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Water for Elephants

Water for Elephants

by Sara Gruen

Sex and Sexuality Theme

Ooh la la. This is one steamy book. But it's not just all fun and games. Sex is actually a major source of anxiety for our protagonist. At first, he's an inexperienced virgin, insecure about his lack of knowledge in the sex department. And by the end of the story, the lack of sexual activity in his life just makes him pine for the good old days. And how about those good old days? Jacob and Marlena sure knew how to make love for all it was worth.

What's so great about the way sex is portrayed in Water for Elephants is that we see it from all angles: through the lens of an innocent boy, a masculine guy in his sexual prime, and an old man looking back on his sexual adventures. Oh, and of course, there's all the weird sexual stuff going on at the circus – but that's a whole different story, and we don't even want to go there. (You should, though, by reading the book.)

Questions About Sex and Sexuality

  1. Does the circus exploit sexuality? How? What do you think of the women who expose themselves to the audience or sleep with spectators for money?
  2. Why does Jacob wait to have sex?
  3. Is Marlena as sexually prudent as Jacob? How do you know?
  4. Does older Jacob have a different view of sex than younger Jacob?

Chew on This

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

It's hard to appreciate the love-filled sex had by Jacob and Marlena because of all of the awful sexual exploits of the circus.

Marlena and Jacob don't fall in love until they've had sex.

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