Just Sex, Nothing Else
“How do they do it, the ones who make love/ without love” (Olds, 1-2)? As time goes on, the value of love and intimacy in sex diminishes further and further. In the past, becoming intimate with another person had very strong meaning and was frowned upon outside of marriage. Although there are still people who value sex in its purist form and value the meaning of the action, more people desire only the pleasure that comes from sex instead of the love and connection that it creates. In “Misery and Splendor” by Robert Hass and “Sex Without Love” by Sharon Olds, both poets present the idea that having sex without love is hard to grasp and ultimately dissatisfying. Hass and Olds argue this idea through the use of imagery and tone.
Poets and authors are very careful with the words they choose to be in their pieces. Authors most often paint a verbal picture for the reader that reinforces his or her underlying argument. In “Misery and Splendor” and “Sex Without Love,” both Hass and Olds create very vivid imagery for their readers to create certain visuals while reading. In “Misery and Splendor,” Hass describes the man and woman as “trying to become one creature/ and something will not have it” (13-14). With this description, Robert Hass explains to the reader that the two people in his poem are trying to find love in their physical intimacy, but there remains another unknown force preventing them from finding this love. Hass also paints the image of this relationship being somewhat animalistic. “So they rub against each other/ their mouths dry, then wet, then dry” (17-18). This image does not create a lovely, romantic scene like sex is most often thought to be. Instead, Hass refers that the two people become intimate in a brutish way. By doing this, Hass makes the point that the man and woman are becoming intimate in the physical manner instead of the emotional manner. Hass ends the poem by stating that the two are “huddled against the gate of a garden/ to which they can’t admit they can never be admitted” (23-24). This image gives the reader the image that the couple is waiting for something, but will never be able to find what they are waiting for. These two people are having sex in search for love; however, by strictly becoming physically intimate, they are disappointed by never finding the love they desire. The physical qualities of sex do not come hand-in-hand with the emotional qualities that this couple desires. By making the couple wait for this love after they become intimate, Hass demonstrates that he believes the love must be present before the intimacy and sex can happen between two people.
Not only does Hass use imagery in his work, Sharon Olds creates very strong imagery in “Sex Without Love” to demonstrate the same concept as Hass, which is that sex without love is very disappointing and a hard concept to understand. However, Olds uses a slightly different approach with the imagery in her poem. Throughout the poem, Sharon Olds creates imagery that is very ironic for the reader. The images she creates are meant to be beautiful actions; however, Olds represents them in quite the opposite way. They are “wet as the/ children at birth whose mothers are going to/ give them away” (6-8). When a mother gives birth to a child, it is most popularly known as the best day of the mother’s life. The occasion is a very happy and celebratory time. However, in the poem, Olds paints the picture of a mother giving her child away. She uses this image to enforce that sex without love could have repercussions that are very negative. Although sex may have physical benefits, it also comes with consequences as well. Olds also depicts these people as runners. “They know they are alone/ with the road surface, the cold, the wind/ the fit of their shoes, their over-all-cardio-/ vascular health-just factors, like the partner/ in the bed, and not the truth” (18-21). Although the people that choose to be intimate...
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