Their Eyes Were Watching God
by Zora Neale Hurston
Analysis: Steaminess Rating
Exactly how steamy is this story?
Sex is seen pretty negatively in the lives of Janie’s mother and grandmother. Janie’s mother was violently raped, and Nanny had a baby by her slave master, so that was probably rape too. In marked contrast, sex is usually described as a positive force in Janie’s life, one that brings her joy and pleasure. For Janie, sex is usually only present in the happy stages of her marriages; for example, after she insults Joe’s manhood, they no longer sleep together, showing that their already bad marriage has gotten worse. Tea Cake is the husband of Janie’s about whom we hear the most sexual references. It comes as no surprise, then, that he is Janie’s true love.
There are two sexual experiences that readers experience very explicitly with Janie – her pseudo-sexual experience under the pear tree between the bee and the blossom and her session of wild make-up sex with Tea Cake after their fight about Nunkie. Both are described very sensually, especially for having been written in the 1930s.