Love has many different meanings to different people. For a five-year old, girl, love is marrying her daddy when she grows up. For a ten-year old child love may represent those feelings he or she has for their best friend. However, a teenager passing by their crush in the hallways and having sudden butterflies in their stomach, could also be a description of love. It doesn? t matter how you look at it, love is truly undefined and kindles different emotions in every human being. But the question is, "What is sex without love?" Can one participate in such an emotional journey without loving their partner? This statement holds true, and is represented in Sharon Olds poem titled "Sex Without Love." First and foremost, the poem quite passionately reveals Olds disgust for casual sex.
She captures the shameful act of lustful sex and seemingly animates it with her language structure. Her use of imagery not only creates a picture in the readers mind, but also grabs the audiences? attention. The author also makes comparisons through the use of similes. The subject of the poem is sex without love, and how people who have sex without love treat their bodies as separate from "truth." It seems that Olds is capturing a lustful scene between two people who lack emotional and spiritual connections, thus conveying to the reader a lesson about love.
The poem, "Sex Without Love," expresses the poet? s attitude toward loveless sex as a cold and damaging act. Sharon Olds accomplishes this through her use of various poetic techniques which stimulate vivid images in the reader. Her opening words, "How do they do it, the ones who make love without love?" , displays a negative tone as if the speaker was in disgust. However, Olds throws us off by referring to the two as "beautiful as dancers." When I read the next few lines of the poem, I thought that maybe my initial impression of the poem was misinterpreted. She continues by stating that the characters are, "gliding over each other as ice skaters," which represented a somewhat graceful and beautiful scene. At this point in the poem I am confused as to whether or not her tone is positive or negative.
Could the poem be depicting a lovely act or one of pure disgust? Next, Olds returns us to her original feelings of loveless sex by referring to the coolness of the ice and the detachment of the professional ice skaters as they maneuver gently almost without seeming to touch the surface. The image of, "fingers hooked inside each other? s bodies," conveys that separated feeling once again. Likewise, there is no implication of gentle emotions or touch as she continues to describe the characters. She uses metaphorical language to describe the overheated lovers, "faces red as steaks," and "wet as the children at birth" associates this lustful act as one of raw desire. I mean comparing a lover? s face to that of a slab of cold, raw beef leaves us with the feeling that these people are indeed using each other as "pieces of meat." In addition, the reference to mothers giving their children away at birth proceeds to express the author? s attitude that these two people are being irresponsible and aren? t considering what will happen as a result of their actions.
I had to reread line eight of the poem a few times, for the spacing and repetition of words caused a halt in my reading. The author? s use of the pun "come to the" furthers the plot and arouses an emotional response from the reader. Addressing the subject of engaging in intercourse without loving their partner, Old seems to stimulate an actual orgasm as a point of climax, "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." The poet? s uses of words such as, "wet,"come,"still waters," and "came" adds to the thought of this being the high point in the act. The spacing around the word God in the poem reflects upon Olds belief that sex and emotions should be intertwined. She uses sexual imagery to address her subject as well as to spur and maintain the reader? s interest. The actual repetition of the phrase, "come to the," actually made me take a deep breath as if I was exhausted.
It also builds to a peak which then leads to the "still waters," or the peaceful aftermath. As the poem proceeds, line ten again questions how these two characters could participate in sexual activity without love. It has often been assumed that men are more willing to participate in sexual activities regardless of emotional connection more than women are ready to. Perhaps Sharon Olds had sexual experiences that were emotionally scarring.
Anyhow, the reference of light rising evokes an image of brightness which fades away as the poet brings us back to the contradictory imagery of the heat of steam rising. This made me picture sort of a Hellish, sweaty scene between the sex partners. Olds speaks of the "true religious,"the purists,"the pros,"the ones who will not accept a false Messiah, love the priest instead of the God." This reference reminds us of her view of the sex act as something very spiritual and pure, that which should not be shared by those without love. Her reference to "loving the priest instead of the God," shows her underlying belief that God and sex are linked together. The author expresses the feeling that these lovers are using sex for their own pleasures and are wrong for behaving immorally and accepting a false God.
I? m not quite understanding of what the reference to not mistaking the priest for God means. Maybe this statement reflects upon Olds? belief that one should not mistake their partner in the act of love, as one should not mistake their leader for the religion they represent. Also, the last eight lines of the poem seem to refer to sex as a sport. These lines strengthen my theory that the poem is based on Olds? disgust of physical love.
By stating that, "They do not mistake the lover for their own pleasure, we are focused on the fact that these two people are not bonded together but each in it by themselves. Sharon Olds continues by comparing them to "great runners," who very much like the ice skaters are somewhat detached from their sport. Line nineteen of the poem conveys an uncomfortable scene as she uses the words, "cold" and "wind" to describe the unpleasant conditions. The lovers are depicted as more concerned about their shoes fitting, or finding their partner that fits for the day? s run. They are described as being more concerned about their sexual pleasures and desires than their health and overall well-being. The poet also states that the runners are "alone" in their pursuit for the end of the race, just as the lovers without love are also "alone." As the poem comes to an end, Sharon Olds reinforces the lack of partnership in this act of lust as she states, "the single body alone." The author expresses the emotional removal of these "partners in the bed" who only seem concerned or worried about the mere "factors" that will create sexual pleasure and satisfaction at that moment.
The poet? s final line aids this thought, as she reminds us that the truth remains, each is "alone in the universe" and competing "against its own best time." When I initially read this poem I plainly perceived it as a story of casual sex. However, the irony is created when the author continuously refers to the cold and aloneness of the distasteful act. The descriptive words in the poem along with the use of similes revealed her opinions quite thoroughly. Through this poem, titled "Sex Without Love," Sharon Olds has expressed her complete and utter disrespect for those who would partake in "loveless sex.".