EL James Should Be Deeply Ashamed of Herself, and Other Basic Truths: Chapter 19 of EL James’s “Grey”

12 Feb 2015, London, England, UK --- London, United Kingdom. 12th February 2015 -- Campaigners against domestic violence demonstrated at the London film premiere of 'Fifty Shades of Grey' in Leicester Square. The film's strong BDSM theme is claimed by the protesters to

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You guys, Christian can’t sleep. He’s just so worried about Leila.

Sorry, sorry — let me clarify. He’s worried about whether or not Leila’s suicide attempt is about him. The suicide attempt that she made in his apartment — that’s the suicide attempt he’s not 100% sure involves him. But don’t worry, because even if it doesn’t, he’s going to make it all about him anyway. Because you know what? There was a time when Christian was sad, too:

Why was Leila suicidal? What possessed her? Her desperate unhappiness resonates with a younger, miserable me. I’m trying to quash my memories, but the anger and desolation of my solitary teen years resurfaces and it won’t go away. It reminds me of my pain and of how I lashed out at everyone during my youth. Suicide crossed my mind often, but I always held back.

Yeah, sure — he gets Leila. He gets what she’s going through, even though he actually has no idea what she’s going through because the last time he saw her he was so sure everything was fine with her, but what’s really important here is that even though he totally gets why Leila’s upset (and also that he has no idea), he would never have killed himself because he’s not some big weak pussy. So what’s her deal?

I really don’t know how EL James manages to make him so much worse with each and every chapter, but she’s doing a bang-up job. And classifying all suicide victims as weak and selfish? What a masterclass in being a Grade A Asshole, EL James. Congrats to you!


I resisted for Grace. I knew she’d be devastated. I knew she would blame herself if I took my life, and she’d done so much for me–how could I hurt her like that?

Yeah, Leila. Think about Christian! He did so much for you! He doesn’t even know why you’re sad, or how your sadness involves him, but you need to remember that he was actually really great and now you’ve gone and made him think about another person’s feelings for longer than a few seconds. God — you’re so selfish!

Christian rises and goes to the piano, but even the haunting melody of his tinkling ivory keys can’t soothe his demon monster soul or whatever:

I need Ana.

If she’d signed the contract and everything had gone according to plan, she would be with me, upstairs, asleep.

But if everything had gone according to plan, then the two of you probably would’ve been home when Leila tried to kill herself, right? So maybe you wouldn’t have just been hanging around all day afterwards fucking. Oh, but they probably still would’ve been, because this isn’t about Leila; It’s about Christian’s important dick needs.

I could wake her, and lose myself in her…or, under our new arrangement, she would be beside me, and I could fuck her and then watch her sleep.

I know that this is Twilight fanfiction, and I know that Edward watching Bella sleep was a big thing in that series, but surely part of the point of Edward watching Bella sleep — which was still creepy, don’t get me wrong — was that it was meant to set up their two different “worlds” at night, where he’s a vampire and she’s a mortal woman. But while watching someone sleep “for hours” is always creepy, at least Twilight offered some supernatural context. There’s none of that here. Christian is still a human. He needs to sleep. And maybe he wouldn’t be such a pissy little prick if he actually did get regular sleep and wasn’t staying up to stare at Ana like a psycho for hours on end.

Also, does that mean that Christian always watches Ana sleep? Does it?

What would she make of Leila?

Hey — I have an idea. Why not ask her? Like, why not let your girlfriend know that your ex has tried to harm herself in an apartment that your girlfriend regularly visits, and that your ex is currently missing and may pose a threat to her? I mean, you’re always so concerned about Ana’s safety, and something like this is an actual threat to her safety — rather than, say, going out to a crowded bar with her friends at age 22 in a city that she’s familiar with.

As I sit down on the piano bench I know that Ana will never meet Leila, which is a good thing.


(she will)



Sure. They’ll never meet. Let’s go with that for now. And it’s good that they’ll never meet, because Leila is currently in the midst of what appears to be a major mental health concern, and the only thing that Ana and Leila have in common is that they both look like your dead mother whom you’ve spent your whole life trying to punish-fuck through surrogates, and the two of them figuring that out would be really, really disturbing. But oh, no — silly me. The real reason that Leila and Ana shouldn’t meet, according to Christian, is because bitches be jealous:

I know how she feels about Elena. Lord knows how she’d feel about an ex…a wayward ex.

Females, amirite. Their thoughts and feelings are never valid, bro! And said thoughts and feelings can always be waved away by dismissing them as proof that all women secretly hate each other and crave the Moneydick above all else.

Christian thinks — for the millionth time — that he just can’t understand how Leila went from happy to depressed because he doesn’t know how mental illness, human emotion, or time works. And because he’s really in an introspective, thoughtful place about Leila’s wellbeing and her mental state, he naturally flashbacks to a memory of her giving him a blowie:

Leila is servicing my cock with her mouth.

Her skilled mouth.

Her hands are tied behind her back.

Her hair braided.

She’s on her knees.

Eyes cast down. Modest. Alluring.

Not seeing me.

And suddenly she’s Ana.

Ana on her knees before me. Naked.


My cock in her mouth.

But Ana’s eyes are on mine.

Her blue eyes see everything.

See me. My soul.

She sees the darkness and the monster beneath.

Her eyes widen in horror and suddenly she disappears.



Oh, pardon me. It’s a dream, not a flashback. There was no actual transition in the text which told us that he’d gone to bed. Instead, the last thing James bothered to mention was that he was still playing his sad piano bullshit music, and then I guess he fell asleep on the keys and had a blowjob dream involving the last two women he fucked, which he turned into a sad moment about himself? That’s cool.

Christian wakes up with a boner and then lets us know that he never has erotic dreams, so he’s now very confused. So am I — namely about why any of that information is relevant. It’s still not clear whether he fell asleep on the piano or went back to bed, because all we get is:

The morning sunlight is creeping between the buildings as I rise.

Let’s just assume that he did fall asleep on his tragic piano of wayward feels because it would mean that he’d have to deal with terrible muscle pain for the rest of the day. I hope he can barely turn his neck now.

But, as we all know, Christian doesn’t have time to just lie around on pianos all morning. He’s a Business Moneydick, Goddamnit. So he needs to take on the Moneyday. So I want you to guess — without looking below — how Christian deals with his erotic, traumatic dream and his concerns about both Leila and Ana before starting his important day of businessing:

Does he:

A) Call Ana so that they can have a serious discussion about their relationship, while also letting her know that a mentally ill women is missing and may come after him and, by extension, Ana?


B) Go for a run because he can’t even deal with all of the shit all of these females are putting him through?

No Peeking!

Got your answer?


Already, I’m restless, no doubt as a result of my disturbing dream, so I decide to go for a run to burn off some energy.

Great. Good. I’m glad you got to work some things out, buddy.

He does mention that he quickly checks his e-mails to confirm that there have been no updates on Leila, so he feels like that’s all he can do right now. Him, the guy who stalked a woman he’d just met within moments of her departure from his office. Him, the guy who managed to track that same woman’s phone a couple of days later because she was out at a bar with friends, having a good time. But he can’t be bothered to track down someone who actually needs his help. Convenient.

Anyway, stop thinking about people who aren’t Christian. Only Christian matters, so he heads out to pound the pavement and really work through all of his issues because, remember, it’s all about him. He also vaguely hopes Gail’s okay, too. Not that he bothers to check.

I turn the volume up on the Foo Fighters and my feet pound the sidewalk.


That’s the last line before the section break. There is no transition between that and this:

Olivia is exceptionally irritating today. She’s spilled my coffee, dropped an important call, and keeps mooning at me with her big brown eyes.

I’m fine with using section breaks to change scenes so you don’t have to go through the process of saying, “He then went home, took off his clothes, had a shower, got dressed, ate breakfast, asked Taylor to drive him into work, and then walked into his office and started his day.” I mean, ironically EL James normally does make us sit through all of that tedious shit in other chapters, but she’s finally figured out that she can, occasionally, change scenes without detailing the A to B route from one to the other.

That said, picking up with, “Olivia is exceptionally irritating today,” when it’s been SO many chapters since Christian was last at his office, is just plain confusing. Because I mix up all of his many many work serfs and I’ve been paying closer attention to this book than any normal human being should have to. And after a couple of months of painstaking recaps, I’m pretty sure that Olivia is the secretary (?) that he doesn’t like, Andrea is the PA he sort of is okay with sometimes, and Ros is the lesbian helicopter pilot and COO whom he likes — but mostly because she’s gay. Because the only woman who doesn’t want Christian’s dick is a woman who doesn’t want any man’s dick. And that’s how he knows he can trust a woman to do business. Which is great. Thanks for that, EL James.

Anyway, Christian yells at Olivia the Random Serf to “Get Ros back on the line” — though the book makes no effort to explain to you who Ros is, either. Christian admits that he should stop taking his anger out on his staff but doesn’t actually follow through on that because he’s just SO worried about Leila:

Welch has no news, except that Leila’s parents think their daughter is still in Portland with her husband.

SO worried about Leila, but not worried enough that he’d tell her family that she’s hurt and missing so they could be involved in her search.

Fuck this dude.

Because I know what you’re thinking — surely, even without Christian’s permission, the hospital or the police would contact Leila’s parents anyway. But for some reason the hospital has neither contacted Leila’s parents, nor her husband, nor the police. I just… either EL James thinks everyone is incompetent at their jobs to make herself feel better about her own horrifying incompetence as a writer, or else she has spent her entire life in an underground bunker and has no idea how literally anything works.

Ros exits just before ten. All is on track: Woods has decided to accept the deal, and the aid for Darfur will soon be on the road to Munich in preparation for the airlift. There’s no news yet from Savannah about their offer.

Who is Woods? What shipment to Darfur? Why is it going through Munich? What are you talking about? Stop pretending to business by dropping in references to his vaguely racist White Saviorism.

But Christian doesn’t have to pretend to business for long because — God save me — he gets an e-mail from Ana and they then spend forever e-mailing inane bullshit back and forth. These are the same e-mails from the original book. Sure, there’s plenty of gold in them, but I just can’t force myself to go through pages and pages of, “Mr. Grey, are you flirting with me?” “I don’t know, Miss Steele. Am I?” over and over and over and over and over again.

Tl; dr — Ana still wants to know what she said in her sleep. Christian won’t tell her. It’s coy and cute and Christian never feels the need to mention Leila, because Leila definitely won’t become a plot point later on that Ana will, in fact, have to deal with. So it’s fine.

It’s now lunchtime. Christian has had such a long day exchanging boring personal e-mails with his girlfriend, and now he’s restless as fuck:

At one o’clock I decline Andrea’s offer of lunch at my desk. I need to get out. The walls of my office are closing in on me, and I think it’s because there’s been no news about Leila.


I’m worried about her.

Yeah, yeah. No doubt.

Hell, she came to see me. She decided to use my home as her stage. How could I not take this personally?

There it is.

Leila used his home as her stage? How much do you have to lack on a spiritual and psychological level as a human being to describe someone’s suicide attempt as a “performance”?

Why didn’t she e-mail me or phone? If she was in trouble, I could have helped. I would have helped–I’ve done it before.

Here’s the other thing about abusers and narcissists: they always figure help in monetary terms. I’m sure he did give Leila money and nice gifts. In fact, we know that he did because the clothes and the car he buys Ana in this series are jokingly referred to as the “Submissive Special” because he re-buys the same stuff for each woman he fucks.

Yes, really.

But clearly — clearly — the help that Leila needs, and the help she may have needed previously, was help on an emotional level that you can’t solve by buying someone an iPad and an Audi. He can’t just moneydick his way through a mental health issue, even with the fanciest psychologist in the world.

In a more capable writer’s hands, Christian throwing money at all of his problems would indeed be an interesting and accurate representation of narcissism, classism, self-involvement, and emotional detachment. But with EL James I’m almost certain that she agrees with Christian; If Leila had called or e-mailed, he could’ve solved her problems with money and then he wouldn’t be inconvenienced by her issues now.

And part of the reason that I assume that that’s how EL James feels about it is because I know how the Leila story wraps up in the second book from Ana’s perspective — with Christian referring Leila to his own psychologist and then paying her tuition for art school. But also because it’s clear that EL James thinks that having Christian wander around, wringing his hands and shouting, “But why is she DOING this to ME?” makes him sympathetic rather than genuinely horrifying. Everything about this plotline is disgusting, and while authorial intent is a shaky line to walk at the best of times, I don’t trust that this author has any sympathy for women. Period. And that extends to James’s total lack of sympathy for Leila’s mental health issues while she simultaneously and desperately tries to make the readership feel bad for poor, poor Christian and his childhood trauma.

And THAT’S why I don’t give a shit about his moldy cheese. It’s not because — were Christian real, which he isn’t — he would indeed potentially have this level of trauma and PTSD and yet I just don’t care because he’s mean to people. That’s not it. The reason I don’t care about Christian’s trauma is that EL James ONLY asks us to care about Christian, even when he’s bullying and belittling and traumatizing the people around him. If Olivia (the random serf) was real, she would talk about this horrible job she took with this awful boss for the rest of her life. It would probably affect the jobs that she took from here on out. It would eviscerate her self-confidence in the short-term, and it would make her much more cautious and self-doubting in the long-term. She probably deals with a low level of stress on a daily basis that is actively harming her physical and emotional health. And Olivia is just one incidental side character. But hey — she’s a woman and is (allegedly) a fuck-up at her job, so who cares? Plus, you guys, she’s just so hungry for the Moneydick.

I’ve wanted to quit doing these recaps several times for a variety of reasons — they make me feel anxious and irritated and tired. I feel drained when I finish them, and I spend an unreasonable amount of time wondering how anyone could have written this and then sworn up, down, and sideways that this isn’t a textbook portrayal of domestic abuse and the cycle of abuse.

But I do want to finish this up, mostly because I’ve had such a bad record on this blog of following through with different reading challenges, and also because I think that genuinely exploring the issues that this book raises (and then refuses to deal with) is necessary to combat the endless news stories that try to make the book just seem like kinky fluff, or like “every woman’s fantasy”. Yes, Dom Jeans and sentient cocks are hilarious, but the bulk of this book is really awful — and the fact that most of the coverage surrounding it ignores that aspect completely, or waves it away dismissively, is a huge fucking problem.

It’s a problem that a massively popular series is this misogynistic, this prejudiced toward mental health issues, this misinformed about BDSM, and — most importantly of all — this dismissive of the clear evidence of domestic abuse and rape.

So I’m going to leave off here for this week, even though it’s a touch shorter than my normal posts, because I need a couple of days off from this, and because I really don’t think I can stomach more lines about how Christian just can’t possibly deal with someone else’s problems and how hard it is — for him — to be forced to think of others. In a book where the heroine’s sole purpose is to save him from HIS demons.

Fuck this guy.

Fuck EL James.

Fuck anyone who defends this series.


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9 thoughts on “EL James Should Be Deeply Ashamed of Herself, and Other Basic Truths: Chapter 19 of EL James’s “Grey”

  1. *applause*

    I’d suggest immersing yourself in something affirming and the opposite of “Gray”, but that would probably just make it worse when you have to go back to it. :/

  2. I’ve been reading your recaps for awhile, but I’ve never commented. You seem to say it all and so much more! I’ll offer my sympathies for this drivel taking so much out of you mentally. Just reading the recaps is hard enough, that I can’t imagine having to do them myself.
    That being said, PLEASE KEEP DOING THEM. It’s so important to keep up a dialog like this. If even one person who has been abused and still stands up for Christian as a romantic ideal sees your posts and changes their mind, then you’ve done an immeasurable service for the world.
    Keep on keepin’ on, sister. I appreciate what you’re doing.

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