Episode 14: 50 Shades of Red Correction Pen

50 Shades of Weaponized Suck

In our most recent episode where we review the negotiation conversation between Ana and Christian for its massive safety violations, Joreth mentioned buying a hardcover copy of the book and reading it with a red ink pen at hand.  She wasn’t kidding!  We even used a picture of one of her pages of notes for the episode transcript page.

We thought we’d share more of her notes here.  It was kind of hard to narrow down which pages we should take pictures of, because the first half of the book was pretty much full margins on every page.  But after a while, the notes got really repetitive because James makes the same mistakes repeatedly throughout the book.  It’s just 514 pages of the same. old. shit.

The pages are flashing red as often as Ana’s face every time he directs even the slightest bit of conversation in her general direction.

Here, in the early pages of the book, there is so much red!  Joreth chose this smooth gel pen that practically dripped red ink like blood – blood drawn from her soul, carved out by the harsh, jarring punctuation and jagged prose; blood sprayed from the pulsing wounds in her dying heart as she forced herself to read ever onward through the slogging grammar and banal scenery descriptions.  There was so much red ink that it bled through the pages.

Christian may or may not “suffer fools gladly” but clearly we, the readers, are willing to suffer fools willingly, at least for the duration of these books.

The red flashes like blood jewels against the snowy white backdrop and harsh black text.  The clichés!  The tropes!  How they burn as red hot as the ink that slashes across the page!  We begin to see the early signs that the author does not know how human bodies work.  Is she a robot?  A space alien?  A lump of coal imbued with sapience?  No, not sapience, which is the ability to think.  Sentience, then?  No, there is very little evidence of the ability to feel either.  Awareness?  Certainly not self awareness!  Consciousness?  Maybe just autonomy?  She clearly does not respect autonomy.

That is one very disturbing tie! It might render a great number of people speechless to come face to face with a tie that had eyes which regarded one shrewdly or otherwise.

It’s like reading early AI literature – yes, those are words, and mostly in the correct syntactic order, but with no organic understanding of contextual language, everything just seems … off.  Especially with basic punctuation mistakes and what seems to be a total lack of familiarity with how people, well, people.

Really Ana? The book is about “kinky fuckery” and you’re still swearing like a school kid afraid of being overheard by a teacher and given detention?

Eventually, though, it became wearisome to circle yet another contradiction or underline yet another childish expletive or to write, again, that bodies don’t work like that or people don’t behave that way or that is absolutely not something that kinky people do.  Joreth got so tired of repeating the same criticisms in the margins that all she could do was just start rolling her eyes. Which she did.  In red ink.  Frequently.

Another thing that got tiresome was explaining in the margins why nearly every page was a textbook example of abuse.  Where it wasn’t just ridiculous language or grammar that provoked headache-inducing eye-rolling, it was page after page after page of underlining blatant examples of abusive and literal controlling behaviour and just labeling it with the word “abuse”.

We are not entirely sure the author DIDN’T just copy/paste line items from a domestic violence checklist somewhere, or place a hidden microphone in a DV survivor group therapy session to use as her character dialog.

There are only so many different ways and so many times one can explain why inspiring fear in one’s romantic partner in order to manipulate their behaviour is listed on the Wheel of Abuse used by domestic violence agencies, before one just gives up and starts simply flagging the text with red marks under the weight of sheer overwhelming repetitive examples.

This book sucked all the joy and creativity that we three co-hosts typically find in sex and kink. The scenes in the book were as dry and as colorless as the pages themselves, before Joreth’s red pen flooded them with the color of Ana’s chronic embarrassment.  Hopefully this little photo series brought you more pleasure than reading the book did for us. 

Episode 14: 50 Shades of Terrible Negotiation

In this episode, we’re doing something new. Eunice and Franklin have never read or seen 50 Shades of Grey, so Joreth reads it to us as we record our reactions in real time.

Specifically, Joreth reads us the scene where Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele negotiate their BDSM relationship, noteworthy in the annals of erotic fiction because Christian violates Ana’s consent multiple times during the consent negotiation.

Come along on the ride as Joreth inflicts this upon us! After all, misery loves company, right?

By the way, Joreth wasn’t kidding about reading the book with a red pen in hand.

The transcript of this episode is below.

Franklin: Welcome, you’re listening to another episode of the Skeptical Pervert. Not, as we’ve said in the past, “skeptical perverts.” I’m your host and part-time mad scientist, Franklin Veaux.

Joreth: I’m your kinky, sopo, ace, Chicana, feminist, Renaissance cat co-host Joreth. My gender identity is tomboy and my pronouns are she her, but you may address me as “Baron of the tangle.”

Eunice: And as the last third of this soon-to-be triumverate of misery, I’m Eunice, your friendly neighborhood queer, kinky, ace-spec poly woman, bringing my genteel East Asian British viewpoint and associated deep sarcasm.

Franklin: So today we’re doing something a little bit different. For this episode, Joreth read a section of the. Novel 50 Shades. Of grey at. Us and we recorded our reactions in real time. Today you get to bear witness to our shock and horror since Eunice and I have not seen or read the story before.

Joreth: I like how you said I read it at you like I used it as a weapon.

Franklin: 50 Shades is weaponized to suck.

Eunice: I really meant that triumvirate of misery thing. That was not an exaggeration.

Franklin: And specifically, Joreth subjected us to the bit where Anna and Christian negotiated their D/s relationship, remarkable in the annals of erotic fiction for the fact it has more consent violations during a consent negotiation than any other literary work in recorded human history.

Eunice: Citation needed!

Joreth: This is outside our usual pattern where normally we address a study or a topic with factual claims that is related to sex and evaluate just how factual those claims are.

Eunice: Actually, that’s a good point, considering our usual carefulness with phrasing. Maybe we should say more consent violations during a consent negotiation than any other literary work in recorded human history, as far as we know. At least ones that the author didn’t really seem to notice or intend I. Mean I’m not including erotic horror, or, like, non-consent fiction here, right? That seems fair.

Joreth: I’m not entirely sure how we got into this subject in our podcast meetings, but when we started talking about the travesty that is this trilogy, we found ourselves discussing not just how poorly it was written, or how inaccurate the depictions of kink are in the book, but the subject of kink representation and the danger, actually, of bad representation, specifically in consent negotiations and what it teaches newbies about it.

Franklin: So when 50 Shades first started being a thing, I tried to read it. I really did. I didn’t even get 2 chapters in before I gave up. But never in a thousand years did I imagine it got worse.

Eunice: I didn’t even try to read it. I read a bunch of reviews and decided writing our own erotica sounded more fun. There’s a bunch of great fanfic out there with actual hot kinky sex, and this was definitely not one of them. 50 Shades didn’t seem like a good use of my limited span of years on this earth. Mind you, even if I were immortal, I’m not sure it would be worthwhile endeavour.

Joreth: I had managed to read the first book, although I had forgotten a lot of detail. And I had read several chapter by chapter reviews. And I had seen the movies, again forgetting a lot of detail. So for this episode I actually purchased a hard cover, dead-tree copy and focused on reading the book carefully with the red ink pen and taking notes. We will have pictures posted somewhere. Perhaps on our Facebook page?

Anyway, I read the book carefully, took notes, then watched all three movies again and have started reading the second book. I am clearly a masochist. (Note to EL James what a masochist actually looks like.)

Eunice: I’m not even a masochist, God knows how I got dragged into this hellscape.

Joreth: Maybe because I’m also a sadist. Again, note for EL James on what that looks like.

Eunice: You may have successfully gotten me to endure more pain than anyone else in history, so well done, you.

Franklin: Citation definitely needed. And really, I’m just an innocent victim in all of this.

Joreth: Innocent? Ha!

Eunice: Uh-huh.

Franklin: Well, when it comes to you two, I frequently play the role of innocent victim.

Joreth: You frequently play the role of victim.

Eunice: Innocent is debatable.

Franklin: Anyway, the bit Joreth read for us in this episode is a pivotal scene where Anna and Christian formally negotiate what their relationship will look like. Real consent negotiations are hella sexy, at least if they’re properly done. Think super hot sexting only in person. But the novel manages to strip. All traces of playfulness and joy from these scenes. What’s really weird and scary though is that Christian violates Anna’s consent during the consent negotiation. Multiple times. I mean, how do you even cope with that much even?

Eunice: Coping is not one of Anna’s skills.

Franklin: So without further ado, let the suffering begin. If we had to suffer through this, so do you.

Eunice: Brace yourselves.

Franklin: Oh God, here it comes.

Joreth: Alright, so she has specifically asked for a meeting to discuss the contract. This is her negotiation of the contract.

Franklin: All right, let us have it.

Joreth: “Are you nervous?” he asks softly, “Yes.” He leans forward. “Me too,” he whispers conspiratorially. My eyes shoot up to meet his. Him? Nervous? Never! I blink and he smiles his adorable, lopsided smile at me. The waiter arrives with my wine, a small dish of mixed nuts, and another of olives. “So, how are we going to do this?” I ask. “Run through my points one by one?” “Impatient as ever, Miss Steele. Well, I could ask you what you thought of the weather today.” He smiles and his long fingers reach down to collect an olive. He pops it in his mouth, and my eyes linger on his mouth. That mouth. That’s been on me. All parts of me. I flush.

Franklin: That mouth. That mouth. Not the other mouth. This, this is the sex mouth, not the business mouth.

Eunice: I mean, I totally would be, like, on board for detachable body parts, but I’m guessing that’s not what she’s saying.

Joreth: She would not be capable of writing that book. You two, however, are.

“I thought the. Weather was particularly unexceptional today,” he smirks. “Are you smirking at me, Mr. Grey?” ”I am, Miss Steele.” “You know this contract is legally unenforceable.” “I am fully aware of that Miss Steele.” “Were you going to tell me that at any point?” He frowns. “You think I’d coerce you into something you don’t want to do, and then pretend that I have a legal hold over you?”

Franklin: Yes!

Eunice: Yes. Yes. Yes.

Franklin: Yes, he absolutely would do that. That is perfectly on brand for him.

Joreth: “Well, yes.”

Eunice: Yes, exactly! Listen to yourself!

Joreth: See, she knows what kind of person he is. This is throughout the book! And yet…

“You don’t think very highly of me, do you?”

Franklin: No!

Eunice: Nope! No!

Joreth: “You haven’t answered my question!” “Anastasia, it doesn’t matter if it’s legal or not, it represents an arrangement that I would like to make with you. What I would like from you and what you can expect from me. If you don’t like it, then don’t sign. If you do sign and then decide you don’t like it, there are enough get out clauses so you can walk away. Even if it were legally binding, do you think I’d drag you through the courts if you did decide to run?”

Franklin: Yes.

Eunice: He would bury her.

Franklin: Yeah, he would. He talks her! He fucking stalks her. Yes! He would do anything that…yes! The answer is yes, Mr. Grey.

Joreth: I take a long sip of my wine. My subconscious taps me hard on the shoulder. You must keep your wits about you. Don’t drink too much!

Eunice: Um, that that’s not how subconsciouses work. Subconscii? Subconsciouses, subconscious, something like that.

Franklin: The subconscious leaps up and tells me something. Well then it’s not a bloody subconscious, is it?

Eunice: Can you have more than one subconscious? I guess you can, if it’s her. I guess they’re, like, battling it out under there, under the thin layer of her psyche.

Franklin: Yeah, now I have…what was the cartoon with the angel and the aDevil are sitting on the guy’s shoulder, and the angel is like, “no, no. He’s got a point.”

Joreth: She has a subconscious and she has a goddess, an inner goddess, and they constantly have conversations with her.

Franklin: Yes, and the inner goddess tells her that she’s actually kind of average and basic, and her subconscious agrees. I mean, is this basically what we can take from this?

Joreth: Uh, yeah.

Eunice: I mean, if it was just that she’s, like, basic, then, like, she and Christian Grey would fit very well together, ’cause he’s basic as well.

Franklin: Yeah, well, except for the part that he’s a kind of a creepy stalker.

Eunice: Yeah, I mean, you know it seems like she has a type.

Joreth: “Relationships like this are built on honesty and trust,” he continues. “If you don’t trust me—”

Everyone: (laughs)

Eunice: So yeah, I don’t know why that was.

Franklin: Oh my God, you’re turning red, Eunice.

Eunice: It’s fine, it’s fine. Carry on carry on, it’s OK.

Joreth: “Relationships like this, they’re built on honesty and trust.”

Eunice: Yeah, yeah they are yes.

Franklin: Oh my God

Joreth: And NDAs. And secret files on your background.

Franklin: And stalking.

Joreth: “If you don’t trust me, trust me to know how I’m affecting you, how far I can go with you, how far I can take you, if you can’t be honest with me, then we really can’t do this.”

Eunice: Yes, don’t do it. Don’t do it. That’s the answer. It’s right there in front of you!

Joreth: Oh my! We’ve cut to the chase quickly! How far he can take me? Holy shit, what does that mean? “So it’s quite simple, Anastasia, do you trust me or not?”

Franklin: No.

Eunice: No! No, don’t trust him!

Joreth: His eyes are burning, fervant. “Did you have similar discussions with the fifteen?” “No.” “Why not?”

Franklin: Because you’re special.

Joreth: “Because they were all established submissives. They knew what they wanted out of a relationship with me, and generally what I expected. With them, it was just a question of fine tuning the soft limits. Details like that.” “Is there a store you go to? Submissives-R-us?” He laughs. “Not exactly.” “Then how?”

Eunice: Not exactly?

Franklin: Well, technically, it’s not called submissives R us.

Eunice: No, because, you know, even for them that that name would be too basic, I know this word is coming up a lot, but…

Joreth: “Is this what you want to discuss, or shall we get down to the nitty gritty? Your issues, as you say,” I swallow. Do I trust him?

Franklin: No.

Joreth: Is that what this all comes down to? -rust? Surely that should be a two way thing. I remember his snit when I phoned Jose. “Are you hungry?” he asks, distracting me from my thoughts. Oh no. Food. “No.”

Eunice: Oh, no. That’s…that’s…that’s not a great reaction to have. “Oh no, food.” What? Is she okay?

Franklin: No.

Joreth: Well he he keeps trying to make her eat and she thinks that’s weird.

Eunice: I mean, yes.

Franklin: It is weird.

Eunice: She’s not a child. Somebody else should not be controlling your food intake.

Franklin: Ouch, you would think that would be obvious.

Eunice: This is EL James we’re talking about. No other guarantees.

Joreth: Oh no, food. “No.” “Have you eaten today?” I stare at him. Honesty. Holy crap, he’s not going to like my answer. “No.” My voice is small. “Oh.” He narrows his eyes. “You have to eat, Anastasia. We can eat down here or in my suite. What would you prefer?” “I think we should stay in public on neutral ground.”

Franklin: That might be the first smart thing we’ve heard her say yet.

Eunice: Well, no. To bee fair, she has said some things that are smart. She has just never followed through on them, such as this guy is a stalker.

Franklin: Anastasia, remember my hard limit says no gynecological medical instruments. It does not say anything about a feeding tube.

Eunice: Ohhh God. Yeah, it’s fine to go in that end, just not the other end.

Joreth: Ohh thanks for that image.

Eunice. That’s never leaving. That’s never leaving.

Franklin: 50 Shades of Grey’s Anatomy.

Joreth: Where was I?

Franklin: Feeding tubes.

Joreth: Neutral ground. Neutral ground. No feeding tubes.

Eunice: Yet.

Joreth: “I think we should stay in public on neutral ground.” He smiled sardonically. “Do you think that would stop me?” he says softly, a sensual warning.

Eunice: Sensual?

Franklin: That is not a sensual warning.

Eunice: Sensual? That is just a flat-out warning. That is a creepy creepy warning. Ohh for God’s sakes, OK.

Joreth: So, he threatens her, and…

My eyes widen and I swallow again. “I hope so.” (As in, do you think that would stop me, I hope so.)

Eunice: Mmm-hmm.

Joreth: “Come. I have a private dining room booked, no public.” He smiles at me enigmatically and climbs out of the booth, holding his hand out to me.

Franklin: How did he arrange this? Did he plan this?

Eunice: Didn’t he specifically, didn’t he specifically ask her just a moment ago? Do you want to go, like, to a private space or do you want to stay here and she said “I want to stay here,” and then he immediately he goes “We’re not staying here, we’re going to go into private.”

Joreth: Yes.

Eunice: Like, after she’s just said “I would like to stay out in public on neutral ground.”

Franklin: Remember that question I just asked you? Well, it doesn’t actually matter. I was going to ignore you anyway.

Joreth: Yeah.

Eunice: With him being that rich, it’s not ever really, like, neutral ground anyway, but…

Joreth: Yeah, so they’re at his hotel building, so they’ve got a lobby and a restaurant and stuff in the lobby. And so that’s where she’s meeting him is in this restaurant, and so he has arranged for a private room within the restaurant of the hotel where he’s staying. So that’s where we’re having this conversation,

Eunice: Even his hotel, his hotel is not neutral ground.

Joreth: Right? Yeah, he is a very very wealthy man spending a shit ton of money at a very high end hotel.

Eunice: They are gonna bend over backwards to give him whatever he wants, including turning a blind eye on anything he does.

Joreth: Yep, so he’s got a private dining room booked, no, public…

He smiles at me enigmatically and climbs out of the booth holding his hand out to me. “Bring your wine,” he murmurs. Placing my hand in his I slide out and I stand up beside him. He releases me and his hand reaches for my elbow. He leads me back through the bar and up the grand stairs to a mezzanine floor. A young man in full Heathman livery approaches us. “Mr. Gray this way, Sir.” We follow him through a plush seating area to an intimate dining room. Just one secluded table. The room is small but sumptuous. Beneath the shimmering chandelier, the table is all starched linen, crystal glasses, silver cutlery, and a white rose bouquet. An Old World sophisticated charm pervades the wood paneled room. The waiter pulls up my chair and I sit. He places my napkin in my lap. Christian sits opposite me. I pick up—

Eunice: She’s not doing a Michelin star review. She’s not reviewing the cookware or the cutlery or the—mmm. If she’s distracted by all this stuff, he’s clearly not holding her attention very much.

Franklin: There’s—the thing that’s bugging me about this scene is that even if you’re, like, a billionaire, you don’t arrange this with 30 seconds’ worth of notice. Which means that he planned this.

Eunice: Yes.

Franklin: Which means that he intended to do this all along.

Joreth: Mmm-hmm.

Franklin: Which means that all of his questions up to this point were completely disingenuous. He had no intention whatsoever of listening to any of her answers.

Eunice: OK, so I agree, but I will say that it is entirely…like, for someone who’s that wealthy, it is entirely possible that he hired out a private dining room, and if he doesn’t go in there, it doesn’t matter to him to lose that money, yeah?

Franklin: True, I guess.

Joreth: But I mean, this is also a scheduled date of theirs, and the the point of their date is to have this conversation. So I don’t think it’s that unreasonable for him to have a date with someone where they are planning to negotiate a BDSM relationship and he books a private room. Like, that seems kinda reasonable to me.

Franklin: OK, but then why would he say “Do you want to stay here or do you want to go somewhere private,” and then completely run roughshod over her when she says “I want to stay here?”

Joreth: Yes, that is the problem.

Eunice: Because he did not expect her to say “I would like to stay in public.”

Joreth: Yeah.

Eunice: He thought he knew exactly what she would say, which is “I’d like to be private for this.”

Franklin: And he was wrong. And when he found out he was wrong, he just kept with the plan and disregarded her.

Eunice: Yep, bulldozed his way right through.

Joreth: So you see, this is whatI keep talking about. Like, he says the things. He’s talking about consent. “I’m not gonna do anything that you don’t wanna do.” And then they get to their relationship, and that’s how he treats her.

OK, so she is reviewing the restaurant for 500 pages and then we finally get back to the conversation.

Eunice: I know you very well, that’s not a very interesting restaurant, right?

Joreth: This is why this book is. I just looked. It is 514 pages long. This is why. All of this extra shit.

“Don’t bite your lip,” he whispers. I frown. Damn it. I don’t even know that I’m doing it. “I’ve ordered already. I hope you don’t mind.

Franklin: Doesn’t matter if she does, yeah.

Eunice: Yeah, it doesn’t matter if she does or not, he’s already ordered.

Joreth: Yeah. Now remember, they are here for the purpose of negotiating a highly volatile relationship, right? Emotionally tense. Something challenging. They’re here to negotiate this. Here’s her response to “I’ve ordered already.”

Frankly, I’m relieved. I’m not sure I can make any further decisions.

Franklin: OK, so she’s going into this negotiation already knowing that she is cognitively impaired.

Joreth: Uh-huh.

Eunice: Like, if we had just, like…the thing is, that could have been so gently tweaked to make that understandable. Like, my brain is so full of decisions about this contract that I can’t think of food or I can’t make decisions about food. Like, it was so close to an actual, reasonable, logical way of framing it.

Joreth: Yes, and like there are…so there are D/s relationships where one person being in charge of the other person’s diet and nutrition, like, that is a desirable thing, because a person would want to…that is a feeling of relief, to give that burden up to somebody that you trust, right? Like, I’m anorexic. Food is a trigger for me. I don’t want to have to think about food. So that’s legitimate, right? Like, “I have a trigger here. This is my system for coping. I want somebody else to take this decision away from me so that it unburdens me. Because it’s a, it’s a huge relief for me.” That’s not what’s happening here, though.

Eunice: It’s not. It’s not a negotiated thing.

Joreth: Right.

Eunice: It’s not, “I find this difficult and I would appreciate you taking it away from me so I don’t have to do this.”

Joreth: Right!

Eunice: It’s “I’m going to come in and make this decision for you, because you are not capable of making the decision for yourself.”

Joreth: Yes, yes he has decided that, not somebody who came to him who said “this is a challenge I have in my life, I would like some help with that, please. As the role of my Dom. Will you take this responsibility on my behalf?” No, it is starting right from the gate. “I know nothing about you, but you clearly cannot make choices for yourself that are in your best interests. Therefore I will do it for you.”

Eunice: Yeah.

Joreth: OK where was I? She is relieved she can’t make any further decisions.

“No, that’s fine,” I acquiesce. “Well, it’s good to know that you can be amenable. Now where were we?”

Franklin: Oh! Oh, that’s, like, a really creepy thing to say in that moment.

Eunice: And also it’s really, like, petty and mean, because actually she has been remarkably amenable up to this point. She has been way too…and she has been outright docile, considering a lot of what he’s done. That feels negging. Like, that feels like negging.

Joreth: Yeah.

The nitty gritty. I take another large sip of wine. It really is delicious. Christian Grey does wine well. I remember the last sip of wine he gave me in my bed. I blush at the intrusive thought. “Yes, your issues.”

Eunice: Does wine well? Sorry, just, the way of describing it just kind of stuck in my brain, like, hmm, OK, yeah, that’s fine.

Joreth: She has no idea about wine. She never drank very much to begin with. She knows nothing about what’s good and what isn’t. And somehow he has this developed palette that always chooses exactly the right wine for her, like what she would like.

Eunice: Part of the fantasy. Yeah, he knows me better than I know myself.

Joreth: Yeah.

Eunice: It was just the way of describing it as “does wine well.” Like, hmm. Yeah, OK.

Joreth: She’s the one who calls it. She planned this date. She scheduled this date to discuss, quote, “her issues.” That’s what she called them.

“Yes, your issues.” He fishes into his inside jacket pocket and pulls out a piece of paper. My e-mail. “Clause two agreed. This is for the benefit of us both. I shall redraft.”

I forget what that is exactly.

Eunice: Wait, clause two? Hang on, let’s see what we can find the…“the fundamental purpose of this contract is to allow the submissive to explore her sensuality and her limit safety with due respect and regard for her needs, her limits, and her well-being.” That’s what clause two apparently is?

Joreth: Yes.

Franklin: That is such a load of bullshit. Like, nothing that he does is even approximately in the general neighborhood of that.

Joreth: Yeah. I might be able to find it and if I do, I can tack it on. But she said something—or rather, in an e-mail to him previously about clause two.

I blink at him. Holy shit! Are we gonna go through each of these points one at a time?

Eunice: Yes! Yes, because this is how you talk about contracts. This is how you negotiate contracts. Sorry.

Joreth: We’re we’re going with the contract fantasy. That’s how you deal with contracts.

I just don’t feel so brave face to face. He looks so earnest. I steal myself with another sip of my wine. Christian continues, “My sexual health. Well, all of my previous partners had blood tests and I have regular tests every six months for all the health risks you mention. All my recent tests are clear. I have never taken drugs. In fact I am vehemently anti-drug. I have a strict no tolerance policy with regards to drugs for all my employees and I insist on random drug testing.

Eunice: That’s very American I feel like that’s very American, yeah?

Franklin: That is very American. It’s also very controlling, but we already know that about Christians, so it totally figures that he’s that kind of boss. This guy must be completely shit to work for. Holy Christ. Oh my God.

Joreth: So when you should say that. The very next line is “wow, control freakery gone mad.”

Eunice: Ana! Ana, you are so close! So close! Run! Run in the other direction as fast as you can!

Joreth: I blink at him, shocked. “I have never had any blood transfusions. Does that answer your question?” I nod, impassive. “Your next point, I mentioned earlier. You can walk away at anytime, Anastasia. I won’t stop you. If you go, however, that’s it. Just so you know.” “OK,” I answer softly. “If I go, that’s it.” The thought is surprisingly painful. The waiter arrives with our first course. How can I possibly eat? Holy Moses! He’s ordered oysters on a bed of ice!

Franklin: Holy Moses!

Eunice: What, so…

Franklin: Oysters on ice! My God! I was expecting Graham crackers!

Joreth: So I’m just gonna say that oysters are not the kind of food you order for someone when you don’t know if they like them or not.

Franklin: Yes, that is actually…hmm.

Eunice: They are, however, the sort of food you order for someone when you don’t really care if they like what you are choosing for them to eat or not, they are expected to just eat it.

Joreth: That is a good point.

Franklin: Yep.

Joreth: “I hope you like oysters.” Christian’s voice is soft. “I’ve never had one!” “Ever? Really? Well.” He reaches for one. “All you do is tip and swallow. I think you can manage that.” He gazes at me, and I know what he’s referring to. I blush scarlet. He grins at me, squirts some lemon juice on his oyster, and then tips it in his mouth.

Eunice: Lemon juice.

Franklin: Christian Gray has very pedestrian tastes.

Eunice: What was a fine dining establishment, I’m assuming. Surely they can go slightly more upclass than like a squirt of lemon juice on the oyster. Come on.

Franklin: They can. The problem is him, not them.

Joreth: I think the problem is that maybe this is what James thinks is upper class.

Eunice: Also, oysters is kind of an amuse-bouches. It’s not really, like…it’s sort of a…I would not consider it, like, the first course. I would consider it pre-first-course. Sorry, I’m getting into the weeds here. Also, if it is a really good place then you would have an amuse-bouches. So yeah, moving on from that particular topic now.

Joreth: Alright, so he squirts some very pedestrian…he squirts it too. That word in this context. Anyway…

Eunice: Better than dribble.

Franklin: Yeah, he dribbles lemon juice on his oysters.

Joreth: Let’s see…

“Mmm, delicious. Taste of the sea.” He grins at me. “Go on,” he encourages. “So I don’t chew it?” “No, Anastasia, you don’t.” His eyes are alight with humor. He looks so young like this. I bite my lip and his expression changes instantly. He looks sternly at me. I reach across and pick up my first ever oyster. OK, here goes nothing. I squirt some lemon juice on it and tip it up. It slips down my throat, all seawater, salt, the sharp tang of citrus and fleshiness. Ooh! I lick my lips and he’s watching me intently, his eyes hooded. “Well?” “I’ll have another,” I say dryly. “Good girl,” he says proudly. “Did you choose these deliberately? Aren’t they known for their aphrodisiac qualities?”

Franklin: Uuuuugh.

Eunice: Yeah, but we already know that like they don’t actually work as aphrodisiacs. So just, you know, commenting here that if anybody is curious about that, we know that they do not work as aphrodisiacs. Check our first episode.

Joreth: “No, they are the first item on the menu. I don’t need an aphrodisiac near you. I think you know that, and I think you react the same way near me,” he says simply. “So where were we?” He glances at my e-mail as I reach for another oyster. He reacts the same way I affect him? Wow!

Eunice: Hm.

Joreth: “Obey me in all things. Yes, I want you to do that. I need you to do that. Think of it as role play, Anastasia,” “But I’m worried you’ll hurt me!” “Hurt you how?”

Eunice: Think of this role play? Like, think of it as role play? What else? What other way would you think of it?

Joreth: “Hurt you how?” “Physically!” And emotionally, in parentheses, she thinks.

Eunice: Fair, yes, yes. It’s going to be a big part of it. Get used to that.

Joreth: Yeah!

“Do you really think that I would do that? Go beyond any limit you can take?”

Eunice: Yes.

Franklin: Yes.

Eunice: Yes.

Joreth: “You said you hurt someone before?” “Yes, I have. It was a long time ago.” “How did you hurt her?” “I suspended her from my playroom ceiling. In fact, that’s one of your questions. Suspension, that’s what the carabiners are for in the playroom. Rope play. One of the ropes was tied too tightly.” I hold my hand up, begging him to stop. I don’t need to know any more. “So you won’t suspend me then?”

Franklin: Actually, I kind of think she does need to know more, because this is, like, this is a really important part of the conversation here. He’s sloppy with his rope work.

Joreth: Yep. Although she’s saying that, because of that, she’s taking rope work off the table except.

Franklin: Well, she’s taking suspension off the table, but…

Joreth: Suspension. Just taking suspension, yeah.

“So you won’t suspend me, then?” “Not if you really don’t want me to. You can make that a hard limit.”

Eunice: Not if you really don’t want me to? You literally just told her how you fucked up someone else by doing this wrong. Of course she’s not gonna want to do it.

Joreth: Yes, unlike somebody who is actually versed in kink, we might say, OK, tell me how you hurt them. Tell me what you’ve learned since then and you know what has happened in the interim. Because somebody who made a mistake early on in their playtime, you know, in their their journey, they could have learned from that, and I might trust them, now, ten years later. But she’s not willing to have that conversation, so…

Eunice: I’ll be honest. In her position, I would also not be willing to have that conversation. But then I would also not be sitting in that room. I’d have, like, left at this point. Because he, like…you, would expect someone who said, you know, I hurt them by tying them, to volunteer information about, this is what happened and this is how I dealt with it. And so, like, I won’t do that again, because now I know not to. And this is how I, you know, this is how we resolved the situation.

Joreth: Mm-hmm.

Eunice: And what I went to go and like do in order to to improve. He has to have that. information basically dragged out of him?

Joreth: Yes, everything. He will not talk about any part of himself whatsoever. She has to drag it out of him at each step.

Eunice: Like, in her position, if I was faced with someone who told me that they fucked up in kink and then did not give any further information, I would assume it’s because they were ashamed. And they don’t, like, have any improvement, right? They just never tried it again. In which case I’m not trusting them.

Joreth: Yeah.

Eunice: If he won’t say how he, you know, how he resolved that and what happened, I’m going to assume that he just brushed it under the rug and never talked about it or ever thought about it again.

Joreth: Yeah

Eunice: Which is not a safe way to deal with it.

Joreth: No. But I mean, what else can you assume? You have no more information.

Eunice: Mm-hmm.

Joreth: Right, so he tells her she can make that a hard limit. She says OK.

“So, obeying. Do you think you can manage that?” He stares at me, his gaze intense, the seconds tick by. “I could try!” I whisper. “Good.” He smiles. “Now, term. One month instead of three months is no time at all, especially if you want a weekend away from me each month. I don’t think I’ll be able to stay away from you for that length of time. I can barely manage it now.”

Franklin: Because I’m a stalker.

Joreth: He pauses. He can’t stay away from me?

Eunice: I mean, he’ll just hover outside her window, like a certain sparkly-in-the-sun sort of vibe.

Joreth: No connection whatsoever to Twilight. None at all. Totally different.

Eunice: Nope.

Joreth: “How about one day over one weekend per month you get to yourself, but I get a midweek night that week, OK? And please, let’s try for three months. If it’s not for you, then you can walk away any time.” “Three months?” I’m feeling railroaded.

Franklin: Once again, she set a boundary, and he was like, no, no, your boundary is not good enough, sorry. We’re gonna do it my way.

Joreth: Yep, and she says right here, “I’m feeling railroaded.”

Franklin: You think?

Eunice: Yes!

Franklin: Being in this room was a railroad!

Eunice: Yeah, feeling railroaded is right, because you are being railroaded. Like at the very least, if someone is in that situation, you don’t just go straight back to “no, let’s try 3 months.” You at least go, “well, maybe like, two?”

Joreth: Try two months.

Eunice: You know, maybe two months. You know, in the middle, like at the very least. If he kept, like, if he kept pushing, and I was there, I would be like “I have just worked out exactly how long I want to stay here for. Goodbye!”

Joreth: I’m feeling railroaded. I take another large sip of wine and I treat myself to another oyster. I could learn to like these.

Franklin: Because that’s what you do when you’re feeling railroaded by somebody who is bulldozing you and disregarding your boundaries. Drink more alcohol!

Joreth: Just wait, there’s—

Eunice: This is gonna be a plot point, isn’t it? She’s gonna get drunk, and then he’s gonna use it as an excuse to, like, force her to do something or whatever.

Franklin: I just paid for all of this alcohol you drank, therefore you can’t say no to me.

Eunice: You owe me now.

Joreth: “The ownership thing, that’s just terminology and goes back to the principle of obeying. It’s to get you in the right frame of mind to understand where I’m coming from. And I want you to know that as soon as you cross my threshold as my submissive, I will do what I like to you. You have to accept that, and willingly. That’s why you have to trust me. I will fuck you any time, any way I want, anywhere I want. I will discipline you because you will screw up. I will train you to please me.”

Eunice: Uuuuugh.

Joreth: “But I know you’ve not done this before. Initially we’ll take it slowly, and I will help you. We’ll build up to various scenarios. I want you to trust me, but I know I have to earn your trust and I will. the OR otherwise. Again, it’s to help you get into the mindset. It means anything goes.”

Franklin: I will teach you to trust me if I have to stalk you for months, buy the company that you work for, and disregard every one of your boundaries to do it.

Eunice: The beatings will continue until morale improves.

Joreth: So like there are words there that I’m, like, OK, that’s she cribbed this from somebody who might know what they’re talking about, right?

Eunice: That is a word.

Joreth: Like in D/s, that is part of the illusion. I will make you do the thing that I want you to do, but also I know, like, I know this is an illusion. I’m gonna help you through this. We’re gonna learn together. She’s got words here that sound like somewhere she might have read something about it, but she clearly does not understand what she read.

“He’s so passionate, mesmerizing. This is obviously…”

Eunice: Basic?

Joreth: “This is obviously his obsession, the way he is. I can’t take my eyes off him. He really, really wants this. He stops talking and gazes at me. “Still with me?” he whispers, his voice rich, warm and seductive. He takes a sip of his wine, his penetrating stare holding mine. The waiter comes to the door and Christian subtly nods, permitting the waiter to clear our table. “Would you like some more wine?” “I have to drive!” “Some water, then?” I nod. “Still or sparkling?” “Sparkling, please!” The waiter leaves. “You’re very quiet,” Christian whispers. “You’re very verbose.” He smiles. “Discipline. There is a very fine line between pleasure and pain, Anastasia. They are two sides of the same coin, one not existing without the other. I can show you how pleasurable pain can be. You don’t believe me now, but this is what I mean about trust. There will be pain, but nothing you can’t handle. Again, it comes down to trust. Do you trust me, Ana?”

Franklin: No.

Eunice: I don’t.

Joreth: “Yes, I do,” I respond spontaneously, not thinking, because it’s true.”

Eunice: It’s not.

Joreth: “I do trust.”

Franklin: Well, the not thinking part is right.

Joreth: “Well then.” He looks relieved. “The rest of the stuff is just details.” “Important details!” “OK, let’s talk through those.” My head is swimming with all his words.

Eunice: The alcohol.

Joreth: I should have brought Kate’s digital recorder so I can listen to this again later. There’s so much information, so much to process. The waiter reemerges with our entrees: black cod, asparagus, and fresh potatoes with hollandaise sauce. I have never felt less like food. “I hope you like fish,” Christian says mildly.

Eunice: I think she feels very much like food, i.e., the one that’s about to be eaten.

Joreth: I make a stab at my food and take a long drink of my sparkling water. I vehemently wish it was wine. “The rules. Let’s talk about them. The food is a deal breaker?” “Yes.” “Can I modify to say that you will eat at least three meals a day?” “No.”

Eunice: Good for her!

Joreth: I am so not backing down on this.

Eunice: Good for her.

Joreth: No one is going to dictate to me what I eat. How I fuck, yes, but how I eat? No way. He presses his lips. “I need to know that you’re not hungry.” I frown. “Why? You’ll have to trust me.” He gazes at me for a moment and he relaxes. “Touché, Miss Steele,” he says quietly. “I concede the food and the sleep.”

Eunice: Wow, as if he’s being so generous.

Joreth: “Why can’t I look at you?” “That’s a dom sub thing. You’ll get used to it.”

Eunice: What? What? OK.

Joreth: Yeah, the clauses in there about how she’s not supposed to look at him…yeah, not a dom thing. That’s a. Maybe a him dom sub thing.

“You’ll get used to it.” “Will I? Why can’t I touch you?” “Because you can’t.” His mouth sets in a mulish line. “Is it because of Mrs. Robinson?” He looks quizzically at me. “Why would you think that?” And immediately he understands. “You think she traumatized me?” I nod. “No, Anastasia, she is not the reason. Besides Mrs. Robinson wouldn’t take any of that shit from me.” “Oh? But I have to?” I pout. So nothing to do with her?” “No. And I don’t want you touching yourself either.” “What?” Ah, yes, the no masturbation clause.

Franklin: Oh my God, he lacks imagination.

Joreth: “Out of curiosity, why?” “Because I want all your pleasure.” His voice is husky but determined. “Oh.” I have no answer for that. On one level it’s up there with I wanna bite that lip. On another, it’s so selfish. I frown and and take a bite of cod, trying to assess mentally what concessions I’ve gained: the food, the sleep, he’s going to take it slow.

Eunice: Dude, these are not concessions. You have not gained anything from him not being allowed to control how much you eat and sleep.

Franklin: Yeah. And you know, he completely doesn’t understand that you can control somebody’s pleasure and still not forbid them to wank, or in fact even require them to wank.

Eunice: Ahem.

Joreth: No idea what you’re talking about, Franklin.

Franklin: Yes, you have no idea what I’m talking about. Neither one of you, I’m sure.

Eunice: No, no, Nope, no idea. No idea, totally innocent over here.

Joreth: It’s not possible at all to control somebody’s arousal state by a pair of dice, for instance.

Franklin: Oh Jesus Christ

Eunice: I feel like I should just every so often just send you an image of dice. No particular reason, just because I happen to feel like it.

Joreth: Showing a high number.

Franklin: Yeah, yeah. Oh, look, it’s another 5. What are the odds?

Joreth: So she’s going over the concessions that she’s gained.

The food, the sleep he’s going to take it slow and we haven’t discussed soft limits, but I’m not sure I can face that over food. “I’ve given you a great deal to think about, haven’t I?” “Yes.” “Do you want to go through the soft limits now too?” “Not over dinner.” He smiles. “Squeamish?” “Something like that.” “You’ve not eaten very much.” “I’ve had enough.” “3 oysters, 4 bites of cod and one asparagus stalk. No potatoes, no nuts, no olives, and you’ve not eaten all day. You said I could trust you.”

Franklin: He’s really fixated on this.

Eunice: He’s…he’s counting! He is counting!

Franklin: This is…this is not D/s. This is OCD.

Joreth: Listen to the next line.

“Geez, he kept an inventory.”

Eunice: She keeps being so close to, like, noticing how creepy this all is! So close!

Joreth: Yep!

“Christian, please! It’s not every day I sit through conversations like this.” “I need you fit and healthy, Anastasia.” “I know.” “And right now—”

Eunice: Feeding her up! Feeding her up for the feast!

Joreth: I mean, feeding people is a kink. Maybe that’s, maybe that’s his one, like, actual real hardcore fetish?

Eunice: The one single one that he refuses to discuss because it’s too personal. “I’m gonna stuff you full of food!”

Joreth: Alright…

“I need you fit and healthy, and right now I wanna peel you out of that dress.” I swallow. Peel me out of Kate’s dress? I feel the pull deep in my belly. Muscles that I’m now more acquainted with clench at his words. But I can’t have this, his most potent weapon, used against me again. He’s so good at sex. Even I’ve figured this out.

Eunice: If you are thinking of it as a weapon that he is using against you, have you considered that having a relationship where the only thing you really seem to enjoy is also the thing he is using to manipulate you, maybe that might not be a healthy relationship for you? Just a thought.

Joreth: Nah.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” I murmur quietly. “We haven’t had dessert.” “You want dessert?” He snorts. “Yes.” “You could be dessert,” he murmurs suggestively.

Eunice: Once she offers to eat something, like, she offers to eat something, and then he just like veers straight into, like, sex talk?

Joreth: “I’m not sure I’m sweet enough!” “Anastasia, you’re deliciously sweet. No.” “Christian, you use sex as a weapon. It really isn’t fair,” I whisper, staring down at my hands and then looking directly at him. He raises his eyebrows, surprised, and I see he’s considering my words. He strokes his chin thoughtfully. “You’re right, I do. In life, you use what you know, Anastasia. Doesn’t change how much I want you. Here. Now.”

Eunice: But…but…like, your….uuugh.

Joreth: Your face Eunice, just…this is a time when I wish that we had a video podcast, because the incredulity on your face.

Eunice: She literally was just like, you are using this thing to manipulate me and I don’t like it, please stop. And he’s like, yeah, turns out I do use it to manipulate you. And I’m gonna carry on doing it. So fuck you.

Joreth: Yep.

Eunice: Anna run, just run. Because he’s telling you outright that he is going to use the only thing that he’s actually any good at in this relationship to control you and to manipulate you, and he does not care. Just…why are you still here? Why? Why are you still here?

Joreth: She likes the orgasms?

Eunice: Really? Like, there is a whole wide world of sex toys out there that can probably give you like a pretty good orgasm. And a lot less lip.

Joreth: I, I mean, and this is the problem with, like, naive partners, right? Because when you don’t know any better, like, she thinks this is the best that she can get. He’s apparently amazing at sex, although I would argue that anyone who is multi orgasmic on their first time with literally not even having kissed before—it’s probably her, not him, that’s good at this?

Eunice: She probably does not need any help in this.

Joreth: Right, it’s probably not his doing, but I mean she thinks that, like, he’s amazing and this is the best that she can get. And it’s oftentimes only after you’ve been through several breakups and you realize—what’s that phrase? Dick is abundant and of low value.

Eunice: Just because you’ve never touched yourself before does not mean the only person who’s ever touched you is any good at the touching.

Joreth: Right? And even if he is, he’s not the only one who is any good at this. There’s lots of ways to have orgasms.

Eunice: Which she has never experienced before, apparently.

Joreth: And she never will because they’re monogamous.

Eunice: And she’s not allowed to touch herself now.

Joreth: Yeah.

Eunice: So the only time that she will ever get orgasms is when he gives it to her, and so she will never know any better.

Joreth: Yeah.

Eunice: He could be giving her the crappiest orgasms, and they’ll be the only orgasms she’ll ever have experience of. And therefore it’s a very low bar.

Joreth: How can he seduce me solely with his voice? I’m panting already, my heated blood rushing through my veins, my nerves tingling.

Remember, they’ve just had this tense conversation where she’s called him a control freak, and she’s arguing him out of things that she doesn’t like and he is ignoring her completely and railroading her, and—

Eunice: Those tingles! Those tingles are not sexual arousal, they are danger. They are fear.

Franklin: Spidey sense.

Eunice: Good God, woman, like, listen to your body. This is panic! You are, you are scared. This is not sexual arousal. They look very similar. They may feel very similar.

Joreth: They are not the same thing.

“I’d like to try something,” he breathes. I frown. He’s just given me a shit load of ideas to process, and now this. “f you were my sub you wouldn’t have to think about this. It would be easy.” His voice is soft, seductive. All those decisions.

Eunice: Easy. Really? Easy. That’s what he chooses. Yeah, easy, Okay. Somebody who does not understand how submission works. I would not describe submission as easy.

Joreth: ”All those decisions, all the wearying thought processes behind them. The ‘is this the right thing to do? Should this happen here? Can it happen now?’ You wouldn’t have to worry about any of that detail. That’s what I do as your Dom. And right now, I know you want me, Anastasia.” My frown deepens. How can he tell? ”I can tell because—” Holy shit, he’s answering my unspoken question. Is he psychic as well?

Eunice: Ana what? OK OK, just just carry on, just carry on.

Franklin: The word she’s looking for is not psychic, it’s psychotic.

Joreth: “Your body gives you away. You’re pressing your thighs together, you’re flushed and your breathing has changed.” OK, this is too much. “How do you know about my thighs?” My voice is low, disbelieving. “They’re under the table, for heaven’s sake.” “I felt the tablecloth move, and it’s a calculated guess based on years of experience. I’m right, aren’t I?”

Franklin: Yes, my thighs are pressed tightly together, because I don’t want you anywhere near them. And I’m breathing. Harder because you are pissing me off. And my face is flushed because I cannot believe that you’re such a jackass.

Eunice: Again, it’s clear this is fear, not sexual arousal. I know.

Joreth: I flush and stare down at my hands. That’s what I’m hindered by in this game of seduction. He’s the only one who knows and understands the rules. I’m just too naive and inexperienced. My only sphere of reference is Kate, and she doesn’t take any shit from men. My other references are all fictional. Elizabeth Bennett would be outraged. Jane Eyre too frightened. And Tess would succumb. Just as I have. “I haven’t finished my cod.” “You prefer cold cod to me?”

Eunice: Yes, yes, the answer there is yes!

Franklin: Yep, Yep.

Joreth: My head jerks up to glare at him and his eyes burned molten silver with compelling need. “I thought you’d like me to clear my plate.” “Right now, Miss Steele, I couldn’t give a fuck about your food.” “Christian, you just don’t fight fair.” “I know. I never have.”

Franklin: I love that now this is being framed as a fight.

Eunice: Yeah.

Joreth: Right?

Eunice: Yeah.

Franklin: You know, that’s actually…this is going to be really surprising, but framing this negotiation as a fight is actually one of the lesser of the many horrifying things that has happened here so far.

Eunice: It’s also a very accurate description. They are both going into it hostile, trying to like, beat the other person.

Joreth: Yep, but yeah. So like throughout the entire series, it’s just this hot, cold, hot, cold and have a fight. One of them is overcome with lust, but then says the wrong thing and so the other one gets passed off, which starts the fight and then somebody bites their lip or stares with molten silver eyes, and then suddenly they’re both aroused again. And then one of them says the wrong thing and then they have a fight and it’s like this constant yoyo of emotions. Like how rapidly they switch back and forth between on his case, anger and lust, and her case, anger and fear and lust.

Eunice: Mmm-hmm, I think there’s a certain amount to be said for just being too oblivious to, like, notice that your partners have changed their things. Like there’s a certain amount to be said in that situation for just being very very oblivious, and assuming everything is fine. And then getting the fuck out.

Joreth: Yeah.

Eunice: I am noticing three things that get described consistently: #1 them getting aroused, #2 them getting like into an argument and #3 random details in the environment in totally irrelevant and overwhelming detail. All of them bad, all of them badly described.

Joreth: Yes, 514 pages of those three things.

Eunice: Where were her editors?

Joreth: You see? You see what I’m saying? Alright, cat, I need to see the book to finish this.

Eunice: Yeah.

Joreth: Tail, tail in my face. OK, where was I?

“I don’t give a fuck about your food.” “Christian, you don’t fight fair.” “I know. I never have.” My inner goddess frowns at me. “You can do this,” she coaxes. “Play this sex god at his own game.”

Eunice: What? What?

Franklin: What?

Eunice: That’s not how any of this works!

Joreth: Can I? OK, what to do? My inexperience is an albatross around my neck. Picking up a spear of asparagus, I gaze at him and bite my lip, then very slowly put the tip of my cold asparagus in my mouth and suck it.

Eunice: That is the least, least sexy way of describing trying to seduce someone by eating. I have done the seductively eating before and this may be—

Franklin: Yes, yes you have. Recently, if I recall correctly.

Eunice: But this may be the least sexy version I’ve ever seen or heard.

Franklin: Well, asparagus is just about the least sexy of all vegetables, and if you have the gene that makes that particular enzyme whose name I can’t remember right now, it makes your pee smell funny.

Joreth: Yep.

Eunice: So I bet I could make the asparagus eating sexy.

Joreth: YOU could.

Franklin: I’ll take that bet. I’ll take that bet mostly because if I lose, that’s OK.

Joreth: I would I would side with Eunice. I bet that, of all people, you would be able to do this.

Franklin: Given the things that she does with eclairs, yes, that is probably true.

Eunice: Ana cannot. Ana is is not making any of this sexy.

Joreth: No.

Eunice: Any of it.

Joreth: This goes back to our aphrodisiac episode, where we referenced the Penn and Teller one on aphrodisiacs. And remember, I put in the clip about the woman who does cooking. You can hire her to do an aphrodisiac cooking session in your house. And that’s one of the things that she cooks is asparagus. And generally it’s because it’s phallic shaped. It’s like just food that’s roughly phallic shaped.

Eunice: Shaped like genitals.

Joreth: Food shaped like genitals, that is aphrodisiac somehow.

Eunice: And makes you think of sex. And when you’re very repressed, and in an environment where everybody is very impressed, anything that has the least possibility of making you think about sex is clearly more than, you know, most people are getting sex.

Joreth: Yeah, this is like, you know, 14 year olds in the cafeteria. Like, “asparagus, hur hur, look at this, it’s so sexy. I’m pretending it’s a penis.”

Eunice: On the other hand, Puritans.

Joreth: Alright, so the very unsexy sucking of cold asparagus…

“Christian’s eyes widen infinitesimally, but I notice. “Anastasia, what are you doing?” I bite off the tip. “Eating my asparagus!” Christian shifts in his seat.

Eunice: That’s not how you…if you’ve just been seductively sucking on a piece of asparagus and then you just go CHOMP, maybe that’s not carrying through in the way you think.

Joreth: Christian shifts in his seat. “I think you’re toying with me, Miss Steele.” I feign innocence. “I’m just finishing my food, Mr. Grey.” The waiter, chooses this moment to knock and, unbidden, enter. He glances briefly at Christian, who frowns at him, but then nods so the waiter clears our plates. The waiter’s arrival has broken the spell, and I grasp this precious moment of clarity. I have to go. Our meeting will only end one way if I stay and I need some boundaries after such an intense conversation.

Eunice: And she needs some boundaries.

Joreth: Any boundaries.

Eunice: Any boundaries, any boundaries at all.

Joreth: Ss much as my body craves his touch, my mind is rebelling. I need some distance to think about all he said. I still haven’t made a decision, and his sexual allure and prowess doesn’t make it any easier. “Would you like some dessert?” Christian asks, ever the gentleman, but his eyes still ablaze.

Eunice: Ever the gentleman? Excuse me, have you not been present for the last, like, chapter?

Joreth: Yes, there’s nothing gentlemanly here.

“No, thank you, I think I should go.” I stare down at my hands. “Go?” He can’t hide his surprise. The waiter leaves hastily. “Yes.” It’s the right decision. If I stay here in this room with him, he will fuck me. I stand purposefully. “We both have the graduation ceremony tomorrow.” Christian stands automatically, revealing years of ingrained civility. “I don’t want you to go.”

Eunice: What? What’s going on here?

Joreth: She stands up so he stands up.

Franklin: Because that’s civility. Years of ingrained civility.

Joreth: Yeah, because that’s totally a thing people still do in the 20 teens, men stand up when women get up from their chair.

“I don’t want you to go.” “Please, I have to.” “Why?” “Because you’ve given me so much to consider and I need some distance.” “I couldn’t make you stay,” he threatens. “Yes, you could, easily, but I don’t want you to.”

Eunice: Didn’t you just, multiply, like multiple times, say “you can leave anytime you want.” Like he literally said that.

Joreth: He runs his hand through his hair, regarding me carefully. “You know, when you fell into my office to interview me, you were all “Yes, Sir. No Sir,” I thought you were a natural born submissive, but quite frankly, Anastasia, I’m not sure you have a submissive bone in your delectable body.”

Franklin: He’s negging her again!

Eunice: Negging her!

Joreth: He moves slowly towards me as he speaks, his voice tense. “Yes, you may be right,” I breathe. “I want the chance to explore the possibility that you do,” he murmurs, staring down at me. He reaches up and caresses my face. Wait, what? He murmurs staring down at me. He reaches up and caresses my face.

Eunice: Is this another thing of, like, bodies don’t work that way? Or is this—

Joreth: I mean, technically, if his hands are down, he does have to reach up to get to her face, but it’s not….

Franklin: When you say reach up, that usually implies, well…

Joreth: Up. Up above you.

Franklin: Maybe there’s clues all through this that everybody has missed. Maybe he’s actually a gnome or a leprechaun.

Eunice: Well, that would explain why he has so much money.

Franklin: Yep.

Joreth: He reaches up and caresses my face, his thumb tracing my lower lip. “I don’t know any other way, Anastasia. This is who I am.” “I know.” He leans down to kiss me, but pauses before his lips touch mine. His eyes searching mine, wanting, asking permission. I raise my lips to his and he kisses me, and because I don’t know if I’ll ever kiss him again, I let go, my hands moving of their own accord and twisting into his hair, pulling him to me, my mouth opening, my tongue stroking his. His hand grasps the nape of my neck as he deepens the kiss. Responding to my ardour, his other hand slides down my back and flattens at the base of my spine as he pushes me against his body. “I can’t persuade you to stay,” he breathes.

Franklin: PULLS you. He pulls you against his body.

Joreth: Again with the physics, she doesn’t seem to know where things are.

“I can’t persuade you to stay?” he breathes between kisses. “No.” “Spend the night with me.” ”And not touch you? No.” He groans. “You impossible girl.” He pulls back, gazing down at me. “Why do I think you’re telling me goodbye?” “Because I’m leaving now.” “That’s not what I mean and you know it.”

Eunice: Yes! Leave! Run! Run! Run!

Joreth: “Christian, I have to think about this. I don’t know if I can have the kind of relationship you want.” He closes his eyes and presses his forehead against mine, giving us both the opportunity to slow our breathing. After a moment, he kisses my forehead and inhales deeply, his nose and my hair, and then he releases me, stepping back. “As you wish, Miss Steele,” he says his face, impassive. “I’ll escort you down to the lobby.” He holds out his hand. Leaning down, I grab my purse and place my hand in his. Holy crap! This could be it! I follow him meekly down the grand stairs and into the lobby, my scalp prickling my blood pumping. This could be the last goodbye if I decide to say no. My heart contracts painfully in my chest. What a turnaround! What a difference. A moment of clarity can make to a girl! “Do you have your valet ticket?” I fish in my clutch purse and hand him the ticket which he gives to the doorman. I peek up at him as we stand, waiting. “Thank you for dinner,” I murmur. “It’s a pleasure as always, Miss Steele,” he says politely, though he looks deep in thought, completely distracted. As I peer up at him, I commit his beautiful profile to memory. The idea that I might not see him again haunts me. Unwelcome and too painful to contemplate. He turned suddenly, staring down at me, his expression intense. “You are moving this weekend to Seattle. If you make the right decision, can I see you on Sunday? He sounds hesitant. “We’ll see.”

Eunice: If you make the right—what does that even mean?

Joreth: The right decision is you choose to become my submissive. That’s the right decision, obviously.

Franklin: Obviously.

Eunice: From his view, from his point of view, yeah.

Joreth: Exactly.

“We’ll see, maybe,” I breathe. Momentarily he looks relieved, and then he frowns. “It’s cooler now. Don’t you have a jacket?” “No.” He shakes his head in irritation and takes off his jacket. “Here. I don’t want you catching cold.”

Eunice: She’s a grown woman! She can make her own choices and also doesn’t she literally have a car?

Joreth: Yeah.

Eunice: She’s literally about to get into her car.

Joreth: Yes.

Eunice: She will be fine. She will. Like she, it’s probably not frozen wastelands out there. She will be fine time it takes to get from the door to her car. She will not freeze in that moment.

Joreth: Yes, he just gave her his jacket because she is not grown up enough to know how to take care of herself in weather.

Eunice: Any weather.

Joreth: Yes

Eunice: All weather.

Joreth: “Here, I don’t want you catching cold.” I blink up at him as he holds it open and as I hold my arms up behind me, I’m reminded of that time in his office when he slipped my coat onto my shoulders. The first time I met him, and the effect he had on me then. Nothing’s changed. In fact, it’s more intense. His jacket is warm, far too big, and it smells of him, delicious. My car pulls up outside. Christian’s mouth drops open. “That’s what you drive?” He’s appalled. Taking my hands, he leaves me outside. The valet jumps out and hands me my keys, and Christian coolly palms him some money. “Is this roadworthy?” He’s glaring at me now. “Yes.” “Will it make it to Seattle?” “Yes, she will.” “Safely?” “Yes,” I snap, exasperated. “OK, she’s old, but she’s mine and she’s roadworthy. My step dad bought it for me.” “Oh Anastasia, I think we can do better than this.” “What do you mean?” Realization dawns. “You are not buying me a car!” He glowers at me, his jaw tense. “We’ll see,” he says tightly. He grimaces as he opens the driver’s side door and helps me in. I take my shoes off and roll down the window. He’s gazing at me, his expression unfathomable, his eyes dark. “Drive safely,” he says quietly. “Goodbye, Christian.” My voice is hoarse from unbidden, unshed tears. Geez, I’m not going to cry. I give him a small smile.

So then she drives away. We’ll end there.

Franklin: Wow, that is actually even more terrible than I had imagined it would be.

Joreth: Yeah.

Eunice: Run, run, run.

Joreth: Anyway, so that is a negotiation with her.

Franklin: Well, OK. “Negotiation” is strong.

Eunice: I would dispute that definition a bit.

Franklin: Yeah, yeah.

Joreth: There were earlier bits that…I mean, it’s just so long, so I can’t read everything. They had an e-mail exchange, she went point by point through the contract and said this, no, this no, I don’t know what this means, explain it to me, this no. And so then they scheduled this date and that’s where they talked about it. So, you know they did skip over some details, mainly because they were brought up in text, but…

Eunice: This being EL James, I would not have been surprised if they had just gone back over the same details. That…that feels like it would be very unband for her, yeah?

Joreth: So yeah, there’s a whole lot of “Ohh, you’re so close.” Like the words are right there on the page! I can see something…James, you see the words. You put them there. Why, why, why, can’t you? Why…did you read them? You put them there, why didn’t you read them?

Eunice: So, almost reasonable.

Joreth: Yeah.

Eunice: You know, your characters are almost, so, almost reasonable.

Joreth: Yeah, right, and then he immediately negates everything that was almost reasonable by ignoring everything that she says she wants.

Joreth: So there you have it … one of the worst consent negotiation scenes in recorded history. We did interrupt the reading a lot with our thoughts in the moment, but it would be a good idea to sum up the overall problem with what’s wrong with these negotiations and what a good negotiation ought to look like.

Eunice: What’s wrong with these negotiations: everything. What a good negotiation ought to look like: Just do the exact opposite of everything Christian Grey does, and you should be fine.

Joreth: Someone asked on Quora once if this book got anything right, and all I could do was post with an animated gif of someone saying “NO”. I mean, that’s the full and complete answer – not a single thing right in this whole book.

Eunice: I feel like this would be a good place for that Nope Rocket gif, except that this is a purely audio format. You can just imagine my face being the equivalent of the Nope Rocket gif throughout this entire thing instead, that would be fairly accurate. Not sure it quite conveys the entire horror of the situation, but it’ll do.

Joreth: OK, so first of all, I want to reiterate again that it’s not necessarily the specific kinky act that we have a problem with. If a business deal role play is your thing and you want to include a contract-like thing as part of your arrangement, that’s all well and good. I mean, boss & secretary is one of the most common role plays ever. But, as I pointed out to another Quora questioner, the role play part is supposed to come AFTER the negotiations. You discuss with each other what you want and don’t want, and THEN you create a scene based on those negotiations. If that includes pencil skirts and boardroom tables and legal paper, then have a sexy kinky business scene to your heart’s content. AFTER negotiating that this is what you want.

Eunice: It still bewilders me that they start out with “Would you like to do A or B, Miss Steele?” “B please” “Right, A it is — you didn’t think your opinion mattered, did you?” Like, that’s the starting point for their first ever discussion on the topic! I’ve seen children negotiate for sweeties better than that!

Franklin: I am still reeling from that. ‘Do you want to stay here or go somewhere private?” ‘I want to stay here.’ ‘Cool, let’s go!’

Eunice: And the entirety of the negotiations just continues on like that! He just treats her like a child the whole way through, making decisions for her because he thinks he knows better. He’s enacting the power dynamic he wants from her before they’ve even agreed on it.

Joreth: Secondly, a good negotiation, regardless of style or genre of kink, is where two people come from equal footing to both discuss their wants, desires, goals, limits, boundaries, and possibly-maybes to find where the overlap is and try to craft a scene or a relationship that works for both of them.

Eunice: A “you do what I want or you get nothing at all” ultimatum is not what I would consider an example of a good starting point for open and safe exploration of shared desires.

Franklin: It is a little scary that folks who are completely unfamiliar with kink might watch these movies or, God help them, read these books and say, Yes! That! That’s how you do it! No, it really isn’t.

Eunice: I suspect the typical person who listens to a podcast on sex through the lens of science and rationality is already going to know more than the sort of newbie who would look at 50 Shades as a useful guide or how to.

Joreth: And this is the big problem, and why we’re taking time and server space to discuss this book. What we do here is to take studies or claims and examine them critically for their resemblance to reality. Discussing this book might seem like a departure, but we are still examining something critically to examine its real-world implications. Because, honestly, the popularity of this book is … concerning. I’ve heard objections to the objections, where some people think that we shouldn’t be concerned because nobody is coming into kink communities wielding 50 Shades like a shield and fucking up their relationships by using this as a how-to guide. And I know that anecdote is not data, but that’s not my experience.

Eunice: It’s compounded by the fact that the people who are already experienced in kink take one look at them and back away because they don’t understand how to negotiate safely, so it’s newbies leading newbies.

Joreth: It’s a delicate balance, isn’t it? Some very experienced veterans in various communities understandably don’t want to get involved with very new players because that, itself, introduces a disturbing power imbalance when you mix “mentor” with an interpersonal relationship, but you also can’t have all the brand newbies running around without any mentorship or oversight at all because we’ve established protocols for reasons and they need to learn them.

Eunice: Much as I have sympathy for the newbies, as someone who does a certain amount of sex and relationship education in the UK poly space, just by dint of my role as a community organiser, I would also just like to not have to keep being the educator in my bed as well as outside it.

Joreth: And that’s, basically, why we’re talking about it. While I don’t feel comfortable mentoring a partner, our roles in our community as educators and our choice to host a podcast explicitly for examining things critically with an eye on ethics has brought us here – why is this a bad negotiation and what does a good negotiation look like.

Eunice: Maybe some newbie will stumble on this and it might help them out a little. Or at least, start them on the path of thinking a bit more deeply about the purpose of negotiations and why they look the way they do in a kink context. In the meantime, I guess everyone else can just…be amused at our horrified reactions?

Joreth: Or perhaps people who know better than to even waste their time on this book can take our experiences and pass along some of the lessons we learned on their behalf when they’re talking to newbies and then nobody else has to put themselves through the hell that was reading this book. Unless you’re really just that masochistic, as apparently I am.

Franklin: So that’s our shock and awe for this episode. You can find us on the web at skepticalpervert dot com, or on Amazon or Libsyn or Spotify or Apple Podcasts or wherever. If you hated what you heard in this episode, why not spread the misery? If you have an idea for something you’d like us to talk about, email us at contact@skepticalpervert.com. The Skeptical Pervert is copyrighted by Joreth, Eunice, and Franklin. Show editing is done by Joreth, and the website is maintained by Franklin.

Joreth: And remember, “His voice is warm and husky like dark melted chocolate fudge caramel… or something.”

Franklin: Well, there goes my appetite.

Eunice: I have never wanted dessert less.

Franklin: I have never wanted to watch you eat an eclair less.

Joreth: Given your and my penchant for dessert, that’s quite impressive.

Eunice: Wait, me or Franklin?

Joreth: Well, you and I have the penchant for dessert, Franklin just has a thing for you eating eclairs (and who can blame him). Usually it’s Franklin who IS the dessert.

Eunice: I like Franklin like I like my dessert — readily available whenever I have a craving.

Joreth: I like Franklin like I like my dessert? Dark and screaming for mercy?

Eunice: Om nom nom. With a side of screaming.

Franklin: You are both terrible people.