The Joy Luck Club
Analysis: Steaminess Rating
Exactly how steamy is this story?
OK, we’ll level with you. There’s actually a significant amount of sex in this book, but 1) it’s rarely explicit, and 2) it’s never really about sex. Instead of long bodice-ripping passages, Tan uses all these dry euphemisms like "monkey business" and "do his business."
One interesting aspect of sex in The Joy Luck Club is that the mothers and daughters have different attitudes towards it. For the mothers, sex largely functions as a means of producing the next generation – just look at how much trouble Lindo got into when she failed to produce a child – or as a painful hold that men have over women – as seen with An-mei’s mother, who was essentially forced to become a concubine after being raped.
The daughters, however, have a more positive attitude toward sex. Waverly’s first husband is the only man described as "sexy" in the novel, and he had different love positions for different days of the week and hours of the day. Lena and Harold have pleasurable pillow talk after sex. Yet even though sex is pleasurable for the daughters, it’s still really not about sex as much as, say, who they’re having it with. What it’s like. On what kind of sheets. With what kind of intensity or seriousness. But here’s the real takeaway: as with many other aspects of life, the mothers and daughters in this novel experience and view sex in radically different ways.