I always swore that I would never read Fifty Shades of Grey. I didn’t really feel the need to read a book full of kinky sex that started as a Twilight fanfic. It was bad enough that I was obsessed with Twilight in high school, but to know that these characters are supposed to be Edward and Bella just renamed had me figuring I’d never be able to get past that. But with all the hype and the comments about domestic abuse, I was curious.
I don’t need to tell you what the book is about. But I do need to tell you that it’s not even close to what I was expecting. It’s not just about kinky sex (or even “vanilla” sex), though there is enough of both. It’s about a man who was abused as a child trying to find love the only way he knows how…or at least affection or human company as he feels he is a monster who is unworthy of love. So he comes up with contracts for him to get the human intimacy in the way he was taught, both by Mrs. Robinson (his Dom from age 15 to about 22) and from his birth mother.
Christian grew up in an abusive household. There’s a point where Ana asks Christian why he likes to control her. He says “Because it satisfies a need in me that wasn’t met in my formative years.” He had no control over his life. His mom was a crack whore who brought home who knows what type of men. He was starved, abused, burned, all at someone else’s whim. It makes sense that he would seek control in his life. Yes, it may be going a little far, but when you have no control in other parts of your life, you overcompensate in others. He’s overly controlling of her and wants to know where she is and that she arrived home safely because he never felt safe in his life and wants those in his care to feel safe. It’s why he’s so obsessive about the rules he draws up for her. He needs to have something he’s in control of and, not knowing any way but abuse and dominance, feels this is the way it has to be with her.
There’s a point where Ana gets frustrated about not being allowed to touch him, and her naivety makes me so mad. He’s been abused. If you were abused, either sexually or physically in your most formative years, in the years where you learn how to treat people, what life is like, you wouldn’t want someone to touch you either. He was burned with cigarettes and who knows what else happened, and we expect him to view love and sex as we do and to just get over it. But if he grew up expecting pain when being touched, it’s hard to change a lifetime of thought in a few weeks (because, really, that’s the length of their relationship by the end of the book; a few WEEKS). If anyone is in need of a Psych 101 course at college, it’s Ana. If you haven’t gone through exactly what someone has gone through, you can’t know why they feel the way they do. You think you know, you think you can empathize, can fix them, but you don’t know exactly what happened or how it has fully affected them because YOU WEREN’T THERE. He’s been going to a psychologist for years and, if she hasn’t been able to “fix” him or help him, what makes you think that spending a few weeks showing him romance, love, and decent human interaction will change him, will fix him?
Throughout the book, Ana talks about seeing his darkest parts and trying to bring him to the light. She figures if she can withstand him at his worst, then he might let her touch him, might let her in. And when he takes a belt to her six times, she freaks out and says “Well, you are one fucked-up son of a bitch.” And when he pleads with her, she says “Don’t you dare Ana me! You need to sort your shit out, Grey!” I’m not saying that she asked for the abuse, but she knew his predilections, knew what he liked or needed, and when he tries to show her exactly what she asked him to do, she freaks out and yells at him. I’m not saying I approve of abuse, but when someone gives you what you ask for, what you literally ask for and agreed to, you shouldn’t throw it back in his face like that. People have gone through worse (he went through worse), were repeatedly punished like that in the old days (and still are in the south from the sounds of the Adrian Peterson case), but she can’t pull herself away from herself long enough to think of things from his perspective. Maybe it’s the psychology minor in me, but I feel she could have tried harder to understand him. She could have taken what he did and what he does and realized that this is the way he was raised, this is what he came to view as normal, and he coped with it the only way he knew how.
I’m not condoning abuse, I’m not saying anyone deserves it, but she signed up for this. She was ready to sign a contract that outlined exactly what he was expecting. And when she experienced exactly what the contract outlined, she couldn’t handle it. That doesn’t make him a monster. She knew what she was getting into and could walk away at any time. And she could have without screaming at him and telling him he’s fucked up. He knows. And with her, he was willing to try to be more, to try to get past his past and put more into the relationship than just dominance and submission, to treat her better than he ever was. But unfortunately for him, she’s too naïve to realize that. She’s too caught up in the behavior and doesn’t look at the root of the problem, doesn’t try to fully understand him. And that’s the real tragedy of the book. She is the one who has gotten him to open up the most and just throws it back in his face. And for that, I see her as more of a monster than he is.