NSFW for some stupid clinical sex talk.
This chapter starts out with, “Gillian wasn’t at the top of her class for nothing; she knew what was the matter and got off him immediately.”
Oh no, I’m pretty sure it was nothing, or else her class (I assume she means paranormal psychology) was comprised of her and my two boneheaded cats. I read that as “got him off immediately” at first, and I actually wasn’t all that surprised to read she’d make him orgasm even after he said no. That’s what these books have brought me to, a complete lack of surprise at nonconsensual sex acts.
In any case, she gets out of his lap, but she doesn’t go far, and she stares right at his giant dick, remembering Aleksei’s giant dick under similar circumstances, which reminds her it’s been a while since she’s had some. Whatever. She tells Perrin they’ve gone far enough tonight and uses the word “erect,” which makes Perrin blush. She tells him,
“Erection, penis, vagina, masturbation, orgasm are all perfectly acceptable, clinical words. None of it is dirty or wrong, understand?”
If you ask me, at no point during actual sex, casual conversation about sex, or writing about sex should the first three words be used, and the last two are questionable. Saying “erect” actually makes it dirtier and wrong-er somehow. Clinical, yes. Sexy? Jesus Christ no.
She says she’s going to show him something he’ll like, and she comes back with…a flavored condom. What on $deity’s green earth makes her think this is something a sheltered Victorian whatsit will enjoy a latex tube flavored like a Jolly Rancher? Perrin is mortified when she unwraps it and puts it over her fingers to show him how it works, as I believe most people would be when having a condom demonstration sprung on them.
She says she wants to give him a blowjob before they fuck, a notion that horrifies him for some reason. I know some cultures have proscriptions against oral sex, but is Victorian-era France one of them? Who the fuck knows.
I can’t tell whether he’s against the idea or is super into it, as he’s gesticulating toward his “heavy sex” while simultaneously being like WAT R U SRS THO. She puts the condom back in its wrapper and tosses it back on the table (please PLEASE don’t tell me she fucking uses it later), then gives him a “body parts aren’t dirty,” or, as the book calls it, the “Our Bodies, Ourselves” talk. I actually think this is what a sex therapist should actually be doing. Working to eliminate shame and forming some sex-positive thought patterns is a useful outcome of therapy. Does it require banging? Absolutely not, but this is a goddamn romance novel and we seem to be reaching the limit of pages without sex in a romance novel, so we better put some dick in there. This is the healing cock, only in this case we’re healing the cock.
Gillian tells him she wants him to be “a little more dominant, Perrin. Not forceful, not brutal, but confident, assured.”
I have so many thoughts here.
So, she doesn’t think forceful and brutal are good attributes, despite the fact that literally every dick that’s been in or near her until Perrin has been that way, and she doesn’t see that as a problem. Is she trying to make Perrin into the kind of partner she wants, or is it classic Gillian Irony?
I KIND OF get what she’s saying here, but using the word “dominant” in a sexual context has a specific meaning, and “confident, assured” in this context does not necessarily mean dominant despite her equating the two. Being a submissive can require an awful lot of confidence and assurance, too; it’s hard to give yourself over to someone if you’re not confident in yourself.
I’m going to guess she not-so-secretly thinks Perrin is a pussy and is going to try and mold him into a Rachlav-style abusive asshole. Safe guess.
She gets up to leave and decides to kiss him. And then…
He “swat[s] her butt.”
SERIOUSLY WHAT THE FUCK IS IT WITH MEN AND SLAPPING HER ASS
Gillian reacts appropriately:
Gillian was annoyed. “Just what the hell do you think you’re doing?”
“Practicing being more dominant?” Perrin was making an attempt at his humor skills again.
Really though. REALLY THOUGH. First, how does Perrin equate ass-slapping with confidence and assurance, second, how does he even go from not even being able to handle being aroused to hitting her, and third, oh YAY, now this book is going to add a mangled version of BDSM to its sins?
Oh, no, Gillian isn’t into BDSM because “relinquishing control was completely foreign to her.”
I’m sure this is meant to be a virtue rather than a dangerous character flaw that has repeatedly put her and everyone around her in danger.
As Gillian leaves, she has an “epiphany” that “Perrin [is] truly an innocent.” There’s some pseudo psychological analysis, by which I mean some shit that’s been obvious from the first two paragraphs of their interaction. There’s some references to random deities, Cronus and Hera, which I guess is supposed to be some vague reference to the spirituality of this world.
Are we done with this shit yet? Please?
Of course not. She runs into Aleksei, who is has now gathered a few shreds of maturity to cobble together some so-called genuine concern for her wellbeing. There’s some weird shit where she shares her thoughts–unintentionally, I think?–or something, and he calls her his lover and his girlfriend. She decides now is a good time to give him a speech about how she’s determined the status of their relationship.
“I have been your lover and I was your girlfriend. I know you’ve apologized for what you said, and I forgive you for that. But, Aleksei, we waited nearly two years, then moved really fast into a very intense relationship. I just want to take a couple of steps back, that’s all. Really get to know each other before we get into full-blown commitment mode. Do you understand?”
“You are breaking up with me?” He wasn’t insulted; he was stunned and stared at her in disbelief.
“See, when you say things like ‘breaking up,’ it sounds so silly coming from a Vampire Lord who is as erudite and concise in formal speaking as you are.
I just have to break in here and wonder if a margin note from Gryphon’s long-suffering editor was accidentally left in. Continuing:
“We are on a break, Aleksei. Just a break. I don’t want you to go away; I don’t want to leave. I just want some space right now so I can get everything sorted out in my mind. I know that’s selfish of me, but I need some time here. Are you okay with that or do you want to tell me to go to hell and to forget it?”
Jesus, what an asshole. Taking this out of context from Aleksei’s consistent abuse, because the narrative surely wants to pretend this has been an equal relationship from the beginning, this is typical Gillian selfishness. Avoiding your lover and then, when he expresses concern–because you seem grumpier than usual–determining that you’re on a break with no input from him, is a real dick move. More on this at the end of the post.
Tanis breaks in on the brain phone to tell Aleksei to STFU and just agree, which he does, adding another nickname, “dolcezza,” to the pile. Apparently this means “sweetie.” Whatever.
Gillian admits she’s scared (gasp!) and they have a moment that would be tender if it were in another book. And if it weren’t ruined by this from Aleksei:
“I will continue with my life as intertwined with yours as it is and hope that your road will lead you back to me.”
Translation: you can’t get rid of me.
On second thought, I’m not 100% sure how I feel about Gillian’s “we’re on a break” decision. Aleksei has mostly controlled the relationship up until now through his abusive behavior. I can’t really blame Gillian for taking control of it now. Ultimately I blame the narrative for being as subtle and nuanced as an elephant dancing ballet.
This is the problem I’ve consistently run into in these books. There’s huge cognitive dissonance between the reality of the situation and how I’m supposed to read the narrative. There are moments when I’m in Gillian’s corner because her reactions are reasonable given the awful behavior of the people around her, yet those are precisely the moments when the narrative is trying to insist that she’s being unreasonable, and vice versa. I absolutely don’t believe that Gillian is as abusive as Aleksei or the other twatwaffles she hangs around; this is clearly not the case. However, she’s still a terrible fucking person all around. Is this a result of being constantly surrounded by twatwaffles, or is she an asshole all on her own? It’s hard to tell, and maybe it doesn’t even matter. She’s a terrible protagonist.