Fifty Shades Darker: Book Two by Entrenue - review by She & him

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Pathologizing Kink, Normalizing Abuse

Ultimately, while this book was not quite as terrible as its predecessor, it still fails to meet the basic standards for realism, for enjoyable erotica, and certainly for a healthy portrayal of relationships, BDSM or otherwise.
Less awful than the previous book
Badly written, highly concerning and unrealistic portrayals of relationships and BDSM
Rating by reviewer:
extremely useful review
From her: I co-reviewed the first book in this series here, and was very disappointed, but because of the way the first one ends, I thought in order to give this series a real chance that I ought to read and review the second as well. Please be warned that this review does contain spoilers.

After the success of the first book, it's clear that a team of editors had their hands on this one. I've read online erotica that was more well-written than the first book. In the second book, the constant, ludicrous references to Ana's subconscious and inner goddess have become relatively scant, and the language no longer reflects the author's desperate need to prove that she is well-read just because she can use a thesaurus (incorrectly, mind you.) The result is that I laughed a lot less at the sheer terribleness of the writing, and it was also a much quicker and less painful read.

Grey's abusive behavior skyrockets to new heights when Ana breaks up with him, insisting in their first meeting post-breakup that she is still "his," even before they have discussed the terms of being together. He secretly buys the company she works for in order to be able to manipulate every facet of her life. When she is slated to travel to New York to attend a conference he forbids her from doing so; when she insists that she'll go anyway, he uses his leverage as the head of the company to prevent her from going. Grey tells her that "lovers don't need safewords" - an incredibly dangerous misconception. In perhaps the most disturbing example I can provide, he pressures her into having sex with him while she is still reeling emotionally from a confession he has just made, and when she finally gives in, he insists that she cum despite her not wanting to do that, either.

The problematic messages about BDSM continue into this book as well. Grey's Dominant tendencies are characterized as stemming from his childhood, to the extent that he finally confesses to Ana that he gets sexual gratification out of beating brunettes like Ana because they look like his "crack-whore" mother. Thus, Grey essentially admits to Ana that he wanted to beat and have sex with her because of his desire to beat and have sex with (women who look like) his mother. Grey's own sexual awakening at the hands of his first Domme, Elena, is presented as statutory rape, as Grey was only fifteen when it began. When Grey submits to Ana briefly (simply sits in a submissive posture and tells her to do as she wishes with him) she freaks out, insisting that his submission to her is "sick" and "wrong", though evidently there is nothing wrong with her being manipulated to submit to him. Accordingly, not only are individuals who practice BDSM are portrayed as mentally disturbed, an offensive and simply untrue message, but the submission of males and dominance of females is particularly vilified as "evil," which is problematic, to say the least.

At the intersection of these problematic messages about abuse in relationships and BDSM is the author's treatment of Grey himself. He is a highly traumatized man, which Ana seems to fetishize to a certain extent. She constantly marvels to herself over just how "fucked-up" Grey is, which she uses to justify his abusive behavior, seeing him as a lost little boy with cigarette burns who needs her love in order to function. As many abusers have had abusive childhoods themselves, this characterization is not that far off the mark, but the way in which Ana allows Grey's past to justify how he treats her is a mindblowingly dangerous portrait of a relationship. Moreover, she insists that she meet with his therapist in order to discuss his issues without him present, which is not only a violation of his privacy, but represents major boundary crossing on her part. It is neither in her nor Grey's best interests as far as their relationship or his mental health is concerned, and a real therapist would never agree to it. Having been physically abused, being touched in certain areas is extremely triggering for Grey, but Ana insists on it to the point where Grey finally allows her only after he fears that she will leave him, as a way to coax her into staying. This is borderline abusive on Ana's part, as Grey is clearly not in a frame of mind to consent to her doing something that could potentially traumatize him further.
From her: Again, as a Dominant individual who has been practicing safe and sane BDSM for quite some time, and as someone who has had relationships with individuals who have been physically and sexually abused as children, I find the portrayals in this book not only unrealistic but also potentially extremely dangerous for those who read them having no other conception of what it is like to be in a BDSM relationship or to be with a partner who has been traumatized as a child.

Some of the issues relating to BDSM are given a more realistic portrayal, such as Ana's conflicting feelings about Grey giving up the kink part of his lifestyle, and her desire to please him in that way even though she herself does not always enjoy receiving pain, are duly portrayed as conflicting and complex. I myself have seen this with submissives who desire to push their personal limits to please their Dominants. Yet in Ana's case, her desire to push herself comes on the heels of Grey having tried to force his kinks on her throughout most of the first book, so the message becomes that a Dominant pressuring a submissive or vanilla partner past their limits is acceptable behavior. Thus, even for the few issues that are given a semi-realistic portrayal, the overall message is still very distorted.

Please, if you are interested in exploring kink, or if you know your partner has a troubled past, do not take the behavior outlined in this book as a safe or sane example of how to go about handling these very complex issues - if you do, you're putting the mental and physical health of both you and your partner at stake.
Follow-up commentary
Aside from "liking" the occasional humorous and critical posts regarding 50 Shades, that pop up on my Tumblr dashboard, I haven't given this book a second thought since reading and thoroughly disliking it.
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  • Velocifero
    All I can say is THANK YOU. I only just started to read the very first in the series, and the behavior and portrayal of BDSM throughout is not only inaccurate, but incredibly disturbing and blatantly offensive at times. This doesn't seem to be a series written by someone who is well-versed in kink/kink culture, but rather someone who largely has vanilla sex (nothing wrong with that!) and decided to create some bizarre, disturbing pastiche of the most cliche and awful elements she could find about kink in a cursory Google search.

    Most of all, thank you for not trying to normalize or romanticize the abusive behavior.
  • pasdechat
    Thanks so much for the review. I've never had much interest in reading this series anyway, but I certainly don't now. I'm hardly an expert on BDSM, but the way you've described the relationship in this book sounds like the most flagrant sort of abuse, and I can't stand anything that romanticizes that.
  • SadoMas
  • charletnarouh
    I completely agree. Thank you!
  • dsumrow1
  • animepanda89
  • Loriandhubby
    thank you for the review. now i am definatly not buying this series.
  • Hubby80
  • deltalima
    Thanks for sharing
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