Study Guide

The Bluest Eye Sex

By Toni Morrison

Sex

Prologue, Part 1

It never occurred to either of us that the earth itself might have been unyielding. We had dropped our seeds in our own little plot of black dirt just as Pecola's father had dropped his seeds in his own plot of black dirt. Our innocence and faith were no more productive than his lust or despair. (Prologue)

In this novel, childhood innocence doesn't produce knowledge or hope.

Autumn, Chapter 1

These women hated men, all men, without shame, apology, or discrimination. They abused their visitors with a scorn grown mechanical from use. (1.3.51)

Various characters in the novel view sex in very different ways. For the three prostitutes, sex is not associated with love or romance; rather, it's a way to express hatred of men and to earn a living.

Pecola Breedlove

Into her eyes came the picture of Cholly and Mrs. Breedlove in bed. He making sounds as though he were in pain, as though something had him by the throat and wouldn't let go. Terrible as his noises were, they were not nearly as bad as the no noise at all from her mother. It was as though she was not even there. Maybe that was love. Choking sounds and silence. (1.3.54)

Even at such a young age, Pecola reveals her observant nature as she analyzes her parents' lovemaking. Key aspects of the Breedloves are revealed here: Cholly's painful sexual history and the fact that Pauline rarely, if ever, experiences sexual pleasure when with him.

Autumn, Chapter 2

She might wonder again...what it would be like to have that feeling while her husband is inside her. The closest thing to it was the time she was walking down the street and her napkin slipped free of her sanitary belt. It moved gently between her legs as she walked. Gently, ever so gently. And then a slight and distinctly delicious sensation collected in her crotch. As the delight grew, she had to stop in the street, hold her thighs together to contain it. (2.5.7)

When there are sexually pleasurable moments in the novel, they rarely take place between two people. In this scene, Geraldine's pleasure is an accident that occurs while she's alone. There seems to be very little space in her world for female pleasure.

Autumn, Chapter 3
Cholly Breedlove

Three women are leaning out of two windows. They see the long clean neck of a new young boy and call to him. He goes to where they are....They give him lemonade in a Mason jar. As he drinks, their eyes float up to him through the bottom of the jar....They give him back his manhood, which he takes aimlessly. (3.8.82)

Cholly presumably encounters Miss Marie, Poland, and China here, but the text leaves this ambiguous. He has fun with them and rediscovers his masculinity.

He hated her. He almost wished he could do it – hard, long, and painfully, he hated her so much. (3.8.52)

Cholly was racially humiliated the first time he had sex with a woman. Rather than aim his anger at the white men who wronged him, he redirects it toward black women.

What could he do for her – ever? What give her? What say to her? What could a burned-out black man say to the hunched back of his eleven-year-old daughter? If he looked into her face, he would see those haunted, loving eyes. The hauntedness would irritate him – the love would move him to fury. How dare she love him? Hadn't she any sense at all? What was he supposed to do about that? Return it? How? (3.8.87)

Cholly seems to blame the rape on his inability to express his feelings toward Pecola any other way. Does Morrison's attempt to contextualize Cholly's behavior make you feel more sympathetic toward Cholly? Should we feel sympathetic toward him?

Pecola Breedlove

And there wasn't nastiness, and there wasn't any filth, and there wasn't any odor, and there wasn't any groaning – just the light white laughter of little girls and me. And there wasn't any look – any long funny look – any long funny Velma look afterward. No look that makes you feel dirty afterward. That makes you want to die. With little girls it is all clean and good and friendly. (3.9.41)

Dirtiness here seems to be associated with a lack of power. Long looks make us feel accountable and recognized, and Soaphead cannot tolerate them. The fact that he longs to be looked at differently reminds us of Pecola, presenting another strange similarity between the two characters.

Pauline Breedlove

He would rather die than take his thing out of me. Of me. Not until he has let go of all he has, and give it to me. To me. To me. When he does, I feel a power. I be strong, I be pretty, I be young. (3.7.30)

Pauline associates sex with power.

Soaphead Church

His sexuality was anything but lewd; his patronage of little girls smacked of innocence and was associated in his mind with cleanliness. He was what one might call a very clean old man. (3.9.5)

Soaphead's rationalization of his behavior should be taken with a huge grain of salt here. In any case, the passage shows how his sexual attraction to young girls correlates directly with his attempt to purify himself, both racially and spiritually. It also seems to be a way to combat his first wife Velma's rejection. "Clean old man" is a funny twist on the phrase "dirty old man."