the “jacobs and pauls” phenomenon.

let me tell you the truth. i came across the popular “romance” novel through  newspaper article on a Sunday morning, ages ago, extolling about the sudden rage in sales of books with explicit content. what was different this time was that the conventional media was not afraid to talk about it without any moral preaching and even discussed some more future projects in which classics like “pride and prejudice” and “Jane Eyre” will get those similar make-over to attract the readers and increase the sales. that was how i came across these three- TWILIGHT, FIFTY SHADES OF GREY and GABRIEL’S INFERNO.

 

the most curious observation is the prominent fixture of a male-figure( they are not much of  a character) who is there for our plain as a day heroine( brown-haired, petite and pale!) for anything and everything. no really! they are her best friend and are willing to slide into the role of boyfriend in a snap of a finger, and are willing to be perfectly friendly even if ( inevitably ) our Mary sue-z will reject his romantic attention for someone else. i mean, we noticed the whole debate of “team Edward” versus “team Jacob” t-shirts and opinion polls everywhere. and Stephanie Meyer kick started this phenomenon in Y A literature , as well as many more genre which touches romance. i cannot even say that she might be the first one but she unwittingly repeated what has already happened in the first known novel in the history of English literature PAMELA by Samuel Richardson. here, Richardson has more of stick figure of a Jacob in 1740 called Mr. Williams( like a cave painting. very crude. get it? no? oh well 😛 ). Mr. Williams is trying to find someone to save our eponymous heroine from her captivity ( yes, you read correctly and not to mention the author is clear that this is a women whose virtue will be rewarded by her kidnapper. happy ending!)

 

MILD TO RUTHLESS SPOILERS FOR THOSE WHO STILL HAVE NOT READ THESE “GEMS”.

i guess i should start with the most baffling, condescending and idiotic of the trio of “Jacobs” – i present you Paul Norris. a notorious rabbit lover and cow enthusiast ( but not a PETA enthusiastic mind you) ; who promptly categorizes  women in petting zoo animal- he nicknamed our mary sue “rabbit” after his first day of college seminar.the guys is fast!.he is also, what i have observed in Pamela, is a victim of instant-noodle style affection:

[…] I should think myself but too happy, if I might be accepted. […] Don’t think this a sudden resolution. […] the moment I saw you, [I] wished to serve so much excellence.”-Pamela.

“…, [Paul] knew, without doubt, that he would do anything to keep someone from hurting her. Even if it meant his academic career. Even if it meant dragging Emerson out behind the Department of Italian Studies and giving him the serious ass kicking that he and his pretentious posterior so richly deserved.” -Gabriel’s Inferno Sylvain Reynolds. do note that he is apparently ready to railroad his life after meeting our heroine and knowing her for about  five days. woah! clingy much?

he is just ready to take brunt of anger on our heroine-Julianne’s, behalf from his irate thesis doctorate supervisor but also keeps calling her “little rabbit” just because he feels that or heroine is frail and spooks easily like an animal( he might be right considering , how many times she judges people on casual sexual assignations and feels “ill” and “disgusted”…but full discussion on Julianne Mitchell in future 😉 ). he is also into respecting Julia’s boundaries of relationship unless it is with men he considers beneath his standards.he feels BDSM is disgusting since his personal motto is “lovers should be gentle with each other” and ” ..should care enough to respect them and not treat them as objects” ( that is a great piece of advice really. yay!) and also be “..careful and never , ever hurt them. even if they’re fucked up enough to beg you to”-wait! whaa..at?. yes you read this right, he ( and probably the author as well) feels those who enjoy pain in their sex life are not right in their mental capacity or else why would they ask for it? there no other text reference to say that Reynolds is being objective here but he is not because everyone agrees with him :-/  .in the text.  all this is not even in a casual conversation , in a relaxed, candid environment but whispering right next to Julia while making puppy face and promptly making me and Julia uncomfortable.the one and only redeeming quality our writer seems to have infused in Paul is that like a self-respecting gentleman, he realizes he could be a potential nuisance in the life of julia after she dangles with his romantic aspirations by kissing him( knowing all the while she is still pining after her lost lover), so he drops contacts to mere acquaintance-level when she leaves and marries away and asks him to be friend( the dreaded friend-zone, not once but twice.)

the next in line is our eponymous Jacob black!. a normal teenager , who was perfectly nice and was a sweet friend to our heroine Isabella swan. things take for a dive when he develops feelings for her and our depressed heroine( numbed after her forced separation with Edward) does nothing much to dissuade him from his futile torch bearing except for a token warning once on how she will be never be good enough for him( poor you, idiot) instead of saying that i might never like you. sheesh  :-/  .to top off all the pain on this guy, meyer steps up and makes him a werewolf who hates his “ancient enemy” aka vampires who is also the chosen one of our virtuous Bella.

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the face of spare-love-interest of this decade people.

so what does our Jacob do? will he leave Bella alone? will he respect her choices? will he stop being an ass to Bella and just tussle with Edward alone??…………no! of course not silly you!. i think very few people notice that however problematic and an icon of domestic abuser Edward Cullen is, Jacob Black is also an emblem of those guys we fall for during our teenage years. he is into bikes, uses his good credentials to take us away on adventures and is sometimes a surrogate brother but he also can be a bully, a condescending menace and just plain assaulter- do remember he forces to kiss Bella not once but twice in ECLIPSE and the disturbing thing is no one on text names it anything more than being “forward”. he also hangs around our Bella until someone from Edward’s side does something to make him punch them and finally(!) Meyer throws a mutant-baby at him to make a Mormon ending of it.

i am saving the last and the least( no, really he has the least of all figure making material compared to even stick-figure Mr. William!)  Jose Rodriguez, who has frankly the most unoriginal Hispanic name  and also takes after his literary inspiration Jacob black in terms of sexual assault.sometimes, i feel e l James is being intentionally sarcastic towards Meyer and twilight. take our (jacob-3) Jose for example, where Meyer just stops caring about sexual assault by Jacob and makes Bella confess love to him( which is “less than Edward”.phew!), James on the other hand makes sure anastasia does not give a dime about his intentions lest we gullible readers find a way to stick up to Jose ( you know a “team Jose!” mania won’t help 😛 ) .he is there just so we could see how naive and low self-esteemed our Ana is , and what an idiotic, jealous, teenager-adult christian is and makes sure by the conclusion of the series , christian is nothing but gentleman to him by talking about manly sports such as fishing.he really has no purpose of himself except for serving as a token diverse friend in the book along with Ana’s best friend Katherine Kavanagh-my favorite, she is.

so the conclusion is………watch out for william-jacob-jose-paul because they end up in the plot just to decrease the grey matter in the heroine’s brain, so they can waffle with their torch (which “jacobs” burn for them) and create a lame tension in the love affair.they have a penchant for insta-luv and seems to have no idea of boundaries when their place is finally relegated in the friend zone.they also hammer in the fact that a guy and girl can never be great friends with each other unless he turns out to be gay or bisexual(offensive? YES!) they serve sometimes as a punching bag for our hero and a crying shoulder when our heroine is alone and sometimes, exceptionally , manage to become the central of attention( Peeta from HUNGER GAMES anyone? but only after he managed to become condescending and manipulative in comparison to the good ol’ Gale .of course Katniss will dump Gale  :-/ ). beware!

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fifty shades of ..issues (and need to tackle)

many of the readers believe that fifty shades trilogy by E L James is a step back in the progress women are making( a book alone can do that?yes, maybe.but a draft-like manuscript like that?hyperbole.)so many of the writers on the net world write that it is a classic text for reference for domestic abuse and how a man behaves in it.on one hand i am glad people are talking more about the need to identify and recognizing abusers in the vicinity of personal space , but on the other hand i am not sure i am alright with putting the label on a character who is a complex tangle of abused, traumatized, manipulating and manipulated.i am no expert, just a reader and a student, so it is always possible i might say things people disagree with or i might say things which i should have known better but i still try to say it with my utmost sincerity and respect.
some of the points i mention are to be taken within the context of the trilogy with the present release of alternate perspective book( Grey)

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ISOLATION

it is usually the first indicators of a relationship which is turning it’s road in a unhealthy direction.the abuser usually tries to manipulate the victim to cut off ties from their peers and emotional support base, usually in gradual manner.they tend to lash out with verbal abuse, then physical abuse if they do not comply.
in fifty shades people see christian giving Anastasia an NDA to sign which legally stops her from talking.but then is it stopping her from talking about their relationship? i don’t think so.christian (and his lawyer) are obviously trying to contain the fact the relationship he had until Ana are not relationship per se but an arrangement of highly unconventional and definitely unorthodox sexual relationships.what would happen if anyone leaked this out?to the delight of gossip mongering and 19th century backward mentality media? people do not respond to unconventional well in first glance and especially a business man with a history with an older women.this is the arrangement Christian first tried Ana to mold herself into but it evolved into something more intimate.that is why when Ana asks what to do with the NDA in book 2 , christian straight up says “tear it up”.
Anastasia indeed talks with her friends and family about her relationship.she talks with her mom and a little with her step-father Ray and even her bestie Kate too(which Christian objects to because she is dating his nose-butting brother Eliot. convoluted, ugh!).she even told her the exact nature of her relationship off page in book 3!

CONTROL

so this is where the minefield lies.control is something Christian Grey uses a means to assure himself that he had left his past behind.his detailed contract is written in such a way that the women adhering to it within the time limit ( three day weekend for three months minimum) will never do anything which remotely triggers his  childhood trauma.his food lists to stop him from worrying they are not hungry and his mode of transport for them so they are not dead on road( oh god! talk about overreaction)
when Anastasia refuses to comply with food rules and sleep rules, what does christian do?he grumbles but accepts.he puts his foot down on the car part but eventually he has to accept it back when Ana returns it.
his uses of his BDSM contract to cope with his trauma of childhood.which is not a healthy outlook to his relationships he had but on the letter of it ,all his relationship were sane, safe and consensual.including the one with Anastasia. he lapses a handful of times during the course of the story in his controlling behavior of Ana which comes in the category of “power over”(Patricia Evans ) i,e:when he gave her hickeys(she was unaware) and cuff-marks(aware) for disobeying his wishes to not go topless on beach on her honeymoon.he did had a sound logic for his wishes(paparazzi) and Anastasia understood but he still goes ahead and does it to feel “in control” ,for which  he then promptly feels guilty and remorse within 24 hours( because he knows he was wrong and feels confused because if he had done it in past with other submissive they would not have questioned ).oh! and Anastasia was angry with him for it, just to inform  those who will find this situation for blaming Ana(again :-/ )

INTIMIDATION

this is something Anastasia feels quite often, especially in book 1, around christian.this feeling has sometimes stopped her saying what she wanted at that time but not at a later time though 😛
joking aside, intimidation is one way abusers maintain control in the relationship.
however, i never read her musing on feeling vulnerable by Christian’s strength. there is one time i.e: when christian cave-man carries her to his boathouse after he is mad. that Ana did not inform him about her trip to Georgia. so he carries her off so she does not trip.on.her.high heels.yes, the banal of all banal reasons, to prevent her fall on unpaved grassy lands. lol! oh, and one another when he calls Ana’s bluff when she does not go to his apartment( a lunatic is gunning after her but she does not know and idiot christian just expect her to follow him apparently.) that one is an example of man-handling not physical intimidation.
also, christian also gets “mad” when Ana clamps her legs under the dinner table at his parents’s but what is his reaction?

[christian]“You said no.”
[Ana]“What?” No to what?
“At the dinner table, with your legs.” Oh… that’s what this is all about.
“But we were at your parents’ dining table.” I stare up at him, completely bewildered.
“No one’s ever said no to me before.  And it’s so – hot.”

“You’re mad and turned on because I said no?” I breathe, astonished.
“I’m mad because you never mentioned Georgia to me.  I’m mad because you went drinking with that guy who tried to seduce you when you were drunk and who left you when you were ill with an almost complete stranger.  What kind of friend does that?  And I’m mad and aroused because you closed your legs on me”……..

 

.. “All mine.  Do you understand?” He eases his finger in and out as he gazes down at me, gauging my reaction, his eyes burning. “Yes, yours,” I breathe as my desire, hot and heavy, surges through my bloodstream

apparently Ana finds this sexual dominance arousing.however sexist the idea of “mine” being is, being turned on by it is the character’s prerogative and nobody’s business but nobody will debate about the sexism of it now, will they?oh no! women have to be the victim!*rolls eyes*

POSSESSIVENESS

true love offers freedom.it does not cage you.does not constrain you. it might sound flattering in some exceptional context but it does just sound controlling and is a sexist idea rooted in patriarchy.
people say that christian tries to keep Anastasia all to himself and does not allow her much freedom during courtship and marriage.he feels jealous of any male attention she gets.you know, while i am doing this blog i have a copy of Robert Browning’s dramatic monologue My Last Duchess ( do check it out, it is like silence of the lamb but in a short poetic form)

christian has so many negative self image of himself that when for the first time he has feelings for someone, he immediately sees any male attention as a threat to his affections for Ana. i am not excusing jealousy as an acceptable behavior.it  is natural to feel jealous now and then when you are in a relationship.but they way you react is a different matter whatsoever.christian just keeps pointing to Ana that there are plenty of guys who want to his place(which she does not believe) but he is not angry at her or blaming her for it.far from it, he just uses this to point out that Anastasia is a desirable women(which she does not pay attention to)

“You have no idea how attractive you are, do you?”
I flush. Why’s he going on about this?
“All those boys pursuing you—that isn’t enough of a clue?”
“Boys? What boys?”
“You want the list?” Christian frowns. “The photographer, he’s crazy about you, that boy in the hardware store, your roommate’s older brother. Your boss,” he adds bitterly.
“Oh, Christian, that’s just not true.”
“Trust me. They want you. They want what’s mine.” He pulls me against him, and I lift my arms to his shoulders, my hands in his hair, regarding him with amusement. “Mine,” he repeats, his eyes glowing possessively. “Yes, yours.” I reassure him, smiling. He looks mollified,

when he asserts that she is “his” he basically wants her to assert that she desires him and wants to be with him just as much he does.if it would have been otherwise then he couldn’t have given a damn about anyone in “competition”.this is an authorial choice which shows how cripplingly insecure and self-hating he is behind the self-assured and intimidating facade he presents to the world.

NARCISSIST

“Narcissists live within the confines of their egocentric world; other humans function as props for the narcissist’s performance.”-Dorothy McCoy
christian is a person who cannot stand the idea anyone suffering hunger.he cannot stand the idea even his one-arm-distanced submissive to be unsafe.but he is not a text book definition narcissist  when you look at him.he avoids intimacy with his previous submissive as means to prevent them from physical intimacy which will involve touching him.now you would say, that is narcissistic, but he has a phobia.A PHOBIA!. he cannot abide it before and further discouraged it by making them avoid eye contact and giving separate sleeping space because of his NIGHT TERRORS( again a not healthy idea especially if you obfuscate truth about these issues by the name of rules) .every  critic i came across just blots these humongous health issues and takes them out of context, which is quite sad.
when he meets and negotiates his relationship with Ana, he does stipulate these measures too, but thanks to authoritarian inventions, christian finds he does find sharing bed space for sleep soothing and even loves it when she maintains eye contact.however, phobia is not going away like magic now will it? it takes almost the whole trilogy to overcome this issue .

LACK OF CONSENT

let me clear.the book is advocating consent. the relationship on the whole is consensual too. Anastasia is aware every step of the way in what she wants even if she has reservations about the BDSM aspect :

“I want us to work, but I am terrified of the depth of feeling I have for you and the dark path you’re leading me down.  What you are offering is erotic and sexy, and I’m curious, but I’m also scared you’ll hurt me– physically and emotionally”-ANASTASIA fifty shades of grey

he replies:

“I am annoyed that as soon as you put some distance between us, you communicate openly and honestly with me.  Why can’t you do that when we’re together?”

“As your Dom, I would expect you to accept whatever I spend on you with no argument.  Incidentally, tell your mother too.”

“I apologize for frightening you.  I find the thought of instilling fear in you abhorrent.  Do you really think I’d let you travel in the hold?  I offered you my private jet for heaven’s sake.”  “you are the one with all the power.  Not I.  In the boathouse you said no.  I can’t touch you if you say no – that’s why we have an agreement – what you will and won’t do.  If we try things and you don’t like them, we can revise the agreement.  It’s up to you – not me. “

this is the crux of the struggle Anastasia has from within.she likes what christian is offering but as she is new to anything related to sexuality( hence, insecure) and was not into BDSM , she has reservation about the confusing line those rules imply and where does it apply sexually and otherwise.by the time book 3 rolls around even that issue is resolved.she trusts him and knows he won’t hurt her in any way.
there are certain places where lack of consent is disturbing though,
a) when christian sleeps beside Ana when she was stupefied after getting drunk in book 1.
b) removing her old car without asking her.not cool.not cool at all.
c) applying moratorium on spending at her  company so she cannot go with her sleazy boss jack out of town for symposium( although it is a sound decision money-wise and safety wise.it should have rang an alarm bell when Ana got the history that jack’s previous PA don’t retain jobs for more than three months max.!)
d) oh! buying the company she works for.oh my god! his reasoning “to keep you safe”!!(personal issues gone haywire!!!!!although he never interferes with her career intentionally but still it never goes away that he has a lot of control of her career)
i mean he could just hire extra guards and body guards.oh wait! he did that too*rolls yes*
e) and he kept photographic evidence of his previous submissives as an insurance against exposure( they knew he is taking their photos , just not the fact that he is using it for other than leisure purpose)

STALKER
he is a stalker through and through.he even stalks her after she broke up with him to check if she is okay and also contemplated suicide by suffocation in the same chapter(which just makes me sad and question his mental state.)
the only consolation is that this trope is not just ignored in the narrative and Anastasia straight up tells him to check out more shrinks for his “stalker tendencies”.she  has this to say for it.no helping it but at least she knows it is not right:

“One minute he rebuffs me, the next he sends me fourteen-thousand-dollar books, then he tracks me like a stalker.  And for all that, I have spent the night in his hotel suite, and I feel safe.  Protected.  He cares enough to come and rescue me from some mistakenly perceived danger”

“[christian]“I tracked your cell phone Anastasia.”
Oh, of course he did.  How is that possible?  Is it legal?  Stalker, my subconscious whispers at me through the cloud of tequila that’s still floating in my brain, but somehow, because it’s him, I don’t mind. “

all in all i would suggest that christian is complicated but he is not a full blown abuser.he is secretive, condescending, sexist even but abusive? i am not sold on that idea.the idea that Anastasia is with him because she thinks her “love will change him” trope  is really not paying attention to  the text.she left him when he could not agree with her, when his and her interests diverged and was willing to do so again .it is only when christian agrees to open up, try it differently, a new approach to their lifestyle and relationship that she comes back and sticks with him with patience because he tries and succeeds for most part to his promises.he is genuinely sorry and feels abhorrence when he faces a real distressed Anastasia who does not like extreme aspects of BDSM. it is imperative that people talk more about what is a healthy relationship and what is not and i am so glad people are talking more about it however, i am not okay with people judging a whole slew of readers who enjoy these books for their own reason or using it’s out of context texts to condemn the author or the fans.

this is my first time serious attempt at blogging and i know i am not an expert in many things but i will try to listen and improve if there are scope for change .whether it is in the idea or theme or just basic premise or a definition of the article i am writing about.

fifty shades of …victimization.

browsing across the world of internet and my favorite pass time of checking out what trolls are saying, i came across this idea, floating swiftly among the mainstream, that Anastasia steel in fifty shades series is a victim, is a passive player, is a pushover and god knows what not.i was like, what!?people are really combining gone by tropes with the text and result is not pretty.
let us recapitulate shall we?
Anastasia Rose Steele is a character who was inspired by Isabella Marie Swan of the extremely popular twilight series.written as a fan-fiction, she later got her own name when e l James copy of the fan-fiction was picked up by the writer’s coffee shop  publishing house to print it as an independent manuscript.the publishers clearly wanted to separate it’s origins as titillating unoriginal story from it’s current well liked status.

Ana starts off being quite similar to Bella. described as clumsy, awkward, not much of a fashion connoisseur with no sexual interest till now with similar physical looks except for striking blue eyes.however that is where the similarities end.unlike Bella, Ana though might not be comfortable in her physique is quite self-aware of her expectations and wants in her life.she does not just drifts along the state of affairs as she likes us to believe.she has plans and goals just beyond graduation and has multiple career goals.

Sometimes I wonder if there’s something wrong with me.  Perhaps I’ve spent too long in the company of my literary romantic heroes, and consequently my ideals and expectations are far too high.  But in reality, nobody’s ever made me feel like that. Until very recently,

 

[Ana]“Hey, I have interviews! The week after next, in Seattle, for intern placements!” [Kate]“For which publishing house?”
[Ana]“For both of them!”
[Kate]“I told you your GPA would open doors, Ana.”
Kate, of course, already has an internship set up at the Seattle Times.  Her father knows someone, who knows someone.

her expectations from christian was conventional but it was started to appease her own curiosity about him, to fulfill her desire for sexual intimacy after finally feeling ready.it was all  all ABOUT HER.what she desires , her initiative, her decision

Please, let’s do this… otherwise we’ll end up alone with lots of cats and your classic novels to keep you company

…The only man I’ve ever been attracted to, and he comes with a bloody contract, a flogger, and a whole world of issues
..  Well, at least I got my way this weekend.  My inner goddess stops jumping and smiles serenely.

Am I submissive?  Maybe I come across that way.  Maybe I misled him in the interview.  I’m shy, yes… but submissive?  I let Kate bully me – is that the same?  And those soft limits, jeez.  My mind boggles, but I’m reassured that they are up for discussion.

as for people who are thinking this is a romance, you only need to read this quote to to see that: Anastasia is completely aware that what christian wants is not conventional and he HAS ISSUES which needs to be resolved and needs consideration while thinking about his offer, she needs to decide whether after the no strings first night, does she really want to take up more immersion in his BDSM sexual lifestyle?
clearly she is reassured that she can and will decide after discussion and will have time to think about it.this is why even after witnessing some distressing things  (playroom “red room of pain”)for the first time in her history, she does not balk that much because christian has always reassured her as well as her own curiosity and open mind.

“You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. You know that don’t you?” [christian]
“I’d never do anything I didn’t want to do, Christian.” [Ana]

just before opening his playroom

[christian]“You can leave anytime.  The helicopter is on stand-by to take you whenever you want to go, you can stay the night and go home in the morning.  It’s fine whatever you decide.”
[Ana]“Just open the damn door, Christian.”

like many people out there the idea of so much submission horrifies and repulse her at some point.

My mouth presses in a hard line.  This is what I cannot reconcile.  Kind, caring Christian, who rescues me from inebriation and holds me gently while I’m throwing up into the azaleas, and the monster who possesses whips and chains in a special room.

My head is buzzing.  How can I possibly agree to all this?  And apparently it’s for my benefit, to explore my sensuality, my limits – safely – oh please!  I scoff angrily.  Serve and obey in all things.  All Things!  I shake my head in disbelief.  Actually, doesn’t the marriage ceremony use those words… obey?

but she still has desire and curiosity to know more about it and she does find it desirable(at least on paper)

Do I really want this stuff in my head?  Jeez – is this what he gets up to in the Red Room of Pain?  I sit staring at the screen, and part of me, a very moist and integral part of me – that I’ve only become acquainted with very recently, is seriously turned on.  Oh my, some of this stuff is HOT.  But is it for me?

Anastasia’s desire and intents are just as important and worth mentioning.she has her doubts and misgivings given what she knows of his history with sex and some inkling into his childhood trauma.when christian tells he that being a submissive in his control is a kind of therapy which she tries to assimilate to what she knows. isn’t what every normal girlfriend does?get to know her boyfriend?
lots of time James/ Ana surprisingly dwell little on the growing desire for the BDSM lifestyle Anastasia has and her struggle to assimilate the idea within her.instead she becomes more of a lens to see christian when we should have dwell on her.

“Maybe.  Perhaps I should be stricter with you.” He cocks his head to one side and gives me an artful smile. I swallow.  Jeez, no.  But at the same time, my muscles clench deliciously deep inside.  It is his way of showing that he cares….

and this is one of the reasons readers fail to pick up on the hints that maybe Anastasia started  in this arrangement because of her desire to be with christian but she comes to desire some aspects of it for herself too.