Study Guide

Bastard Out of Carolina Sex

By Dorothy Allison

Sex

Sex is definitely the elephant-in-the-room topic for Bastard Out of Carolina. Normally this would be everyone's favorite theme, but of course sex in this novel—by which we mean quite a few kinds of sex acts, including molestation, rape, intercourse, masturbation, and sexual attraction—is for the most part really, really dark. Since Bone's sexual abuse is the overriding instance of sex in the novel, it tends to loom in the background during all the other sexual moments. Just take a look at the way it infiltrates Bone's masturbatory fantasies, for instance. Bone's struggle to come to her own conclusions about sex—and how it relates to Glen's abuse of her—is one of the big conflicts in the novel.

Questions About Sex

  1. What is Bone's understanding of sex? How does she reconcile her notion of sex with Glen's molestation?
  2. Why is Bone reluctant to answer when Ruth asks her point blank if Glen has ever touched her?
  3. What do you make of Bone's masturbatory fantasies? What do they tell us about how she feels about her situation with Glen?
  4. What role does sex play in Anney and Glen's relationship?

Chew on This

Earle's and Wade's constant philandering (sometimes with much younger girls) is in direct contrast to the stamp of illegitimacy on Bone's birth certificate that haunts Anney. The men can get around without blame, but the women can't.

People are always talking about sex in this novel. They gossip about Earle dating young girls; they talk about Glen's penis size; even Shannon and Raylene make snide comments about Mrs. Pearl's sex life. Bone's abuse is set apart by the fact that it is not talked about.

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