Rabbit, Run devotes much attention to sex, and sex’s sometime counterparts, reproduction and/or marriage. Delicate issues (really delicate in 1959, when the novel is set) like prostitution, male and female orgasms, alcoholism, adultery, oral sex, spousal rape, homosexuality (though only briefly and ambiguously), birth control, sex before marriage, single motherhood, divorce, and abortion are explored. Sex in Rabbit, Run can be tender and loving and mutual, or fraught with anxiety and confusion, and often somewhere in between. It can be a healing act, or a weapon. It can be loving, or utterly selfish. Rabbit, Run explores these delicate sexual issues against the repressive backdrop of America in 1959.
Through the character of Ruth, Updike argues that the way men in the 1950s are taught to think about sex is harmful to both themselves and the women they encounter.
Rabbit’s obsession with the female orgasm is motivated not by his interest in a woman’s pleasure, but by the belief that the female orgasm proves he is good in bed.