Sex Without Love

Sex Without Love

.I have chosen to analyze the poem “Sex without Love” by Sharon Olds because I like the many ways in which the poem can be interpreted, the word usage, and how intense the poem gets.  This poem has the ability to give you an actual experience through just the words in this poem.  The author has several different responses to sex without love and I think she describes sex without love very clearly in this poem.   I would categorize this poem under bad love because there is no love.

At the beginning of the poem, Sharon Olds seems to be in awe of the fact that there are people out there that can have sex without love, as if she didn’t think it was ever possible.  She doesn’t start off the poem preaching to the audience about not having sex without love.  In the lines “Beautiful as dancers, gliding over each other like ice-skaters over the ice” (Olds pg. 897) she is comparing the two lovers to the art of dancing and ice-skating, in which the lovers are performing for one another.  In the performance of lust and infatuation, nothing else matters only their personal happiness. (

Olds then goes on to say “fingers hooked inside each other’s bodies, faces red as steak, wine, wet as the children at birth whose mothers are going to give them away.” (Olds pg. 897)  By saying this, Olds is now reducing the lovers down to nothing but pieces of meat, letting us know exactly how sex without love feels.  Sex without love is physical emotionless comfort that only require their partner’s presence.  Olds states the reality in which with these emotionless, selfish, in the heat of the moment acts of lust there is a possibility of an unwanted baby.

Sharon Olds wrote this poem in a way that when you read it you could actually get the experience of sex without love.  The lines “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 pg. 897) these lines are meant to be read as if it is mimicking the breathing during sex and climax of these lovers.  Then where it says, “come to the still waters, and not love the one who came there with them” (Olds pg. 897) gave the poem a real feeling of sex without love.

Old’s is not preaching or getting on to anyone for the selfish pleasure found in sex without love, but letting the reader know that in the end, everyone will be alone and all we will have are ourselves.  In the lines “They do not mistake the lover for their own pleasure, they are like great runners: they know they are alone with the road surface, the cold, the wind, the fit of their shoes, their overall cardiovascular health-just factors, 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 pg. 897)  Olds says the sex partners are just factors, like shoes you put on to run in, or the road a runner runs on.  Saying you need the sex partner is just there for their own sexual desires, their own selfishness.  The last lines in the poem Olds says “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 pg. 897) I think what Olds is saying there is that even though there is no love between the two people there is still pleasure in the act of sex.  In the end we will all be left with ourselves, so why not have the sexual pleasure while you can.

This poem can be interpreted in many different ways, whether Olds was for, against, or just couldn’t understand how two people could perform the traditional acts of love making without the love.  This is a common experience in life, and most people do have sex without love.  These acts of meaningless lust have been happening for hundreds of years and I think Olds has described casual, meaningless sex very well in this poem and she is very direct about it. 

Work Cited

"Re: Sex Without Love Analysis." Web log comment. Sharon Olds : Summary Explanation Meaning Overview Essay Writing Critique Peer Review Literary Criticism Synopsis Online Education. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Sept. 2013. <>.

Blog / Podcast

Olds, Sharon. "Chapter 26." Literature Craft and Voice. 2nd ed. New York: David S. Patterson, 2012,2010. 897. Web.