Study Guide

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Sex

By Edward Albee

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George: Well, dear if I kissed you I'd get all excited […] and I'd take you, by force, right here on the living room rug. (1.135)

Is George saying this just to mock Martha, or is there still some real sexual chemistry between the bitter couple?

George: Musical beds is the faculty sport around here. (1.299)

George's comment perhaps reflects the disintegration of traditional sexual morals. He could also be referencing the way faculty members use sex to gain status.

Martha: I wouldn't conceive with anyone but you [George] …you know that, baby. (1.645)

Martha constantly taunts George with infidelity. We wonder if she's ever actually been unfaithful before this night.

Nick: Well, now, I'd just better get her [Martha] off in a corner and mount her like a goddamn dog, eh? (2.246)

Nick says this in a joking way, but it turns out that he really does try to do the thing he describes. It seems that sex in this case is an attempt at by Nick to gain power – to defeat George and gain status at the school.

George: the real reason […] our son…used to throw up all the time […] was nothing more complicated than that he couldn't stand you fiddling at him all the time, breaking into his bedroom with your kimono flying, […] and your hands all over his…(2.308)

This accusation of child molestation is pretty vicious, even for George. We wonder if this is the first time this has ever entered into the story of the imaginary son. Is George purposely poisoning the fantasy with sexual perversity?

Martha: I said I was necking with one of the guests. (2.789)

It seems as if Martha is seeking to further emasculate George by making out with Nick right in front of him.

Martha: Now you pay attention to me! […] I swear to God I'll follow that guy into the kitchen, and then I'll take him upstairs, and…(2.805)

Martha makes a big deal of her threat to sleep with Nick, which would seem to indicate that she's never actually cheated of George before. The threat would have no power if it were a regular occurrence.

Martha: I pass my life in crummy,[…] would-be infidelities. (3.31)

Martha seems to be admitting here that her previous flirtations never went farther than that. She laments the emptiness of the whole game.

Martha: That's right, lunkhead; answer the door. […] or are you too drunk to do that, too? Can't get the latch up, either? (3.73)

Since Nick failed to perform in the bedroom, he has lost all status in his relationship with Martha.

George: You don't make it in the sack, you're a houseboy. […]
Nick: Tell him I'm not a houseboy.
Martha: No; you're not a houseboy. (3.157-3.159)

Martha is lying to her husband in code, saying that she did indeed sleep with Nick. Is her motivation simply to hurt him? What other levels of sexual warfare are going on here?

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