Stop calling it a “culture war,” call it what it actually is

So I saw another truly ridiculous piece of conservative outrage today, about the squawking, dishonestly named “One Million Moms” group (a proud owner of 3,000 Twitter followers) getting upset that gay people exist. The newest target of their ire is American Girl magazine, which had the temerity to feature an article about a pair of gay adoptive parents, without first seeking the permission of bigoted conservatives and ensuring that the language was appropriately fawning toward Conserva-Jesus and his well known hatred of gays. For the most part the Moms’ rhetoric is the usual claptrap, assuming that their appeasement is the sole purpose of every form of media, and getting arch that their imprimatur was neither sought out nor apparently thought about in the least, but one particular part of it, one specific, commonly used phrase, stuck in my head when I saw it:

1MM supports adoption and taking care of orphans as we are biblically instructed to do in Psalm 82:3, but American Girl could have focused the article on the child and not about the parents since it is a magazine for children. The magazine also could have chosen another child to write about and remained neutral in the culture war.

“Culture war.”

The phrase wouldn’t leave my brain after I’d read it. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, it seemed… wrong, somehow. Unfair. It didn’t gel, didn’t fit… and then I realized why:

You know who wants the most to not be in a culture war over homosexuality? Gay people.

If you focus on the actual words of the standard conservative rhetoric on this issue, and ignore the overall aggressive tone and outrage, you might get this idea that this “culture war” is something being inflicted upon them: they are desperate for people to “remain neutral,” when it comes to depictions of gay people. Show a happy gay family? Don’t do that, stay neutral! Gay parents in a canned spaghetti ad? No, stop, why would you do that? A Chick-Fil-A sponsors an LGBTQ film festival? Hey, nuh uh! Don’t turn chicken into a political battleground, that should be simple!

The behavior of the christian right is all about stopping things from being battlefields in this culture war over homosexuality, one gets the idea that they are beleaguered peacekeepers demanding neutrality, stepping in to deal with all these fires being started by the other side. But the truth is, as is usual for the christian right, the exact opposite. This culture war is not the gays’ to fight.

To the family in the American Girl article, this isn’t some fucking battle. They didn’t appear in the magazine to get conservative christians, nor did American Girl publish the article to attack anybody. They both did what they did for the reasons explained within the article; they did it because they were talking about the foster care system and that gay couple happened to be a (rather photogenic) part of that, and were passionate about it. They are an accurate reflection of the topic that was under discussion, and hence were included in an article attempting to portray that reality. What made it into a battle was a cadre of loudmouthed conservatives unable to separate their own personal offense at the existence of something they don’t like from the reasons that thing might exist in the first place. It’s a battle because a certain subset of conservatives are unable to see the rest of the world as anything other than a reaction to them, as a group.

What, you think we’d have these “culture wars” over homosexuality if gay people were simply left alone, with the same rights as anybody else? The objection being leveled by One Million Moms is that gay people are being depicted as existing, not that they’ve actually done something wrong. You think we’d have these pitched social issues over transgenderism if transgender people were just allowed to be the gender identity they identify with, with all that entails? You think any of this would be happening if the religious conservative movement in opposition to it stopped and let us see what happened without instigating any outrage?

Because that’s what a war is, you know. A war involves at least two sides in active disagreement, it is sustained by all the parties within it, not just one. If the anti-gay side just stopped here, though, there would be no war. Gay people just want to live their lives in peace, and if there had never been any homophobic cultural history here, there would be no culture war now, and certainly no bad feelings on the part of the gay community toward those that are seeking to oppress them now. This is a self inflicted war, begun and sustained by a group of people who simply will not let others live their own lives without their intervention.

There is a kind of war that is begun by one party in it and not the other, and is not sustained by mutual enmity, but rather one side’s insistence… but we call it something else and aren’t generally okay with what it is. That kind of war is called an invasion, and it’s characterized as an interaction between an aggressor and a defender. When was the last time you heard about an invasion, in which nobody would be harmed and no conflict would arise if it were to stop, and thought that the aggressor was in the right?

To be clear, I’m not talking about motivations here; it’s clear that the anti-gay side has a motivation for what they’re doing, it’s one they’ve made abundantly obvious. I don’t agree with it at all, I think it’s a completely unjustified motivation, but I cannot honestly deny that it exists, nor will I pretend that this invasion of theirs is happening out of baseless spite, because that would be untrue. It’s not just troublemaking, it is happening for a reason, even if it’s obviously a bad reason.

No, what I’m talking about here is a clear problem in the language surrounding this issue, the dishonest way that the religious right hopes to characterize the interactions at play. It’s not a “culture war” for any other party but the anti-gay side, and so for them to assert that other parties should “remain neutral,” attempts to apply a mindset about all this to people that do not share it; America Girl was not firing a salvo in any sort of war, they were reporting on an issue. That this got reinterpreted in its transmission to One Million Moms is not their fault, nor is it something they can control. The Moms’ seem to want to make others responsible for how they react to media in ways that the creators did not intend, and this is both arrogant in that it places the onus on everyone else to appease One Million Moms as a matter of course, and entirely misrepresentative of how that media was created in the first place. You cannot retroactively add a malevolent (from their perspective) motivation to a work, nor can you attempt to phrase it as “taking a side” in a culture war when your own objection betrays that you would find it impossible for them to do otherwise.

What was it that One Million Moms said in their article, again?

The magazine also could have chosen another child to write about and remained neutral in the culture war.

Uh huh. And what is their objection at all? Why, it’s that gay parents were depicted in American Girl! Which means that the Moms’ idea of winning would be the removal of gay people from the magazine…

Do you see the problem here? One Million Moms’ idea of neutrality is the same as their victory condition. For one to “remain neutral in the culture war,” one has to allow the anti-gay side to win. Anything else isn’t “remaining neutral,” it’s taking a stand against them.

Keeping this in mind, how dare One Million Moms attempt to turn this into an attack? How dare they classify this as a statement against them in the culture war when the way to remain neutral, to them, is to just give them what they want? That’s not remaining neutral! That’s explicitly endorsing their side exclusively! How self serving of them, to think that neutrality is just them winning!

I could go on, pointing out how hypocritical it is to assert that presenting a gay family isn’t “being neutral,” and yet doing exactly the same thing for their side is just fine, or I could ask why depicting a straight family should be the neutral baseline while depicting a gay family at all is inherently taking a side, but that’s not the point. The point is that this is, in no way, a culture war. This talk of neutrality is entirely misrepresentative, when the hidden premise of the “neutrality” being asked for is to unreservedly give one side whatever they want. It’s not a war when the sole goal of one side is “to live in peace,” and the other’s is “my god says you can’t do that.” It’s not a war when it’s the work of one party entirely and the grievance is the existence of the other side at all.

That’s the objection One Million Moms has, plainly: other people aren’t pretending that gay people do not exist. If they acknowledge that gay people do exist, a completely factual statement, then they aren’t being neutral to the Moms’ self-imposed culture thing. But that’s not a war, that’s a campaign of erasure kicked off with no input at all from the party being erased, and no real world reason that this erasure should happen. That’s a cultural pogrom, not a cultural war.

If gay people were just left alone then they wouldn’t cause any trouble. This isn’t a war for them, nobody asked their opinion of this supposedly pitched cultural battle they’re in and, frankly, they don’t want to be a part of it. You can trust me on that, because I fall under the LGBTQ umbrella (I won’t say where) and all I want to do is live unimpeded, not cause trouble for a group of conservatives I don’t even know. I wouldn’t even think of One Million Moms if they’d just stop insisting that we’re at war.

The framing of a “culture war” implies that both sides are taking shots at one another, but that’s not true. What’s really happening is that one side is taking all the shots, and the other side is just insisting that they should be allowed to live their lives without being killed by those shots. Those shots, by the way, have made very real casualties for the gay side, actual people who have died because of the right’s insistent stoking of cultural homophobia, but never for the opposition. We don’t even want anybody to be killed on the other side, on any side… we just want to be left alone.

Only one side is actually fighting here, so let’s not lie and call this a culture war. This is a cultural invasion, and there is no neutral ground for the invaders. They’ve seen the cultural landscape turn toward acceptance for the LGBTQ members of society, and so they are attempting to push their ways onto us under the guise that their victory condition is some kind of fair and neutral compromise. Such self serving rhetoric should not go unanswered.

Wars have combatants. This is nothing more than an attack on people who want nothing to do with it. Call it what it is, not what the anti-gay side would prefer because it makes them look better.

Grey: Fifty Shades as told by a Garbage-Person, chapter six recap, part one

I spent much of the last recap being irritated with Grey’s hypocrisy after he kidnaps Ana and strips off her clothes, and lucky for all of us, when we return for the next chapter very little has changed:

Nearly two hours later, I come to bed. It’s just after 1:45. She’s fast asleep and hasn’t moved from where I left her. I strip, pull on my PJ pants and a T-shirt, and climb in beside her.

I would remind everyone that, in the last chapter, Ana’s consent was so very important when somebody else was violating it, but completely irrelevant when Grey decides he wants to do stuff with her. Now, with not a single thought about whether it may make Ana uncomfortable to have a near stranger crawling into bed with her when she’s not wearing pants, Grey just kinda… does exactly that. Because fuck what Ana wants, right?

To be clear, the man has other options. This isn’t one of those contrived romance novel scenarios where there’s only one bed and they have to sleep together; there’s a couch in that goddamn hotel suite. Hell, he’s rich enough to rent another room, if he wanted to. There’s simply no reason for him to do what he’s doing, and nobody wants to comment on that.

This is another one of those scenes that’s so much worse from Grey’s perspective than it is from Ana’s, because Ana was unconscious for the entirety of this part; her account ends at the bar, and comes back the next day. But when we see what Grey did during the same time period, we get an uncomfortable look at a guy with no boundaries taking advantage of a vulnerable woman, in what skirts rather too close to a date rape scene.

For seconds, minutes, hours, I don’t know, I watch her.

So much worse in this book.

There’s another one of those stupid single paragraph scenes, and I don’t need to say any more about how bad those are; when we come back it’s morning.

When was the last time I slept this late?
Slowly I turn my head, and she’s fast asleep, facing me. Her beautiful face soft in repose.

Can I just take a moment to point out how bad that last passage is? The last sentence is a fragment, that could easily have just been a part of the sentence before it with the addition of a comma, but I guess that doesn’t gel with the whole “I hate flowing prose and want my books to read like they’re going over a series of potholes,” aesthetic that James has, here.

Nobody edited this book, did they? Not a single soul laid eyes on it, from the time it was written, until publication.

Christian reflects that he’s never slept with a woman before, using language that it’ll continue to repeat until we all get bored with it; he’s had sex plenty of times, but never actually kept the woman in his bed afterward. He seems to like the experience, though, and he describes that in the single most eye-roll inducing line in the entire book:

My cock agrees.


I have read a lot of smut stories in my time. I have written more than I care to count. But never before have I seen a line as simultaneously lazy, uninspired, and skin-crawlingly grody as this one. I’ve read more than one reviewer of this book joke that Grey’s crotch halberd replaces Ana’s inner goddess as the source of the protagonist’s inner monologue, but frankly, that rationale would be too funny, too deliberate, to match what I know about how E.L James “writes.” Far more likely is the idea that this is all just lazy writing, that James just uses the penis as a shorthand for sexual thought, and has absolutely no handle on why repetitious wording is bad for prose.

With E.L James, incompetence is always more likely than deliberate design choices.

So Grey goes off to do other things, but whenever he’s in the room with Ana’s somnolent form he takes a moment to just totally perv out on her and get an erection. It’s at this point that I need to remind us all that he spent much of the last chapter looking down on Jose for possibly showing overt sexual interest in a drunk woman, but I guess it’s okay to do that once the woman has passed out and can no longer vocalize her objections.

This is another short scene, and the only events therein are Christian relating the shocking revelation that he’s attracted to Ana, and him getting her some aspirin. So, something we already know, and something so irrelevant and boring that there’s little point writing about it at all. While most books attempt to write about things that will stoke the reader’s interest, Grey is content to repeat the same two or three points over and over, and only ever depict terrible, boring things happening. And yet Grey is a huge bestseller, coming off the heels of three other bestsellers, while other authors struggle to get any form of name recognition at all, for the most part.

This is what I point to, when someone tries to tell me that the world has some sense of justice to it.

The scene ends with Grey going out for a run, and begins again with him returning, which is at least an appropriate scene transition for once, if still a little boring. Isn’t it sad that I have to point out every adequate design choice in this book, since there’s so few of them?

He orders some breakfast for the both of them, since he’s empowered himself to be the keeper of all her dietary decisions when he’s with her, and then this:

Time to wake the delectable Miss Steele; she’s slept enough.

Persistent sexual objectification aside, I don’t think it’s really Grey’s decision whether she’s slept enough or not. This man is such a control freak over the smallest of things, and I don’t want to hear that it’s a BDSM thing because it’s fucking not; it’s an abuse thing. I’m a dominant, and I understand that it’s not my place to control the actions of people I’m not in an agreed upon D/s relationship with; Christian is far more preoccupied with getting all of his kink shit in writing, and yet he’s more presumptuous regarding what he’s empowered to do than I’ve ever been.

Everything about the kink in this book just feels like a pretense for Grey to act like an awful person, and yet still get defended by people who mistakenly think they’re defending kink from close-minded anti-kinksters.

To my delight, she’s sitting up in bed. The tablets are gone and so is the juice.
Good girl.

Okay, I’m finding this “good girl” thing increasingly gross, because it’s becoming almost like a catchphrase. Whenever a woman does something that Grey approves of, he keeps saying that, like he’s patting her on the head and balancing a fucking treat on her nose. A: they’re people, not fucking dogs, and B: they oftentimes aren’t acting expressly to please Christian Grey, the unrepentant narcissist, more often than not they’re just doing their jobs, or obvious things, that Christian simply must make about himself, in the most sneering way possible.

There’s a time and a place, and being around any woman ever is not the time to be busting out the Dom stuff. It’s not sexy, it’s just sleazy. In any other story, the character making constant sexual come ons would be the gross secondary character who’s the butt of all the jokes, and adding BDSM to that doesn’t help any, that’s not some exception. In fact it actually reinforces a harmful stereotype, that dominants are overbearing on women that they merely want to be sexual with, under some belief that they can dominate them into, excuse the pun, submission. That may be true of some dominants in the kink community, but not the good ones; given the importance placed on consent in kink, the kind of dominant who would inject their sexuality into normal situations without that consent are the bad ones.

And hey: if it walks like a bad dom, and talks like a bad dom…

She pales as I saunter into the room.
Keep it casual, Grey. You don’t want to be charged with kidnapping.

Ahh, so he does understand that what he did last night could easily be seen as kidnapping, especially by the person he did it to! So he really doesn’t have an excuse for doing it; he knew it was wrong, but because it was what he wanted, he did it anyway, regardless of anyone else. Like a child would do.

Also, do take note of the fact that Ana sees him and goes pale; that’s a negative reaction. So Ana didn’t particularly want to wake up in this situation either. In fact, Ana spends the rest of this scene acting very uncomfortable in Grey’s presence, and on the one hand I have to congratulate E.L James for writing her very first realistic character reaction ever, but on the other, it means that this scene is way more evil and uncomfortable than she intended, so I guess she’s back to zero, potentially even negative one, since she doesn’t seem to realize that’s how it’s coming off.

Ana (tentatively) tries to feel out what happened to her after she passed out, and everything about the way she acts says “scared,” to me:

“We didn’t—?” she whispers, staring at her hands.
Christ, what kind of animal does she think I am?

Gosh, yes, where would Ana get the idea that you might have tried to have sex with her while she’s unconscious, after you kidnapped her and took off her clothes? And don’t think I’ve forgotten that you will literally rape her later in the book, so let’s not get too arch over her questioning, Grey. This is not the time for you to look askance at the woman, if for no other reason than that it’s honestly a pretty good question to ask; she doesn’t know Grey, she’s spent an extended period of time unconscious in his presence, and all the information in her possession points in that direction. We may not like it, but women do live in a world where rape is unfortunately very common, the idea that Ana’s wrong to even consider it here is directly contrary to the fact that, well, it’s pretty standard safety procedures, for many women. E.L James is a woman, it’s kinda surprising seeing her react to that question as though it’s unreasonable.

“Anastasia, you were comatose. Necrophilia is not my thing.” My tone is dry. “I like my women sentient and receptive.”

*Sigh* Okay, maybe this is a nitpick, but since it’s symptomatic of a larger issue with a lack of research in this damn book, I don’t care: necrophilia is a paraphilia focused on dead people, not unconscious or comatose ones. The word James is looking for is somnophilia.

Ana “sags with relief,” at hearing this, which, I mean… romance novel, right? That’s the kind of reaction you want from your heroine toward your romantic hero, eh? She apologizes, presumably embarrassed, and we get this from Christian:

Hell. Maybe I should go easy on her.

Why would you want to go hard on her? No, seriously: why is a course of action that would undoubtedly make her feel bad even on the table to him? Hell, why was it his first reaction before she causes him to rethink it? Why is that where he goes?

More than once now, we’ve seen Christian deliberately set down a path of antagonism or criticism of Ana, when he doesn’t need to, for no reason. It seems to be his basal assumption when talking to Ana, that he’ll take the route that causes her the most discomfort wherever it presents itself. He called it “fun” in the last chapter, and went there the moment she gave him an opening, without a second thought. Here, it was where he started, and only backed off when she was appropriately contrite. It’s like he enjoys humiliating her, and not in a kinky way, and that’s the behavior of a sociopath, not a romantic candidate for her. It’s a huge red flag of future abuse.

But let’s be charitable, and presume that he was merely going to henpeck her over her poor choices last night so she doesn’t repeat her mistakes in future: he still doesn’t have that right. He’s only known her for a few days, she’s an acquaintance at best: where does he get off, lecturing her like that? She’s a goddamn adult.

Thankfully, Ana herself seems to realize this shortly thereafter, and she points out something that she really should have done from the beginning:

“You didn’t have to track me down with whatever James Bond gadgetry you’re developing for the highest bidder.”
Whoa! Now she’s pissed. Why?

I love Grey’s response here, because it’s so delightfully insipid, questioning why she’s mad when she literally just got through telling him why she’s mad, but also when Grey himself has acknowledged that what he did was wrong. There’s no reason for that “why?” to be there, except to make Christian look like a derpy child sociopath, unable to understand why it is that he’s in trouble. Not that his “ooh, she mad now!” crap before it doesn’t do that job perfectly well, in its reductive flippancy, but the “why?” just makes him look like an alien attempting to understand why the hu-man is angry.

“First, the technology to track cell phones is available over the Internet.”
Well, the Deep Net…
“Second, my company does not invest or manufacture any kind of surveillance devices.”
My temper is fraying, but I’m on a roll. “And third, if I hadn’t come to get you, you’d probably be waking up in the photographer’s bed, and from what I can remember, you weren’t overly enthused about him pressing his suit.”

Christian gets all arch and attempts to defend his actions, and the results are predictably off point; his excuses center around correcting irrelevant technicalities and preening about how he’s totally correct in hindsight based upon equally irrelevant fantasies of what might have happened with the huge leap of logic that Jose is a rapist too, which Ana should have known better than to accept off hand. At no point does Christian even seem to understand the real reason why Ana’s upset which- and I shouldn’t have to tell you this- actually has nothing to do with whether Christian’s company makes the technology that he used to track her, and everything to do with the violation of her privacy and boundaries that the use of such technology on her represents. Ana isn’t mad because she was tracked with Grey Corp (or whatever the fuck that company is called) phone tracking software, she’s mad because she was tracked at all, like an animal.

Grey either doesn’t get that, or is trying to sidetrack to avoid getting in trouble himself, but none of those things absolve him. It’s just more important to ignore how poorly he handled the situation last night, so that the readers don’t get it into their heads that their precious main character’s actions were way over the line.

Anyway, Ana laughs at Grey because his speech patterns are increasingly becoming English to the point of absurdity, and Grey of course takes a moment to be a frowny little poo-baby over that, like he has to every time someone dares to express anything less than reverent worship in his presence. She says he sounds like some knight from an old story, and in the fine tradition of pretentious teenagers playing at misanthropy everywhere, Christian grumbles back, “Dark Knight maybe…”

Presumably Ana then goes on to swoon and write his name surrounded by love hearts in her trapper keeper.

Hopefully as embarrassed about what he just said as I am for him, Christian goes on to, yes, admonish Ana over her eating habits, so if you’ll all just cross that off your checklists you’ll see we’ve gone through all of the repetitious crap in this chapter that has been present in every other chapter. Ana, at least, calls him out on his infantilizing nonsense this time, if briefly, and Christian responds by slipping on his “I must never hint at my kink proclivities to anybody ever,” commitment, and nobody ever comments on it, which you’d think would be a sign for Grey to relax his weird, OCD deathgrip on his sexuality, but no:

“Well, if you were mine, you wouldn’t be able to sit down for a week after the stunt you pulled yesterday. You didn’t eat, you got drunk, you put yourself at risk.”

But it’s at this point that I have to ask whether Grey’s trying to be Ana’s dominant, or her parent? Because policing eating and drinking habits and dictating when a girl can go out tend to be the jurisdiction of the latter, not the former, unless they’re engaged in a particularly old-timey variation on 24-hour power exchange, which Christian has not expressed any interest in before now.

Grey continues to make unfounded assumptions about how Kate wouldn’t have been there for Ana, and about Jose, and of course he dismisses Ana’s rebuttals, because obviously he knows more about her friends than she does, after all, he’s Christian Grey! How could he ever be wrong?

Because everything in this book is geared around Christian being into BDSM without ever configuring the plot so that any of that might seem natural and not forced, Ana calls Christian a “disciplinarian,” because that’s totally the way an American college student talks. There’s some more vague, second hand dancing around the idea that Christian’s into kink, and it’s now that I have to add that we’re six chapters into the book, and have been proceeding along mentioning Christian’s sexual fetishes for the bulk of the book, and yet nobody has yet written the word BDSM. Seriously, we’re so far into the book and nobody has bothered to explicitly note that Christian’s into kink, it just assumes that we should all already know that without having to be told. No new fans here, right?

I’m beginning to suspect that the consumer base for this series shrank rather noticeably after the release of this book, even considering the rather… broad tastes of the fans of the other books in the series.

An image of her shackled to my bench, peeled gingerroot inserted in her ass so she can’t clench her buttocks, comes to mind, followed by judicious use of a belt or strap. Yeah…That would teach her not to be so irresponsible.

I’ll be honest: I actually snickered when reading this line during my note-taking. The ginger root thing is a real thing, it’s not, you know, horrifying on its own or anything, but it really does feel like amateur hour to me. It’s the sort of thing I suspect a writer could find by hitting up Google with the phrase “secret BDSM tricks.” It’s not the kind of thing I’ve ever seen an actual, real life BDSM practitioner all fired up and pumped to do.

She’s staring at me wide-eyed and dazed, and it makes me uncomfortable. Can she read my mind?

I know this is supposed to be rhetorical, but consider that Christian spent an earlier scene telepathically telling Ana to break eye contact with him, so I’m entirely ready to believe that Christian is seriously asking if the woman can read his mind, which is a just hilarious consequence of how weirdly this book is written.

She’s hard to resist, and I grant myself permission to touch her, tracing the line of her cheek with my thumb.

Oh, you gave yourself permission, did you? And apparently that’s sufficient to perform the action too, since you just went ahead and pawed at her… so where’s Ana’s permission for that? Does it even matter, here?

Remember how Christian was all “she doesn’t want this!” when Jose was physically contacting Ana without her consent before? Remember how self righteous he’s still being about that, even earlier in this chapter? But when it’s him, all that matters is his own permission, apparently. Hmm.

In what strikes me as an act of the most sublime mercy, these two idiots are separated, and Christian wanders off to shower. While he’s alone, he wonders what to do with Ana, and this is problematic because the conversation is the exact same flip-flop that he’s engaged in every other chapter since he met her:

She’s still here, in my bed, so she cannot find me completely repulsive. I noticed the way her breath caught in her throat, and how her gaze followed me around the room.
Yeah. There’s hope.
But would she make a good submissive?
It’s obvious she knows nothing of the lifestyle. She couldn’t even say “fuck” or “sex” or whatever bookish college students use as a euphemism for fucking these days. She’s quite the innocent. She’s probably been subjected to a few fumbling encounters with boys like the photographer.

Leaving aside again the stupid assumptions about Ana being “innocent,” I’m getting pretty tired of being exposed to these roundabout “Clearly she likes me, but would she make a good submissive?” things. Christian never actually resolves this issue one way or another, he merely dances the same steps; Ana is inexperienced, she wants romance, maybe kink, so she could be a submissive, ad infinitum. James even writes it in the same words, nearly every time, and it’s all completely unnecessary, because James seems to know that she’s not going to be courting new readers with this book; if the only audience you’re interested in is the one that already knows what’s going to happen, then these conversations Christian has with himself really are just wasteful, repetitious nonsense.

I get that it’s an important question to ask, that from Christian’s perspective he has no idea whether Ana will be receptive to his kinks or not, but if it’s just going to be framed the exact same way, and Christian takes six chapters to actually resolve to progress the issue, then it’s all just sort of pointless. And that’s really frustrating, actually, because there’s an actual human moment to be had, that would be real and authentic and a good look at kink, in portraying a man getting increasingly nervous over revealing his kink to a sexual partner; that’s a sort of relationship milestone that I think many kinksters have had, filled with awkwardness and relief when it’s over, you know, relatable things that a human being might empathize with.

But once again, something like that gets passed over entirely, because this book doesn’t seem to know how to have an honest, real moment with its characters. Instead, we just get another boring, pablum conversation with Grey. It’d be sad, if it wasn’t so terribly expected.

We do get the slightest bit of progress however, in that Grey comes to the brilliant conclusion, after so much roundabout contemplation, that Ana can only react to his kinks, either positively or negatively, if she knows about them. Isn’t it interesting, how it took six chapters to get from “I’m imagining fucking this woman,” to “I’d better tell this woman I want to have sex with her?”

I know I’m recapping the chapter, but recounting the boring shit that happens here gets increasingly difficult; a recap is supposed to be about the highlights, but there are no highlights here, just endless mundane nonsense; Grey get out of the bathroom, and then Ana goes into the bathroom… How exactly am I supposed to make this interesting or fun to read?

Things begin to be, you know, about things when room service shows up, though mostly the thing they get to be is Christian’s delusional narcissism:

“Just call room service when you want the table cleared, sir,” Miss Dark Eyes says with a coquettish look, as if she’s offering more.
My chilly smile warns her off.

Just can’t have a woman who doesn’t fawn all over Mr. Grey, after all. Unfortunately for E.L James, having this book be first person means, by necessity, that everything we see is filtered through Christian’s subjective lens, and since she didn’t see fit to add any more detail that might actually establish that the woman is attracted to Grey, it just seems like he’s convincing himself that she totally is, so there. It’s hilariously desperate sounding, especially in light of the fact that he relies on a rich friend to supply him with women, whom he then contractually obligates to have casual sex with him for money and gifts.

Just… just thought I’d keep that in all of your minds: Christian gets his hook ups for submissives from Elena, he doesn’t charm them himself or anything. I submit that there’s probably a good reason for that.

Also, please note that Christian continues in his complete inability to refer to people respectfully; he’s always got to have some belittling or demeaning nickname for them, generally referencing their appearance, rather than just using pronouns or learning their names. His condescension extends to his internal narration too; he’s just that terrible of a person, and yet we’re supposed to be invested in him?

It’s at this point that Grey gets a text from Elliot:

My phone buzzes—a text from Elliot.
Kate wants to know if Ana is still alive.

I chuckle, somewhat mollified that Ana’s so-called friend is thinking about her. It’s obvious that Elliot hasn’t given his dick a rest after all his protestations yesterday. I text back.
Alive and kicking 😉

So, the book plays all this off like a big joke- “Ho ho ho, so did you murder the girl you kidnapped last night or not, you big japester you?”- but I really have my doubts that Kate actually meant it that way… there’s plenty of reasons for her to ask that question seriously, after all. From Kate’s perspective, Ana disappeared last night, apparently with a near total stranger to her, who spent the night studiously controlling the information that Kate got about Ana, receiving it only third hand through someone previously affiliated with Christian (Elliot). Kate hasn’t heard from Ana all night, and Ana does have a phone, so why could that be?

Grey is flippant about this, E.L James clearly wants us to think it’s quaint, but a little empathy with Kate shows that the question represents some very legitimate concerns she might be having, that are erased in this desperate march toward excusing Christian’s bad behavior.

When Ana returns she actually echoes my sentiment for a second, realizing that she hasn’t checked in with Kate to let her know she’s fine, but then she’s oddly trusting of Grey, her kidnapper, when he says (and potentially lies to her) that Kate totally knows where she is. I guess Ana might have been a bit distracted though, since a moment later she decides to cough up a bit of that dictionary she apparently ate the night before in a drunken stupor:

“I didn’t know what you liked, so I ordered a selection from the breakfast menu,” I mutter by way of an apology.
“That’s very profligate of you,” she says.

Okay, yeah, yeah, E.L James got a word-a-day calendar I guess, but this is still ridiculous writing; no human being speaks that way casually, let alone an American college student. It is, however, exactly the way a British housewife would write her Mary Sue self-insert fan fiction heroine in order to sound smart to the readers on

But I guess it’d be too much to ask for any pretense that this isn’t just a rehash of earlier, free work, wouldn’t it?

Ana questions why Christian keeps buying her shit, and though his internal narration makes it clear that it’s because he likes her and wants to keep seeing her, he continues to lie to her by saying the opposite, that it’s a “warning” to stay away, because isn’t it romantic for a guy to begin a potential relationship with a campaign of lies and stalking? Weirdly, the passage where all this occurs continues the theme of Christian suspecting Ana of being telepathic, because he genuinely wonders if she knows what he’s thinking a few times during it. Like, in a way that’s too specific to be just a “she sees right through me,” turn of phrase kind of deal.

Finally though, he does admit that he finds her irresistible, and I wonder why, because he knows so little about her as a person that even a Love-At-First-Sight storyline is straining it a bit. It’s taken us six chapters to get here, but Christian finally resolves to show her his kinks, in the most dramatic and pompous “I need a whole date with you to tell you I’m into bondage” way possible.

“Are you smirking at me, Miss Steele?” I can’t hide my amusement.
Oh, she’d be a joy to train…challenging, maddening woman.

Okay… So I know E.L James has never participated in BDSM, nor has she done even a single second of research into the actual interpersonal dynamics behind it, so this goes without saying, but what she’s written here is inaccurate. Christian assumes that because Ana isn’t being completely reverent to him right now, she would continue to “challenge” him were she his submissive, and it doesn’t surprise me that the subtleties of what’s happening here elude him, but you can’t actually make assumptions of how a person would act in one situation, based upon their actions in another.

Ana is giving Christian a hard time as an equal, she is talking to him in a less than perfectly respectful manner because she is in a situation where that is okay to do. There’s no reason to think that she wouldn’t act in ways that Christian wants should she agree to become his submissive. But that’s not even a thing that she knows is on the cards, because Christian is determined to make it into this huge, world-shaking secret that need only be spoken in hushed whispers, after sweeping the room for spy bugs.

The fact is, the role one takes on in a BDSM context is exactly that, a role that you play in a specific context. For the most part it’s not wise to take those behaviors outside of the bedroom (or playroom, or study, or kitchen…) because they’re specifically geared toward sexy play with particular people who have prearranged for those roles; people who haven’t consented for you to treat them in those ways probably won’t appreciate it very much when you do. Thus, who you are in your kink life and who you are in your real life are two distinct states that do not inform each other, or at least don’t have to, and frankly, this is something that anybody writing about BDSM should already be aware of. It’s already a cornerstone narrative trope of kink fiction- the assertive, loudmouth person longing to be dominated, the shy, quiet man who’s a dominant livewire once he gets you alone, that sort of thing- so much so that I refuse to believe that anybody who has actually read a good deal of kink fiction could come away with the reverse impression. But then, I suppose that’s the problem, isn’t it?

I am a shy person who is a BDSM dominant. My submissive is incredibly assertive in real life, so much so that she occasionally embarrasses me in public by being that way. In the bedroom though, she’s the perfect little submissive, and I act in ways that I never could in public; who you are as a kinkster does not have to imply things about your public persona, nor vice versa, and Grey is wrong to think otherwise.

Hey, at least something’s finally happening between these two, which is pleasant; it’s such a shock to see this pair stop just dancing around one another, never saying anything honest or of value. But then Christian says something dumb, and I remember what I’m reading, so I stop having positive thoughts:

“Because I’m not going to touch you, Anastasia—not until I have your written consent to do so.”

I’m just going to say this: Christian’s conception of BDSM is weird. Written consent is a fine thing, it’s something that you occasionally see crop up in real life kink in the form of a slave contract or somesuch, but Christian’s resistance to even discussing the subject without an ironclad written agreement of silence is so over the top as to be ridiculous. This book doesn’t take place, like, fifty years ago or anything. It takes place less than a decade ago; we live in an era where having a kink isn’t the instantaneous smear against one’s professional reputation, and even if it was, what does that matter to Grey? He owns his own company, he’s rich as fuck and, apparently, central to whatever industries he’s actually involved in, so what risk does he bear, here? What, is he gonna lose his job at his own company? Is he gonna have to pay the kink tax and end up broke?

What’s weirdest about all this is that it doesn’t even come up later; I can’t even accuse Grey’s secretive behavior of being a manufactured conflict for later in the series because once Ana’s in the fold it never comes up again, as far as I can recall. It’s certainly not central to the narrative. It is, in every sense, a throwaway thing, and the only conclusion that I can come to because of that is that E.L James really does think that BDSM is some shameful secret that needs to be buried deep and never spoken about in polite society, that what she describes as Christian’s precautions are necessary.

In retrospect, of course, we can see how laughable this notion is: Fifty Shades of Grey is a bestselling novel series that was adapted into a similarly successful movie, and it didn’t get that way because it’s a brilliant example of literature. People picked this book up- even read it in public!- because they were interested in the kinks contained in it. For a while, a little cottage industry popped up selling Fifty Shades-styled BDSM accouterments and romance stuff. One thing we can take away from all this is that, contrary to Fifty Shades’ own premise, BDSM is not some rare, dark secret that needs to be concealed from the public at all costs. We didn’t see a rash of housewives being persecuted in the streets because they picked up this series. E.L James did not face any serious public backlash for being a kinkster even when it became clear that she liked this stuff upon the book’s release. Hell, even the initial fan fiction version of the book evidently gained enough positive feedback to justify an attempt to publish it.

Christian Grey treats his kink like some great dark secret, fit to rend his life asunder if it ever got out, but the truth is that we’ve known this is false for a long time, certainly since the release of the first novel. All his theatrics are entirely unnecessary, and the self-seriousness with which the characters treat all this is far funnier because of that.

Not that it, you know, stops Grey at all:

“Well, we could go to Seattle this evening or next Saturday for dinner at my place, and I’ll acquaint you with the facts then. The choice is yours.”
“Why can’t you tell me now?”
“Because I’m enjoying my breakfast and your company. Once you’re enlightened, you probably won’t want to see me again.”

The assumption that a woman would be so repulsed by BDSM that she flees the practitioner permanently is pretty ridiculous on its own- especially when we factor in the maybe four meetings that Christian has had with Ana, none of which contained conversations on sexuality- but it becomes especially so when it comes from the mouth of a protagonist lusted after by millions of fans for precisely that kink. This series’ success undercuts central establishing premises of the narrative, and it’s actually kinda breathtaking how E.L James never seems to deviate from the clearly untrue things that inform the beginnings of her work. Grey, if nothing else, presented a chance to correct certain things that didn’t gel about the original series, and frankly any writer worth their salt would kill to be in that position, to have success enough to have an opportunity to go back and play with their work, but E.L James apparently doesn’t care and is content to just shunt out the same story once more. This commitment to isolation, to not caring, to refusing to experiment, either on her part or on the part of her publisher, is just… depressing.

This problem is only compounded by the dire, self-important tone that Grey himself insists on striking:

“Like Eve, you’re so quick to eat from the tree of knowledge,” I taunt her.

I get that this is supposed to be a little tongue in cheek, but the thing is that these sorts of references, delivered like they are, aren’t very common in normal conversation, let alone between a pair of American twenty-somethings. The dialogue is just stunted enough to seem unreal, the literary reference just a little too far-reaching, and so it ends up being just another line in a near endless series of lines where Christian takes himself way too seriously. Every time he calls some part of his personality “dark,” or likens himself to a figure in classic literature, he becomes a little more of a self-important try-hard. He’s little more than a pompous narcissist; nobody likes being around people who can’t make light of themselves and demands that everyone else take them as seriously as they do, and yet this is literally the persona of the main character of this book. It’s completely insufferable.

Anyway, Christian decides to show off some more and arranges for his private helicopter to be readied so he can fly Ana to his home for this self-important big reveal. When he treats Taylor like a servant rather than an employee, Ana expresses the slightest disapproval at his commanding tone, and Christian gets remarkably defensive:

“Usually, if they want to keep their jobs.” Don’t question how I treat my staff.

“Because I treat them badly, and I don’t want to face any negative consequences for that!”

If you thought that I was just being unkind by asserting that Christian was showing off with the helicopter, he then goes on to all but confirm this, taking great delight in how shocked Ana is that he owns a helicopter. It’s kind of a gross moment where he basically waves his dick around, and then commands Ana to eat more food, because what we really needed was more diet policing from a man she barely knows. He says he “has an issue with wasted food,” as though that’s somehow Ana’s problem, like everyone just has to kowtow to his vaguely sketched “issues.” He admitted earlier that he ordered too much food, but apparently now this is everyone else’s fault, and he compounds this by shaming Ana some more over what happened last night.

What a catch this guy is, right?

We get another skin-crawly moment where he calls her “good girl,” after she does something he wants, and when Ana gets up to do other things it finally occurs to her to ask one of those important questions one should ask after waking up in the company of your kidnapper:

“Where did you sleep last night?” she asks.
“In my bed.” With you.
“Yes, it was quite a novelty for me, too.”
“Not having…sex.”
She said the s-word…and the telltale pink cheeks appear.
How can I tell her this, without it sounding weird?
Just tell her, Grey.
“Sleeping with someone.” Nonchalantly, I turn my attention back to the sports section and the write-up on last night’s game, then watch as she disappears into the bedroom.
No, that didn’t sound weird at all.

So… okay, we already heard this exact same statement from Grey earlier, that he’s never slept with someone before, so why do we need to hear it now? Or, to be more exact, why did we have to hear it before? There’s no need to repeat information that the reader already knows, but there was simply no need to have the first iteration of this exact sentence earlier when it works so much better here. The first time Grey mentioned this, it was to himself in the night, and so it was just information presented in a context-less void. Here, we have an opportunity to see both Christian’s feelings toward that fact (see, as opposed to just being straight up told in narration) and how Ana would react to knowing that Grey has never slept with another person before. Of course, this is a missed opportunity even as a repetition, because as usual James spares all the details and just leaves bare dialogue for the majority of this scene.

Reading this book is like being blind, at times: we hear a lot of talking without any context or visuals surrounding it, and so we miss out on all those subtle cues and actions that real people use when they’re around others. It is immensely to the detriment of this novel that the writer seems so disinterested in actually writing, in painting the scene with anything other than the bare minimum of things to push the “story” along.

In another interesting moment of “no new readers will ever pick this book up,” Christian sends out for an NDA but refuses to actually explain what it’s for in anything other than the vaguest of language. The fact that Christian gets the women he kinks with to sign nondisclosure agreements was already one of the harder sells in the original novel- James handwaves it with some nonsense about his reputation, which is undercut both by the fact that clearly, BDSM is more popular than she thinks, and that Christian’s a CEO and his livelihood isn’t dependent on a public image of purity- and since it gets no explanation at all here it just comes totally out of left field. It’s not like BDSM was a state fucking secret before this series showed how popular it truly is, after all.

After a particularly unintentionally funny passage in which Christian’s assistant calls him to talk about something important related to his charitable works toward starving children and Christian tunes her out to ogle Ana, the two of them finally leave this interminable scene.

“Ready to go?” I ask Ana. She nods. I grab my jacket and car keys and follow her out the door. She peeks at me through long lashes as we walk toward the elevator, and her lips curl into a shy smile. My lips twitch in response.
What the hell is she doing to me?

I love this. I love that a girl Christian likes smiles at him, which causes him to smile back, and his first reaction is “what is happening to my mouth? Am a malfunctioning? Is this hu-mon love?” E.L James makes it so damn easy to imagine that Christian is some kind of alien, like a less charming Ford Prefect from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, who still hasn’t figured out how the Earthlings work.

And then Christian pops a boner in the elevator, and I just lose my fucking shit.

The elevator arrives, and I allow her to step in first. I press the first-floor button and the doors close. In the confines of the elevator, I’m completely aware of her. A trace of her sweet fragrance invades my senses…Her breathing alters, hitching a little, and she peeks up at me with a bright come-hither look.
She bites her lip.
She’s doing this on purpose. And for a split second I’m lost in her sensual, mesmerizing stare. She doesn’t back down.
I’m hard.
I want her.
In the elevator.

Okay, listen: leaving aside that this passage looks like a fucking shopping list because of all the single words, you can’t just force eroticism like that. It’s not a switch you can flip, you can’t just be all “NOW IS THE TIME TO BE AROUSED!” and expect everyone to follow along with you.  Sensuality builds, grows slowly, desire needs to be stoked. Yes, spontaneity is a good thing, and I absolutely understand the idea of setting a sexy scene in an elevator, but there’s a difference between spontaneous actions and spontaneous writing. In this case we’re dealing with the latter, where just a few sentences before we were talking about Darfur or some shit, and then suddenly Christian’s getting erections at elevator music and the pace of the scene has gone all to hell. Slow the fuck down and spend some time describing Christian’s reactions and what Ana is doing, don’t just throw yourself instantly into sex mode. Grey’s actions can be spontaneous, but the writing shouldn’t be: we shouldn’t just get “I am horny now,” and then he goes for the kiss, that’s asinine.

It’s a real pity too, because what follows that passage is a line that could actually have been pretty effective in a story that spent some time building tension and empathy with Christian’s position, rather than just cavalierly demanding that we switch moods to something else whenever James wants us to:

“Oh, fuck the paperwork.” The words come from nowhere and on instinct I grab her and push her against the wall. Clasping both her hands, I pin them above her head so she can’t touch me, and once she’s secure, I twist my other hand in her hair while my lips seek and find hers.

This here? This is just fine, except for the bit where Grey stops to literally explain that he doesn’t want her touching him. For one, I think that’s plenty established by now, but in any case you don’t just tell that. “Show don’t tell,” that’s fucking basic writing advice. Jesus.

She moans into my mouth, the call of a siren, and finally I can sample her: mint and tea and an orchard of mellow fruitfulness

I… don’t think Grey knows what the deal is with Sirens. Also, what the hell is an “orchard of mellow fruitfulness”?

A few sentences later Grey, a literal millionaire, says that Ana’s kiss reminds him of a “time of plenty,” which somehow isn’t right this goddamn second because, you know, millionaire. If I’d written a sentence like that my editor would have been up my ass about it before she’d even finished the paragraph.

And then something happens that is going to keep happening throughout, and it’s just so baffling a design choice that I have to bring it up at its first instance, though I promise I’ll have more to say when it starts to become a real problem:

“You. Are. So. Sweet,” I murmur against her lips, completely intoxicated, punch-drunk with her scent and taste.

Oh. Oh god.

This is one of those things that Grey’s detractors keep pointing to to support their position, and I can absolutely see why; Christian’s habit of punctuating. every. word. during sexy or romantic scenes is the sort of verbal tic that just drags down the mood of whatever scene it’s in. It’s so ridiculously clunky and awkward sounding that I legitimately have a hard time believing that an editorial team would have let it through, have the Fifty Shades series not originally dealt with the lowered expectations of the small publishing house that it was initially published as a print-on-demand book.

Grey does this all the time and it’s absolute murder on one’s ability to take this story at all seriously. I could potentially see it being acceptable (once or twice, not every fucking time) if he were saying each word between kissing Ana, but the writing never makes it clear that that’s what he’s doing and so I can’t exactly give this novel the benefit of the doubt, since it hasn’t earned it at all before now. I could go on and on about how dumb this is, but it’ll come up later so we’ll get to it.

For some reason, Grey chastises himself for kissing Ana once the elevator reaches their floor, and we get yet another stunning example of the lack of self awareness in this book:

When was the last time I lost control?

When you ordered a background check on a woman because you thought she was hot. Oh, no, when you stalked a woman because you thought she was hot! Oh, wait, how about that time you kidnapped a woman because you thought she was hot?

Also remember this line for later in the chapter, it’ll come in handy.

“You’ve brushed your teeth,” I observe with wry amusement.
“I used your toothbrush,” she says, eyes shining.
Of course she has…and for some reason, I find this pleasing, too pleasing. I stifle my smile.


But she hasn’t run.
Even though I jumped her in the elevator.
I should say something about what happened in there—but what?
How was that for you?
What the hell are you doing to me?

Grey has asked himself what Ana is “doing to him,” several times during this interlude, and aside from just being repetitious, it kinda irritates me because it puts all the focus on women for the sexual decisions men make. Grey can’t quite understand that the things he feels, and the way he acts upon them, are products of his own psyche and not something Ana is doing; Ana isn’t doing anything to him, he’s attracted to her and decided to kiss her in an elevator without waiting for her consent. Yes, she was into it, but that doesn’t mean that his attraction to her is some sort of concerted, conscious plan on her part. Too often men in fiction- and out of it- put the onus and responsibility for their sexual attractions onto the women they’re attracted to, as though if they didn’t want what they got then they should have somehow acted to quell the desire of the man, as though that’s their job. Grey is just one in a long line of male romantic leads to do this, but I gotta point it out when I see it, you know?

Ana isn’t doing anything to Grey, Grey is simply projecting his desires onto her. Ana has nothing to do with it until he sees fit to communicate it to her… which he didn’t do, instead just kissing her. There’s the problem.

They go off to… whatever, and we all endure an utterly horrible conversation about Christian’s taste in musing and other awful shit that nobody wants to hear about, and then Christian is a disrespectful, infantilizing ass again:

“Why do you insist on calling me Anastasia?” she asks.
“Because it’s your name.”
“I prefer Ana.”
“Do you, now?”
“Ana” is too everyday and ordinary for her. And too familiar. Those three letters have the power to wound…
And in that moment I know that her rejection, when it comes, will be hard to take. It’s happened before, but I’ve never felt this…invested. I don’t even know this girl, but I want to know her, all of her. Maybe it’s because I’ve never chased a woman.
Grey, get control of yourself and follow the rules, otherwise this will all go to shit.
“Anastasia,” I say, ignoring her disapproving look.

Because what do Ana’s preferences matter, eh? She’s only the girl you’re developing feelings for, after all. Clearly it’s more important that you have your way on every single point, Christian.

Grey, get control of yourself and follow the rules, otherwise this will all go to shit.

I hate to ask, but are these rules of his actually informed by anything? Did Christian have some experiences in his past that led to the formulation of his secretive practices? Has he ever tried not following the rules?

The series never establishes where these rules came from, and seems to just treat them as necessary and prudent precautions to take, things that anybody would come up with if they were in the position of being a kinkster. It should be obvious that this isn’t true; I’m fairly open about my kinks, and I’ve not suffered a single negative consequence of that. So I simply can’t presuppose the things Grey asks me to. If Christian is supposed to exist in the real world then it is apparent that his rules are more for his benefit, so that he can maintain the illusion of being some outcast loner.

“Anastasia,” I say, ignoring her disapproving look. “What happened in the elevator—it won’t happen again—well, not unless it’s premeditated.”
That keeps her quiet as I park outside her apartment. Before she can answer me I climb out of the car, walk around and open her door.
As she steps onto the sidewalk, she gives me a fleeting glance. “I liked what happened in the elevator,” she says.
You did?

Oh, for god’s sake! She clearly kissed you back, you fucking moron! Did you actually need her to yell it into a fucking megaphone? Are you so completely unable to read body language and reactions that a woman literally sticking her tongue in your mouth isn’t a strong enough sign that she liked it when you kissed her? If so, you definitely shouldn’t be a dominant: reading your submissive is one of the most important skills you need there, and you clearly don’t have it.

Returning to Ana’s place, Christian proceeds to secretly insult every person in the room, mostly Kate for daring to be a woman and not also omniscient and entirely dedicated to only doing things that Christian Grey approves of, but he also takes time to get territorial over Elliot when he dares to… greet Ana upon meeting her?

Elliot hugs Ana, holding her for a moment too long.
“Hi, Ana,” he says, all fucking smiles.
“Hi, Elliot.” She beams.
Okay, this is becoming unbearable. “Elliot, we’d better go.” And take your hands off her.

You can often tell a lot about a person from what they say, and Christian’s reactions whenever a man is around Ana is projection of the highest order. He assumes that every male figure around her has purely sexual interest in her at all times because he only has sexual interest in her at all times, and he literally cannot imagine a person who wouldn’t treat an attractive woman as anything other than a sexual object.

And even if Elliot is being overtly sexual to Ana, it’s not Christian’s fucking decision whether they stop or not. I don’t care if Ana literally straddles Elliot’s hot throbbing Grey cock and rides him until the table breaks, that is entirely their decision and Christian’s approval or disapproval does not factor into it unless they decide that it does. Christian is not the gatekeeper of Ana’s body; maybe she likes the way Elliot looks and just wants some uncomplicated casual sex with someone less demanding and secretive than Christian is proving to be. He doesn’t get to order people off of her just because he is attracted to her: his attraction doesn’t confer responsibilities to be virginal upon Ana.

What’s weird is that, as defensive as Christian is around Ana, he’s equally displeased when Elliot displays sexual interest in a woman that Christian hasn’t decided he owns. He’s all like “oh, how unseemly, kissing a girl in public,” right after he kissed Ana in an elevator, which is arguably more public than in someone’s home. But hey, Christian is perfect and we all need to do as he says, not as he does.

Ultimately this scene is just another opportunity for Christian to be all like “Ana just wants romance and I don’t do that,” as if the idea that a person can want two things is some impossible leap of logic to him. For all the pretense of having these broad sexual horizons, he certainly does have an extremely limited view of other people and how they might approach sex.

And now we have the “let’s tie up some loose ends!” scene!

In quick succession- like, quick even for this book- we go through Jose’s background check (he’s clean but for a minor marijuana charge, which Christian baselessly disapproves of, of course) and the NDA thing, which actually raises a lot of questions. Obviously the language on that thing would have to be pretty exacting regarding the nature of what Ana cannot disclose, but he got it sent to him by his secretary so… does she just know about his kinks? Did she have to sign the NDA too? What if Ana just doesn’t sign it, the wording would have to at least hint at what he’s trying to hide, wouldn’t it? So wouldn’t she be able to glean it from that?

… Well, this is Ana we’re talking about, she’s not the brightest knife in the shed.

The scene goes by very fast and there’s nothing there that couldn’t be folded into the next scene I guess, but James seems to favor these pointless infodumps where we don’t even get any scene setting so they might as well just have taken place floating in outer space.It seriously is just a few paragraphs thrown in to deal with all the unnecessary plot threads that James has put in place without any seeming interest in weaving them into the mainline narrative. That, I think, is the biggest problem with this: Jose’s background check and Christian’s NDA won’t factor into the story at all beyond the end of this chapter, they literally mean nothing beyond this point, so why do we need to stop to hear about them? Why do they deserve a conclusion, let alone any form of throughline, if they have no purpose? They aren’t even good flavor because they add nothing to the characters. It’s just padding to fill out a word count, I suppose.

At the end of the “scene,” Elliot wants to go hiking, and since absolutely every scene just has to end a sentence after something happens in it, we then cut to them doing exactly that. There’s another all too brief glimpse of Christian as a child, as the forest evokes some memories of the past, but it’s literally like three lines, and I can’t help but feel that this story would be tremendously improved if only James had any interest in her characters, but it’s so clear that she doesn’t. Perhaps she cared about the characters from Twilight that all of these ones are carbon copies of, back when she was writing this for free before the promise of reward turned her work into this mercenary crap, but Christian Grey? No. No, and you can feel it in how she won’t allow him to have even a proper paragraph to breathe as a character.

How can we begin to care about a person who’s only given a few sentences at a time to tell us what he’s about?

I picture her sleeping beside me, soft and small…and my cock twitches with expectation. I could have woken her and fucked her then—what a novelty that would have been.

Isn’t it interesting how even in Christian’s fantasies, Ana’s consent isn’t important? Yes, he could have fucked her, but if he did it without her consent (something she clearly would not have given had she been in her right mind, considering her reaction once she was sober) then that would be rape, something that he doesn’t even consider, and apparently finds the whole thing to be a “novelty.”

Right after this, Christian affirms that he’ll “fuck her in time,” still not taking into account her consent at all, which is weird because he spends the rest of the book before this point assuming that she’ll see his kinks and never want to see him again. We end the scene on this line that, if we take this into account, becomes downright ominous:

I’ll fuck her bound and with her smart mouth gagged.

He’s seriously gonna rape her, guys.

This is another short scene, and since I’m already ten thousand words into this recap, I think I’ll split this one into two parts and come back to the big, dumb scene that comes next. It’s either that, or have a huge, unwieldy twenty thousand word post, which… eww.

So join me next time, to see what happens when Christian finally takes Ana to be honest about his kinks!

Request for marvel-pandas; NSFW Storytime: Domina Pact

So, a very kind reader of my first tentacle smut story wrote in asking for one of her own and, being an obliging sort, I said yes. The result, a week and a half later, is tonight’s offering, Domina Pact, a story of tentacles, Succubi, and hot kinky bondage. If you like it, please do leave feedback letting me know, since I thrive on things like that, and I guess I am now amenable to requests, at my discretion, so there’s that. Otherwise, enjoy!


What happens when the people in your fantasies act on their own?

She had typed the same sentence too many times to count over the past few days, and as with all the others, this time she quickly deleted the words, shaking her head dismissively. How would one even go about asking that question? And who would respond?

It wasn’t as though there were a lot of people talking about the issue; her searching online had turned up nothing at all, as if she were the only person on Earth experiencing this. And what an experience it was!

She had no shame about it; at night she would turn the lights low, strip out of her clothes and close her eyes, letting her fingers wander over expanses of soft, pale skin, always ending up between her legs. It was a pleasant enough way to end the day, subsumed in sensual daydreams as she stroked herself to orgasm, and it was during this very routine that she first felt it.

She had wanted a man. Though perfectly able to find her pleasure in women, that day, a week ago, she had desired a masculine presence; strong muscles, a hard cock pressed against her, stubble scraping against her inner thighs…

… But that wasn’t what she had gotten.

Closing her eyes that night, she had begun conjuring a man, but what had walked out of her imagination had been a woman, all swinging hips and tall, lithe grace. Her eyes had refused to open, staying closed as though holding onto the fantasy, this mystery woman who stood before her and pulled her desires astray. The figment even seemed to smile when she tried, teeth like fangs glinting with pure danger.

She had wanted a man, and had gotten a woman, but that had not been the only way her plans had been deviated from that night. She had slipped into her bed dreaming of gentle love, of quiet orgasms filled with blushing heat and small, near imperceptible shudders. Instead, she had found herself… used. Taken and forced and ground beneath the heel of the mystery woman, all the while unable to just open her eyes… or to stop herself from coming.

Oh yes, her fingers hadn’t stopped working the entire time, driven on by some impulse beyond her understanding and, in the end, simple addiction to the sensations she produced. Absorbed into the most devious, sexual traps she could provide, left locked in her own head with a woman who knew her every weakness and was more than willing to exploit them, she brought herself to orgasm more times than she could count. She came. Teeth gritted, she came. Her inner self kneeling and subjugated, she came.

Bound and hurt to the point of tears, she came.

By the time it had ended, when her eyes had opened and her prurient hands had come back under her own control, the sheets beneath her had been soaked, sticky with her own perplexing arousal. She had sported a blush that had remained for hours at a time, furious and hot and nearly full-body, replete with a well earned sweat. Trembling, she had made her way to the bathroom to shower away… whatever had just happened.

The next night, she learned that this was to become her new routine.

Largely experimentally, she had slipped back into her bed that next day, and closed her eyes. Her fingers had begun to move almost immediately, unbuttoning her pants with impatient speed, working on automatic as they plunged below the waistband of her panties to the sound of clacking heels, growing steadily closer in her imagination.

The same woman smirked out from the dark of her mind.

From there, things had progressed much as they had the first time; the cruel figment of her imagination had stripped her and loomed over her, taunting in a voice like black silk and making her do the most degrading things… and all the while her fingers stroked herself to orgasm again and again.

It happened the next night too. And the night after that. And every night this week.

She couldn’t escape it. The woman in her mind had become the new master of her imagination, always lurking, ready to spring out from behind every unconnected thought. Whenever she returned home, the figment was waiting for her, ready to turn her nights into a sexual haze, filled with throbbing pleasure and, by the end, the ache of a body well used. She was, in every respect, the captive of her dreams, possessed of this strange secret that had her doubting her sanity at every turn, unable to tell anyone.

What would they think? What would she even say?

Please help, my imagination keeps taking sexual advantage of me!

Instead, she had turned to the internet for answers during the twilight hour before unseen pressures compelled her to her bedroom, where the phantasmal woman awaited her. But even there, her anonymity assured, she hesitated to type the words, as though actually presenting the thought to the world would confirm something sick about herself. It felt… wrong, and so she deleted the words and closed her laptop.

All that was left was the figment, demanding her presence in the bedroom.

Treacherously, she felt a trickle of wetness between her legs, thighs clasped tightly together at the very thought. Perhaps that was why she was reluctant to tell others of what was happening to her; perhaps she liked it too much, and feared that it might stop should she be compelled to get help?

She would go to the bedroom, she knew; her place on the bed, beneath the heel of her conceptual conqueror, held a sort of personal gravity, dragging her inexorably downward into the next humiliation. But such things could always be delayed, of course they could; there was so very much to be done, after all. What if she wanted to go clean herself up before descending into that maddening hall of pleasure once more?

Yes, that was it. She needed a shower first. That’s what she would do.

She walked down the hall on light, hesitant feet, peering into every corner and shadow, an odd sense of guilt pervading her, as though she was standing up a lover who could discover her escaping at any moment. As though there was something to fear in disappointing a woman who existed only within the confines of her mind.

She almost giggled at the notion, if it wasn’t so very plausible in the moment.

Turning the taps as high as they could go, she stood in the slowly warming bathroom, surrounded by cream coloured tiling, suffused by the warm light of a fading bulb. This was safe, this was comfortable…

… The woman wouldn’t find her here.

Stepping out of her clothes, she felt a sudden sensation of eyes at her back, strong enough to compel her to whirl around, discovering nothing but her own pale, frightened face looking back at her from the mirror. Her hands felt out for the rim of the counter, and she stared herself full in the eye, the corners of her mouth turning down; this was ridiculous. She was better than this, better than cowering at the contents of her own mind. There was nothing to fear, not really.

There couldn’t be…

Steam had begun billowing out over the top of the shower curtain, as good a signal as any to get in. Stepping under the water, she lifted her face to the stream, allowing the heat to hit her full on, blasting away the paranoia and nervousness that had pervaded her entire day up to this point. She had broken the cycle, stepped away from the routine that had come to define her week, if only in a small and momentary way. She would return to it in time, placing herself willingly back in the figment’s waiting arms, but for now, her life was her own, her choices under her own control.

The water caressed her body, clinging to the peaks of her breasts, running down the curves of her hips, and even this became strangely sensual in the shadow of the figment, the waiting pleasure to come. Once she was done here, she would return to the bedroom, to debase herself for the figment’s amusement; she could already feel the desire for it building in the back of her mind, unbidden and, in some respects, unwanted. She would go, and so there were parts of her- many of them between her legs- intent on recontextualizing even this act of defiance as something sexual, a kind of preparation for what was to come.

She wasn’t merely taking a shower, she was making her body presentable for the figment…

‘Nothing unusual here,’ She said, under her breath, the words barely perceptible even to herself over the sound of running water. Nevertheless, defiance edged her words, ‘Just taking a shower for nobody in particular…’

It was then that she heard it; heels, clacking against cream tiles.

She tensed immediately, ears reaching out for the sound, but it had faded before she could properly apprehend it. It could barely have been said to exist at all, potentially something akin to an auditory hallucination than a legitimate sound, but it was still enough to put a hostile slant on events. She realized, possibly for the first time, precisely how vulnerable a position she had put herself in; alone, naked, backed into a corner and surrounded by slick surfaces, with her sight blocked by curtains and walls, and her hearing dulled by the constant pound of the shower spray. Good thing…

Good thing there was nobody else in here, then.

But the sound resounded off of the walls regardless, loud enough this time to make her jump, squeaking with shock. This time she pulled back the shower curtain, eyes wide and heart pounding, fully expecting to see a figure in the room beyond, yet being met with nothing but steam and bathroom fixtures. Her reflection stared back at her through an inverse, mirror-world bathroom with its own steam fog, wide eyed and dishevelled, dripping water. Slowly, she watched herself relax.

Closing the curtain again, she took a moment to close her eyes and breathe deeply, to steady herself in the face of what were clearly hallucinations. Merely the stresses of a week on this perverse routine taking its toll on her nerves, making her jumpy and strained at every unexpected sound. She had to be hearing the house settling, the sounds turned relevant and threatening when refracted through the prism of her paranoia.

She had almost convinced herself of that by the time she opened her eyes, and saw a reflection that wasn’t her own staring back at her through the glass panel ahead of her. The figment smiled.

‘You’re standing me up,’ The reflection looked down her nose, her image knobbed and warped by the tiled texture of the glass, but immediately recognizable as the woman who had spent the week… It didn’t bear thinking about. ‘That’s not smart.’

Screaming, she flailed backward, jamming the hot tap into her back, the pain dulled and inconsequential next to the shock that rippled through her. The reflection stepped forward, pulling itself out of the two-dimensional space inch by inch, the glass offering resistance, as if attempting to suck her back in. Nevertheless, the figment advanced, accruing reality moment by moment, dark eyes levelled ahead, exuding confidence.

‘I like my human girls wet, though. That’s thoughtful of you,’ The figment said, her voice a low sensual hum. ‘Never done this in a shower before… are you sure there’s enough room?’

Under normal circumstances it would have been ill-advised, but faced with a very real creature from her imagination, standing face to face, their breasts actually touching in the close quarters of the shower, panic made her both flighty and reckless. She threw herself through the shower curtain, feet skidding on the wet floor in her desperation to escape what was surely a clear sign of an ensuing mental breakdown. A laugh sounded from behind her as she cleared the bathroom door and made it out into the hallway, the plastic purr of the curtain parting as she took her first thudding steps forward, nude and dripping, crimson hair trailing behind her as she ran…

… The bathroom door clicked closed as her feet left the ground, a heavy weight encircling her waist as it hefted her up, effortlessly.

‘Oh, you want to do it in the bedroom? I’m game,’ The figment’s voice was suddenly behind her and below her, as the thing lifting her into the air elevated her above head height. The soft, wet pressure of a tongue started at the small of her back and moved, lapping up a rivulet of water as it ran down her skin. She shivered, and the figment continued, ‘Do let me lead the way.’

Stepping ahead of her, the figment finally afforded her a view of what had happened; the woman herself was naked too, making it easy to see the tentacle extending from her back to ensnare her prey, forcing her to follow behind the figment as she languidly headed for the bedroom, hips swaying in a way that, in another context, could be described as “luscious.”

Entering the room and conscientiously closing the door behind her, the figment deposited her prey onto the ground, the dark, pulsing tentacle adding an insistent downward pressure that forced the girl to her knees, almost bending double under the weight of it. Looking down at her, the intruder smiled.

‘There now, isn’t that better?’ The figment crooned, running one hand through her captive’s hair, fingers subsumed in the fiery red therein. Looking up, she regarded the creature truly for the first time, cataloguing as many distinct features as she could. What she saw was not human; though it took the shape of a beautiful woman, devoid of clothes, there were features on her that could not belong to a person.

Her skin, most obviously, was the lightest shade of blue, the colour almost imperceptible but certainly there. At her limbs it became darker, her arms from the elbows down the crushed velvet blue of a midnight sky, as were her legs up to the middle of the thigh. Like naturally occurring gloves and stockings, she thought, the idea almost making her giggle, only the lingering pressure of the tentacle around her waist reminding her of the gravity of her situation.

Oh yes, there were tentacles too, four of them that she could see, extending from the figment’s back; thick strands of muscle clad in the same deep, dark blue, their length allowing them to stretch to the far corners of the room, their tapered tips idly exploring, as if independent of their mistress’ whims.

And then there were the horns.

They curved around the contour of her head, rising to the surface of her deep black hair like ancient serpents rising from the sea. Like polished bones of purest ebony, they glinted in the light, the tips wickedly sharp but, ultimately, worthless as a form of weaponry; they terminated almost at the back of her head.

Even so, they gave a particular hint as to the nature of the creature before her.

‘Who are you?’ She asked of her captor in a tremulous voice, near breathlessly as the tentacle around her midriff squeezed, making it hard to draw a full breath. She felt herself shaking, head to toe, in the presence of an entity that radiated a strange kind of pressure, an aura of alien oddity, as though her very being stung at the forces of reality, made the world draw back from her infinitesimally.

‘Mmm, names are a difficult concept, my dear,’ The figment tapped its chin with a finger, and her captive could see the claws that tipped her nails. Eyes like midnight stared down at her, like tunnels into the sky, ‘True names are powerful things, for Succubi like me. They confer altogether too much control to those that hear them for me to just give mine out heedlessly, no matter how much I’m attracted to you.’

‘Fake names are good, though. Just call me Crona,’ She knelt beside the trapped woman then, running one of those claws down the terrified girl’s cheek. Biting her lip, Crona leaned in, putting her face beside her captive’s, blowing a stream of cool air into her ear, ‘I know your true name though, Taylor…’

She said another word then, breathed it so that it hung in the air, a little glowing glyph in deep, forest green, the lines of it waving and curling in on themselves. Taylor didn’t recognize the language, but the meaning of the word punched through her like a comet, known so deep in her being that the moment of hearing it stretched on into an eternity, endless time for her to comprehend the word, understand every inch of it, every pulsing node and thread of its history. The word became her, stamped over her soul.

Despite her bondage, Taylor’s body arched back, a shiver racing up her spine, embedding itself all the way through her. Her skin screamed with sensation, reaching out to every minute contact, the air against her, the carpet beneath her, her own hair as it brushed her back. Every muscle she had clenched.

In an instant, with the hearing of the word, Taylor went from zero to orgasm in a sixth of a second, body gripped with pleasure. Ecstasy ripped into her, tore out every cogent thought, left only Crona’s singular syllable lingering on her clit. Her pussy pulsed with it, wet walls closing on nothing, as her nipples hardened and her mouth opened in a wordless, mindless moan, a sound like pure sexuality. There was no stimulation, no fantasies, or fetishes, or kinks; Crona had just purred into her ear and turned her on, like flipping a switch. But there was no satisfaction to be found in it either, in this false climax, just a heightening of arousal that had been steadily building as her date with the figment, previously presumed to be merely another masturbation session, drew closer. Now her need spiked, her desire skyrocketed as her body shuddered and twitched through its empty orgasm.

She came down shaking, unexpectedly in Crona’s arms, the creature sighing with deep, full-body contentedness, as though drawing something truly edifying from her captive’s weird pleasure. When she let Taylor go, there was a distinct note of reluctance in her, that faded quickly as she got to her feet in a manner she had denied to Taylor herself, still pinned low by the unnatural strength of the binding tentacle.

‘Aren’t true names interesting?’ Crona stretched, lithe body moving like a marble sculpture come to life, though Taylor was unable to truly appreciate this, possessed as she was by echoes of what had just happened to her, aftershocks of pleasure that only made her want more. ‘The intention one has when they speak one very much determines the effect… and I’m sure you can tell from what happened to you how much I want you. Since I always get what I want, here we are. Now then…’

Her tentacles moved with purpose now, wrapping around Taylor’s arms and the insides of her knees, holding her still despite her growing need to struggle. Her arms were held straight out behind her back, pinioned there by a pair of tentacles working over one another in a complex network of overlapping strands, seemingly solely for Crona’s amusement alone. Escape would be impossible, though it didn’t stop Taylor from trying, muscles straining against the far greater strength of the Succubus; every inch of progress toward freedom she gained was quickly reversed by the dextrous lengths, heretofore unknown loops reaching out to grasp at her and pull her back into line. There were no weak points along the length of them, no place where the muscles ceased or thinned, no joints or bones to strike out at. Just pure, supernatural strength, penning her in.

Taylor’s knees were pulled apart as she knelt by yet more tentacles, spread nearly as wide as they could go by the unyielding pressure of Crona’s appendages, leaving the most delicate, sensitive parts of her exposed and vulnerable. The tentacle about her waist finally released her, but at the moment, that was no comfort.

Crona herself loomed above her, staring down with undisguised prurient interest, and Taylor found herself flinching away from the attention. Of course, if the being in her fantasies had always been Crona, her own independent entity, then she had clearly been spending a lot of time admiring Taylor’s body in the past, but that had always been from within the safe confines of her imagination. But now the Succubus was here in person, in the flesh, her deep, black eyes filled with the simplest of desires and levelled right at Taylor; the experience was totally different.

Within her mind, nothing overly harmful could have happened to Taylor. Out here in the real world, the situation was quite different.

‘W-what do you-?’ Taylor began to speak, her voice a nervous, stammering wreck, but she was quickly interrupted by a tentacle worming its way between her lips, sliding a ways over her tongue before stopping, filling her mouth. She groaned wordlessly in complaint, but could do little else.

‘No, no, I don’t need you to speak, girl,’ Crona said in a voice like honey. ‘I already know everything I need to about you. I’ve had a good week or so of hanging around in your head, seeing your ins and outs, prying into your deepest desires. It has been fun, but it’s time for me to move on.’

All four of Crona’s tentacles were engaged keeping Taylor pinned, and despite all that had happened, the human girl was still surprised to see a fifth peek out from behind the Succubus, between her legs and out, to sway in the air in front of Taylor’s face. As she watched, the tip developed a seam, splitting open in a disturbingly organic way, revealing a blue, wiggling tongue at its core. She gasped, and Crona smirked.

‘I’m nice, though. Don’t worry about that, pet,’ The Succubus purred, starlight eyes gleaming danger. ‘I’ll even give you a chance to give me what I want, after I’ve toyed with you for a while…’

The slowness with which the new tentacle moved was taunting, deliberate, serving to highlight just how powerless Taylor was. She had seen them move with lightning speed tonight, certainly fast enough to restrain her with ease; there was no need for it to go so painfully slow, but to remind Taylor that tonight she was the plaything of something far greater, much more so than she had ever been all the other nights.

It worked. As the tentacle trailed its leisurely way down, growing closer and closer, nearing her vulnerable body, Taylor whimpered and tried to back away, knowing not what its intentions were. There was nowhere to go, of course, with her lovingly bound body held perfectly in place, but fear did not bow to facts, and the primal instinct of survival at her core screamed for her to escape this utterly alien creature before it was too late.

She watched as, with unerring accuracy, the tongue-tipped tentacle slipped down between her legs and, with its very first contact on her body, touched itself to her clit. The thing was all point, and it flicked against her sensitive bud, applying itself more fully there, broad and flat as it licked across her singing nerves. Despite herself, defying the racing of her heart, Taylor moaned all too readily; her pussy had been drenched from the moment the Succubus had whispered her true name to her, and now it hungered for the stimulation the tentacle could provide.

Ashamed at how quickly she gave in to it, the echoes of need resounding through her slight frame, Taylor moved her hips, pressing down against the tongue. It responded in turn, twirling around her needy bud before slipping, for a scant few tantalizing moments, inside her, rapidly dripping with her juices. It retracted fast, the sudden emptiness causing Taylor to gasp, then growl at the lack of the sensation that the tongue had caused.

Pushing herself down, she tried to recapture it, but the nimble tentacle pulled away, actually dodging her, before darting back in to lash at her clit once more, and Taylor twitched with each tingling touch, unable to do more than feel the rippling pleasure that went through her like a shockwave. But each lick was only a second or two at a stretch, enough to make her want more, but not enough to get her any closer to satisfaction.

As the seconds ticked by into minutes, Taylor looked up, pleading silently with Crona with her eyes, wanting more but too embarrassed to ask, to name the arousal she was feeling, even if she could do so around the tentacle lodged in her mouth. One glance at the confident concentration on Crona’s face told her everything she needed to know: the Succubus was doing this deliberately.

Crona slowly ground her hips against the surface of the tongued tentacle where it had slipped between her legs, the movement seemingly instinctual as she toyed with Taylor, running the tip of the tongue up and down the woman’s swollen lips, teasing yet never slipping inside. She shivered in time with her own licking, each motion of her hips corresponding with another moan ripped from Taylor’s throat by the slick little muscle as it ran the length of her pussy. There was true excitement in the Succubus, real, primal gratification at seeing her human captive squirm.

And squirm she did. Taylor didn’t know how much time had passed since the intruder had begun edging her, but however much it was, it was too long. Each moment, bound by tentacles and licked just to the edge of orgasm without being allowed to fall over the precipice was like an eternity imprisoned in her own needy flesh, unable to escape the unfaltering sex impulses fed to her by the Succubus’ expert ministrations. Crona’s knowledge of Taylor’s body was truly supernatural, knowing the precise moment before climax finally took her, pulling away just as the tingling rush of it began to wash through her hips, leaving it to fade into disappointment.

It didn’t take long at all for her to break down under such pressure, whimpering more or less constantly around the tentacle in her mouth, the sound helpless and pathetic. A bright red flush coloured her face and was beginning to inch down the pale skin of her chest. Her cunt dripped freely, coating her thighs and the intrusive tentacle down below with her sticky arousal, the juices spread around as it continued its tireless assault. Breathing in harsh, shuddering breaths, Taylor felt her eyes blur with tears, the culmination of the alien, erotic stresses she had been put under finally spilling out; captured by a Succubus, shown that her own mind was subject to external forces more than willing to make her their plaything, and then robbed even of the ability to care about all of that in the face of persistent sexual denial, Taylor’s tears tracked down her cheeks, and still, all she wanted was to come.

Crona eyed the girl with a mercurial gaze, her true feelings impossible to read behind her studiously arranged features, like a beautiful sapphire mask. She walked, in long, languid steps, around Taylor to her bed, the same bed that she had forced its owner to degrade herself over and over, bound in mental chains, until it had become second nature. Her tentacles tensed as she did, dragging Taylor around, effortlessly, so that she was always facing the Succubus, still writhing in agonized pleasure as the tongue never ceased its work. Delicately, she perched herself on the end of the bed and took the human’s chin in her hand, raising her head with a gentle pressure that Taylor was too addled to deny.

‘I’ve been keeping you on edge for an hour now,’ Crona tilted her head, and for a moment pure, near demonic delight at the suffering in front of her was visible on her features, hinting at the ancient, boundlessly strange nature of the non-human creature. ‘And I can of course keep it up for as long as I desire. Do keep that in mind as I tell you this: make a pact with me, pet.’

The tentacle slid out of Taylor’s mouth then, leaving her to splutter in its absence for a moment before regaining her cool. She could feel a peculiar slickness on her tongue now that the tentacle was gone, and some of it had trickled down her chin when the thing had withdrawn, but with her arms still pinioned she had no way of wiping it off; instead she merely wondered what the substance was and, considering the inhuman nature of the creature who had delivered it to her, what effect it was having on her.

She certainly didn’t get this aroused, this easily…

But Crona was still regarding her, expectant, waiting for an answer to a question Taylor didn’t fully understand. She suspected, her mind reeling through everything she knew about the legends of Succubi, desperately searching for some piece of information to hook onto, that this vagueness was intentional, a way to manipulate her; she resolved not to fall for it.

‘A p-pact with a demon,’ She said, adding notes of challenge to her voice that were undercut both by the tremble in it, and the warning tentacle that wrapped around her throat, squeezing until there was more fear in her voice than defiance. Still, she managed to choke out, as Crona’s inscrutable gaze went right through her, ‘Doesn’t sound too smart.’

‘I am not a demon,’ Crona demurred, her face impassive. ‘I am a Succubus, and I beg to differ: making a pact with me will provide you heights of pleasure you can’t even imagine, pet.’

‘No… nnngh!’ Taylor shook her head, but her words were ripped from her as the tongue once again lashed her clit, somewhat punitively. Yet again she was given no more than the lightest touch, just enough to make her body react, needy flesh wanting more with no hope of getting it.

Crona sighed, ‘Very well. I don’t intend to leave without a pact, little girl. Not after spending so much time reading your fantasies. I know what you want, pet, and I can make you want what the pact can bring. So! Change of tack, I suppose.’

And with that, the Succubus disappeared over the rim of the bed, falling onto her back with her legs hanging over the edge. Without any apparent effort, the tentacles binding Taylor lifted her into the air, the bonds around her knees aligning the woman so that she was held sideways, parallel to the floor. Forced to bend at the knees, the tentacles at her arms extended further, trussing her by further binding her feet to her arm knots. Hog tied yet still struggling fruitlessly, Taylor was dragged up until she hovered over Crona’s recumbent body, those midnight eyes staring up at her, practically glowing with the assuredness of her dominance.

‘I will make you mine, pet. You will make a pact with me,’ Inhuman energies glinted like constellations in the Succubus’ eyes, impossible to assign an emotion to. For the first time, Taylor truly believed that it was within the power of this creature to make her agree, the endless depths of those eyes, once they had fully committed to a challenge, offering a glimpse at the true extent of the world beyond Taylor’s understanding. There was nothing human in Crona, little that was recognizable, no way to gauge her… Just a mystery incarnate, a being with strength and power the likes of which Taylor could not hope to fight against. If anyone could make her submit, it was this creature with azure skin, this woman-shaped force of dominance.

‘I am a Succubus, pet. Wild magic incarnate, the sex impulse made flesh. You will not deny me… let me show you.’

With exquisite control, the tentacles lowered just enough for Crona to crane her neck and cover Taylor’s mouth with her own, her tongue forcing its way into the human woman’s mouth. Taylor squealed at the intrusion, but quickly lapsed into silence; the Succubus’ mouth tasted like nothing she had ever experienced for, but almost immediately she longed for more, the strange sweetness winding through her, filling her mouth as the creature binding her probed as far back as she could. When she disengaged, Taylor found herself arching forward to recapture Crona’s mouth instinctively, though the tentacles ensured that she would fail.

‘Got you…’ There was a singsong lilt in the Succubus’ voice as she laid back against the sheets, body long and graceful and curving. She licked her lips, and Taylor’s eyes widened with desire, her heart racing, wanting nothing more than to lick them too. One hand trailed up, dark clawed fingers trailing up Taylor’s skin, the trussed woman twitching at the contact, until she stopped, and laid her palm flat against the human’s stomach.

When she smiled, Taylor could see the sharp, glittering points of a set of fangs.

More tentacles spiralled up Crona’s arm, issuing from behind her shoulder, racing up the bridge between their mistress and their prey and scattering when they finally reached her. Taylor found herself engulfed, tentacles moving up and down her naked form even as those that had already been there wrapped tighter, keeping her secure under the new onslaught.

One encircled her neck like a collar, the tip coming to rest right below her bottom lip, swishing lightly back and forth. Crona glared up at her, those fangs still on full display.

‘Now be a good little girl and suck me,’ The Succubus’ voice was liquid silk, and Taylor obediently opened her mouth, the tentacle’s tapered tip sliding between her lips. She could feel its smooth surface sliding along the skin of her neck as it moved deeper, stopping just before it hit the back of her throat. Knowing what was expected of her, Taylor sealed her lips around the tentacle’s shaft and, bobbing her head, took it the rest of the way, gagging on the tip of it. Tongue fluttering along the underside of the slick and twitching shaft, she was rewarded with a throaty moan from the creature below her, and a flexing of the other tentacles around her as Crona writhed in apparent pleasure.

‘Someone’s had practice… and I already know exactly how much, of course,’ She said, head tipped back as Taylor whimpered, her throat clenching around the tentacle as it moved. When she spoke again, it was at the tail end of a moan, ‘Well, obedient pets get rewarded…’

Some of the tentacles had slipped down the length of her body as she sucked at the one in her mouth, inching across her skin, and as Crona spoke one of them tensed at its tip, plunged itself deep into Taylor’s needy, dripping pussy, her spread thighs spasming at the suddenness of it all. Two more curled around her breasts, spiralling up from the base and squeezing all the way, blood rushing to the pink caps of her nipples just in time for the suckling ends to clamp over them, a pair of tongues swiping over the sensitive buds even as the rest of their length constricted, lifting her breasts up toward them. The third tongue-tipped tentacle worked likewise, returning to its work at her clit, so that Taylor found herself fucked and licked all at once, pleasure washing over her from multiple fronts at once.

She tried to scream, the sound stoppered by the tentacle in her mouth taking her throat, rendering the shrill sound into a gag, a wet choking as Crona shivered in pleasure at the feeling of her captive’s throat clenching around her. The other tentacles plunged on, fucking and licking and sucking, yet more probing and tickling every inch of Taylor’s bound form, causing the girl to squirm and writhe against her bonds and the caressing tentacles, her hips rolling to take as much of the ones fucking her as possible.

There was nothing else for it; she abandoned herself to the Succubus, to the pleasure of their sex, the helpless, shameful ecstasy of submitting to what was a superior being. Spreading her legs as wide as her bonds would allow, Taylor focused her energy on what she could control, fellating the tentacle in front of her, her tongue fluttering against the underside of its tip before it pushed to the back of her mouth. She still hadn’t come, still needed an orgasm, a need that had already been deep and nagging even before the Succubus had kissed her and made it so much worse. That kiss still echoed through her, lingered on Taylor’s lips, traced its way right down to her clit, making her pussy buzz with pure, unadulterated want.

There had been magic in that kiss, she knew, and in the face of it there was nothing to be done but surrender to that arcane sexuality.

Taylor felt herself near that precipice, growing closer and closer as her body became a writhing gangbang for tentacles, a Bacchanalian mass of twitching, pleasure-giving flesh. Her eyes widened, worry gnawing at her that, once again, Crona would deny her, withdrawing her tentacles at the last moment and leaving her wet and quivering, forced to service the tentacle in her mouth with no reward for herself.

‘You want it?’ Instead, Crona spoke, as her tentacles stoked the fire in Taylor’s loins to near unbearable heights, watching and feeling the girl tremble with barely suppressed climax. ‘You want to come for me, pet?’

There was only one possible answer, and Taylor nodded furiously, groaning the affirmative even gagged as she was, honesty vibrating in every molecule of her body. As she did, the tentacles redoubled their efforts, undulating as they plunged deep inside her at both ends, sucking harder at her nipples and laying a single, continuous lick to her clit.

Just a moment more, and she would come…

Suddenly, before Taylor could properly parse what was happening, the tentacles binding her ankles slipped away, releasing her to the tender embrace of gravity. Her bottom half descended rapidly, the tentacles knotted around her arms shifting as she fell so that she ended her fall upright, her knees hitting the bed at either side of Crona’s head. The motion must have been delightfully choreographed, because the Succubus waited not a moment before her own tongue replaced the tentacles that had been fucking her, lapping eagerly, hungrily at Taylor’s swollen cunt, finally bringing her over the edge and into orgasm.

She gasped, squealed around the tentacle still in her mouth, and Crona did likewise from below. Taylor’s pussy clenched down on the Succubus’ tongue as it slid inside, lapping at a sensitive spot that Taylor didn’t even know she had, her hips bucking as waves of pleasure crashed against the shores of her hips. At the same time, Crona moaned, long and hard, the vibrations ticking at Taylor’s petalled lips, and her tentacle retracted partway, the tip resting against the human’s tongue. It twitched, pulsed in Taylor’s mouth, and a spurt of warm, sweet liquid shot from it, the spasm repeating as her mouth filled with the creature’s strange orgasm, her come sticky as it pooled on Taylor’s tongue. She swallowed…

She swallowed it down, and…

All thought was erased, all hope of maintaining control evaporated, as her body lit up with pure, perfect, blazing sex impulses. In a single moment Taylor’s orgasm stretched from her hips to the far corners of her being, filling her up from head to toe. The bed sheets beneath her sent pleasure spiralling up her knees and calves, the tentacles, where they lay, were tiny localized climaxes on her skin, even the air felt rapturous as she moved against it.

Every muscle in her tensed so hard that they ached, as orgasm slammed through her body and she submissively swallowed every drop that filled her mouth, her tongue moving to lap it up. She came down slowly, nerves still arcing pleasure, insistent that Taylor be made to feel every seemingly endless wave of it, washing up and down her bedraggled, sensitive form.

Crona, for her part, licked and licked, tasting Taylor’s copious juices with obvious relish, tongue-fucking the girl until her senses returned to her and she whimpered in sudden oversensitivity, her clit aching at the rough scrape of the Succubus’ tongue on it. Taylor could feel the smirk on Crona’s face as she relaxed, laying her head back down on the bed, as her tentacles began to move once more.

‘There now…’ The Succubus rolled to one side, and her tentacles hefted the girl aloft and placed her, gently, on her back beside her. ‘You see what I can do? Make a pact with me, pet… be mine…’

There was a slithering chaos of motion all around her, as tentacles disengaged and moved, rearranging Taylor’s tired limbs to better suit Crona’s plans. Her arms were loosed from behind her back and drawn up, one at a time, above her head, where they were moored to her headboard by tentacles wrapping around the blackened metal, before going on to wrap around her wrists. Her ankles once again found themselves encircled, her legs spread wide as Crona moved up so that they could be face to face as tentacles began inching their way back into the space between Taylor’s legs.

Obviously, the Succubus had a thing for bondage.

Taylor could only watch, over the slopes and inclines of her body, as three thin tentacles twined together on their way toward her pussy. The shaft that resulted was thick and somewhat imposing, but by now she dripped freely down the cheeks of her ass, and it slid into her well-fucked hole with a minimum of resistance. But as the tentacles kept pushing, their girth only expanding the more of it she took, Taylor began to squirm, her cunt stretching to take the invasive length.

‘P-please…’ She stammered, finally free of the tentacle in her mouth, which had settled around her neck instead. The syrupy sweet taste of its come still lingered on her tongue, seeming to fizz as Taylor drew in air to speak. Ultimately though, she didn’t know what she was pleading for; any will she had to resist had been left behind somewhere between being edged for an hour and sucking off a tentacle… was she just begging for more? For mercy from a being who had her so completely in the palm of one blue-tinted hand?

… For the pact?

‘You’ll become mine, body and soul…’ Crona purred, pausing for a moment for Taylor to grunt as another few inches of tentacle pushed into her. Clawed fingers tracked across the prone woman’s chest, from one breast to another, pricking her skin along the way, ‘And in return, you get this every day. You get a body capable of handling everything I have to give you, can you imagine it?’

The Succubus’ horned head bobbed, her tongue sweeping around one tight, sensitive nipple, causing Taylor to arch her back, pushing herself into Crona’s mouth, feeling the sharpness of her fangs against her skin. They closed around her nipple, tugging upward before releasing, causing Taylor’s breast to bounce, and the girl herself to moan.

‘Can you imagine that what I’m doing to you now is me holding back?

Taylor could, she so could, and her mind raced to fill in the gaps, the results making her blush even harder than she had been, unconsciously grinding against the tentacles that had finally bottomed out, filling her so completely that it ached to move too far, the good kind of ache that made a body long for more. Like masturbating on a bruise.

‘Contract with me…’ The tentacle encircling her throat drew back, allowing its mistress’ mouth to travel along the line of Taylor’s neck, nipping with her teeth where she could find purchase. ‘All you have to do is say yes, speak the words…’

Taylor was losing ground fast, her mind unwilling to even consider being without these feelings in future. If she denied her, would Crona give up and leave? Or would she, as she had hinted at earlier, continue to toy with her until she gave up and made the pact?

Which one of those would be worse?

‘I… Oh, god…’ She began to say it, but trailed off as the tentacles all tightened or moved, rewarding her for her willingness. Crona smiled encouragingly, licked her way up Taylor’s throat to plant another intoxicating kiss on her lips. It strung something deep inside her, touched sexual places inside her very soul, and as the Succubus pulled away, even as Taylor realized there was magic in that kiss that was altering her mind, her body screamed for more.

‘Yes, that’s it, pet,’ Crona crooned. ‘Just a little more. Just tell me what I want to hear and I’ll give you something really good…’

Naked, vulnerable, spread open and used in every way possible by the probing limbs of the woman beside her, Taylor surrendered to the promise, closed her eyes, and opened her mouth to say the words.

‘I… mmm… I’ll ma-ake a pact with y-you,’ She said, tremulously, gasping at the end as the tentacles seemed to shiver inside her, finally fulfilled at hearing what Crona had wanted to hear all along. Fangs glittered in the curve of the Succubus grin.

‘Ah, there’s a good girl,’ A clawed finger fell to prick at the hollow of Taylor’s throat as the Succubus purred, seemingly drawing blood; instead of pain, however, there was but a strange tickle, racing to ring her neck before fading. Whatever had happened apparently delighted Crona, who planted a vibrant kiss on Taylor’s lips before pulling back and flexing her tentacles.

Suddenly, the tentacles that had entwined in order to stretch Taylor’s pussy began to separate, the dextrous tips unwinding to push out, pressing against increasingly sensitive spots within her with supernatural accuracy. She felt the warm, spurting pressure of the Succubus’ come from multiple sources at once, so much of it that it spilled out of her, slicking her thighs as the tentacle trunk fucked her hard and fast, bringing her over the edge into orgasm for the second time with ease.

And then, Crona whispered Taylor’s true name again, and the world blossomed into pure ecstasy.

She shuddered through it all, barely even aware of the Succubus watching her, lost in sensations deeper and more intense than anything Taylor could produce in her normal, dreadfully mundane sex life. If the pact she had just made meant experiencing these feelings again, and if refusing it meant losing this forever, then it had been a choice well made. She would never have forgiven herself, if she had felt her very soul have an orgasm, only to reject the chance to have it again.

She came down slowly, drifting back into her body from the infinite plane of sexual pleasure she had been occupying just moments ago, to discover the Succubus standing beside the bed, looking over her. The distance between them was somehow disappointing, for reasons Taylor couldn’t quite name.

‘The pact is made,’ Crona intoned, taking a moment to breathe deeply as her tentacles retracted, sliding back into her form and leaving Taylor free and unbound for the first time since the two of them had met. Stretching languorously, the Succubus grinned, ‘Thank you for that.’

‘So what happens now?’ There was a definite sense of apprehension in Taylor as she asked this, appropriately for a person who had just entered into an agreement with no understanding of the rules and upper bounds thereof. This wasn’t helped by Crona’s confused expression in response.

‘Why, whatever I like, pet,’ She said, laying one hand on Taylor’s breast, over her heart. ‘You’ve been given my mark, which will have certain benefits to you that you’ll no doubt discover over time. You belong to me now, I can compel your obedience when I wish, and I will be coming back to collect that obedience periodically.’

‘Coming back?’ Taylor asked, her limbs shaking so much she doubted they would support her if she tried to move. ‘You’re leaving?’

‘Oh yes, pet,’ The Succubus said, a tad mournfully. ‘I cannot persist in the human world for so long, I need to return home. But I’ll be back, and you had best be ready for me when I do. In the meantime, something to remember me by…’

In a whisper vibrating with lust, she spoke Taylor’s true name again, and watched the girl’s attention be swept away to some other place, some idyllic land within the essence of her being. Crona was more than familiar with that place; she was almost jealous of the human that was now hers. True names didn’t work when you spoke your own.

When Taylor came to, she was alone. Crickets chirped outside her window, an unwelcome intrusion of real life now that the supernatural had abandoned her. Her body was flushed with sweat, thighs and chin slick with the Succubus’ fluids, pangs of orgasm echoing through her still, fading by the moment until they disappeared entirely. And she was left alone, bereft, slammed back into normalcy with no means of chasing what she had lost.

But Crona had promised she would come back…

Unsteadily, Taylor stood, feeling a strange dissociation tug at the back of her mind, a sensation that she didn’t fully belong to herself anymore. She headed back toward the bathroom, to the shower she had abandoned half finished; pragmatically, her body was hot and sticky, needing cleaning, but a tiny, perverse part of her pointed out that it would be good to keep herself presentable in case Crona came back tonight, so…

The mirror caught her attention as she passed, still glossed in a sheen of condensation, and Taylor stopped to gaze into it at a woman changed, all the paranoia and self doubt leached out of her, replaced with a kind of thrumming satiation, a full body relaxation that had left her heavy-lidded and breathing deep. Something else had changed in her, something she couldn’t quite place, but she knew that Crona had the answer. All that mattered was waiting for her to show up. And she would return.

Taylor knew this, because around her neck there lay a mark, a complex, interweaving network of tattooed lines in the shape of tentacles that, and Taylor lifted her hair to check this, ringed her neck all the way around, printed onto her skin. A collar, a mark of ownership, daubed indelibly at her throat, the source of a leash that could be tightened whenever her owner wished.

Crona’s mark, painted on her pet’s body in the same light blue shade of the Succubus’ skin.

The breathtaking inanity of Jonathan Jones.

I feel I have to congratulate Mister Jonathan Jones; writing for the Guardian, he has managed to open a piece of literary criticism with the single worst statement that one could possibly do this with:

It does not matter to me if Terry Pratchett’s final novel is a worthy epitaph or not, or if he wanted it to be pulped by a steamroller. I have never read a single one of his books and I never plan to. Life’s too short.

It’s actually a tad impressive, the way Jones torpedoes his own credibility and ability to say anything meaningful or true in the following article in but three sentences. Most people have to work hard, over entire essays, to so completely disintegrate their chances of being taken seriously. Hats off, truly: the man has set a new benchmark in establishing the utter irrelevancy of a writer. Overblown hacks the world over will marvel at the speed at which Jones lowers himself to the puerile depths and say to themselves, “well, there’s no way I’m ever going to become that intellectually bankrupt that quickly, better throw in the towel.”

I make no secret of the fact that Terry Pratchett is my favorite author, one who I largely attribute my love of writing to, but I’m not saying this as a rabid Pratchett fan out to tear down someone impugning my golden idol, no. Though I’m certainly irritated to see such unkind words leveled at my literary hero, what makes me downright furious is the lax, comfortable position of ignorance in which Jones seems happy to play armchair auteur.

Is this what literary criticism has come to? Writers freely admitting that they’ve never read a single work of those they’ve deemed themselves fit to pass judgment on, proudly wallowing in their willful incomprehension, happy not to know and willing to continue not knowing under the delusion that they already know everything. “Life’s too short”? The man is a literary critic on a self-appointed quest to define what counts as literature and what doesn’t, and “life’s too short” to read a book? This self-styled judge of all that classifies as true written art dismisses the idea of having an informed opinion on a topic before speaking on it, yet has the gall to tell everyone else to “get real”?

The utter, depressing hubris Jones displays is what marks this tone-deaf piece of humble-bragging (let’s not forget that the thrust of this tripe is that Jones feels that the culture at large is celebrating popular mediocrity, while smart guys like him get to be the gatekeepers of True Literature, looking down on us plebs) as true pablum of the highest order, almost to the point of self-destruction. “Life’s too short” to know what you’re talking about apparently, but nevertheless we should all just “get real” and kowtow to Jonathan Jones’ clearly superior opinion; he doesn’t even need to have any experience with what he’s talking about to know better than everyone else, after all.

I can handle criticism of my favorite media, I really can; with Pratchett in particular I have some negative opinions of my own, specifically about his early work and aspects of his later books, I’m not averse to constructive criticism where it’s warranted at all. But what I can’t stand, what’s apt to make me livid, is obviously uninformed criticism of any kind. I’m of the opinion that if you’re going to say something, you owe it to yourself and all your listeners to know as much as you can about what you’re talking about, and you should be open about correcting your errors. Jones, by contrast, proudly proclaims his unwillingness to learn about the things he discusses, and closes himself off completely to the idea of ever correcting himself:

No offence, but Pratchett is so low on my list of books to read before I die that I would have to live a million years before getting round to him.

His petulance runs contrary to the spirit of journalism and, frankly, the spirit of literature itself, and the total lack of self-awareness with which Jones conducts himself is staggering: after smiling his way through his total dismissal of even the possibility of reading a Pratchett novel now or in future, Jones cluelessly extols the virtue of reading for experience, even going so far as to engage in self-deprecation for having missed the book that he approves of- presumably after having, you know, read it:

This summer I finally finished Mansfield Park. How had I managed not to read it up to now? It’s shameful. But at least now it’s part of my life. The structure of Jane Austen’s morally sombre plot, the restrained irony of her style, the sudden opening up of the book as it moves from Mansfield Park to Portsmouth and takes in the complex real social world of regency England – all that’s in me now. Great books become part of your experience. They enrich the very fabric of reality.

If great books become a part of your experience, if they’re so enriching, then doesn’t Jones owe it to himself to at least attempt to read books that are a part of as long and storied a career as Pratchett’s? Rather than, say, presupposing the perfect accuracy of his unthinking first impressions? How many hidden gems has Jones missed completely due to his blithe confidence in the conclusions he leaps to based on nothing? That’s what’s truly shameful.

It’s bad enough that Jones mistakes his uninformed, haughty ramblings for genuine writing, but he goes on in the most insultingly reductive manner possible, not only handwaving any possible disagreement with his airy ignorance as “mental laziness,” but deciding that Pratchett’s work is the entirety of his character:

Thus, if you judge by the emotional outpourings over their deaths, the greatest writers of recent times were Pratchett and Ray Bradbury.

Ah yes, because the only reason one might mourn an author is his work; the human being behind it factors in not a whit. Sadness is only a representation of the quality of Pratchett’s writing, and not at all due to the loss of an actual man who was, by all accounts, gregarious and kind and forward-thinking, easily worthy of instilling inspiration due to his genuine love of his craft, no matter your opinion of his writing… assuming you’re actually bothered to read any before rendering judgment.

I’ve already spent a thousand words on this intellectually bereft pile of nonsense, which is far more than it deserves, but it just makes me so mad to see self-assured cultural vultures like Jonathan Jones being given a platform, allowed to wallow in their ignorance and arrogance so totally that they develop the delusion of being empowered to dictate to everyone else what “real” literature is. As though he can just stomp his foot and demand the artistic canon mold itself to his petulant whim.

I am a fan of Terry Pratchett, and I’ll be composing a post on his last book once I’ve finished reading it I’m sure; it arrived on my doorstep earlier today and I found myself too nervous at the prospect of “New Pratchett writings” as a set dwindling with every word I read to actually crack it open. When I’ve finished The Shepherd’s Crown there will never be another new Pratchett work for me to read, the set will fall to zero, but in the meantime, I have one last question for Jonathan Jones:

But Terry Pratchett? Get real. It’s time we stopped this pretence that mediocrity is equal to genius.

How the hell would you know one way or another, Mister Jones?

NSFW Storytime- Mythos: Woodsong

Hi everyone! Do you like sexy stories? Supernatural creatures? Monster girls and eldritch guys getting their fuck on? Well, that’s what I’m doing now! Mythos is a kinda-sorta-continuity of short stories featuring… mythological creatures having sexytimes. Given this, obviously this is NSFW, so you’ve been warned, but otherwise… Enjoy!


1 Woodsong fin

The old men kept telling Arthur: don’t take anything from the forest.

There must have been a reason why, of course. Some wild animal from the time of the village’s settlement that menaced the hunters and woodcutters that tried to ply their trade within, or poison in the soil that leached up into the wood. But nobody knew now, or if they did, they weren’t telling a newcomer anything. Still, Arthur asked, when the opportunity arose, when he left his little cottage and met the people of the equally little hamlet; it was a piece of local arcana that he found quite interesting, in its own way. Folk tales fascinated him, uncovering the roots they had sprung from entertaining him for many an hour.

Too many of the people there were old men, alas, and though they knew the injunction by heart, they remained close-mouthed, unwilling to even attempt to discuss its source. The young men were less successful in hiding that they did know something, though they shared the silence of the old on the subject; Arthur could only tell they were holding back by the tightness of their smiles as they lied to him, their eagerness to avoid his eyes.

Their wives, though, were honest in their lack of knowledge. That was a piece of the puzzle that Arthur hadn’t fully understood yet.

In time, he had simply given up ever finding out from the horse’s mouth, deciding instead to simply look it up in the library the next time he ventured into town. Little Potter’s End was too small to have one of its own, it would have to wait until he had other business in the nearest hub of civilization.

Arthur had had no inkling of Potter’s End’s strange, folk tale prohibition on using the forest for anything when he had moved there, though; it had merely been a place for a man newly wizened by his fortieth birthday, and newly unattached following his equally ravaging divorce, to come to write in peace, among people who did not know him, and build on an incipient career in writing that had begun with one novel born in the ashes of his marriage. If the woods hadn’t come up almost immediately after he had arrived, the townspeople gravitating naturally to the first newcomer for a good long while, ready to share their advice for living here, he doubted he ever would have thought of it at all; it wasn’t as though he had any particular interest in denuding the forest of its resources, after all.

But his cottage backed onto the borders of the woods, after all, the closest of any home in all of Potter’s End. It made sense that these people would want to share whatever superstitious drive that made them obey the old command with him, when the forest would be such a relevant concern.

After the first month of living there, Arthur had simply put the secret wisdom out of his mind, and gotten down to work. The occasional squirrel aside, the forest remained well behaved, keeping just shy of his back garden and never encroaching further. He let it be, and by and large, it let him write.

That is, until his niece came to stay.

It had been her idea initially, spurred on by her mother’s- Arthur’s sister- insistence that she use the brief break in her university courses to get away and see more of the world than the little home town that all three of them had grown up in. An artist herself, they had all seen the potential in Arthur’s little home, the inspiration that tranquil surrounds could instil, and so she had asked, all gangly five foot eleven inches of her, if she could visit for a while.

He hadn’t minded in the least, since he quite liked the girl and her endless kind words about his work, but it hadn’t occurred to him for the longest time that she was a woodworker.

Oh, she was other things too- one could never rely on young Trish to apply herself to one medium for any length of time- but amidst all the painting and sculpting and sketching tools she had dumped on his doorstep that cold afternoon, there had apparently been a small set of woodworking tools, nestled deep in one of the many- many, many- canvas bags she used instead of real luggage. Arthur could hardly be blamed for forgetting that facet of his niece’s chosen career, given that that same career seemed to be mainly about collecting new facets.

But then, ultimately, he still rather did.

It didn’t come up for the longest time, of course; Arthur had agreed Trish could stay for a few weeks, and the majority of that time had been filled with a peaceful and highly productive artistic rapport. Trish had set up shop in the sun room, where a trio of angled windows took in the forest and sent dappled interplays of sunlight and shadows drifting strange patterns over the far wall for most of the day. Arthur enjoyed writing outside on his terrace, where the thoughtful scratching sounds of his niece’s sketching could waft through an open door and remind him that there was some other creative person around to take as an example, to work all the harder. It hadn’t always been that way; the people of Potter’s End were farmers mostly, not the kind who would indulge him in writing talk much of the time, nor even to particularly take kindly to it. Some were of the mind that one had to earn their way into living here by the sweat of their brow, such that the newcomer artist using their landscape to fuel his “soft” work would be unable to do so. Arthur had countered them by simply being relentlessly gregarious and accepting their particular ways of doing things out of hand; it was hard to remain distrustful of someone so open, and few here actually felt terribly committed to their preconceptions of him anyway.

By the time Trish had to leave, he was feeling very comfortable with his place in Potter’s End. Then she had given him the table.

It was a nice table, darkly varnished and cut in a way that accentuated the natural shape of the wood, the smooth and graceful curves of the flat piece she had used for the top. As it stood between them, Trish explained that she had made it herself, as thanks for letting her stay as long as he did. He could keep it by his chair on the terrace- it had been treated for protection from the weather- to put his coffee down on. He didn’t have anything out there for that, after all.

It was made, she had said, of wood from his very own forest.

A shock of cold went through Arthur like a lance before he had time to think about it, the reaction reflexive and, honestly, a tad overblown. There would certainly be disapproval if anyone in the village discovered the provenance of his new piece of furniture, but that could be solved by Arthur simply keeping quiet about the whole thing, perhaps suggesting instead that he had bought it in the city during his next visit. His neighbours would have no cause to think otherwise.

Still though… the forest was spoken of in such reverent tones, such insistence coloured the injunction against harming it, that Arthur knew the people here took it very seriously. They would know, said a low voice in the back of his brain, even if by some form of magic, they would know. The new arrival suddenly coming up with a piece of new wood furniture, they would know. They would see the lie, feel it in the deeply suspicious marrow of their bones, even if they never voiced it. The thought would lay in wait in their minds, percolate throughout the town without any interference from Arthur, and then one day, simply bob to the surface as a new fact that they all had to live with, made real by the passage of rumour, so intuitively true that it required no confirmation.

But there was nothing he could do about it now.

Arthur had taken one of the trees…

There was only one thing for it, really: he had seen Trish off, and then quietly moved the table indoors, into his bedroom where it could serve as a place for him to store things. Nobody could see it in there, there would be no foothold for the rumours to start, and hence, no trouble. It all seemed like such an easy solution, so long as he never had cause to invite one of the townsfolk into his bedroom.

Arthur had seen all the women that lived here. Where they weren’t married, they weren’t bedroom material for him.

That night, the forest began to sing.

If you have never heard such a song before, composed as it is of wind winding its way through intricately arrayed tree branches, of the swaying of ancient wood, of the bubbling of water and the endless rustle beneath the soil, know that it is both subtle and insistent. It is not enough to wake a dreaming sleeper, not at first, but in time the call slips beneath the surface of the mind, winds its roots into all the corners of the psyche. It makes its presence known.

And then, you will wake.

Arthur awoke much the same way, heeding the song as it tugged him up through layers of dream, up to the waking world with gentle insistence that would not be denied. It had help, in that regard: the table, the dead wood, remembered the song and murmured along as best it could, the sound hollow yet undeniably present.

Under normal circumstances Arthur was hardly a morning person, and was in fact functionally useless for the first half an hour after waking; it was as though he had not woken up at all. This time, he awoke fully in an instant, like the volunteer at the click of a hypnotist’s fingers. The melody of life and endless growth had suffused his house, thrumming through the sympathetic timber frame, though it was not off the wood itself and could not carry the tune; it vibrated still, low and weak but perceptible nonetheless.

Still, it was the dead wood which retained the bulk of Arthur’s attention.

He rose from his bed, dishevelled and wary, the sandy blond hair at the back of his head sticking straight up, and stared at the… husk across the room. The word had come to him seemingly without conscious thought in his part, insisted that it be used to describe the gift his niece had given him. Lifeless as it was, it still carried the song, adding its own distinct notes. It was certainly its own source of sound, something that Arthur considered warily as he approached it, crouching down to get a better look.

He prodded the wooden surface, felt the vibration of the sound through the cool hardness of it, the music travelling up his arm for a distance before dissipating.

But it wasn’t just the table; the song suffused the room, seemingly the whole house. The shock of hearing it began to work its way out of Arthur’s system, and he stopped to appreciate it for the first time; sweet and flowing, the notes composed of the voice of the earth itself, it was an endless, wandering melody, ponderous and enchanting. The burbling tenor of running water, the rhythmic grind of the soil, the reedy and strange sound of the trees… these were noises that Arthur knew in the depths of him, in his bones, wound around his mind in deep trenches of ancestral memory. They tracked down his spine, made the muscles in his calves flex, aching to walk, to move.

… Toward the forest.

As Arthur turned his head to pick up the source of the sound, he realized: it was coming from deep in the woods. How far was hard to say, given the way the sound filled the world like a gentle caress that made his heart skip a beat. But it was out there, in the haze of fog that had settled over the place in the night, filled with waving branches and thick, gnarled roots. In amongst the ancient trees, something was making that sound, and it waited for him.

Again, it was a thought that he hadn’t truly meant to think, but once it was in his head it refused to leave. It snagged at the rest of his thoughts, pulling them into line with the idea that this song, this night-time serenade, was personal to him. All of a sudden, the idea of merely ignoring it and going back to bed was an impossible fantasy, an unfulfilling relinquishing of the… opportunity that the woodland chorus was presenting him.

And it was an opportunity: a mysterious song of unknown origin and execution flitting through his house in the dead of night? Even if it just turned out to be a car radio out there in the wilds, it would still be a story to tell, albeit a more self-deprecating one than Arthur would have liked.

Without giving himself an opportunity to debate the idea with himself and potentially talk himself out of it, Arthur grabbed a pair of jeans and a long-sleeved shirt from his drawers and set about pulling them on, sparing a fortunate moment to glance in the mirror and realize the state of his hair. As the song flowed on, he dragged a comb through the tangle that had formed in his sleep, then went to find his shoes.

A light, chill breeze had settled over Potter’s End in the night, stirring the mist that lay at the edges of the forest as Arthur slipped out his back door and ventured out, crisp dead leaves crunching underfoot. Almost immediately his range of visibility shrank to almost nothing, grasping tree branches seemingly appearing from nowhere to tangle at his sleeves and snag his hair. To compensate, Arthur’s footsteps became tentative, shuffling to avoid tripping over outstretched roots; it was as though the forest had welcomed him inside, only to rebuff him, to hinder his forward progress in any way possible.

When one foot hit empty air and went slamming downward into the waters of a small creek, he almost gave up. But always, the music wrapped around his spine and drew him onward, through the fog, through the wooded claws and the strangeness of the night, toward what, he did not know.

Stumbling occasionally, eyes casting about through the murk for the source of the sound, Arthur walked onward, growing closer and more committed to his task the further in he drew. Like a leash tightening around his neck, a heady toxin running through his veins, a source of gravity beyond his power to resist, the song dragged at him, weighed upon his very being. It rose up from the stones and the grass and the roots, surrounded him, even in the fog he breathed, filled him up and set his mind to a single task.

And so he walked.

The interference seemed to grow thicker the further into the forest he drew, and this might have been the deepest into the woods he had ever gone; the borders between the endless growth and the village had been good territory for walking, but Arthur had never been able to gauge quite how large the woods actually was, and besides, his neighbours had seemed so wary about letting a newcomer venture into the trees too far on his lonesome. The soil seemed to give way entirely to gnarled and curving roots, knobbly and uneven beneath his feet. The trees seemed to reach in to grip him, branches growing thicker around head height to grab and claw at the important parts of him. The fog grew so thick that Arthur was barely able to see his own hand in front of his face.

And then, with a suddenness that made him trip and fall, the fog parted, the ground became unexpectedly even, and Arthur found himself sprawled in a clearing.

Moonlight flooded the surrounds, painting the dark earth beneath him a muted silver, dappled by the shadows of the partial leaf canopy above. It was, in fact, almost as bright as daylight, certainly light enough to see clearly that the fog had receded in a rough circle, stark lines of delineation between where it began and where it ended marking the boundaries of the clearing. Arthur stood at the edge of a rough circle, surrounded all around by roiling, thick clouds, tinted moonlight grey.

There, at the centre of it all, the source of the song, she stood.

Her eyes were closed, and for perhaps thirty seconds more she swayed in time with her rhythm, mouth open, throat undulating with a thousand different sounds, speaking the chorus of the wood into existence. She sung, a newly audible, sweetly human sound that formed the backbone of the music, and the land around her sprung to work at the sound, offering the other notes at her direction. She was the conductor of a profound natural symphony.

The light coloured her skin differently than daylight would have, and for a moment Arthur took it to be a trick of the light alone, but in time he realized: her skin was brown, mottled with prominent markings of green, licking up her flanks, curling vine-like around her thighs, over her breasts, up the sides of her face and into her hair. She stood naked, body gleaming and lithe in the monochrome rays of the moon, and among the large swathes of her skin that were visible to him, Arthur could see other colours, see them shifting; flecks of white, the yellow of pollen, rose red and deep violet and the amber of ripe peaches, tracing patterns across her flesh and vanishing, to be replaced with yet more colour. They were only the occasional interruption, but they were certainly there, and they certainly removed the possibility that she was just wearing body paint.

So too, did her horns.

They rose from the rear of her head, wavy and thick, lined and dark lengths of some impossibly old wood, disappearing into the woman’s mass of raven hair. Dotting the lower, outer edges of the horns were delicate, orderly lines of flowers; tiny white stars in the blackness of her features.

Her eyes slid open, revealing a colour like lilacs, and regarded Arthur with a momentary cool indifference that rapidly hardened. Her singing stopped, and seemed to ripple through the rest of the forest- her forest- leaving behind a span of almost studious silence, before the normal sounds of nature at night settled back in.

She glared at Arthur, advancing toward him on long, graceful legs, bare feet taking to the soil as though they had been born to it. She was tall, so tall, taller than Arthur even if he had been standing at his full height, rather than sprawled inelegantly upon the ground, and there was a sense of easy, obvious menace in how she loomed over him, expression unreadable, as though even naked and alone with him in the forest, he posed her no threat at all.

Behind him there was a crack of wood, as branches moved and shifted, forming a lattice of interlocked parts to seal Arthur in with her as she stopped, stood between his legs, and knelt down, still somehow towering over him. He tried to move, to scoot away and stand, to get to his feet somehow, but roots snagged at his sleeves and the legs of his pants, keeping him anchored in place as the woman crawled, slithered up his body in a manner both sensual and intimidating, her flawless form radiating eerie, ancient beauty, like nothing Arthur had ever experienced before.

Those bottomless pit eyes inspected him then, so close that Arthur could feel the strange coolness of her breath on his face, looking him up and down. A spark of approval lay deep in those eyes at the sight of him, hidden behind a cold, implacable hardness. Her lip almost curled up as, slowly, she raised her hands to his face. A full five fingers, had the left, but on the right… only four, a conspicuous, newly formed gap where her ring finger should have been.

In an instant, chill realization formed in the pit of his stomach. He knew why the old men told him not to take from the forest, what it was to cut into the trees of this nymph’s domain.

‘I’m sorry!’ He gasped, the words boiling up from inside him, and Arthur was surprised with the depth of feeling behind them. Regret bruised his soul, ached for the harm that had been inflicted upon something so rare, so precious, the sorrow at seeing a priceless work of art destroyed. He added, ‘It wasn’t me!’

She blinked then, the motes of colour swirling across her body turning momentarily a uniform yellow, the shade of fresh butter, and Arthur was left in no doubt that she was surprised. Her hair caught the moonlight as her head tilted, lilac eyes creasing at the edges in confusion; if she had understood his words, she didn’t exactly show it. She couldn’t be read like a human could.

Leaning in closer, the woman brought her face to Arthur’s, closing her eyes and craning her neck, her nose in the crook of his neck. He heard her inhale in short, sharp breaths, scenting him. The nearest of her horns bobbed into his view as she did so, close enough that Arthur could see each individual crease and whorl in the wood, even the pollen clustered at the centre of her flowers.

She licked him, then, wet tongue dragging the length of his throat, and Arthur gasped, unthinking. He found himself suddenly, sharply aware of the fact that, whatever she was doing, this being had the form of a woman, her naked appearance more than appreciable to his tastes. And she was straddling him.

For a moment she sat back up, looming over him with the moon haloed behind her, eyes glimmering with subtle light. Her body shone in kaleidoscope colours, the shifting patterns accentuating the shape of her musculature, the roundness of her hips and breasts, the delicate features of her face. Her horns stood framed in shadow, pointed and wicked, like some kind of forest demon come to life.

Then she dove upon Arthur and kissed him.

It was… chaste, in its way. It lasted a scant second, a mere brush of her lips against his, full of warmth, as her entire demeanour shifted. She lingered against him now, her body pressed against his, her nose inches from his own. One hand came up and, with surprising tenderness, stroked his cheek. Arthur certainly had little trouble reading her now.

She had been scenting him before, he suspected in some wordless part of his mind, searching him for the stain of injured wood, for the blood of her forest on his hands. It wasn’t there to find, of course; Arthur hadn’t gone into the woods with ill intent, hadn’t brought an axe to carve out that fateful gift that had led him here. In the crime that had struck up this song, that had called him here, he was entirely innocent.

Which raised an interesting question of its own: what did the wood nymph do to the innocent men that entered into her court?

Nails the colour of moss trailed a winding path down Arthur’s chest, and a few potential answers presented themselves in his mind. They slid down his side, long fingers encircling his wrist and pulling up, and he watched her move with mounting curiosity. She leaned in and prompted him to reach up, placing his palm at the curve of her ribcage, just below one heavy, beautiful breast, and guided him up.


Without needing to think, Arthur took over for her, his palm sliding to cup the nymph’s breast, flesh soft and warm filling his hand. His eyes widened, as details that had completely escaped him during the earlier, aggressive part of their meeting swam into his view for the first time; the nymph had flowers for nipples, for one. The centre seemed human enough, a stiff and aching tip coloured the same deep earth tone as her base skin colour, but where an areola would normally be, there was a ring of petals, actually a shockingly deep purple, arrayed with the kind of effortless geometric perfection that only nature could produce. The nymph allowed Arthur to brush his thumb over them, watching them rise at his touch, only to adhere back to her skin moments later in its absence.

She shivered with pleasure at it, a blush the colour of an empty summer sky cresting her perfectly wrought cheeks as darts of dandelion white raced across her abdomen, her belly as it tightened, even between her legs. Arthur froze, his eyes like saucers as he regarded the creature astride him.

This wasn’t like anything he had ever done before. Not with some human woman, couched in some mundane setting, something he could probably find a partner to repeat the experience with any time he liked. No, now he had stepped completely out of the world he knew, been drawn to the heart of the forest, the centre of a world that even the people who lived here dared not enter, only to encounter something new, something worldview altering dwelling in her own private moon-drenched Eden.

… And she had chosen him.

He looked at her, truly looked, drank in her every detail; the vines that twined through her hair, the dappled green at her lips, like moss, even the pronounced curls of her eyelashes, looking for all the world like they could unfurl toward the sun once it had risen. She looked, truly, like a dream that he would soon wake up from, one that needed to be treasured while it was with him, learned by sight and touch and taste, so that when she eventually did fade away, he could carry her with him in his memory.

The nymph was, Arthur mused, a transitory experience in his life, and nothing more. After all, if such things were happening every day, all over the world, then surely they would be more commonly talked about. Instead, there was nothing, and so clearly, such meetings as this one were rare events indeed. Privileges, to be savoured.

He thought for a moment- just a scant moment, before his attentions were dragged back to the beautiful form atop him- of the men in the village, whose reactions all hinted at some additional knowledge of the forest and its secrets that they had never told Arthur. Reactions that their wives had not shared.

Perhaps the forest entertained visitors more often than one might initially suspect, from the talk of Potter’s End… but Arthur suspected that such events were one-time occurrences that left deep marks in those who were lucky enough to participate, those few who had been chosen, by this forest elemental, to touch a living myth, to take but a taste of the mystic before being returned to their mundane lives.

She smelled like damp earth and new flowers, as Arthur propped himself up on his elbows, determined to take in every moment of her, and placed his lips upon the fragile crest of her breast, taking that finely wrought nipple into his mouth. She sighed, she tasted like honey on his tongue, and her pleasure incited the forest to motion, a fresh, cold zephyr shaking the leaves on their branches as she leaned into his touch, sweet fingers curling into his hair. Her head tipped back, lilac eyes regarding the star-dotted heavens as the earthbound man circled her skin with his tongue, before planting a series of kisses up, across her collarbone, her neck, her chin, until finally he reached her mouth with his own.

That she tasted of mint there surprised Arthur for a moment, before he remembered that mint was a plant, and hence well within her jurisdiction as… whatever it turned out she actually was. In the end it hardly mattered; her kiss was intoxicating, her tongue in his mouth from the moment it began, hungry and sensual and elemental, giving herself to the moment with a wholehearted freedom that took Arthur aback. She held nothing back, even with a man like him, whom she had only met minutes earlier.

Perhaps there was little for her to hold back from; if her forest was as intricately linked to her as her missing finger suggested, then it was entirely possible that there were no other nymphs in the immediate area to catch wind, and it was hardly like Arthur was going to be sharing. The mechanics of her biology, her connection with the trees surrounding them, raised momentary questions that Arthur desperately wanted answered, but wouldn’t interrupt to pose to the nymph, assuming she could even speak his language.

He simply kissed her, basking in the warmth of her body, the gentle, insistent pressure of her breasts against his chest, the slow, rolling movements of her hips grinding his thighs. Her tongue licked his own, and when he closed his lips around it to suck, he drew a deep, throaty moan of satisfaction from her. One arm lay over his shoulder, crooked to draw him in to her, while the other strayed downward, over his chest before settling at the fly on his trousers.

Her eyes drifted like falling leaves, settling eventually on his face, her expression questioning. Her palm still lay flat against his crotch, and Arthur smiled, hoping it didn’t come across as emphatically as he was thinking, nodding encouragingly. Delicately, she reached inward with evergreen fingers, handling his fly like it was some alien device on its definite journey downward. A sharp inward breath, from both of them, marked the moment her fingers closed around his cock, and pulled it out into the open.

“Sultry” didn’t begin to describe the look in the nymph’s eyes, as they trailed upward after inspecting his member, soft hand pumping gently up and down the swelling shaft, expression burning with elemental passion. Her cheeks continued to blush a bright blue, as Arthur joined in, slipping one hand up between her legs, hoping as he did so that what he found there was analogous to a human’s.

There was a gasp, a soft purr from the girl, and Arthur found himself relieved as his fingers met soft, petalling lips and, after a moment of searching, a clit. The nymph leaned forward and laid her head against his chest as the two of them explored the other, her breathing laboured as her new paramour rounded her clit with his thumb, fingers extending lower to stroke the length of her pussy. She panted into his chest as he touched her, hips rocking, body squirming freely, her grip tightening on his cock as sensation washed over her.

There was a note of surprise in her features as he masturbated her, and Arthur began to suspect that, whoever else she had invited into her wooded halls, they hadn’t been quite as… giving, as he himself was willing to be. The idea perplexed him; who could be in the presence of such a rare creature as her, to be offered her sweet, supple body, and not want to prolong the experience, to share pleasure with her as fully as possible?

As he slid two fingers inside her, she shivered so delightfully against him, her whole body quaking with the most obvious, unrestrained of pleasures. In response, her hand left his shaft and ventured lower, cupping his balls, looking up at him as if to ask if this was okay with him. Arthur craned his neck, kissing her deeply, his answer silent yet clear, as she panted softly into his mouth, rocking her hips against his probing digits.

Gasping, trailing kisses over Arthur’s neck, the nymph rose up, away from his fingers, her own fingers encircling the base of his cock and positioning it, so her lusciously wet pussy could sink down on it all at once, taking the entire length in a single, confident fall. The two of them joined together in a spontaneous, throaty groan of completeness, voices entwined just as they were.

A moment of silence fell over them then, still and contemplative, as they simply absorbed their new state, drew it all in and etched it upon their memory as deeply as they could. The trees shook as the lightest of breezes wound its way through the forest, leaves trembling in concert with the woman atop him, the wind itself rising and ebbing with the rhythm of her breathing. A set of deep, warm reds and oranges radiated up her skin, inching across her body from her hips up, growing faster with every minute motion of her pussy, filled by his cock.

Her pleasure was the colour of autumn…

Small rolls of her hips gave way to larger motions, more expansive, with mounting urgency, as each new thrust of Arthur into her brought new heights of sensation. Strong, ochre tinted thighs lifted her delicate body upward, before allowing her to fall against him once more, taking him deep, deep as he could go, her slick inner walls clenching even at the base of his length, twitching and gripping so hard that Arthur growled, low and primal, each and every time. The sound simply rolled out of him, over and over; she was so tight, so hot and wet and burning with life atop him, he could hardly help it.

They kissed again, and her taste had changed, her tongue now hosting the sweetness of peaches as it licked along his own, and the strangeness of that fact electrified Arthur, excited him to the very depths of his being. He had the supernatural in his arms, could kiss a little bit of magic, and it roiled with auburn pleasure at his touch; the privilege of her moans, her wetness, the lust that glazed her eyes, was unparalleled. Once in a lifetime.

The boughs of the tree that supported them bent inward as she rode him, submerging them in shade and dappled moonlight, the clearing enclosing them in a singular, private moment. Her forest ensconced their lovemaking, and Arthur had to remind himself that it was all as much a part of her as the cunt tightly clasping his cock, the hardened nipple he reached down to lick, or the buttocks, firm and taut beneath his hands. The entire wood sussurated, rustled and whispered of its mistress’ ecstasy. Gaia’s chorus, celebrating the most elemental expression of life.

Arthur rolled his hips, feeling the evidence of the nymph’s arousal dripping down his shaft, plunging his erection into her to the root, yearning the warm feeling of her around him at every retraction. Breath laboured with exertion, his hand found the small of the woman’s back, pressed in so that she fell against him, no longer supporting her own weight but laying it all on him. She giggled, in the moment before he kissed her once more, longing for her taste, and the sound sent a hot flash scything through him, like a moment of pure summer penetrating his very being.

It was an addictive sound, sunlight in his veins, and Arthur committed himself, then and there, to seeing what other sounds he could get her to make.

With her body now atop him like this, Arthur placed his feet firmly against the soil- her soil- and raised himself at the hips, new leverage allowing him to take her harder, to dictate the pace of their fucking himself and, in doing so, to considerably increase it.

She gasped at the first thrust, so much harder, it was, than she had been expecting. He shot her a grin, wriggled his eyebrows suggestively, and continued; it was better this way, with her face next to his, and her soft, precious body laying on his chest. She carried the scent of flowers and damp soil, of growth and ancient wood, and this close it was all he could breathe. Their movements had left impressions in the dirt surrounding them, and it clung to them both equally, peppering the back of Arthur’s shirt and lending texture to the nymph’s thighs when he gripped them, feeling the very essence of nature pulse through every aspect of their sex.

And through it all, his hips scythed back and forth, with a speed borne of passion, magnified moment to moment by the lovely, lust-filled tenor of the moans he was eliciting from his newfound lover. The nymph spread her legs wider around him, granting him greater access to push deeper, move faster, pound into her harder. Panting with the effort of it, Arthur pushed on, feeling her muscles tighten, taut as bowstrings, her back arching her body into his. Moonlight glittered on her skin, illuminating reds and oranges and yellows, falling like leaves on the canvas of her body, faster, faster, as though they were caught in a gale, framed entirely within the nymph herself. Those warm embers even reached her eyes, desire flickering in them as she locked them to his, biting her lip as he fucked her.

Oh, yes

His teeth showed through his smile as he committed all his strength to one final push, watching the nymph tense and twitch, thighs flexing restlessly as the wet sounds of her arousal rose to join the chorus of panting and groaning that dominated Arthur’s hearing. Her voice rose, in pitch and volume, in concert with the tightness of her body, and she curled into his chest, shivering with lust as her breath caught in her throat.

Just a little more…

It had been brewing within her for a while, Arthur thought, but when it finally took her fully there could be no doubt. Her hands gripped at his shirt, fingers curling in the fabric. Her thighs suddenly clenched down, hard. Her back arched, the curve only growing deeper for a silent, spasming moment…

… And then she screamed.

Sitting bolt upright, simple gravity pulled her down fully onto his cock, the rippling tautness of her inner muscles keeping it there. The nymph’s head tilted back, her voice ringing loud and clear through the dark, howling her orgasm to the moon overhead. All at once, the fragments of hot colour that had been flitting aimlessly, excitedly, across her body darted inward, toward the point of their sexual union, collecting together before bursting outward in a unified wave of colour, a climactic sunrise daubed on her beautiful naked flesh. She trembled, absorbed in the peak of bliss, and all Arthur could do was watch, drinking in the work of art that was the nymph in orgasm.

She was glorious, revelling in her pleasure without reserve, and it spread outward from her like a ripple on tranquil waters, the ground beneath her blooming in lurid green life, a circle of pure springtime expanding further and further as she came. Grass grew tall, flowers bloomed, the trees above and around bearing fruit and blossoms in equal measure, a parade of muted colour in the moonlight. Wind stirred the new garden of paradise, caused the flowers to shudder in time with their mistress.

By the time she was finished, her body relaxed and sweating, the entirety of the clearing was alight with colour, daubed from end to end with new foliage, with petals, with acorns and berries and, at the centre of it all, the couple in their embrace. New buds grew quickly along the nymph’s horns, in her hair, and her body was tinted a uniform, sunset orange, slowly fading to her natural brown as the last vestiges of orgasm left her, tickling her nerves with dissolving, sea foam pleasure.

She moved slowly now, still panting with need, lilac eyes locked to his, pleading, needing what came next. To share in the feelings that Arthur had elicited in her. Her hips rolled, deliberate strokes designed to stimulate his shaft, to bring him to his own release, as they lay together in a silence broken only by their own breathing, and the susurrus of new plants swaying in the breeze. The nymph kissed Arthur when he finally came, her tongue twirling over his in time with the spurting hotness of his seed inside her, her buttocks tautening with delight at each new shot.

They savoured the moment for a few seconds more, coupled and in close proximity, eyes closed and panting, roiling in the heat and wetness of their fading arousal. When they finally disengaged, it was with a shared rueful look, a simultaneous regret that it had to end at all. Arthur shivered as his cock slipped out of the nymph, feeling oddly bereft at the separation, as she stood up, running her hands through her hair.

On unsteady legs, Arthur stood too, brushing dirt from his pants and picking sticking seeds from his shirt. Unsure of what happened next, he simply went about the business of straightening himself out in silence, replacing his shrinking erection into his pants and, ultimately, shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot.

The nymph stretched, methodically and completely, each muscle in turn, before placing her attention back on Arthur. Smiling brightly, she covered the distance between them with deer-like strides and planted a kiss on his lips, fingers entwining in his hair as her tongue probed his mouth. When she pulled away, he was gasping for breath.

With a look of fondness on her face, and a wave of her hand, she turned her back to him, and began to walk.

Trees seemed to close in behind her, boughs and branches obscuring her for just a moment, but it was apparently enough time for her to vanish from Arthur’s sight. Spellbound, struck with a desperate desire to recapture the rarity of the moment, he followed, walking quietly through the shadow-lined forest, alone but for the buzz of insects, the croaking of the occasional frog.

He was almost unsurprised when the direction she had taken him deposited Arthur right back in his own backyard, where all this had began. He had a sneaking suspicion that it would have done that no matter what direction she had left him in.

This close to the town, even the animal sounds of the forest seemed distant, the trees behind him stark towers of wood with only blackness between them. The light of the moon no longer seemed so bright, was unable to penetrate so far into the forest that Arthur would have been comfortable venturing back into it. The message was clear: don’t try to find me again.

He was alone.

Arthur sighed. Walking back to his home, existing in that familiar space after all he had just seen and done seemed… hollow. Lonesome. What was he expected to do? Walk back through his front door, get back into bed and sleep the rest of the night? Pretend he hadn’t just met the nymph, hadn’t shared in that moon-soaked scene with her?

Just… be normal?

Shortly before a wave of bitterness at being discarded threatened to sour the experience he had just partaken in, he heard it. The woodsong curled out from the forest once more, sound like tendrils wrapping around him, the nymph’s voice rising cleanly through it all, supported by the symphonic arrangement of the sounds of her halls.

It was a different song from the summoning melody that had called Arthur to the centre of the woods before, and it had a different effect on him. The first song had roused him from slumber, but if anything, her second song was a lullaby, quickly subsuming Arthur in a drowsy haze. It called to him just as her first attempt, but the location was different; the first had attracted him to the forest, to her, but the second made the idea of his bed irresistible. His feet were moving toward it before he even consciously realized.

It was a short trip, buoyed by the beautiful sound of the nymph’s voice, and that little touch of caring from her, guiding him home and singing him to his rest, obliterated all misgivings about how quickly their liaison had ended. Perhaps, he considered briefly, this too was an element of the nymph-music in his mind, subtly manipulating him to positivity, but Arthur could hardly bring himself to care.

As he slipped back into the familiar comfort of his bed, not even bothering to change out of his dirtied clothes, Arthur knew this wouldn’t be the end of things. He had touched the unimaginable, spent time fucking in the moonlight with magic made flesh, and he couldn’t imagine simply returning to Potter’s End, to normality, after that. One didn’t leave gold behind for tin.

He slept, then, with the nymph’ voice caressing his ears through the night, and dreamt of creatures beyond mortal imagining.

Of meeting each and every one.

Criticising women is not misogyny.

So, I’d like to take a break from our scheduled programming to briefly (for me) talk about an article I came across during my rambling across the internet, and instantly disagreed with almost every point it raised. Since it references E.L James and criticism thereof, I feel like it falls directly into my wheelhouse.

In an article entitled “Women, know your place!” Tracy Kuhn considers criticism of E.L James and other female creators, and comes to the conclusion that such criticism comes from a desire to punish women with ambition, to put women in their place, rather than because we legitimately find reason to criticize. In support of this she presents a larger context, wherein men writing problematic things are given a pass, whereas women doing the same are not:

Meanwhile we carry on going to see films and read books and watch television programmes that subliminally give out really damaging messages about women and use rape scenes again and again to move a plot forward, but again, who cares about those? This way, with this easy, high profile target, we can all show how terribly clever and witty we all are. And if we feel a little bit uncomfortable as we walk away from the hashtag, casually alerting our children to the damage that online bullying can do, what of it? Serves her right. What on earth was she thinking??

There is a lot wrong with this argument. Before we get to the more feminism specific criticism it sort of fails as argumentation because Kuhn demands unreasonable standards, asserting that we can’t criticize women unless we’re criticizing every other problematic piece of media, as if there’s time in the day to do that. We have a limited time frame in which to write, we need to select our targets, and yes, I’ll admit, a millions-selling series delivering a saucy concept like BDSM to heretofore unheard of public acclaim is a tantalizing subject for review.

But we don’t criticize Fifty Shades because E.L James is a woman, and in order to assume that you’d need to disregard every word of the content that the critics write. We criticize- I criticize- Fifty Shades for the reasons stated in my recaps. Because it’s a high-profile piece of literature that brings my chosen kink to the forefront of public discourse, but does so in a way that reinforces harmful and misogynistic stereotypes, while also just being a plain old poorly written book, published in the shadow of a shady history of potential intellectual property theft and mercenary writing habits.

To be clear, misogyny is not gender segregated; women can regurgitate the same sexist talking points that men do, and it simply doesn’t do to give women a pass for that. How can someone claim to be feminist, claim to stand for equality among the genders, while simultaneously advocating for one gender to be treated with kid gloves when they say or do something that is problematic? If this same article had been written suggesting that men shouldn’t be criticized for saying and doing problematic things, the defect with the argument would be obvious.

In fact, rejecting the stated reasons for criticizing a piece of work in favor of asserting baselessly that it all comes from a place of sexism- while simultaneously recognizing that most of the people doing the criticism are women themselves- is kind of sexist in itself, suggesting that these people cannot be trusted to represent their own motivations for writing a given thing, effectively silencing their own voices in deference to shakily argued “feminism.” You can’t decry women’s voices being shouted down in public for their ambition, as Kuhn does, while simultaneously dismissing the voices of all the literary critic women discussing Grey to shove your words into their mouths. Imagine a male writer stepping in and saying essentially the same thing, that what all these women writers are trying to say is that women with ambition should “know their place,” and consider just how poorly that would come across.

The history of women’s discourse is littered with exactly these kinds of shenanigans; people (most often men) from all sides determined to speak for women who are themselves speaking out, to dictate their experiences to them without any basis for claiming that knowledge. We even have a goddamn word for it, in “mansplaining.” It doesn’t become less offensive when it’s one woman doing it to another, nor if she herself is motivated by a desire to protect what she perceives as victimized women; the name of the game is still autonomy and the right to represent our own experiences, and that’s still something Kuhn is taking away from us in her quest to reduce all of our writings to some sexist screeds demonizing women for getting ideas above their station.

And what is the end result Kuhn seems to want out of all this, anyway? I think it’s fair to say that it’s impossible to criticize every piece of problematic media equally, because there’s simply too much of it. That’s an unfortunate fact of the world we live in; sexist stuff penetrates a lot of layers of the culture, even unintentionally in cases where people plum don’t know any better. We can’t possibly go through every example of media with the same fine tooth comb we would want to, and if we can’t discuss specific media for fear of seeming like we’re picking on people for secret reasons by some who’re looking for reasons not to have the conversation at all, who have empowered themselves with sexism-detecting telepathy and will employ that to tell us other critics what we really think, then what can we do?

The answer is… not much of anything, really.

We simply cannot have a conversation about media if the criteria is this binary “criticize everything at once/you’re bigoted against the people you do criticize” that Kuhn seems to subscribe to. The nature of linear time forces us to pick and choose our targets, and frankly, despite my feelings for it I have to acknowledge that Fifty Shades is an excellent topic of discussion for so many reasons other than that it was written by a woman and enjoyed by other women. It represents a shift in the paradigm of publishing, being that it’s essentially a fan fiction that got repurposed. It brought fresh awareness of BDSM to the mainstream, where before such a conversation would be much harder to have. It normalized the idea of reading erotica, again, a facet of mainstream culture that had not been discussed so openly before Fifty Shades as after. Being as overtly sexualized as it is, it points a rather defined spotlight on prevalent attitudes toward sex, gender, kink and so on, within a context that people tend to get very recalcitrant about too. And frankly, as literature it’s jam packed with things to talk about, even if all of those do skew negative.

I might not like the book, but Fifty Shades is a special case, and there are so many reasons that it’s worthy of in depth examination as a cultural artifact beyond the fact that it’s the latest big thing in “chick lit.” It is, in fact, insulting both to E.L James and to the people writing about her work to insinuate that there’s no particular reason one might focus on this work other than the gender of the main audience, and that attitude betrays a startling lack of understanding of the circumstances surrounding the series, for someone who’s willing to make such declarative statements about the content both of the book itself, and the extended critique surrounding it.

It’s not as though it would be hard for Kuhn to find out this stuff; reading a few of those examples of “picking apart, sentence by sentence,” that she’s comfortable in dismissing as bullying, would give her ample reasons why Fifty Shades has been singled out for special treatment. It isn’t just that the writer is a woman that we do this; it’s that this series is a weird, unique chapter in the annals of romance publishing, the sort that only comes around every once in a while. Even disasters are worth dissecting, in cases like this one.

There is a point to be found in Kuhn’s piece that is worthy of consideration, in the idea that a successful woman deals with greater scrutiny and negativity than a man in a similar position, and I’m neither denying that that is true, nor attempting to make light of or dismiss it. It’s a great observation that needs to be discussed, certainly, and Kuhn does point out some of the ways that conversations on successful women differ from those of men in a very poignant, understated way. Unfortunately, in this case a cogent point is mired in terrible execution, loaded with so much accusatory ire toward those who dare say anything negative at all about successful women, that the positive is drowned out. At no point does Kuhn address the actual content of the criticisms being levied against James’ work, nor explain why they’re unearned or inapplicable; if she’d done that then she might have had a point. Instead, she just assumes the intentions of a bunch of people she’s never met, presupposing that there’s nothing cogent to be said against Fifty Shades in any of the criticisms, just unthinking misogyny, tarted up in a literary critique dress.

In her attempt to decry the silencing of women in broader media, Tracy Kuhn ends up attempting to silence a bunch of women in media. The irony is palpable, but I fear Kuhn may not be able to detect it, because you want to know the worst part?

This is how Kuhn ends her article:

Have a look at yourselves before you make that next witty comment. And be nicer to each other.

“Be Nice.” That age old silencing technique, leveled against women since time immemorial, is the coda to this supposedly feminist defense of women writers and their successes. Be nice, women who criticize the work of other women. You just sound so hysterical when you’re mad.


NSFW Storytime: From the void, the Master

So, here’s a dirty little story I wrote from a prompt by the lovely Mirthful Mollywhop (NSFW link!) who is totally gorgeous and you should totally check out her dirty cosplays. It’s full of tentacles and monsters and bondage sex, so if that’s up your alley, I hope you enjoy! The next Grey recap will be up soon, I’m working on it in between other things, so I equally hope you’ll stick around for that.

Now, on with the show!


Tall, – altogether too tall to be a human being- it stood at the end of her bed, muscles arranged in strange patterns rippling with tense, barely contained energy, promising danger, promising… well, whatever it wanted. It could barely be seen in the heavy night-time gloom, but its silhouette told the story clear enough. Eyes like distant, ancient starlight, two pairs together, regarded her the way mountains must regard the settlements of man; fleeting, temporary things, embers that would all too soon go out, so transitory in the greater, cosmic scale of things that they could barely be said to have been present at all. Certainly too short lived for it to matter what it did to her.

On its back, only visible in the second-hand light of her alarm clock, bands of pure muscle extended down like some alien cape; tentacles of varying thickness and size, moving near imperceptibly in the night. It was then that she heard them, the background noise that had been so constant, so omnipresent as to fade from her mind, the slithering of those probing eldritch lengths, grasping at the edges of her room, strangling the night. Alone on her bed, with the darkness pressing in from all sides and limiting her sight, her ears strained, senses reaching out into the murk… and apprehending the sound of tentacles, of unseen motion, in and out of her awareness from every angle.

She could even hear them up above, the soft, wet sound of them dripping from the ceiling like thick, heavy tar. Unbidden, a mental image of her room, that familiar space, covered wall to wall with their writhing mass popped into her brain, projected though near blind eyes onto the dark around her. Tentacles, extending outward from it- from him- to embrace her bedroom in its entirety; coiling in the corners, rising to the ceiling and wrapping around the stem of her ceiling fan, filling the view from the windows with sinuous dark flesh, pulsing gently with the intruder’s ancient, unimaginable life.

This was the point that she would usually wake up from the dream; she had been having it long enough to know, night after night, watching this strange being draw closer to her on each and every one of them, until she woke up in a cold sweat with its hold on her broken. The dream was largely the same each time, the entity did not speak, it merely moved, first from out of some… gap, at the end of her bed, a window through which the being’s body dominated the view, but from behind it could be seen strange new stars, glowing in colours unseen on Earth. Eventually though, on one night earlier in the week, its feet touched the ground that she walked upon ever day, and from that point on it was in her bedroom, stepping closer by the night.

And now, it had reached her bed, and she wasn’t waking up.

When the first firm, coiling tentacle touched her, it came from behind her head, slithering down over the headboard to wrap around her shoulder, under her armpit, encircling her before she found the sense to even cry out. Cry out she did, however, though there was little hope of anyone coming, as the tentacle spiralled down her arm with a sudden sense of purpose, until the whole of her limb was bound with the cold, unrelenting strength of the creature.

She had no doubt that struggling would not help, as the warm, damp flesh manipulated her arm, moving it behind her back with the ease that she would have in moving the arm of a doll. If it wanted, if she resisted, then it would be her bones that would yield, crack and break so that it could continue to do what it wanted; so she let it move her, wondered at the dimensions of the thing as it continued moving out from her arm, reached across the gap to coil around her other wrist and pull it behind her back too. One single tentacle extended, ultimately, from the top of one shoulder to the top of the other, a binding so simple and effective that it made her shudder with its effortlessness. It had her. Without even trying, it had her.

She could not fight it, but she gasped as it tugged backwards, pulling her down helplessly onto the bed, that unnatural strength pinning her in place. Again she cried out, shouted to the rafters, which were no doubt still buttressed with the writhing limbs of the being before her, as it lifted one reverse-jointed leg to kneel on the bed, hands with too many fingers kneading the sheets as it drew closer. Pulse racing, she kicked out uselessly, the heel of her foot sliding off the creature’s abdomen as though friction didn’t exist for it, the possibility of another such kick disappearing as a second and third tentacle wrapped around her ankle and then disappeared under the bed, taking her legs to either edge, spreading them wide.

A shiver went down her spine. This was beginning to look awfully familiar, thematically.

Eyes that looked out from the edge of the universe regarded her, intelligence both obvious and vast burning in them. Its body seemed to blur at the edges, as though its very form was a lie that she couldn’t quite see through, something unknowable in its enormity shrunk down into something that could bind her and spread her, could take to her on a level that its true form could barely even perceive.

When it reached in with one hand and tore her nightgown off as though it were some irrelevant piece of detritus, she wasn’t even surprised. Something in its expression changed, though she knew not what the new expression meant. A mouth that may or may not have been there a moment before opened, teeth like long-formed stalactites in a deep forgotten cave lining it, framing a tongue like none other she had ever seen. It moved closer to her, between her ankles.

Stripped naked now, bare and vulnerable, the cold air hardening her nipples and raising goose bumps on her skin, she committed every detail of the creature looming over her to memory, all that she could see in the blackness of the night. The body that it wore was a strange parody of the human form; the muscles were wrong, curling, pulsing strange patterns below the skin, looking as though they shouldn’t function.

And what skin it was; this close, she could see that it wasn’t a concrete physical form in itself, there was depth there. It was possible to see through its skin, simultaneously there in the room with her and something that could be perceived further, distant stars twinkling out there in the blackness of its form. Now she was surrounded by tentacles, they bordered her bed, caging her in even if she managed to slip the creature’s grasp, and the cosmos boiled in each and every muscled length. From the ones closest she could even see the light of it spilling onto her pale skin in pinpricks of illumination, the light itself behaving strangely as it refracted through the creature’s skin.

Eyes wide, she realized that whatever happened next was entirely out of her control. The entity’s strength had hinted at that before, but now she knew, looking out into the star-flecked expanses of the intruder; there was no hope that she could fight back against something like this, to escape it, to do anything other than give it what it wanted. It could break her and walk out of the world; there would be no challenge to it.

More tentacles rose to meet her, lifting up from under the sheets, behind her pillows, under the bed and beside the windows and across the carved wood of her headboard and footboard. They conformed to the contours of her form, licked along her skin like countless tongues of every shape and size, feeling her out because, she believed with utter conviction, they had never been in the presence of a human being before.

The tips of two such tentacles traced the lines of her hips, the border of her pelvis just below her belly, and her body shuddered in reaction, her hips rising involuntarily to meet them. In response more limbs moved, one seeking out the warm hollow of her navel, another reaching up to encircle one small, pert breast, forming a spiral up until the tip rested calmly against her nipple. There was a sucker there, it seemed, and it drew the sensitive pink peak into it, like a mouth against her, and she gasped at the sudden sensation of it, the dart of pleasure that raced down in a line directly to her clit.

Her breathing came in short, sharp bursts, seemingly attempting to catch up to the pounding of her heart, and the adrenaline flooding her system only served to sharpen everything that was happening to her. As she watched, and bit back a moan from the insistent sucking at her nipple, the creature’s tongue uncoiled from its mouth and extended, its head bowing only slightly to make it gain contact with the apex of her spread and trembling legs.

She strained to close them then, and the four eyes flicked up with what might possibly be irritation dancing in them, as it denied her resistance with seemingly no effort at all. When she moved against them the tentacles were like iron bars, unmoving in the face of her unthinking need to close her legs as the creature’s tongue slipped lower, stroking with a light touch against the sweet pinkness of her pussy. It was warm but not wet, unlike a tongue in that respect, but its dissonant inhumanity quickly vanished from her mind as it persisted in stimulating her, moving in slow, experimental strokes up the length of her lips.

And then it found her clit.

She gasped at the sudden sensation of it, the bolt of pleasure that rippled through her, and the sound rang out into the night. All around her, the sound of slithering tentacles stopped for a moment, silence rushing in to fill the gap. The creature’s head did not tilt, but its eyes did, slanting with its own alien form of curiosity down the slopes of its face, tracking her still even as they moved. The tongue flicked her clit again, deliberately this time, and folded to clasp at the sensitive little bud like yet another sucker, disengaging with a notable pop that made her shriek, pain and pleasure colliding in her hips so unexpectedly that it left her screaming in the dark, pins and needles in her clit as blood slowly returned to it.

Her hair had fallen over her face, a ginger curtain obscuring her vision of the creature as it found a new way to play her, but with her arms bound all she could do was attempt to blow the strands out of her way. Even that was taken away from her as the creature began its assault on her clit in earnest, her purposeful puffs devolving into crude panting and groaning as the tip of its tongue pressed hard at her throbbing flesh, tentacles slipping beneath her to lift her lower half up, tilting her pussy up toward it.

She wondered, in between gasps, what she tasted like to it, how its eldritch senses would interpret the dew of human arousal, what alien tastes would it compare her to. Did it even know what it was doing to her? What the sounds she was making signified?

A second tentacle wrapped around her other breast, sucking and pulling at her nipple just like the first, and a third moved up to prod at the entrance of her pussy experimentally, gaining easy entrance to her slick, pulsating hole. It stopped after a few inches, and the creature made a noise that transitioned from deep and rumbling to high and chirping, its tongue flicking insistently at her clit as, inside her, the tip of the tentacle began to change, flaring larger at the end… very much like a cock.

Oh yes. It knew.

Another chirruping sound, shifting abruptly and without transition to the harshest of scraping noises, the tenor of it suggesting laughter even while the sound itself was near torture to the ears. Things began in earnest now, the thing in her pussy moving with deep, powerful strokes, slicking her insides even further with some sort of gel that was hot to the touch and turned her nerves to hyperactive embers, burning with pleasure, tracking each stroking motion of the tentacle with a level of detail, a level of intensity, that she thought impossible for the human brain.

And there was so much to take in! The tentacle was already more flexible that any human cock or digit, the tip actively curving to explore her, discovering sensitive spots she didn’t even know she had and depositing more of that liquid ecstasy there, so that the next thrust became an atom bomb for the nerves. It only took moments of such treatment for her to start screaming, moments more for tears to track down her cheeks, the pure sensation of it all too much to take in all at once, the unique intensity all the worse for the fact that she knew it would end, and that when it did she had no assurances that this unearthly creature would return to repeat the experience.

But there was more to be done, and the creature knew. It moved up higher, tentacles continuing their fucking and sucking and teasing and taunting as it loomed overhead, two clawed hands planted at either side of her head. She looked into those eyes like living starlight, like the weight of aeons made flesh, and her mind shuddered at the depth she found there. The sheer impossible breadth of the creature threatened to fill her, blotting out everything she was in the incomprehensible immensity of the cosmos, and she cried out with it, physical pleasure merging with the intensity of it all into a kind of climax for the soul that rendered her momentarily insensible, a shuddering mass of impermanent flesh and a mind all too soon destined for oblivion, in the grip of something so much more.

Fucked by starlight…

She came back to herself surrounded, the creature filling her room with a sound like moving lava, tentacles everywhere. They licked at her skin in a thousand places, touching her in a specific sequence, clit, hips, belly, navel, calves, lips… every touch transitory and small but, to her oversensitive form, like a live wire had been touched to her skin. She jerked toward every one of them, body squirming and needy, still being fucked and desperate for every moment of it. When the tentacle inside her stopped and another, in isolation, traced the curve of her hip with the same gel that it had filled her with, she was surprised to feel herself come, pussy clenching hard around the probing appendage, even motionless as it was. Her back arched, thighs twitching, as climax raced through her, nipples and clit still on fire with stimulation.

She tried to scream again, but found her throat closed as another tentacle wrapped itself around her neck, squeezing tightly, slithering in a tight coil around her. The tip extended across the line of her chin, curling in toward her lips as the lowest one began to move again, fucking her in short, sharp bursts that… yes… made her open her mouth.

She accepted the tentacle into her mouth with an outstretched tongue, the creature’s skin strange and tasteless but hot in a peculiar way, like licking the core of a star. The sensation made her tongue tingle, and she swept it along the length of the tentacle as it slid into her mouth, drinking in every moment of it, as it crept further, toward the back of her throat. She was aware, dimly, that this very same tentacle was still choking her, even that she was beginning to feel lightheaded as the lack of air persisted, but other parts of her body dragged at her attentions far more, the creature’s strange, inhuman sex dominating her at a most profound level.

When the thought dripped through her mind like ice-water that the entity may not even understand that humans require air, that perhaps it would just squeeze and squeeze and never stop, and she had no way of letting it know otherwise, her eyes flew open, the slopes of the creature’s face swimming before her.

Too long. She had let him choke her for too long…

And fuck, she was coming again…

As if reading her mind- a distinct possibility, of course- the tentacle around her neck loosened, its tip retracting just long enough for her to gasp down a few deep, sputtering breaths, before the creature resumed fucking her mouth, evidently expecting her to continue sucking as she had before. She did, of course; one didn’t disappoint an envoy from the depths of the cosmos.

With her vision blocked by perverse tentacles, she didn’t even notice the creature’s drifting hand until it slipped beneath her, coarse palm cupping her backside as long, multi-knuckled fingers prised apart the cheeks of her ass, exploring the entrance of her single free hole. It paused for a moment, eyes narrowing as she whined in nervous protest despite her full mouth, just long enough to replace those fingers with tapered, slimy tentacle mass, a thin length sliding with slow, insistent force into her ass.

The creature stopped, once it had filled her to its satisfaction, its tentacles dripping uncut liquid pleasure inside her every step of the way. It thrummed, a deep, satisfied growl seeming to escape from every inch of the thing, vibrating even through those parts of it that were currently inside her; she moaned, growing ever more desperate for more, more of what it could do, what it was doing to her without even really trying. Somehow, it had geared its physical form precisely for her pleasure… or perhaps that was a mere side effect of whatever it sought to gain from her.

She imagined, unbidden, what it would be like to see it truly try to please her, in that case.

She dared not make assumptions about what it was thinking; without a human origin any facial expression she saw in it simply could not be derived from the same basis as her own, could not signify the same emotions… even so, could that be levity in that pointed, toothy curve of a mouth? Prurient enjoyment in the tensing of its muscles, the way its eyes glittered when they regarded her?

It had found all her sensitive spots and seemed to be sticking with them… who could say?

Suddenly, it lifted her aloft, tentacles bearing her into the air as though she were a ragdoll, a naked sex toy for the creature from beyond her world. It simply held her there, floating and used, a curio on living pillars, as the tentacles pumped in and out of her, mouth and cunt and ass, pleasure expanding to fill her every moment. The creature had borne her into her own private universe, of sex amongst the writhing tentacles, of orgasms too close together and too numerous to count as individual events, too intense for her to bear, or to be without. Whatever chemical the tentacles were excreting inside her made her pussy ache at every retraction, and explode with sensation at every sudden inward thrust.

Her fleshy bindings kept her still, even as she tried to squirm, to rock her hips so as to take full advantage of the length in her ass and pussy. She couldn’t even bob her head to properly fellate the one in her mouth, though the creature seemed to delight in choking her to the edge of insensibility, only to allow her breath at the very last moment, preserving her consciousness and keeping her body humming with adrenaline and endorphins, adding yet another visceral edge to their sex.

Floating in that timeless, near lightless void, accompanied only by the creature and its exploratory caresses, its tasting tongue and stimulating tentacles, she lost all track of herself. She surrendered to it completely, allowed the entity to do its work, to have her, in any way it wanted her, and it took full advantage. It twisted her body this way and that, changed positions on her more times than she could count. It flipped her over, her butt bobbing in the air, and inspected the holes that it probed, growling as they stretched around its tentacles. It pressed her down to her bed, so that her head hung over the side and it could more deeply penetrate her throat, spurting more of its orgasm-inducing juices and forced her to swallow, tentacles peeking out from beneath the bed to toy with her hair, the gesture oddly affectionate. It even hung her upside-down, pumping her from both ends as blood rushed to her head and, if it were even possible, her pale face blushed even redder as she writhed and came for the creature, her whole world inverted.

She had stopped caring what lay beyond the window at one point or another in the night, but when, finally, the creature released her back down onto her bed, its tentacles retracting, sliding back into its humanoid form without a care for the available storage space, she could see that the sun was just beginning to rise in the distance, long shadows beginning to recede even now. They had been at this all night long.

… At least the creature was breathing heavily too.

Personally, she could barely raise her head to look at it, her muscles turned to jelly after her intensive workout. Sweat ran in rivulets down skin flushed with exertion, bruises and sucker-marks dotting her usually milky complexion, perhaps the only evidence after this night of what had happened to her. Her pussy dripped freely, her own arousal mixing with the alien compound that had transformed her body into that needy live wire of passion, that had kept her going, wanting more for hours at a time. She wished, fervently, that she could bottle the stuff.

One tentacle remained wrapped around her neck, not tightly, not enough to cut off her breathing, but enough for her to know that it wouldn’t be dislodged by her mere resistance. Not that she would want to resist it, anyway; she nuzzled into it, breathed in the scent of starlight and, oddly grateful for the night they had shared, kissed it. Regarding the entity with tired eyes, she could have sworn she saw it react to that, though in truth it had been oddly still for quite a while now.

It raised a single hand, flexed, and behind it the same window to another world that it had entered through in her dreams opened up behind it, fading into existence like a cheap special effect. She supposed that reality didn’t owe her flashiness, but nevertheless, it was disappointing to see.

The creature turned, looked into the new, uncharted realm beyond the doorway, silently.

And then it looked back at her, purpose glimmering in its eyes.

It waited, still and tranquil, for her to realize; the tentacle around her neck was not an embrace, not some fond farewell. Eldritch horrors were not known to be sentimental like that. No, it was a collar, a collar and a leash, to lead her wherever the creature wanted her to go. Perhaps as a mate, perhaps a pet… all was in doubt, expect the promise of more to come, those same desperate heights of pleasure, untethered from the limitations of reality as she knew it.

She took the time to look, narrowing her eyes as she gazed past the creature into its doorway. If she looked past the stars she could see them, stamped midnight black against the void: tentacles, filling her vision, in every conceivable size, writhing and wrapping together, the totality of whatever realm lay beyond the window…

… All of them, belonging to the being that stood in her bedroom, waiting for her to speak. She knew this, in the marrow of her bones, without ever having to be told.

Words weren’t necessary. It was doubtful that her partner would have even understood them if she said them. Loose-limbed and shaking, she slid off of her bed onto the floor, her legs unstable beneath her. Chirruping again, the entity began to walk, and she allowed herself to be led by her new collar toward the endless depths of its true form.

Tentacles reached out to meet her, embracing her across realities, stroking her hips, the inside of her thighs, even between her legs as the creature made its final step across the threshold just a moment before she did. Heart racing, she surrendered herself to the tentacles, arms wide as they held her, bore her through into a weird new world.

The portal began to seal up behind her, leaving no trace that it had ever been there. The last thing to make it through before it shut up entirely, was a lingering, feminine moan of pleasure, a farewell to the dawning sun.

Grey: Fifty Shades as told by a Garbage-Person, Chapter Five recap

Folks, here at the Gag Order we try to have some nice things to say about stuff; personally I’m the kind of person who’ll allow my like of individual aspects of a work overshadow its overarching lack of quality a lot of the time. Hell, I even kinda like those Transformers movies because there are giant robots in them, and I have an escape clause in my soul against feeling too badly about anything with those in them.

But Grey? I simply can’t do this for Grey. Because chapter five begins like this:

I’ve slept well for the first time in five days. Maybe I’m feeling the closure I had hoped for, now that I’ve sent those books to Anastasia. As I shave, the asshole in the mirror stares back at me with cool, gray eyes.

We are five chapters into this book now, and fully four of them open with either Grey waking up from sleep, or talking about his sleeping schedule. Of the things this book discusses, the most omnipresent theme so far is E.L James’ pressing need to tell us absolutely everything about the way Christian Grey sleeps. It’s a wonder we haven’t heard about the thread count of his sheets yet. I halfway suspect that when we finally get to the sex scenes Grey will just start lovingly describing the size of the mattress while he’s thrusting into Ana, or imagining how comfy the pillows will be under his head when he finally gets to sleep on them.

Hell, if that turns out to be the thing that drives him to orgasm, I wouldn’t be surprised.

Gnnnngg, padded mattresses!

It’s not just repetitious and weirdly specific, it’s also just bad writing. Chapter openings are supposed to hook the reader into the scene, to set the stage for what’s to come or hint at future plot events, but Grey only ever opens on the most mundane shit imaginable. The bland stream of consciousness that comprises the entirety of Christian’s narration just stops at the end of one chapter, and starts back up at the beginning of another.

It’s like E.L James has no understanding of tone, or pacing, or scene setting, really anything that writers need to establish and ground their work. All she cares about doing is writing the characters, and characters just incidentally have to be occupying physical space so there’s maybe a spattering of things around them so they aren’t just being insufferable bores in an empty void. It reads like Christian Grey wrote a “what I did on summer vacation” reports after failing second grade for twenty years.

Anyway, we’re suddenly thrown back into Christian Grey’s life as he’s shaving, which, I mean… fucking nobody cares about that. This obsession with rendering the most mundane aspects of Grey’s life in minute detail, while ignoring the stuff that might maybe be interesting, like his business career or billionaire lifestyle, get lost by the wayside. I said earlier that nearly all of the actual actions in these scenes, all the physical locations, are essentially irrelevant, and I meant that; they’re just window dressing for Grey to impart certain pieces of information about himself or Ana to the reader through them. What Grey does rarely has any impact on the story at all; what he thinks while he’s doing it is what the scene is for, more often than not.

This opening scene exists so that Grey can relate to the viewer that he hopes Ana sees the books he sent her in the last chapter and, rather than interpreting them as a warning like he (vaguely) wanted to, opts instead to contact him again. That’s literally the entire gist of what’s going on there; the scene ends immediately after he finishes thinking that, and his actions during it are completely irrelevant. That being the case, why not choose something interesting to happen in the background? Why doesn’t James ever choose to let something interesting happen in the background?

Grey is always out jogging, or shaving, or taking a frigging potty break whenever he thinks relevant information that the readers should know. He’s always doing things that the readers don’t care about and don’t have any impact on how we perceive Grey as a character. From my perspective, he might as well just be standing in the middle of an empty room, motionless, just thinking what needs to be imparted, before moving on: “I sent Ana those books. I hope that my pretense of warning her away is ignored, and she calls me. End communication.”

I am Christian Grey. Initiate bondage sequence.

There is no reason why he couldn’t be doing something interesting during these scenes. The problem is that Grey doesn’t have much of a character beyond vague, ill defined jabs at hobbies that he has that don’t ever go anywhere. He doesn’t seem to do much at all, despite all of the things he just tells us he does; he apparently likes literature and music, plays sports, pilots aircraft and gliders, but we never actually see any of that happen. Wouldn’t it be more fun if Christian contemplated Ana while, say, playing the piano? Something that could actually be used to reflect his emotional state without him having to just declare how he’s feeling?

The thing is that people’s moods and thoughts influence the way they act, and that this is a great way to demonstrate how a character is feeling at a given moment. If Christian thinks of Ana while playing the piano, then the choice of music he plays could be used to indicate how he feels about her. His proficiency at it could give us a window into his mood, because if the mind is elsewhere it’s easy to screw up; imagine if he was playing during that part where he felt guilty about rejecting her, rather than just waking up some more. He attempts to play the piece but, whenever he stops actively thinking about his finer placement and allows himself to play by feel, he thinks back to Ana and donk, hits the wrong key. Sour note.

That’s just off the top of my head, but doesn’t that feel like a much more active and nuanced scene than the bluntness of having him wake up and tell us all outright that he’s having trouble sleeping? Don’t you have a better grip on Christian’s mental state in that moment when it is expressed through his actions, rather than not expressed at all? Don’t actions speak louder than words?

At heart, everything a writer writes is about the information being imparted; there’s nothing really different about what James is doing versus what any other writer does, at the core. But the mark of a good writer is their ability to wrap that information in a compelling package, to express it in an interesting way. That’s why we set scenes, select words to befit the mood we’re attempting to create, rather than just blandly recount what we thought of. It’s the difference between a novel and a plot synopsis. It takes the information and uses it to evoke a world, where Grey just takes it and dumps it out in front of you while having the protagonist do a thing off in the background; what Grey does is a concession to the fact that it’s presented in the novel format, rather than a legitimate use of that same format. It’s a grudging acknowledgement that something needs to happen in a book, that the information can’t just be recounted in a vacuum and still be called a novel.

It is, in a way, ugly. Grotesque in its reductive cynicism, the way it just slops mundanity on the page in front of you, confident that you’ll all just eat it up anyway. This isn’t so much James resting on her laurels as it is James constructing something like Jabba the Hutt’s palace around the laurels so that she can lounge upon them and do essentially nothing at all, while sycophants and petitioners gather round due to nothing more than the gravity of her success. One gets the feeling that if she could have gotten away with just releasing the plot synopsis for twenty dollars, she would have done so.

Peecha chakka no Christian Grey, boonowa tweepi Inner Goddess? Ho ho ho hoooo…

Yeah, so, there you go: 1500 words written about the first sentence of a single chapter of a shitty romance novel. And what’s the takeaway from all that? “E.L James is Jabba the Hutt.”: I’m sure that’s not going to bite me in the ass at all. Imagine what I could do with the whole book.

… Oh man, I just made myself depressed.

Anyway, Christian gets a phone call from his brother Elliot, who spouts the usual Hollywood playboy platitudes about needing to get away from a woman for a while, and in response Mister “I never get any time off work,” decides to take a half day so he can go hiking, on zero notice. It’s at this point that I honestly suspect that E.L James has never read a single solitary word of her own writing.

Almost as if in acknowledgement of how pointless the entire exchange is, the scene ends immediately afterward; the message has been received, and so there is literally no other reason to continue. The book knows that there’s nothing here that we were interested in seeing through to its conclusion, and that it has no actual character insight or profit to be gained from persisting, and so it just… stops.

Notably, though Christian spent the majority of the last chapter going on about how it was for the best that he rejected Ana when he did, that he was sending her a warning to stay away with the gift he sent her, he takes the opportunity here to go hiking in Portland, where Ana is, so as to get closer to her again. This disconnect between what Christian says and what he does is the main source of this sense of distrust I get reading this book, like I should be wary about his stated goals at all times. This isn’t helped by the fact that he often outright lies to people about those goals; he’s a picture perfect unreliable narrator, and this was entirely unintentional. It’s kind of amazing.

We return to Grey and Elliot driving down to Portland together, and this is maybe as close as we’ve gotten to an actual character interaction in this entire book so far, least of all one that’s new to the series and not a repetition of a scene from a previous novel.

… So of course Elliot begins it asleep.

I mean, yeah, I could point out that this is another thing where a character being asleep is an important part of a scene, but what’s more telling to me is how we finally have two characters with a history we don’t exactly know, in a new location and engaging in a new scene, and E.L James had to desperately scrabble to find a way to keep any weighty interactions from happening. She just had to put Elliot out of the game the moment there was any risk that something interesting might happen.

The end result is that we’re subjected to some more of Christian performing meaningless actions- in this case ordering mountain bikes and having cars delivered- instead of doing something that might aid at all in character building. And of course, James has to stop to make a point of showing that Christian is an absolutely horrendous human being:

“Good.” I end the call and turn up the music. Let’s see if Elliot can sleep through The Verve.

He knows that Elliot is tired, he knows that he wants to sleep, but what Elliot wants doesn’t matter at all. All that matters is Christian and what he wants, and so the asshole deliberately makes it harder for his brother to get some rest, for basically no reason. And we’re apparently supposed to find it funny?

Is that it? Everything in this book is written so flatly that I have trouble figuring out the intent of individual lines.

Thankfully, Elliot doesn’t remain asleep for the entire scene, and when he wakes we’re given some potentially substantial insights into his relationship with Christian, sketched with a characteristic lightness and disinterest.

My father is a polymath, a real renaissance man: academic, sporting, at ease in the city, more at ease in the great outdoors. He’d embraced three adopted kids…and I’m the one who didn’t live up to his expectations.
But before I hit adolescence we had a bond. He’d been my hero. He used to love taking us camping and doing all the outdoor pursuits I now enjoy: sailing, kayaking, biking, we did it all.
Puberty ruined all that for me.

Look at that! That’s some real information that we didn’t know before, replete with some dramatic questions to ask about Christian’s dad and what happened between them! It’s almost as if a writer got her hands on that passage!

… It is never going to come up again, is it?

It certainly doesn’t persist within this scene; Christian is all too eager to move on to something that is objectively less interesting. We turn to their jobs without a word in conclusion of that last idea, and what I find particularly amusing is that, though none of it actually entertains, we end up knowing more about Elliot’s job than we’ve ever learned about Christian’s, and we’ve literally seen him do his job.

There are a number of pragmatic reasons I can think of for a writer to do this, but whatever the reason is, E.L James writes Christian’s career in incredibly vague terms, such that we don’t have much of an idea at all of what he actually does. This is fine, we don’t actually need to know all of that, but the trouble is that Christian’s job is very much a part of his character, it informs who he is. Him being this rich big shot, the money and resources his company pours into feeding the world and other charitable works, are things that James seems to want to talk about, in that more time is spent on these things than should be if it’s unimportant to the overall narrative, while simultaneously being unwilling to actually describe what Grey’s company does, or what Christian does within it.

This reluctance to put any detail into even the important things in the novel creates humorous moments like this one, where an incidental character gets a better sketched career than the damn main character.

There’s another scene break, because of course there is, and we cut back to the two of them mountain biking. Just like every other scene change, the opening lines do nothing to set the tone or evoke any sort of emotion or sensation, and the actual mountain biking, which might have been something exciting to see, is over in the span of a three line paragraph. In fact, this entire scene is exceedingly short and highly confusing; they finish mountain biking and then, with absolutely no description or hint at all that they’re still moving, they’re suddenly inside. Christian continues to obsess over Ana, and we’re treated to the absolutely fascinating spectacle of him checking his email; not even actually reading any of them, just checking and letting us know the contents of his inbox.

Frankly, I refuse to believe that a legitimate human being thought that that was the interesting part of checking email, insofar as checking email can be considered interesting at all.

Elliot grumbles that the girl he’s trying to escape has been calling him non-stop, and we get this exchange:

“Maybe she’s pregnant.”
Elliot pales and I laugh.
“Not funny, hotshot,” he grumbles. “Besides, I haven’t known her that long. Or that often.”

… Because it’s impossible to get pregnant the first few times you have sex with someone? Their uterus unlocks and opens up after the third date?

Does… does James actually think that’s how it works?

It’s another short scene, completely pointless in its execution, and we end up with the two brothers watching sports together. Ana finally calls, and with absolutely no sense of build up or significance, Grey answers:

“Anastasia?” I don’t hide my surprise or my pleasure. The background is noisy and it sounds like she’s at a party or in a bar. Elliot glances at me, so I get up off the sofa and out of his earshot.
“Why did you send me the books?” She’s slurring her words, and a wave of apprehension ripples down my spine.

So, just to get it out of the way, she drunk dialed him. That’s what happened here, which sort of makes Christian’s dramatics over it (“a wave of apprehension,” really? It’s that unnerving to you, is it?) pretty funny, if you don’t know where this scene is going, or how badly it’s going to end up looking once it’s all over.

Ana, quite reasonably from my perspective, wants to know why Christian sent her those books, and apparently needed to get drunk to get the courage to call him. I said in the last recap that Grey’s little gift sends a very confusing message, and it’s nice to be proven right about that; evidently Ana couldn’t get behind the weird pretense Christian presented either.

Christian falls over himself to act concerned over her drunken state, assuming some poorly defined worst scenario based on absolutely nothing, but his worry rings false in my ears because he still takes the time to get shitty the moment she conducts herself in any manner that he doesn’t approve of:

She giggles again. Shit, she’s laughing at me!

I thought you were crazy worried about her, guy? Besides, what kind of insane, prideful shit do you have to be to turn every instance of laughter in your life into some kind of personal attack?

And then things start to get dumb and creepy, which I’m beginning to suspect will become the signature narrative flavor combination that this book will be remembered for.

Christian attempts to get Ana to tell him where she is, but since there’s clearly little actually going on and she, potentially, doesn’t even want to see him after the shit that happened the last time they were together, she hangs up on him instead. Christian responds by calling her back and, frankly, responding in an immensely threatening way:

“I’m coming to get you.” My voice is arctic as I wrestle with my anger and snap my phone shut.

That, dear readers, does not sound like “I’m coming to take you home,” especially from Ana’s perspective, since she thinks he’s in Seattle, not Portland. I mean, that statement is phrased very closely to a literal threat as it is, and apparently it was delivered in an angry tone, but from Ana’s end of the phone what it is, is a person calling back to say a vaguely threatening statement in an angry tone and then hanging up, after she irritated him, who is apparently going to travel interstate to “get her.”

I want you all to keep that in mind as we progress through this chapter, and we’ll see how it all looks from the outside, without knowing Christian’s motivations like we do.

Grey invites his brother along on his strange quest, and then makes a call to his private investigator Welch:

“I’d really like to know where Anastasia Steele is right now.”
“I see.” He pauses for a moment. “Leave it to me, Mr. Grey.”
I know this is outside the law, but she could be getting herself into trouble.

He decides to track her phone. And he knows that it’s illegal; he even opts to use Welch for this rather than a technician in his own company because he wants to keep his name out of whatever trouble that comes of it. That he chooses to make Elliot an accessory to that is just the icing on the cake.

This time there’s an actually appropriate scene skip, and the pair arrive at the bar that Ana is apparently at. Christian, despite being 27, gets rather curmudgeonly in his (two sentence) description of the place, and then remarks that it makes him feel old. At 27. This book’s really not helping shake my opinion that E.L James is just writing her perspective and shunting it onto her characters.

Grey spots Kate, evidently having a good time with some guys, and of course he approves of none of it:

Well, let’s see if Miss Kavanagh is as loyal to her friend as Ana is to her.

It’s worth pointing out again that Christian doesn’t actually know how loyal Ana is to Kate. He’s seen them together exactly one time, during which they did not talk and he monopolized the entirety of Ana’s attention. He’s basing his entire opinion of the woman on one conversation and a series of assumptions he made on sight.

His irritation with her continues- apparently the two sentences he said to her before he labels her “exasperating” just drained away all his good will- and only seems to get worse when she gets interested in Elliot. Fortunately for everyone involved Christian is merely directed to where Ana is, rather than subjecting us all to whatever interactions would have come up with Kate and Elliot, and Christian quickly discovers his objective with Jose:

Hell! She’s with the photographer, I think, though it’s difficult to tell in the dim light. She’s in his arms, but she seems to be twisting away from him. He mutters something to her, which I don’t hear, and kisses her, along her jaw.
“José, no,” she says, and then it’s clear. She’s trying to push him off.
She doesn’t want this.

Grey gets to play white knight at this, intervening to rescue Ana, but his over-eagerness and immediate rage come across as… strained, to me. Like an exaggeration, especially when he describes his voice as “sinister,” and ends up just sounding like a guy yearning to be a badass. Jose, of course, backs off like the good little beta male he is, allowing E.L James’ Mary Sue alpha male hero to preen a little more… well, right up until the moment Ana tosses her cookies. She’s drunk, you see.

Ignoring him, I grab her hair and hold it out of the way as she continues to throw up everything she’s had this evening. It’s with some annoyance that I note she doesn’t appear to have eaten.

Okay, how the fuck am I supposed to commentate on this, let alone make fun of it? Christian Grey, romantic icon for a generation of women, literally takes a moment to examine his paramour-to-be’s vomit in order to find things to be annoyed about. The contents of her stomach are apparently that interesting to him.

How am I supposed to make that seem more ridiculous than it already is? It’d be like making fun of a clown.

Since I can’t say anything any dumber than what that sentence in the book actually describes, I’ll just say that he ushers her somewhere else to vomit, because true gentlemen facilitate their ladyfriends’ drunken purges in peace. Once she’s done having violent gastric distress in this romance novel, she feels bad, and Christian just has to rub that in:

“I’m sorry,” she says finally, while her fingers twist the soft linen.
Okay, let’s have some fun.
“What are you sorry for, Anastasia?”

Okay, so the woman is probably still feeling very sick, not to mention pretty shook up from the whole Jose thing and losing all her dignity in front of Christian, so apparently twisting the knife in all of those places at once is fun? What, exactly, is fun about intentionally making a person feel bad? Let alone somebody you are supposed to like? This is the behavior of a sociopath, not a romantic hero.

Seriously, people go out of their way to defend Christian Grey and the way he acts, but it’s now at the point where I can just describe some of the things he does in the book and they make a perfect counterpoint to anything they might say. E.L James, who has gone on record defending her writing and asserting that no, it isn’t abusive or mean spirited at all, has written a new book that literally enables me to tell people that there’s a scene in the series where Christian Grey makes a point of taunting a sick woman, describing it as “fun.”

She’s really just doing my job for me, the more she writes.

“We’ve all been here, perhaps not quite as dramatically as you.” Why is it such fun to tease this young woman?

Because you’re a complete sociopath who enjoys the discomfort of vulnerable people? See what I fuckin’ mean?

Perhaps she has a problem with alcohol. The thought is worrying, and I consider whether I should call my mother for a referral to a detox clinic.

Wow, this is a huge overreach. I mean, just to begin with he’s seen her drunk once, so this idea that she might have a drinking problem is coming out of goddamn nowhere, but the fact that Christian has empowered himself to confront her on that and push solutions on her, after all of three meetings, is frankly insane. He simply doesn’t know her well enough to be judging her like this, but of course, huge snap judgments are sort of a hallmark of this series; Ana does it too, and it’s no more acceptable when she does it.

Ana frowns for a moment, as if angry, that little v forming between her brows, and I suppress the urge to kiss it.

“As if angry,” huh? It’s probably because she’s angry. Maybe all that judgey bullcrap made her angry? Who knew!

Christian offers to take her home, and Ana is oddly trusting of this creepy weirdo, only objecting that she needs to let Kate know beforehand, as if she’s never heard of a cell phone before… which might actually be the case, considering that if I’m remembering correctly, Ana is a college graduate in the modern day who has never owned a laptop before. A lot of things about her suggest that she came right out of the eighties, if that.

I stop and bite my tongue. Kavanagh wasn’t worried about her being out here with the overamorous photographer. Rodriguez. That’s his name. What kind of friend is she?

Okay, so how do you know that Kate knew what was going on with Jose, and did nothing? They’re both adults, it’s not like she needs to keep tabs on them at every point in their lives; hell, given that Jose and Ana know each other as friends it’s equally likely that Kate trusts Ana with Jose, if he’s never done anything like that before. And that’s just me assuming that Kate actually knows Jose, which certainly isn’t something that Christian can safely conclude, given that he’s only ever seen the two of them together one time, during which neither of them really communicated. From his perspective, it’s possible that Kate doesn’t know Jose at all, or even that he was at the bar that night.

Really, the book is just scrabbling for things to go negative on Kate over, because there’s nothing remotely positive about Ana that can be demonstrated beyond Christian fawning over her in exclusively sexual terms. She is, at best, a pretty face with nothing behind it, and so the only course to make her seem at all acceptable as a human being is just to shit over every other human being in the story. It’s a deeply unpleasant tactic, this enforced misanthropy, but it’s all E.L James seems to have, like she’s incapable of writing decent characters on their own.

So they go inside to search for Kate and when Ana takes hold of Christian’s arm he has a sort of panic attack, which, I mean… why? It’s been slightly established that Christian’s got a bit of a past, but not in any level of detail such that an aversion to touch could be reasonably expected, or even alluded to, meaning this comes out of left field. To add insult to injury it’s also described in the most trad, rote way possible:

I freeze.
My heart rate catapults into overdrive as the darkness surfaces, stretching and tightening its claws around my throat.

This constant refrain of “darkness” is overdone, exactly the sort of thing you’d expect to see out of a bad fan fiction. It is the uninterested shrug of describing bad events. I’ve been guilty of it myself in the past, but not on the same scale, or with the same insistence; James does it constantly and seems to think that she’s writing something respectable in the process.

Anyway, Ana seems to be able to calm him down from a panic attack before it happens, even though she herself caused it, so I don’t exactly know what James’ message is supposed to be there. She’s clearly going for a “love heals all wounds” thing- it’s consistent with the overall disdain for psychiatric help that this series has to ignore the therapy and zero in on the woman- but having Ana be the cause of the problem as well as its solution undercuts the message before it’s even fully established. Moreover, it’s a problematic lesson on its own, because Ana hasn’t known Christian for long enough for the “love” part of the trope to be in effect, so it’s… well, what is it? Is it the old trope of “The One,” that we’re dealing with here? So mentally ill people should just ignore therapy in general and just focus on finding that one person in the entire world that doesn’t trigger their symptoms? Those are what those messages combine to form; if Christian wasn’t so consistently down on the very concept of therapy then that wouldn’t be the case, but the book has never described psychiatrists as anything but “shit.” By corollary, that means that mentally ill people with loved ones who don’t immediately assuage their symptoms aren’t with the one they’re meant to be with, and that they should just sort of deal with the fact that everyone else will trigger their symptoms and there’s nothing that can be done about that.

Propositions have consequences, and the propositions regarding mental health that Grey seems to be espousing are uniformly harmful and uninformed.

There’s some more of Grey being a domineering asshole, and then the two of them find Kate and Elliot on the dance floor and let them know what’s going on, just before Ana passes out. Grey resolves to just take her to his hotel room, weakly justifying it to himself as being because he doesn’t want her to puke in his car, because pulling over is literally impossible. What I want to pull attention to just now is his specific wording when he talks to Elliot, though:

“I’m taking Ana home. Tell Kate,” I shout in his ear.

He is not taking Ana home. He is taking her someplace else, and yet is content to let Kate think that she’s going to be safely at their place. Just throwing that out there.

So this rich guy who has no problems breaking laws to get what he wants drives the drunk girl he’s lusting after back to his hotel room after lying to the people she’s with so they don’t know where she is, and boy, doesn’t that sound incredibly sinister when you describe what it is? As he carries her up to his room he plans on stripping her out of her clothes, and it certainly isn’t getting any better the further into this we go, isn’t it?

Briskly I remove her shoes and socks and put them in the plastic laundry bag provided by the hotel. Then I unzip her jeans and pull them off, check the pockets before stuffing the jeans in the laundry bag. She falls back on the bed, splayed out like a starfish, all pale arms and legs, and for a moment I picture those legs wrapped around my waist as her wrists are bound to my Saint Andrew’s cross. There’s a fading bruise on her knee and I wonder if that’s from the fall she took in my office.

And after taking off her pants he starts fantasizing about her sexually, and now we’re about one step away from a date rape scene in any other book.

But also, consider the course of this chapter thus far: Christian discovers Jose trying to kiss Ana, and in that instance her consent is super duper important, you guys. Grey gets involved, gets incredibly angry at Jose, at Kate, at everyone else for violating Ana’s consent by kissing her, and that’s sort of a justified reaction, if described in a way that’s a little too heavy handed. Now, before the scene has even ended, Grey has taken Ana some place she doesn’t know, touched her all over by carrying her, and is now stripping off her clothes, all without her consent, and nobody bats an eye. Grey himself certainly doesn’t have any qualms about any of this, despite it being far more of a privacy invasion than anything Jose had done, and he’s still angry with Jose about that! In fact, Christian takes this as an opportunity to assure the reader of just how tasty Ana is, some more; he’s being entirely flippant about his own blatant hypocrisy, and apparently James just expects us all to take it at face value and not question it.

He even frigging kisses her himself in that state, and that’s apparently okay!

Before I check my e-mails I text Welch, asking him to see if José Rodriguez has any police records. I’m curious. I want to know if he preys on drunk young women.

Yes, well, we wouldn’t want Ana to associate herself with the sort of person who might commit crimes, would we, Mister Illegal Phone Tapping? No sir, Mister Kidnapping Drunk Women would never allow Ana to be in the same room with a criminal!

What I also want to point out is just how… childish this all is. Not just for Grey, but for James too, since she put this in here without any form of ironic commentary, this idea that Jose is probably a super evil rapist Hitler based on that one scene. That he deserves to have his privacy invaded so that Christian can have the voyeuristic thrill of sifting through his dirty laundry, so that Mister “I’m going to pretty much rape this woman multiple times in this series” Grey can sit in self righteous judgment of the inferior Jose, who can’t muster up the wherewithal to be as obviously perfect and morally flawless as Christian is.

When I was a really small child, just starting out in primary school, there was this noise all the kids in my grade used to make whenever someone else did something bad or got into trouble, this kind of drawn out, rising inflected “um-ahhh!” It did the business of making us all sound shockedshocked, I say!- that someone else would ever do something bad, we just couldn’t imagine why they would do that, because we were all such upstanding children, not like that ne’er-do-well in the naughty corner. Yes.

It was basically a way of rubbing it in that someone else had gotten caught, a little schadenfreude-infused exclamation of our own supposed moral perfection, and when I read Grey going out of his way to know Jose’s criminal record, that is exactly the sound I hear Christian making. It’s the sound I hear E.L James making even as she writes Jose being a very bad boy indeed. A vicarious opportunity to look down her nose at someone else.

The chapter is almost over by this point, and unfortunately it marks the advent of something James makes a habit of in her writing, yet has only appeared once before in this novel: full transcriptions of in-universe text.

We saw it in chapter two, which opens with the full text of a background check, but anyone who’s actually read the other books probably remembers that James often just plonks in full emails, texts, or documents into her writing, dumps them in there without any concessions to the characters reading them or to how badly it breaks up the narration. Seriously, huge swathes of the book go by without any description or prose at all, replaced instead by insipid email flirting or the full text of a legal contract. I was hoping we might avoid that this time around, given how criminally lazy it is, but I hadn’t figured on E.L James and her utter unwillingness to write anything new to earn her paycheck: this chapter ends with the full text of an email sent to Taylor, commanding him to go out and buy new clothes for Ana that Christian finds visually appealing, and a couple of text messages to Elliot.

What’s notable about the latter is that Christian was evidently capable of communicating with Elliot the entire time he was kidnapping Ana, but he waited until he’d already done everything he wanted to do to her before he puts himself in any position to hear objections to his plan. He doesn’t give Kate the opportunity to be worried about her friend or to look out for her well-being when a near stranger attempts to take her back to his place when she’s passed out until after he’s already gotten away with it, and even then he only does it second hand through Elliot. He engineered this entire scenario so that he gets what he wants first, without the consent of anyone involved. He deliberately obfuscated information so that he could maneuver a vulnerable woman to a private location of his choosing.

But clearly it’s Jose who’s the scumbag here, am I right?

Well, that’s the end of this chapter. At least I had a lot more to talk about this time, and since I’ve read the next chapter already, I know that’s not going to change, nor will my seething contempt for this entire enterprise. Join us next time, when E.L James has me fed to the Rancor!

First Time by Abigail Barnette: a Review

So I was fortunate enough to be given an advance copy of First Time, a new sexy romance novel by Abigail Barnette (the pseudonym of the equally groovy Jenny Trout) to review here, and honestly? It couldn’t have come at a better time; this book is a breath of fresh air after what I’ve been reading for review here lately.

In many ways, First Time is something of a response to Fifty Shades; though it isn’t a kink book itself- though other works in Barnette’s name respond to that particular aspect of Fifty more explicitly- it is a romance novel set over a relatively short period of time, and an equally rapid burgeoning relationship, much like Fifty was. It’s also a dual perspective narrative set over two books (released simultaneously) from the points of view of both the lead characters; I’ll be reviewing Ian’s Story, the First Time story told from the perspective of its male lead, but I’ll certainly be picking up Penny’s Story when it is released for real on August 4th.

First Time is the story of Ian Pratchett, a man in his fifties, fresh from a divorce that still smarts, and his ensuing relationship with Penny Parker, a woman in her twenties that he meets on a blind date. Though they are in very different places in life, both want to start a family of their own, and as the two of them bond, Ian begins to suspect that he may have found the person to fulfill that life goal with.

To say any more would be to spoil the fun, since the relationship is the major content in a romance story, but if I had to describe First Time in a word, that word would be human. It’s a very human book, telling the story of a relationship that feels authentic and charming, with characters I actually enjoyed getting to know. It is- and I hesitate to continue bringing this up since I know that Jenny Trout dislikes it as much as I do- the polar opposite of Grey, and I can’t stress enough how nice that is to have.

So much of this story is blindingly positive representation; Barnette has knocked it out of the park in her writing on sex positivity, men, women, relationships, consent, and a series of other important concepts that, too often, our entertainment still gets so wrong. What I’ve reviewed so far on this blog has been little more than a laundry list of relationship mistakes, but this is the first review I’ve done of a work that only ever gets those things right, modelling a functional, healthy relationship devoid of the problematic gender or sex statements that dominate popular culture.

At so many points while reading First Time I stopped and nodded my head in approval, there’s so many small, incidental details between the central couple here that I just love: I love that Ian is sex positive without being sex addicted, or less than respectful of Penny. I love that Penny wants to take things slow, but this isn’t portrayed as a negative, nor is Ian portrayed as a slavering dog waiting to jump into her pants. I love that Barnette understands that “not having sex” doesn’t mean “not being sexual.” I love that Penny stops to ask Ian’s permission to do things to him during their first sexual encounter. I love the body positivity, the sex positivity, and the emotional honesty with which these characters conduct themselves. Boundaries are respected, consent is given, kink is mentioned but never engaged with and never treated as a negative because of that… every step of the way, the protagonists here act like mature, open people, and their growing bond is so much more enjoyable and engaging because of the responsible way they handle it.

Honestly, it’s such a relief to see that a person can write a book like this and still be a successful author, because after seeing what rises to the tops of the bestseller lists I was becoming more and more convinced that successful erotica needs to be written in accordance with some arcane, inhuman set of rules about relationships and sex that don’t match anything I know about how those work. To see that someone can write about actual humans and not weird aliens with strange expectations of others, beeping and booping their way through a pantomime of Hu-man courtship is just good, a relief to aspiring writers in this genre like me.

The pleasant characters and wonderful representations are bolstered by some damn solid writing; it’s not perfect, and at times feels like it’s sketching the characters too lightly, but it flows well and has a nice sense of personality to it. I haven’t read Penny’s Story yet, so it could be that this is just the way the books are written, but one gets a good idea of Ian’s character through his narration; it has a voice that’s humorously grumpy and cynical in places, yet has a strong backbone of positivity, an authentic feeling of enjoyment at the relationship that unfolds that carries one along. It’s easy to care about the protagonist, and much of that is down to the casual ease with which Barnette writes him.

It all proceeds at a good clip, rarely overstaying its welcome in any given scene or set piece, and it’s really nice to read a writer with a good grasp of rhythm and tone; after slogging through Grey and its painstakingly ruined writing, prose by someone who knows what they’re doing is almost a revelation. It works really well for the most part, excelling at humor and scenes where the characters fight- which are all presented in such a true to life fashion that it’s almost uncomfortable to watch these people bicker, at times- though it does falter during scenes that are supposed to be sad. Conceptually, Barnette knows what she’s doing, the actual sad moments are solid ideas, they’re just executed a tad too quickly for my taste, in language that doesn’t dig in its gut punch quite enough. A little more oomph, another draft or two, and those scenes could have been masterful (you’ll know them when you read them); as they stand, they’re merely adequate denouements to a couple of ongoing plot threads. They never felt unnecessary, just not living up to their potential, I suppose.

Look, ultimately what we have here is a very entertaining read by an author that clearly knows her genre well and has an interest in promoting some exceptional relationship practices too. Yes, there are some niggles that spoil some of the fun- in particular I think the ending felt slightly rushed and could have used maybe two or three more scenes to it- but I have a really hard time criticizing this one, because it’s just too damn pleasant otherwise. It’s a book that’ll make you smile, it’s super cute at times, real at others, and engaging throughout. I’d be remiss if I didn’t recommend it wholeheartedly. First Time will be released on August 4th through Amazon, and at that price, I can’t think of a single reason not to pick it up.

Also? It has the most references to octopi that I’ve ever seen in a romance novel. That should be enough of a selling point on its own.


Grey: Fifty Shades as told by a Garbage-Person, Chapter Four recap

Hello again. We return to Grey waking up from a nightmare, because apparently E.L James has a very limited repertoire of chapter openings and has already burned through them all; we also began the first chapter by waking up from a nightmare too. It seems that without Ana in his life- a woman he met all of three times and had exactly zero honest interactions with- he’s back to having recurring nightmares of his past again, after the last few chapters made it clear that her presence alleviated all of that.

No! My scream bounces off the bedroom walls and wakes me from my nightmare. I’m smothered in sweat, with the stench of stale beer, cigarettes, and poverty in my nostrils and a lingering dread of drunken violence.

Of course, given that we’re never given any details of what the nightmares might be about, and James is apparently content to just act as though everyone already knows what all this is- fuck new readers, right?- it’s hard to actually get invested in this dreck. From memory, I don’t think it’s any more fleshed out in the original series either, given that that’s from Ana’s point of view, and so we really have no basis at all to empathize with Grey here.

Not that it’ll stop James from just assuming that it has already happened. I’m getting pretty tired of this writer thinking that she’s owed engagement with the story she’s writing.

Christian hasn’t been sleeping well since rejecting Ana in the prior chapter, even when he has multiple meetings in the morning and also a golf game. Of course, Christian being the graceful loser he always is, considers simply cancelling the game instead of losing and getting shitty over it. The idea of just playing the game for enjoyment even if he loses doesn’t cross his mind.

Now, he’s rephrased what happened with Ana as “for her own good,” which doesn’t exactly jive with his actions over the past few chapters; the man followed her around for quite a while, engineering meeting after meeting with her, only to back out when it becomes apparent that she might want romance in addition to kink, claiming that it’s the best thing for her… sorry man, you get one or the other. You don’t get to chase her quite as hard as you did, and then back out because you knew that you wouldn’t be good for her.

The truth is, Christian didn’t really try, either. Despite the privacy invasion and stalking, he stopped pursuing her the moment she intimated that she wants a boyfriend, but that’s not mutually exclusive with what Christian wanted in the least. Ana could want a boyfriend and still be amenable to the idea of casual kinky sex with an attractive billionaire. The latter could easily precede the former, a girl can have fun while she’s unattached and then stop when she finds a romantic partner that better fits her. Frankly, Grey should know that the desire for romance isn’t uncommon outside of his weird head- hell, it’s extremely probable that his past submissives weren’t committed to being completely without boyfriends their entire lives either, that they were willing to have their fun with Grey and get together with someone else later- so this idea that wanting a boyfriend means not wanting anything other than that is completely ludicrous, just one more baseless assumption the man makes seemingly only because the plot requires it.

If my shrink was back from his vacation in England I could call him. His psychobabble shit would stop me feeling this lousy.

Okay, so I’m noticing that every time Christian talks about his psychiatrist, he does so in the same derisive, dismissive language, and I have to ask: does Grey actually gain something from his sessions with his shrink? If psychological treatment is ineffective for him then there’s little need for Grey to continue seeing the guy; it’s a waste of money and time, and I’m sure his psychiatrist would like to take on a new patient who doesn’t insult him and his profession. But if Christian actually does get something out of his sessions, then this constant barrage of put downs in his internal monologue is profoundly assholeish behavior. What kind of a man finds himself healed by a counselor and then does nothing but insult him whenever he thinks about it?

Anyway, the- all too brief- scene ends with Christian resolving to apologize to Ana for leading her on, which I guess is a human thing to do, though of course Christian phrases it in the least gracious way possible:

Maybe I should find some way to apologize, then I can forget about this whole sorry episode and get the girl out of my head.

Yeah, pay no mind to the fact that you obviously upset her and should maybe feel bad about meticulously arranging the situation so that she would be if she didn’t meet your exacting standards, all while hiding behind a mask of carefully tended indifference and intimidation; the only reason you have to apologize is because you think it might positively affect you!

For some reason there’s another scene break, this time to the morning, and again I don’t see why it’s necessary; all it does is break the flow of the story, and all of the information that was imparted in the first scene could just as easily be related in the second without dragging on the narrative nearly as much as this stop/start nonsense. Given how fast everything goes in this book, it might even be beneficial to slow things down and actually describe a scene for once, to layer in some detail rather than just have two or three breakneck, barely sketched infodumps in a row.

But no, it’s far more important to just arbitrarily accept every single first idea for a scene that E.L James gets into her head, no editing or rewrites necessary. And I guess all that is true, given that this crap is an inexplicable money spinner no matter how poorly it’s written.

The program on the radio is a welcome distraction until the second news item. It’s about the sale of a rare manuscript: an unfinished novel by Jane Austen called The Watsons that’s being auctioned in London. “Books,” she said.

Two things of note here: firstly, isn’t it an amazing coincidence that such a manuscript would go on sale in such a way as to facilitate this exact unconnected series of events a day later? Some might say too coincidental. Or just lazy writing.

Secondly, Christian’s memories of yesterdays events also contain the dialogue tags of the scene. That, my friends, is an impossible bit of fourth wall breaking brought about by the fact that nobody on the publishing team for this thing knew what they were doing, and editing is almost non-existent here.

See, the first mistake is that it has been established previously that italicized text denotes both flashbacks and Christian’s internal monologue- which is for some reason distinct from his narration in some cases but not others- which is confusing just on its own; if you’re going to use an altered text format to represent something in your story, consistency is important. You can’t have the same formatting mean two different things, and flip between them without making it clear which is meant at any given time. There are more font options than just italics, after all; there’s simply no need to double up.

The second mistake is that James didn’t just go back and rewrite the goddamn scene being referenced here so that Ana said more than just one word about books, and the dialogue tags wouldn’t be needed to represent that this is a flashback. I acknowledge that just having the word “Books,” alone wouldn’t be clear as a reference to the prior scene, but simply copy/pasting the tags in too just breaks the fourth wall, since there’s no way that Grey was privy to the tags and this is his narration: this flashback now contains something that he literally could not know, and does not exist within the context of the story. It’s like if Grey pointed out the page numbers; he’s not supposed to know they’re there, because he’s represented as a real person within the world of the novel, not a self aware protagonist.

James had access to the manuscript here before it went to press, she and the editing team had to have picked up on how awkward and metatextually inappropriate that line was; is she really so averse to any form of second draft that she’d just leave that in there, sticking out like a sore thumb, rather than just scrolling back a few pages to write a sentence or two of additional dialogue?

But then, given the apparently extensive copy/paste job that gave birth to this pile of garbage, it doesn’t really surprise me that the first writing pass would also be the last.

Even the news reminds me of little Miss Bookworm.

This insistence Christian has of giving everyone he meets derogatory nicknames is really getting on my nerves; the racially charged “boy,” for Jose is bad enough, but his inner snark track railing against literally every other person, including the one he’s supposed to be attracted to, just comes across as petty and weird. He’s so aggressive even in his own mind when he’s completely alone; how is this attractive to people?

Christian has the idea to send Ana original printings of some British lit greats, as an apology for vaguely rejecting her after absolutely nobody brought up the idea of romance, and I wonder if he’s just trying to be counterproductive on purpose? Because gifts tell the recipient things about the gift giver, and hugely expensive, rare, and personally tailored gifts say that the giver has very warm feelings regarding the recipient. They do not say that the recipient should never see the giver again, for their own good. Christian is giving a gift that Ana will have little choice but to interpret as the opposite of its intended statement; it’s not as if she’s aware of the fact that Grey splashes his money around like crazy on complete strangers. Given what she knows of him, this has to be a romance gift, not a “no hard feelings, but seriously, keep away from me,” gift.

Moments later I’m in my library with Jude the Obscure and a boxed set of Tess of the d’Urbervilles in its three volumes laid out on the billiard table in front of me. Both are bleak books, with tragic themes. Hardy had a dark, twisted soul. Like me.

Okay, so… E.L James has to know that all this “I’ve got a dark soul,” shit makes Christian sound like a sixteen year old’s deviantart account, right? Fucking Batman doesn’t brood as much or as overtly as this ass, and Batman is known as a dour, overly angst-ridden character.

Not only is it entirely on the nose, it’s also lazy, because “dark soul” is literally the only way that Christian’s mindset has been described, thus far. Word or phrase repetition kinda drives me nuts, I had that drilled into me by an editor that actually gave a damn and wouldn’t let me use the same root word multiple times on the same page.

So, Christian is going to send this woman pricey first editions as an apology for sort-of-but-not-really rejecting her when he had no obligation not to; if the gift itself didn’t send the wrong message, the utterly insane overreaction to something pretty minor that they constitute absolutely does.

But that’s not the point. Ana mentioned Hardy as a favorite and I’m sure she’s never seen, let alone owned, a first edition.

And precisely what the fuck makes you say that, Christian? Because she’s not as rich as you, there’s no possibility that she’s ever been exposed to what you consider to be the finer things in life? I’ve seen first editions at bookstores, you shit; they’re not that hard to come by.

This is what really irritates me about the way Christian is written, the utter indecisiveness of his character; he’s both an irredeemable classist and utterly absorbed in the continuation of his childhood circumstances. The guy wants to make “ooh, I was a poor boy with a rough upbringing,” into such an integral part of who he is that he never stops bringing it up, and yet he makes completely baseless assumptions about what a common person like Ana’s life is like without a hint of irony. It’s so completely, flatly a real part of his character that it makes the “dark soul” crap come off as even more of an affectation, if that were possible.

There’s another scene break, and we come back to Christian in his car, leafing through his books to find an appropriate quote to write to Ana with. We get the briefest of hints that there’s an actual person beneath the Christian Grey exterior, some character insight to justify an additional book being written, when Grey relates that he used to read heavily as a teenager to escape into fiction, but because that might actually be an interesting thing to read about that would make the man into a more fleshed out being, it’s only like a sentence long and seems to exist only to tell us that Christian is so much smarter than his brother Elliot, who never read ever, you guys.

Taylor drops Grey off at his office, and I want you to look closely at how he interacts with his female staff, versus his male ones. Okay, so here’s the girls:

The young receptionist greets me with a flirtatious wave.
Every day…Like a cheesy tune on repeat.
Ignoring her, I make my way to the elevator that will take me straight to my floor.

And here’s the guys:

“Good morning, Mr. Grey,” Barry on security greets me as he presses the button to summon the elevator.
“How’s your son, Barry?”
“Better, sir.”
“I’m glad to hear it.”

I wonder, can anyone see the key difference there? I dunno, they’re so similar!

Besides, how does Grey know that Barry wasn’t flirting with him too?

Just in case you think that this disrespect to women is a one time thing, you need to know that it continues with literally every other woman Grey interacts with in his office:

I step into the elevator and it shoots up to the twentieth floor. Andrea is on hand to greet me.
“Good morning, Mr. Grey. Ros wants to see you to discuss the Darfur project. Barney would like a few minutes—”
I hold my hand up to silence her.

He has her heel like she’s a fucking dog.

“And I need a double espresso. Get Olivia to make it for me.”
But looking around I notice that Olivia is absent. It’s a relief. The girl is always mooning over me and it’s fucking irritating.

Olivia doesn’t even have to be present to make it into Grey’s eternal bitch fest.

“Would you like milk, sir?” Andrea asks.
Good girl. I give her a smile.
“Not today.” I do like to keep them guessing how I take my coffee.

First of all, what patronizing bullshit. “Good girl,” what a fucking asshole.

Secondly, what kind of person plays mind games like this with the people in his employ? He “keeps them guessing,” how he takes his coffee? What does that even mean? Why does he find that satisfying? So he just intentionally obfuscates his expectations around his subordinates so that they tiptoe on eggshells for fear of displeasing their boss? Because you know with Christian, any deviation from his exacting and arbitrary standards will be met with the same sorts of sulking temper tantrums that have characterized him so far. Talk about a hostile fucking work environment.

Christian gets Welch on the phone, the same private investigator he used in the first chapter, and has him invade Ana’s privacy some more, and we get another scene break. What’s notable here is that a large amount of this scene is nothing more than one line paragraphs that are nothing but dialogue without the tags. This type of writing is okay in small doses, or to indicate rapid fire conversations, but it’s so very overused in this book, to the degree that it just feels bare bones. It’s just E.L James rushing through shit, instead of a stylistic choice.

Oh, also? There’s this line:

“I’d like you to find out when her last final exam takes place and let me know as a matter of priority.”

Ignore the obviously flawed phrase “a matter of priority,” since it’s clear that the final word encapsulates all the others in a way that renders them unnecessary. No, what we need to talk about is the other careless redundancy here: “last final exam”? As opposed to her last penultimate exam?

No. See, I don’t actually think this is that kind of dumb mistake, I think it’s another sort entirely. Grey is set in America, but E.L James is British, and those two cultures have very different terms for referring to things. In America, it’s “finals,” but in Britain it’s “exams,” and the original Fifty Shades is somewhat notorious for having exactly zero concessions for the setting, in that James insists upon her own British-isms rather than more accurate American slang, leading to a book that’s entirely inauthentic for the setting it purports to inhabit. It’s just another symptom of her complete disinterest in writing a decent work of literature, and unwillingness to actually research anything at any time- it’s literally the level of work one would expect from a fan fiction and nothing more, despite the professional publisher. What I think happened here was that James had written “exam,” and either the find/replace function on her word processor or, more charitably her editor, missed the requisite deletion when replacing the word with the more appropriate “final.”

It’s one of those little, telling moments where the absolute minimum of effort put into this boondoggle shines through the gloss and sheen the publisher haphazardly slopped over James’ nakedly greedy fan fic cash grab. But no matter how much you attempt to polish a cynical, mercenary turd, the stink will make itself known in the end. You can’t escape it.

The next scene begins with that bastion of entertainment and engagement, the business meeting:

“So the next topic is where to site the new plant. You know the tax breaks in Detroit are huge. I sent you a summary.”
“I know. But God, does it have to be Detroit?”
“I don’t know what you have against the place. It meets our criteria.”

Okay, so I want to make something clear: Christian is from Detroit. It’s where he grew up, it’s the tough life that he was rescued from when he was adopted. If there are any people that he should have nothing but sympathy for, if there’s one area on the planet whose plight he should fully empathize with, it is Detroit, and yet he’s resistant even to the idea of siting a plant there. Christian Grey, this supposed big time philanthropist whose childhood trauma prompted him to funnel incredible amounts of money into ending world hunger, is willing to facilitate the further decay and poverty of the very city that hosted the same experiences that made him so charitable, even at great personal cost to himself because he’s avoiding huge tax breaks. He simply refuses to help the very people he should, both logically and emotionally, be the most interested in helping; he’s apparently feeding the world so that nobody would have to go hungry like he did, but he’ll actively work against helping children who are in situations that are as similar to his own as it is possible to be, not for any good business reason, but for no reason at all.

It’s not like he has to go back there. It’s not like he even has to look at the place again, yet he’s still being an obstacle to revitalizing the area even though that goes against his stated goals.

What the fuck is wrong with this man?

The meeting scene seems to only exist so that Grey can get his phone call from Welch, making the entire rest of the scene completely irrelevant, but the upshot is that he learns the date of Ana’s last exam, and so is for some reason pressed for time in sending her his apology gift. It’s not really made clear why, but I’m actually happy with that: whatever rationale James would see fit to write would inevitably be petty and needlessly complicated. We’re probably better off with a random ticking clock out of nowhere.

Hey, in the next scene, Olivia gets to actually be in the room when Christian is an unrepentant cunt to her!

AT 12:30 OLIVIA SHUFFLES into my office with lunch. She’s a tall, willowy girl with a pretty face. Sadly, it’s always misdirected at me with longing. She’s carrying a tray with what I hope is something edible. After a busy morning, I’m starving. She trembles as she puts it on my desk.
Tuna salad. Okay. She hasn’t fucked this up for once.

So, Olivia is literally shaking when she has to do something that her boss will pass judgement on. When I was saying earlier that I suspect that all his (female, seemingly) employees would have to walk on eggshells around their completely unreasonable boss? I was not fucking joking on that.

Christian has selected a quote to write to Ana to go along with her gift, and it’s an… interesting selection:

Why didn’t you tell me there was danger? Why didn’t you warn me? Ladies know what to guard against, because they read novels that tell them of these tricks…

So after all those derisive and belittling assumptions he had about Ana and English literature, that she’d clearly only read the romances and so on, he selects a quote that endorses women reading as a way of educating themselves. Which is it? Is Ana’s chosen major a frippery-laden excursion through romance novels, or not?

And… that’s actually kinda it, for this chapter. Grey has the books and his note shipped to Ana- for some reason the entire exchange is rendered in full, but also without anything but the bare bones dialogue, so that any possible additional details we might have gotten have been rendered impossible from the outset- and then the chapter ends. So little actually happens here that I’m hard pressed to find even a single reason that it should be its own chapter; it’s a scene that wasn’t present in the first book, but at the same time, we don’t get any real insight into Grey as a character other than that he’s an unrepentant, bloody minded sexist, which we already knew from his interactions with Ana.

It’s just a guy having a bad night’s sleep and then sending a creepy note to a girl, in between passive aggressively torturing people under his power.

I feel like that’s a near perfect encapsulation of the series as a whole.

Thanks for tuning in again, and I hope you’ll join me next time, for more of this complete and utter tosh.