The Forever Fix gang: Corey Haas with book, surrounded by mom Nancy and dad Ethan Haas, Ricki Lewis on left next to Lori and Hannah Sames. At book signing 3/24/12, Barnes + Noble, Albany NY.


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Glenn Nichols, surrounded by his hospice team. The author is in yellow.

Genetic Linkage

If “Fifty Shades of Grey” Had Been Written by a Biology Textbook Author

July 10, 2012

Tags: Fifty Shades of Grey, Christian Grey, Anastasia Steele, Ricki Lewis, biology textbook

What if "Fifty Shades of Grey" was about -- digestion?
Come summertime, even nerds need to escape to a trashy novel. Megabestseller “Fifty Shades of Grey” tells the tale of Anastasia Steele, an innocent ensnared within the orbit of the mysterious “dominator” Christian Grey. Despite its enshrinement at the top of the Amazon ranks, the book reads as if written by a horny 15-year-old, using a highly idiosyncratic and repetitive juvenile vocabulary (“Crap!” “Jeez …” and the always-annoying “inner goddess”) to describe a basic biological function – sex. Ana blushes and bites her lip a lot. Aside from that and the sex, nothing much happens.

Since I write biology textbooks, I thought it might be fun to recast the dance of the nubile Anastasia and the well-endowed sadist Mr. Grey, using language from the book (including the grating first person) as well as from my intro biology textbook Life, but focusing on a different organ system. I chose digestion.

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Christian has a surprise for me.

We’d been making love – oops, that’s not what he’d call it – for hours, and I’m ravenous. Christian normally wouldn’t be caught dead in a kitchen, but he makes me wait in his chamber while he goes to get something special – a hot dog.

When he comes back in, I stare in astonishment at the glistening wiener, it’s skin crispy from the Foreman grill, my salivary glands answering instantly to the tantalizing aroma. The six-inch-long dog nestles within the creamy white folds of a roll, peeking out from beneath shiny curls of pungent sauerkraut. Despite Christian’s obvious efforts to please me with this suggestive culinary display, I gently extract the dog, wipe away the mustard, and hold it up, admiring its length.

“I wonder if you can guess what I’d like you to do with that wiener,” Christian says, huskily, as I feel myself respond, yet again, down there. I blush.

Smiling mischievously, I part my luscious lips and painstakingly push in the hot dog. In and in and in it goes.

“That’s it baby, take it all, you can do it!” Christian cheers me on. He’s often commented on my apparent lack of a gag reflex. I flush crimson.

But I fear the full length dog will lodge itself in my pharynx, so I slowly withdraw it, pausing to bite my lower lip, drawing it away from its supportive frenulum, for I know this drives Christian mad with desire.

I actually am quite hungry. I tilt my head slightly back, my eyes rolling back in anticipation, my mouth slackening as I moan in pleasure and take the tiniest nibble from the dog, slipping the slightly dented end of the fragrant frankfurter between my swollen lips.

Christian watches, mesmerized. I then take several tantalizing bites, using my tongue to fashion the macerated pink flesh into a swallowable bolus.

I gulp.

“Here, let me feed it to you,” says Christian helpfully, as he locks my head in place with one hand and immobilizes my arms with the other, while using his feet to imprison my lower half.

Down it goes, as my soft palate and larynx rise, my epiglottis closing like a trapdoor to keep the slick, gummy mass out of my lungs. Without my awareness, the longitudinal muscles in the wall of my alimentary canal contract, elevating my pharynx to embrace my meal. Finally, the muscles in my laryngopharynx relax, sending the food plummeting down the 6 inches of my distended pharynx into my waiting esophagus. It all takes just 10 seconds.

The act of swallowing is so intense that my breath hitches. I turn magenta. Crap! I’m sweating. Christian backs off in apparent disgust. Double crap!

I listen to my inner peristalsis propelling the food to the sphincter guarding the entrance to my stomach. And as that virgin bolus splashes into the vat of churning acid, I venture yet another bite.

Fascinated, Christian comes towards me again and holds my hands, twisting my forearms, firmly behind my back. He then pulls up my tank top and places his ear above my umbilicus, trying to hear the distinctive sounds of mechanical digestion.

Unsatisfied, he pulls away, a frown on his gorgeous face. I’ve displeased him. I bite my lip in distress.

“Why don’t you have something to drink?” he asks as I try to stifle a stinky belch and hold in a fart. “It might help your digestion.”

“Can I have my hands back?” I ask, and he lets me go, walking over to the table to pour me some ice water. Good, I haven’t angered him.

“Here, wash it down. Then brush your teeth again and you can sleep.” Christian, of course, never sleeps with me, not since that first night, before I had even read the contract that could make me his Submissive.

I drink, and I sense the food and tea distending the pleated rugae of my stomach wall. I can only imagine the intricate activities transpiring beneath my taut and tanned abdominal muscles.

Christian playfully slaps my rear, and I head off to bed. I’m asleep in seconds. But my gastrointestinal tract is just getting started.

Sphincters close off my stomach, entrapping the hot dog remnants in an acidic brew, as my contracting muscles slosh it back and forth. I recall from my long-ago biology textbook: “Waves of peristalsis push food against the stomach bottom, churning it backwards, breaking it into pieces, and mixing it with gastric juice to produce a semifluid mass called chyme.”

Aware that chyme expelled from my stomach, should my inner peristalsis reverse herself, would be barf, I recall again from biology class that the protein will stay there for about 3 hours, but the fat – damn Christian, he didn’t give me a fat-free dog – will stay there for 6. I’m not even aware of the gastric juice pouring from 40 million or so cells lining my inner stomach wall, rich in water, mucus, salts, hydrochloric acid, and digestive enzymes. What’s more, when the hot dog first hit my stomach, endocrine cells in the lining cleverly released the hormone gastrin, stimulating even more gastric juice to flow.

Isn’t the body just amazing? Jeez.

Eventually, the gastrin triggers nerves to relax my lower stomach sphincter, and my meal squirts into my small intestine, where all the action is. Once the chyme’s all in, the exit from my stomach snaps shut. Holy shit, what control!

As my quasi-digested hot dog makes its way through my duodenum, jejunum, and ileum, splashing back and forth as painless contractions riddle my gut, secretions from my liver and pancreas pour in, dismantling the dog further so that it’s nutrients can be absorbed through my velvety villi.

By the time I wake up mid-morning and Christian forces me to eat – he has a thing about food – last night’s hot dog has made it’s way to my large intestine, where it’ll hang around most of the day. Since it’s the weekend, I remain at Christian’s, available and eager for whatever he has in mind.

Meanwhile, the hot dog, minus its absorbed nutrients, sits in the 5 feet of my large intestine, which encircles the twisty 23 feet of my small intestine like a man spooning a woman following sex, although Christian would never do that. But I’ve read about it.

Whilst in the large intestine, water, minerals, and electrolytes are leached from the hot dog, leaving behind the makings of a bowel movement: cellulose, bile, intestinal cells, and the 500 bacterial species of my personal inner microbiome. The bugs crank out a few vitamins, break down any remaining nutrients, and demolish remnants of the xanax I took yesterday.

As I go about my day as a sex slave and slacker, the BM builds surreptitiously, collecting in the 6-inch tube (why is everything important 6 inches long?) that is my rectum, pushed by my inner peristalsis, operating now at both ends of the alimentary canal.

A day comes and goes, and by Sunday morning, the entity formerly known as a hot dog enters my anal canal, guarded by dual sphincters. The outer one, which is voluntary, awakens me.

“I have to shit!” I say aloud, to no one in particular.

Off I go to the palatial bathroom and sit on the throne. Instantly, much to my relief, the inner, involuntary sphincter lets go, and I explode, to a cacophony of farts. It seems an awful lot of biomass for one measly hot dog, so I wipe myself, stand, and turn around. I peer into the bowl as I flush.

And there it is. I watch, entranced, as the tapered turd that represents the wonder that is my digestive system, having absorbed all that is valuable and neatly packaged up what is not, spirals elegantly down the drain. A satisfied smile on my face, I gently lower the lid, turn to the mirror, and see, in abject horror, that Christian Grey has been watching me the entire time.

Crap!

Comments

  1. July 10, 2012 3:08 PM EDT
    This was brilliant.
    - AV Flox
  2. July 10, 2012 7:01 PM EDT
    Great job!
    - David Jacques
  3. July 10, 2012 7:05 PM EDT
    The best part is now I don't have to finish reading the book!
    - Ricki Lewis
  4. July 10, 2012 9:40 PM EDT
    Trash brings in a lot of money if you can get up in the morning and do it. You can do it too.
    - Laura Newman
  5. July 10, 2012 9:48 PM EDT
    This may have been better than the book, but she never signed the contract.
    - Tidbit
  6. July 10, 2012 9:50 PM EDT
    Aha! Caught me. I stopped reading halfway through, and had my best friend (who did read the whole thing) read the blog to make sure it made sense. Sorry! But I'm glad she never signed the contract.
    - Ricki Lewis
  7. July 14, 2012 3:03 PM EDT
    deliciously readable.
    - ap
  8. July 16, 2012 11:35 PM EDT
    Funny, Funny, Funny!
    - Richard Ross
  9. July 18, 2012 7:53 PM EDT
    hilarious, Ricki, and much better written than the original. you have managed to turn trash into a valuable teaching tool!!!
    - linda spaulding
  10. July 18, 2012 7:56 PM EDT
    Thanks! I can write bio-porn if textbooks go extinct.
    - Ricki Lewis

Selected Works

instruction
Project to engage students in helping families with rare genetic diseases
Book Club Reader's Guide
Many challenging questions to stimulate thought and discussion.
Instructor's Guide
38 discussion questions to get students thinking and talking about gene therapy, including the science, ethical issues, and the drug approval process.
Narrative science
The Forever Fix is the uplifting true story of 8-year-old Corey Haas, who was cured of hereditary blindness just 4 days after gene therapy.
College Textbooks
A spectacularly-illustrated, clearly written human anatomy and physiology textbook, used in pre-health profession programs throughout the U.S.
A highly engaging, clearly written, beautifully illustrated introduction to the science of human genetics for the non-scientist. Now in its 10th edition.
Nonfiction
DNA reflects who we are -- but it isn’t the whole story.

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