Sex Without Love

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Engl 2258
Poetry Essay 2
Dr. White
"Sex Without Love" was written by Sharon Olds in 1984. Olds approaches her audience by beginning the poem with a blunt question: "How do they do it, the ones who make love/ without love?" (1-2) This is a relatively short poem of only twenty-four lines, but it is a very rich poem in that Olds uses a number of ordinary images to create an elaborate vision of two people having sex without feelings for each other. Olds does not leave the audience with a straight answer to the question even after people generally have conflicting views on this issue. Her sarcastic tone helps convey that sex can happen whether men and women love each other or not, but if it is without love then the two partners have temporarily escaped from the truth. As readers follow through Olds's description of images, we can sense the poet's thoughts on sex between lovers and sex between loveless lovers. Olds expresses early in the poem that loveless sex is somewhat degrading. Her initial question of how loveless lovers can do it carries a negative tone. This is similar to someone asking his or her friend how they could betray them. Olds does not approve of this act because it is cold and not thought out. Then Olds flips the switch when she says "beautiful as dancers,/ gliding over each other like ice-skaters" (2-3). Now, she is showing that sex can be somewhat graceful for the partners. This metaphor of the ice skaters feels easy and delicate. Then again, ice-skaters are performers. They put on a show that appears elegant and happy, whether the performers are pleased or not. So, sex can be appealing to partners who have feelings for each other and to partners who do not.      After creating the visual of sex, Olds unexpectedly mentions a mother giving her newborn away after giving birth: "faces/ red as steak, wine, wet as the/ children at birth, whose mothers are going to/ give them away" (5-8). Here, she is implying one of the...
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