I wrote something more akin to a therapeutic-somewhat-spitefic (ok, female lead doesn’t suck as much as the idolized male lead, she gets her happy ending) rather than the fanfic a certain site is known for. At the beginning of this monumental work of playing up troublesome aspects of a popular novel series, I put an author’s note. Rather long-winded, but it laid out what readers could expect, and why. I replaced it with a shorter and less blunt note, and am archiving the oldie but goodie.
There is a reason I have to write this preface, and I’m going to spell it out for all and sundry and hopefully, the PMs will slow down because concerns have already been addressed here. This contains snippets of blog posts I’ve made addressing the issues, as well as choice bits of PMs. Also, there is an FAQ on my profile which covers many of the concerns listed here. This story was originally published here on FF back in 2012. I took it down, altered it a bit, and self-pubbed since out of the many reviews I received, vast majority were positive in nature. The few negative ones did not deter me then, nor will they as I substantially rewrite this story and work in more of the canon, ultimately taking it in another direction altogether. That said, the original incarnation of Chapter One was picked up by a women’s shelter in Cardiff, Wales and is used to help illustrate the power of perception when it comes to abuse. I am proud of that my writing has been used to help educate on the subject of domestic violence. That is my carrot on a string when it comes to getting this story out.
First off, everyone is entitled to their opinion. Your opinion of Grey is as valid as my own even though you and I may not see eye-to-eye. I don’t think I’m going to change the mind of someone looking for their own Grey. I am simply explaining why I chose to address the story in this not-very-pleasant manner. The mark of ignorance is the inability to entertain someone else’s perspective without agreeing- and trust me, I had to entertain a point of view different from my own to get through EL James’ tale. I am sincerely hoping that you, kind reader, are an open minded sort, because that will make this so much more productive. As you can see in the description of my tale, it’s a study in the sub-context I am addressing. That is no secret, and please don’t waste your time telling me I made Grey into an abusive dickhead. I am positive there are other stories you’d find more enjoyable than me busting out a treatise on society-accepted violence. Not every love story has a HEA, and that’s a fact of life I echo in my writing. I’m on the fence about reviews calling out things I’m blatantly pointing out RIGHT HERE.
I mean, if someone feels compelled to tell me I suck because OMG, I just don’t ‘get’ Christian Grey, fine. I’ll probably laugh, enjoy a glass of wine, and ponder a reply I won’t give because someone is unwilling to experience this uber-romantic-got-rape-culture’s-stamp-of-approval from a realistic point of view, as detailed on this page. Far as I’m concerned, I’m laying it all out here for those who aren’t as inclined as others to dissect the society we live. A society that says, ‘Sure, treat me like shit, but at least buy me nice things first” and where women are expected to let a multitude of horrific sins slide because a guy is wealthy and/or attractive. I’m going off the sub-context I picked up as I trudged through that literary quagmire- how often does Ana worry that she upset Grey whenever she opens her mouth? How many times are there tears involved? Bruises she didn’t consent to? Threats to rape her in public (over her biting her lip) and breaking into her apartment without knowledge from her or her roommate? How many times does she basically tell him to back off and yet he ultimately doesn’t? These are not aspects of a healthy relationship.
One cannot heal another with love; that is a fairy tale falsehood of co-dependence. Happiness comes from within and the right partner helps it shine brighter. One can provide a healing environment; considering Grey controls everything, it’s safe to assume he controls the environment, thus it isn’t Ana who is helping him heal. She does learn to manage his moods by walking on eggshells when it comes to certain topics; that is not a marker of a healthy relationship.
Yes, I read FSoG. I did not like it. I found it to be triggering and a glorification of my own experience of domestic abuse at the hands of my boyfriend-turned-husband. I found it disturbing that the protagonist, Ana, lacks so much world experience when compared to Grey who then holds her lack of experience against her, and she has to appeal to an imaginary authority figure, her Inner Goddess – which made me wonder if Ana has some sort of mental illness? Why else would her should-be-invisible Subconscious and Inner Goddess waltz around between Ana’s ears? “Normal” people tend to think in terms of ‘I can do this’ rather than “My Inner Goddess gave me a thumbs up,” if you get my drift. Is this a commentary from James about the maturity level Ana exhibits, where Ana is unable to take responsibility for her own thoughts/actions, pawning decision making to invisible friends?
Having been in an abusive relationship, I’m calling Grey’s actions for what they are. Take away his looks and money and he doesn’t have much to recommend him, in my opinion, for a long-term relationship. Had he not been adopted into a wealthy family and instead bounced around foster homes, odds are that he would have spent time in jail by now. His stalking and manipulation show that he is far from healed, needs a new therapist and to find happiness for himself rather than collecting subs who bear a resemblance to his mother. The psychological aspects of Grey mirrors a Pacific Northwest serial killer, Robert Lee Yates. I find that interesting; give Yates good looks and money and you’d have Christian Grey on your hands. I find that fascinating, really. Could it be a witty social commentary by EL James, of a society’s acceptance of abuse and willingness to look the other way? A slightly different take on Kitty Genovese?
I realize that the tawdry bits in FSoG were definitely eyebrow-raising considering what was the commercial norm before the erotica acceptance. However, I gotta say as someone who dabbled in the lifestyle for a few years, I cringe when I got to the bits where Grey demonstrates his dominate style-especially outside the bedroom. Safe, sane, and consensual, it was not. Got no problem with kinky fun. But the parts that concerned me most were his attitudes outside “playtime” and how he put Ana under surveillance 24/7 and did not adhere to the boundaries she set. Her opinion doesn’t seem to matter much to him. He may acknowledge her concern, but then he blows it off and does what he wants instead (for example, her car. Why did he buy her a new car he won’t let her drive?) I also have a problem with stalking, intimidation, coercion, not taking NO for an answer, victim blaming, and other forms of random douche-baggery.
One can see different things when they read for pleasure versus reading with a critical eye. Those who read for pleasure don’t catch things, they aren’t looking for the sub-context, only what the writer had the narrator (Ana being an unreliable narrator) remark upon, colored with the narrator’s perspective. Ana is sheltered and Ana does not understand what constitutes domestic violence. I know I didn’t, I assumed getting hit was ‘domestic violence,’ not the put-downs or threats. But those too, are abuse.
I can understand if you got swept up in the story, but in a clinical setting, a lot of the behaviors exhibited are considered serious markers for an abuser. Grey is a manipulator. Ana never signed the contract, and Grey still acts as if she did. The man stalked a woman 3000 miles when she stated she needed space and he hadn’t even known her a month. That’s scary, not romantic. He enters her apartment without Ana or Kate’s knowledge or consent, hits and rapes Ana. She wasn’t into it and basically says, “Oh, at least it wasn’t that bad.” Grey should have involved the police when Leila started doing her thing. By keeping it on the down-low, he enabled a mentally ill person and chucked her in an art school rather a psychiatric ward where her needs could be addressed.
You are absolutely entitled to your opinion about Christian Grey- I will not argue that. But to me, he’s the better looking twin to the man I married and who told me he knew where he’d hide my body. I’m not going to be quiet about that. Abusers thrive in silence, and I’ll be making some noise for educational purposes.
Maybe someone will read this story and see them self in AnaMaria, and know they too can escape an abusive/manipulative relationship. That is why I am writing this.
Once upon a time I was Ana. No more.
On the topic of Grey and his mother…
Oedipus by Proxy.
Christian Grey openly admits he prefers subs who resemble his “crack whore mother” i.e. brown hair, blue eyes. He beats them because he cannot beat his mother as punishment for leaving him as a child. Why else would he choose women to beat that bear a physical resemblance to his mother? Since she’s dead, he can’t take his anger out on her. So all those poor women who have the genetic misfortune of brown hair and blue eyes are taking the lumps for her; I’m convinced Grey hasn’t told his therapist about it, or else his “therapist” is a quack who is awesome at writing prescriptions for narcotics.
ON THE TOPIC OF ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIPS
The following was taken from Jenny Trout’s blog, because she is wondrously eloquent and awesome. jennytrout dot com slash ?p=3007
The following “red flags” are from a hand out entitled “Universal Red Flags” taken from a book called How To Spot A Dangerous Man. The instructions read: “Check all the following that apply even if only remotely”. Let me share the ones I checked on Ana’s behalf:
You feel uncomfortable about something he has said or done, and the feeling remains. I don’t think we need to cite any one particular incident where Ana has been made uncomfortable by Christian Grey. This is prevalent throughout the book.
You wish he would go away, you want to cry, and you want to run away from him. Ana often thinks about how she can “escape” Christian, how she needs to find an exit, how she can’t handle being around him because she can’t trust herself to think clearly. In just the portion of the book we’ve reviewed so far, Ana has ended three of her encounters with Christian as a sobbing mess.
You have the urge to “love him into emotional wellness,” if that were possible. Again, based on the chapters we’ve reviewed here so far, Ana does seem to believe that she can change him, or that he has psychological wounds that need to be healed.
You feel bad about yourself when you are around him. One of the clearest indicators, to me, anyway, that there is a power imbalance in their relationship is the fact that Ana constantly compares herself – how she looks, how she acts, how she’s dressed – to Christian and his very wealthy lifestyle, and she always finds herself lacking. She often wonders why he’s interested in her.
You only feel good about yourself when you are with him. Conversely, Ana doesn’t have a nice word to say about herself unless it is confirmed by Christian. When her roommate tells her that she’s pretty, Ana interprets it as a patronizing compliment Kate can’t possibly mean, but when Christian Grey calls Ana beautiful, she suddenly believes that she is. In fact, the only time she believes anything good about herself is when it’s Christian pointing it out.
You feel that he wants too much from you. I think this one requires very little explanation. Not only does he want more than she wishes to give, he constantly pressures her to give him what he wants.
You are emotionally tired from him; you feel he “sucks the life out of you.“Now, Ana never says, “he sucks the life out of me.” But again, even if we just look at the first half of this book, she’s doing a lot of crying herself to sleep, needing to get away from him because he’s too intense, etc.
Your value system and his are very different, and it’s problematic. I have this phrase I trot out from time to time with my friends who are dating: If you have to “work on” the relationship within the first month, it’s not going to work out. Sometimes, people are simply incompatible. Ana and Christian have spent most of their relationship with Ana trying to find ways around giving Christian what he wants, and Christian refusing to bend on his expectations. This is not going to clear up in a few more dates.
Your past and his are very different, and the two of you have conflicts over it. Spoiler alert, Christian is obsessive and controlling about food because he went hungry as a child. I know we haven’t gotten to that part of the book in the review yet, but it fits in here. And that’s just one of the ways their pasts differ in problematic ways. While Ana sees his earlier relationship with a much older woman as statutory rape, Christian believes that it was appropriate and has a continuing friendship with the woman, which makes Ana uncomfortable. Ana doesn’t even want the type of relationship Christian is after, they both are aware of this fact, and he continues to pursue her.
You tell your friends you are “unsure about the relationship” Ana has already had this conversation with Kate in the part we’ve reviewed.
You feel isolated from other relationships with friends and family. Ana doesn’t justfeel isolated, she is isolated, by the nondisclosure agreement Christian asked her to sign. She finds herself living a double life in order to please Christian and still maintain her relationships with her loved ones.
You feel in the wrong because he is always right and goes to great lengths to show you he is right. This was most obviously displayed in chapter fourteen, where Christian responds to all of Ana’s concerns and questions with long explanations that dance around actual answers.
You are uncomfortable because he continually says he knows what is best for you. He isn’t pressuring her into signing a contract that allows him to act out his sexual fantasies on her for him. It’s all about her, and her happiness. He just wants what’s best for her, just like when he showed up at the bar when she asked him not to, and his concerns about her car.
You notice he needs you too frequently, too much, or too intensely. Christian goes so far as to say that he wants her too much, or that he can’t control himself in her presence because of the intensity of his passion for her.
You notice he quickly discloses information about his past or present or his emotional pain. After they go out for coffee, their first encounter that is not tied to the interview, he warns her off from him with cryptic, tortured statements like, “I’m not the man for you.”
You sense he is pushing too quickly for an emotional connection with you. Okay, this one, Ana wouldn’t check off, but I would. From an outside observer standpoint, Christian is running a very good game of “pull her in, push her away,” which is forcing an emotional connection with Ana. After having coffee with the guy once, she’s on the floor of a parking garage sobbing. This isn’t just Ana being emotionally immature, it’s Ana being emotionally manipulated by Christian.
You find yourself accepting him “for now” even though you have plenty of red flags that would help you to terminate the relationship if you paid attention to them. Ana is already aware that what she wants from the relationship and what Christian wants are two vastly different, completely incompatible things, but she commits to the relationship despite knowing it has no hope of a future.
These weren’t all the entries on the list, but some of the questions regarding previous children or substance abuse obviously don’t apply to Mr. Grey. Looking over what we have here, is this a healthy relationship? Can we even consider this to be a romance novel, with all of these elements in place?
However, we’ve seen ample evidence of women saying they would prefer their husbands to behave more like Christian Grey. Others say that obviously, they wouldn’t want Christian Grey in real life, but it’s the fantasy they’re enjoying. What fantasy? I fully support fantasizing about a man who takes control in the bedroom. I cannot, for the life of me, understand how it would be enjoyable to fantasize about a man who takes control in all aspects of your life. And remember, I’m not talking about just a BDSM lifestyle here. I’m talking about the measures Christian takes to control Ana’s life before they even enter into a relationship together.
For an insightful look on the topic, check out Jenny Trout dot com slash question mark p=934
For those open minded readers I haven’t scared off yet, I have some questions I’d love to have your opinion on. Please, if you feel inclined, let me know what you think. I do appreciate the feedback (unless it’s patronizing and disrespectful) and it helps me to understand everybody’s point of view better. [ More questions may be added at a later time ]
a) Would Ana still be into Grey if he was not a billionaire? Let’s say he worked at Best Buy or KMart- same personality, same looks (perhaps not as “polished” because lack of funds and not owning salons) and elitist attitude, but just a bloke who lives in his mom’s basement and Charlie Tango is just an El Dorado. Would he have the same appeal to fresh-out-of-college Ana?
b) If a Dom has demonstrated sub drop more than once, does that qualify him as a knowledgeable and empathetic Dom?
c) How many unhealthy behaviors is it acceptable to deal with when it comes to building a foundation for a new romantic relationship? If your partner makes decisions you have to abide by, would you want your opinion to be considered just as valid as your partners?
d) Do you think Grey adequately described the BDSM lifestyle to Ana so she could make an educated decision on the topic?
e) Is it appropriate for someone who was given permission for a single type of consensual violence (i.e. a spanking) to threaten or intimidate the person on the receiving end when the receiver had a negative reaction to the experience?
I thank you for your time and wish you happy reading.
-M R S