrenaline, my body responds immediately to her softness. In a nanosecond my hands are in her hair, and I’m tipping her head back so I can kiss her. My hand skims down to the base of her spine, pressing her against my growing erection, and my mouth takes hers in a long, lingering, possessive kiss.

I want her.



On the grass.

She responds in kind, her fingers twisting in my hair, tugging, begging for more, as she opens up for me like a morning glory.


I break away for air and rationality.

Not in a field!


Benson and Taylor are nearby.

Her eyes are luminous, pleading for more.

Don’t look at me like that, Ana. 

What a surprise — it’s her fault.

Anyway, Christian doesn’t want Ana’s slutty field sex that she apparently initiated because she’s a big slutty field slut, so instead he demands that they have breakfast. But if you think Christian Grey cleans up his own fucking gliders, you have another fucking thing coming:

“What about the glider?” she asks as she tries to keep up with me.

“Someone will take care of that.” It’s what I pay Taylor to do. “We’ll eat now. Come.”

Taylor is literally paid to put planes away? I mean, in the grand scheme of shitty jobs working for Christian, it’s certainly not the worst.

Christian and Ana hit the road and let the little people deal with cleaning up planes. Which brings us to this next section, in which I defy you to find more douchebaggery within such a small space of text:

With Kings of Leon belting from the sound system I ease the Mustang out of the airfield toward I-95.

As we cruise along the freeway, Ana’s BlackBerry starts beeping.

“What’s that?” I ask.

“Alarm for my pill,” she mutters.

“Good, well done. I hate condoms.”

From the sideways look I give her, I think she’s rolling her eyes, but I’m not sure.


But where will they go for breakfast?! Will Ana eat? Will she roll her eyes again?

This is but part one of yet another chapter that will not fucking end, so stay tuned my beautiful readers! And remember: don’t ever talk to the fucking staff.

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One thought on “Flying is a Sex Metaphor, and Other Lazy Cliches: Chapter 18 of EL James’s “Grey”

  1. Y’know, I’ll take your word for it that this chapter mansplains things (which is a horribly sexist term, btw), but that doesn’t really come across in these examples. She asks him what the opera name means. He tells her and gives her a little bit of background. That’s pretty much just answering the question.

    Also, someone needs to put Ana onto Dilmah. Much nummier than Twinings…

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