More Shades of Grey

I know these books are getting far more attention than they deserve but, having plodded my way through half of the second book, I feel the strong need to write an addendum to my VUE column and my comments here.

I have a few problems with the second book. Mainly that it's horrifically boring and overly sentimental. I also can't deal with the amount of control Christian tries to exert over Ana. Most of the time she pushes against it and I do like that she doesn't just go along with whatever he says, but he usually does end up getting his way. I just read a part where he tries to keep her from going to work because he doesn't think it's safe for her to be by herself. He only agrees to let her go when she agrees to having his bodyguard drive her. Oish! The control thing is still very much presented as a character flaw in him - he is overly anxious and worried about people he cares about getting hurt, this is a problem for him and Ana understands it. She doesn't see it as romantic. But he still gets away with it. You definitely get the sense in the above described scene that the only way she could actually get her way and go to her job by herself is to leave him. That's not cool. Reading that scene actually made me feel panicky - like this is where the abuse actually starts. In real life when a man won't let a woman leave his sight, that is a sign of big big trouble.

But what really boils my potatoes about both the first and second book is how Ana questions and fights Christian's need for control in every aspect, particularly financial, but when it comes to her reproductive health and her own body, she completely rolls over (literally). Many people have praised the Fifty Shades books because of the repeated mention of condoms and explicit explanation of their contraception efforts. The problem is, it's Ana's body but it's all in Christian's hands. He has a doctor come to his house and put her on birth control pills. The doctor treats Ana like shit - as if she's there for Christian and not her. She doesn't ask her anything about her health and just hands her some pills and tells her how to take them.

In the second book, Ana and Christian get back together after only five days apart. Ana has stopped taking her pills. Makes sense, it wasn't her decision to take them anyway and she's not having sex anymore. Two days after they get back together, Christian has the evil doctor return. This time she berates Ana for not taking the pills, calls her stupid and thoughtless and tells her she could be pregnant - all this without even asking her when she had sex and if she used a condom (which she did). She has only had sex three times during this period and since she used a condom every time, it's pretty unlikely that she's pregnant. But the doctor scares the bejeebers out of her and makes her feel like an idiot even though none of this was her choice in the first place. She then gives her a pregnancy test which is inane because there's no way a preg test would come up positive the day after she had sex. Then the doctor tells her that because she obviously can't remember to take pills, she'll have to give her a shot. She doesn't explain what the shot is, how long it lasts, or what side effects there might be. Again she doesn't ask Ana anything about her health history or screen for contraindications to this drug. She doesn't offer her any alternatives. And Ana just accepts the scolding and the shot without question. Good grief!

I'm sad to say that I think this actually mirrors a lot of women's experience in accessing birth control. Why do we think that doctors have the right to tell us what's best for us when it comes to our bodies and our reproductive health? Why do we accept this kind of treatment when we wouldn't accept it about anything else? Just like Ana, we wouldn't let a man tell us we can't go to work, but we will let a doctor shoot hormonal contraceptives into us with little or no explanation.

I'm not actually blaming us here, I'm blaming the society and the medical establishment that has led us to believe that doctors know more about our bodies than we do and that we don't have the right to question. And I'm pissed off at E.L. James for including this scene in this book and making it look like this is a perfectly normal encounter between a woman and a doctor.

Ana sticks up for herself, nowhere near as much as she probably should, but she does. She should stick up for herself in this area too.