Sex Without Love Poem: About the Poet, Sharon Olds is an American poet. She was born on 19th November 1942, in the state of California, USA. She is known for winning the first San Francisco poetry award in the year 1980. She also obtained the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1980 and the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in 2013. She teaches creative writing to students at New York University. Poet Sharon Old is known for her straight forward approach, her usage of words and writing style. She is a poet much ahead of her time.
She was raised as a “hellfire Calvinist”. Her dad was an alcoholic and often abused her. In many of her poems, Sharon had referred to the times when her father had tied her to a chair. Her mother was so afraid of her man that she could never save her children from abuse. She was also raised in a rigorous and orthodox religious environment.
Students can also check the English Summary to revise with them during exam preparation.
She wasn’t even allowed to go out to the movies with her family. She was not even allowed to watch television, but she was allowed to read, and hence, she started reading many books. She developed a love for books very soon. She started reading all genres. Starting from fairy tales to religious texts, she read everything. She became an atheist at a very early age. All of these happened because of the bad experiences of her childhood.
Olds went to Dana Hall School in Wellesley for her education. At school, she mostly studied English, History and Creative Writing. William Shakespeare was her favourite poet. She was very fond of his writings. She then returned to California for her undergraduate degree. She pursued a B.A. degree at Standford University in 1964. Next, she moved to New York and earned her Ph.D. in English in 1972 from Columbia University.
She married Dr. David Douglas on March 23, 1968. In 1969, she gave birth to her first two children. After 29 years of her marriage, the two divorced and parted ways.
In 2005, First Lady Laura Bush invited Olds to Washington D.C. to attend the National Book Festival. But Olds declined the invitation. She responded with an open-ended letter in a daily magazine. In this poem, Olds deals with a very diplomatic topic.
With all the beautiful usage of words, the universal message, the poetic techniques, this poem happens to be one of the poet’s best. This poem is open to interpretation. It is a poem much ahead of its time. It is a poem that deals with a very modern issue. Sex without love is definitely practised in most couples of this age.
Hence, the poet has made a precious effort in bringing out the fallacies of the practice of sex without love. She has made religious references and also referred to the concept of the unwanted child. She is a very modern poet. This work of literature creates an awakening among all society individuals and makes them recognize that it is high time they should opt-out of such practices.
Sex without love is the main reason behind all flawed and fractured relationships of this modern period. Sex without love has always been looked down upon by all religions, and they are right in this. People only fall for the other person’s body and not for the soul. Sex without love is solely an act of loneliness.
Summary of Sex Without Love Poem
In this poem, “Sex without Love”, Sharon Olds raises a question to all the readers. She asks the readers to contemplate in her poem. Sharon Olds, an American feminist poet, is known for her literary works of erotic relationships. She has always dealt with diplomatic topics which we are insecure about talking about. In this poem, Sharon Olds uses ironies, metaphors, and free verses to communicate the irresponsibility and negligence of sex without love effectively.
“Sex without Love” is a poem much ahead of time. It explains the needs and desires of humans, their procreation of unwanted children. Olds also refers to various religious affiliations to find an answer she raises to each reader in the poem’s first sentence. She immediately shifts the readers into thinking about the concept of sex without love.
She does this by raising the question in the very first line of the poem. Olds threads her poem with ironies, creating an understated non-agreeing tone throughout the poem after posing the ultimate serious question. Sharon’s choice of word and structure is remarkable throughout the entire piece.
These word choices and structure are later transformed into flaws that point out the mistakes of two individuals who participate in sex without love. The sentence, “Beautiful as dancers, gliding over each other like ice-skaters over the ice”, used by Sharon Olds is to bring out the fallacies of her own proposition in an ironical way.
The line implies that though dancers and ice-skaters seem elegant, flawless, and beautiful in their acts, these performers create visual illusions, which are often misleading.
The reference made by Sharon is also metaphorical. By referring to ice-skaters, she wants to indicate that sex without love is indeed cold and detached. She wants to make us understand that sex without love is nothing but an illusion of love and happiness. She also points out that the desire driving one to involve in sexual activities without love is purely physical. It has no feelings attached.
Next, Olds also brings the concept of the unwanted child into the limelight. Many a time, when couples make love without actually being in love, they have no desire to bring up a child together. She mocks this mentality of the two individuals. She totally disregards this mentality. She considers it to be aa sin.
She criticizes the irresponsibility of a couple, not creating a child. She indirectly terms the individuals as selfish people.
Olds also brings in the concept of religion in her piece. This is done to make her points stronger. In any religion of the world, sex without love has always been looked down upon. Even sex without marriage has also been frowned upon. Olds says that those who take part in sex without love accept false love under false pretences. She indicates that sex without love only loves for one’s body and not for one’s soul. She says that the process of sex without love is actually disrespected towards love.
The poem “Sex without Love” stands out to be a social criticism of partners involved in the act of sex without love. Olds firmly believe that two people should only take part in sexual activities only when they love each other. She considers sex without love as disrespect towards both love and sex.
Although the poem’s message is hard and blunt, Olds makes the poem appealing by using beautiful words and phrases.
Thus, in a nutshell, Sharon Olds, the writer of the piece, is totally against the practice of sex without love. She tells advises people to indulge in sexual activities only when they have real feelings for each other.
Sex Without Love Poem Structure
The poem “Sex without Love” by Sharon Olds is a twenty-four-line poem. It has only one stanza. Like any other modern poem, the lines of the poem do not rhyme with each other. At some points, the lines only half-rhyme with each other. Half rhyme is noticed by the usage of repetition of assonance or consonance. This implies that either a vowel or a consonant is used repeatedly with a verse of one or multiple lines.
Sex Without Love Poem Poetic Techniques
Sharon Olds, in this poem, uses various poetic techniques such as alliteration, simile and metaphor all through the poem to neutralize the bluntness of the message of her poem to some extent. The first poetic technique is a simile in which the poet uses “like” or “as”.
It appears all along the course of the poem quite a few times.
For instance, in the second and third lines, she says that lovers are “Beautiful as dancers” and also compares them “ice-skaters” sliding over each other “over the ice”. Many other lines have other similes, too, like when she refers to the lover’s faces and bodies as “red as steak, wine”.
A metaphor is nothing but a simile without “like” or “as” in a nutshell. It is used when the poet tries to say something encapsulated in another thing. Alliteration has also been used quite sometimes in the poem.
Alliteration is a speech figure in which words are used in succession or appear close to one another and start with the same letter. For instance, “pros” and “purists” in the fourteenth line of the poem and “bed’, “body”, and “best” in the final three lines of the poem, “Sex without Love”.
Another poetic technique used by the poet in the poem “Sex without Love” is Caesura. Caesura is another figure of speech that is actually a stop or a pause in a metrical line. Caesura is often bounded by punctuation or by any other grammatical boundary. The second and the eighth line of the poem, “Sex without Love”, is an excellent example of Caesura.
Enjambment is another important poetic technique that the poet has used in her poem. It happens when a line is cut off before its natural stopping point. Enjambment stimulates a reader to read the next lines of the poem in a rapid way. To efficiently resolve a phrase or a sentence, one has to move forward quickly. There are quite a few examples of enjambment in the poem, like the transition between lines ten, eleven and twelve.
Sex Without Love Poem Analysis
Sharon Olds begins the poem with a rhetorical question addressed to all its readers. The following questions of the poem overshadow the question. She asks everyone to imagine the energetic, enthusiastic and vivacious lovers passionately kissing, touching each other and making love with one another in a land full of wonders.
In the poem’s entire course, Olds has raised various points and made religious references to prove that sex without love disrespects the soul. She considers sex without love to be an abomination.
In today’s world, where sex without love is a widespread practice, this poem stands out to be an awakening for all couples indulged in sexual activities without love. This proves that she is totally against sex without love and wants everyone to follow her path. She thinks that this sex without love is responsible for all fractured relationships these days.
Olds uses many literary techniques like symbolism, metaphor, simile, alliteration, diction and connotation, to neutralize the poem’s harsh and blunt message to some extent. Olds, in her poem, raises a valuable question and offers a stimulating response, in which sex is to be practised between two individuals only when they are in true love.
She thinks that sex is just a way of showing love. Olds communicates her senses mainly with vivid and ironic imagery. She also adds an unattractive twist in beautiful words. Her choice of words has always earned her appreciation.
At the beginning of the poem, Olds raises a question for others to decide and answer. Actually, she holds her own stance but is actually confused with it. Hence, she raises valuable points that consider sex without love for others to understand and make her believe in her choice more firmly.
She can captivate all the readers’ minds when she lets them wonder awhile over the beautiful phrases in her piece.
She uses an indirect technique to criticize the act of lovemaking without actually being in love. She compares the act of sex without love to beautiful ice-skaters and dancers performing in snow. By this, she actually means that having sex without being in love is indeed a cold act. She wants to say that sex without love is only an attraction towards the body and not towards the soul.
Olds sets the mood of the readers by constantly giving religious references. She also brings the concept of an unwanted child into the limelight. She refers to ancient ideal romanticism. She believes that it is sinful to practise sex and not to even think of raising a child. She also highlights the dangers of unwanted pregnancy boldly with a negative undertone in comparison.
Perhaps the foremost outstanding feature of Sex without love is that the utilization of diction within the sense that when one reads it, it’s probable one will desire to have sex without love. The clever wording creates an explicit yet suggestive concept Olds is trying to represent the poem as an individual problem, allowing the reader to feel empathy before coming to a decision.
The brilliant array of “come to the/come to the come to God come to the/still waters” is immediately succeeded by a sobering certainty that one can feel pleasure. This part of the writing introduces the theme of faith and sacrilege, hinting that although Olds isn’t an entire stranger to the thought of sex without love, she does consider it immoral.
In the end, Olds concludes on a sombre note, therein people that roll within the hay must be “…just factors in the bed … (and a) single body alone in the universe, against its own best time.” Through associations to art and athletic performance, an unwanted child, steak and wine, Olds creates harsh and vivid images to urge now across.
Nevertheless, Olds’s poem may be a beautiful piece of literature that evokes emotion, encourages an opinion, and takes one on an experience.
The use of graphic imagery through word choice, the utilization of irony through diction and connotation, metaphor and simile develop the poem’s theme very effectively.
With all the beautiful usage of words, the universal message, the poetic techniques, this poem happens to be one of the poet’s best. This poem is open to interpretation. It is a poem much ahead of its time. It is a poem that deals with a very modern issue.
Sex without love is definitely practised in most couples of this age. Hence, the poet has made a precious effort in bringing out the fallacies of the practice of sex without love. She has made religious references and also referred to the concept of the unwanted child. She is a very modern poet.
This is a work of creation that creates an awakening among all society individuals and makes them apprehend that it is high time they should opt-out of such practices. Sex without love is the main reason behind all flawed and fractured relationships of this modern period. Sex without love has always been looked down upon by all religions, and they are right in this.
People only fall for the other person’s body and not for the soul. Sex without love is solely an act of loneliness. It is for those who seek bodily pleasure and not true intimacy. The poet highlights the selfishness of couples when they indulge in sex without love. She says that indulging in casual sex and not wanting to raise a child is a sin. She has a strong opinion that she voices through this poem.