Chapter Six: Questions of Control
Brody is “pleased and befuddled” to have received Hayden’s call, during which she said only “Come over” (69). He dresses and as he heads to her hotel he wonders if she has changed her mind about sex only. When she answers the door without a greeting and only “I have some ground rules,” which includes that this is only sex, I suspect he’s been answered (69), although he doesn’t let her actually spell out those ground rules until she insists three times.
One of those rules is that they aren’t to be seen together in public, and Brody jumps immediately to “Ashamed of being linked to a hockey player?” (70). To which I say, wait, what? Why would someone be ashamed of being seen with a professional athlete? At least he accepts her explanation about it causing more trouble for the Warriors and her father if they were found out.
Brody counters her two rules with two of his own. First, she has to be monogamous while they’re together. Hayden agrees to that with an “Of course,” which is fair enough, but he doesn’t say anything about whether or not he’ll be sleeping with anyone else (71). In her shoes, I’d get that clarified. Second, he says that she has to keep an open mind, emotionally, that if feelings develop, she can’t just run away. This seems to be a contradiction to her first rule (that this is just sex.) I mean, it’s not a direct contradiction to the point Brody is insisting that it already is a relationship, but it’s saying that if they happen to break her rule, his rule means she can’t do anything about it.
Problematic rules agreed upon, they spend the rest of the chapter having sex, as one might expect. I mentioned in the fourth post that I thought referencing sex with Brody in the same breath as tea with grandparents was a bit problematic. Here Hayden says that his excitement to have sex makes him remind her of “a kid on Christmas morning” (71). Let’s add analogies involving children to the list of things that shouldn’t be used as couples prepare for or think about sex, okay?
As they’re starting, Hayden reveals, in narrative, that she’s unsettled by Brody’s terms. Um, Hayden? Then maybe you ought to have discussed them. Then the text tells us that Hayden is “confident it wouldn’t go further than” just sex (71). Except we know from all of her musings (during the shark and porno watching) that she’s not confident of that at all. I supposed we could chalk this up to Hayden’s vacillation between desiring sex and fearing commitment, but when the narration’s perspective is third person limited, as with most romance novels, it’s hard to handwave it away as an unreliable narrator. The narrator is still omniscient as far as a single character goes (in this scene Hayden) and you have to trust it. So if you believe she’s confident about this, then you have think she’s quite flaky, since you also have to trust she wasn’t confident about this an hour ago. Especially since in the intervening time, Brody made a rule that they have to act on their emotions if any develop, which seems like a silly rule if that wasn’t what he wanted.
Hayden takes control of their play, telling a (naked) Brody to get on the bed. He starts playing with himself as enticement for her to join him.
There was something so kinky, so dirty about the way he was lying there, stroking himself while she watched. And that she was still fully clothed only made the situation hotter. It gave her the upper hand, reminding her of a fantasy she hadn’t dared to think about in years. Scratch that—she’d thought about it only yesterday, when she’d seen Brody at the arena (73 emphasis original).
If watching a naked man masturbate on her bed is “so kinky, so dirty” then a lot of people are a lot less vanilla than they think they are.
Hayden considers telling Brody that she wants to tie him up, then reflects that she’s never had the confidence to tell anyone that before, not even guys she’s dated for months. And yet she’s willing to tell “her deepest, darkest fantasy” to a Brody, whom she’s known less than a week (73). This apparently means that Brody is special and different. I’d actually guess, though, that it would be easier to tell a relative stranger, particularly one that (you’re telling yourself) you don’t want to be with long term than to tell someone who already has opinions about you and with whom you’re in a significant relationship. There’s less risk in telling Brody than in telling Intimacy-Bridge Doug. Hayden doesn’t see it this way.
Anyway, she confesses and Brody says he’s turned on by the idea, so Hayden grabs some pantyhose and uses it to tie Brody’s wrists to her headboard. (I would personally think that using pantyhose might be a bad idea because the knots would be difficult to untie. I mean, have you ever washed a couple pairs without putting them in a lingerie bag? Getting those things separated is a pain in the ass.)
Hayden tells Brody that her taking control in this moment is only fair, since he’d enjoyed torturing her at the bar the night before. As I’ve said before, I really like this dynamic, that the heroine can be just as dominant as the alpha male hero. (Also, I was going to say I like these power plays and I wondered why the hell this book isn’t called Power Play? It’s just as much a hockey term as Body Check and more relevant.)
The question of control, brought up already in the first chapter (see post #2) is played throughout this scene—not just who is in control of the sex (Hayden or Brody), but whether or not Brody will lose control of himself. He warns her that he doesn’t lose control easily and she takes that as a challenge.
On the other hand, immediately after they discuss whose turn it is to be in control, he tells her that he could easily get loose. This knowledge, at the very beginning of their play, changes things. On one hand, it kind of means that Hayden doesn’t actually have control over Brody, since he could be free at any moment and take back the reins. On the other hand, it means that he is giving her control, since he could choose to not remain in the position she’s put him in. You could see that as the man giving women power that he could just as easily take back, so she’s not truly in charge. Or you could see it as trust on both partners’ sides and that while it may take a lot for Brody to lose control (spoiler! He loses control when she goes down on him), and he may not like to lose control (as he thinks about in the first chapter in hockey metaphors), he’s willing, for this woman he’s falling for, to give control.
I don’t know. What do you think?
Hayden certainly thinks she’s in control.
Oh, boy, there was nothing more empowering than driving a man as manly as Brody Croft into sheer and total orgasmic oblivion (76 emphasis original).
I think part of the importance of Brody being able to get free also comes down to the fact that this is a Harlequin novel written for a mainstream audience. Can’t get too kinky, lest it offend. In fact, when she’s leaning over him at one point, she “gripped his bound hands and twined her fingers with his” (77), so readers don’t forget that this is about love not just sex (even though we haven’t talked about love yet.)
When Hayden unties him and tells him she wants him inside her, she expects him to take back control “but he made no move to flip her over and plunge into her as she’d requested” (77). (Well, no Hayden, you didn’t request that he flip you over and plunge into you, you said “I need you inside me. Now.”) Instead, Brody reiterates that Hayden is in charge and remains where he is. Apparently, though, it becomes too much because before the end of the scene he does, in fact, roll her over and take charge.
So is this equality? A back and forth of who’s in charge? Or does Brody’s superior strength and willingness to take control back whenever he wants negate Hayden’s power?