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Themes

For much of the book, the protagonist sees sex as a form of violence committed against her or at best, an uninspiring obligation to her husband. That is, until she meets a very inspiring woman named Shug. Shug defines "virginity" as an emotional state, rather than physical: if you haven’t enjoyed sex, you’re still a virgin. Shug affirms the goodness of sex by stating definitively that God created sex and wants humans to enjoy it. Although the protagonist has her physical virginity ripped away from her when she’s raped by her stepfather, she gives up her emotional virginity through blissful experiences with Shug.

Questions About Sex

  1. Who enjoys sex and who doesn’t? Why?
  2. Is sex associated at all with love? If so, how? If not, why not?
  3. Do other characters agree with Shug that God created sex and it’ a beautiful thing?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Although sex is a normal, everyday thing to most characters in this novel, Shug suggests that it transcends the everyday and becomes something sacred and divine.

Although Celie has already had several children and two sexual partners when she meets Shug, she is indeed a virgin.

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