54 pages • 1 hour readE. L. James
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Content Warning: This section of the guide includes discussion of sexual assault, abuse of a minor, coercive control, and grooming.
Christian Grey’s history with sexuality creates a complicated and problematic view of consent. He and Ana struggle with the implications of consent in their relationship as it moves from a contractual dominant-submissive relationship into a romantic partnership and eventual marriage. Christian’s childhood and teenage experiences create a difficult background for adult Christian’s understanding of consent. The author shows Christian’s growth with his changing understanding of consent.
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In the Prologue, Christian’s mother’s pimp abuses her. This first impression of sexuality haunts Christian’s nightmares and complicates his understanding of sex. His mother cannot consent to sexual relations with her pimp due to her intoxication and the power differential between herself and the pimp. Their relationship has a profound impact on Christian. He cannot endure physical affection from his adoptive family or his lovers. He lets Elena touch him because there are clear rules in their relationship. Christian conflates rules with consent. He does not know how to operate without them due to his grooming by Mrs. Lincoln.
In Chapter 12, Elena approaches Christian for help with a problem. Ana eavesdrops on the conversation and hears Christian say, “[W]hy would I want to taint her with our fucked-up relationship?” (279).
By E. L. James