Thematic Essay on Identity There are many aspects of identity in the poem "Sex without Love," by Sharon Olds. I can relate my own thoughts to how the author views the subject that she talks about in this poem. There has been a situation in my own life where I was thinking to myself, just as the author was, "How do they do it, the ones who make love without love?" (Olds 740). Having been raised as a well-rounded and disciplined person, as well as religious, I know the discouragement of having premarital sex. It's not just the immorality that these characters are experiencing that the author is talking about, but they probably have personal issues that have to do with a their self worth and identity. These characters think they know what love is, but the truth is that they are in denial of what they are really doing.
Even though religion is an issue to the characters, their identity pushes that concept to the side so that they can do what they desire most. I believe that the author is trying to stress the point that these people are not obeying the word of God and leading themselves into their own temptations. Olds compares the truly religious to the 'lovers' by introducing them as people who have sex without being in love by saying, "These are the true religious, the purist, the pros, the ones who will not accept a false Messiah, love the priest instead of the God" (Olds 740). Part of this poem is ironic because the author starts by questioning the rightfulness of what these people are doing, then turns around by saying that sex without love is "Beautiful as dancers, gliding over each other like ice skaters over the ice," (Olds 740) and ending her sentence by implying the disadvantage of having a baby in the incident that would end up having to be given away. It is hard to believe that someone would endanger his or her identity just for the sake of pleasure. A lot of people will find themselves in this kind of situation if they are not aware of the risks involved or because of certain conditions or morals that a person grew up with.
I am fortunate enough to know the consequences of my actions, was brought up with strict and over protective parents, and saved by the church. Not all people are lucky enough to be able to make the right decisions for themselves all the time, which could harm a person's identity. "Sex Without Love" discuses a kind of relationship that involves a kind of binding between two people, that is not true love, but an image of them joined together. Children who are born to unwed parents have the possibility of being but up for adoption, which is another remaining factor. "How do they come to the, come to the, come to the, God, come to the still waters, and not love the one who came there with them, light rising slowly as steam off their joined skin?" (Olds). The author uses repetition of words to imply that these people are having sex over and over again without any guilt.
A question comes to my mind when looking back on this poem. Are these the people we are supposed to respect? The only difference between respectable people and the ones in the poem is that they are making love as a physical act, not the kind with spirituality behind it. These people know what they are doing, and are aware that "they do not mistake the lover for their own pleasure" (Olds). They are experienced and have no shame. You " re sexuality is only one part of you " re identity.
The author is on a quest to find some aspect to the characters way of living. Olds puts emphasis on the color of love and lust; "red as steak, and wine" (Olds 740). These colors are characterized by meaning and describe an identity of their own. A lesson that I have learned with my own identity is that you should be yourself and be a leader instead of a follower.
By having those qualities, one is able to step ahead of everyone else and forces you to be the best you can be and make decisions on your own and have good judgment. If you wait patiently, at the least expected moment, someone special will enter your life that you will love. By being together you will start to form an identity as a couple. I do not necessarily think that two people have to be married before they have sex but to make the situation more morally acceptable, love should be involved in the relationship. There is a best time to do everything and that is what this poem reminded me of because "like the partner in the bed, and not the truth, which is the single body alone in the universe against its own best time" (Olds 741). In the process of reading this poem, I have gained higher self-esteem and I am grateful not to be the couple in the book.
While interpreting this poem I found out that the old views about premarital sex still remains true. When so many other things are fading away, some of the old traditional values are still being instilled to us and it is comforting to know that marriage still holds sanctity in today's society. 4 Works Cited Olds, Sharon. "Sex Without Love." The Bedford Introduction to Literature 5 th Ed.
Ed. Michael Meyer. Boston: Bedford/ St. Martins, 1999.