Sex in The Bluest Eye is awkward, humiliating, shameful, violent, and illegal – sometimes all at once. With the exception of Mr. MacTeer (whom we basically never see), all of the major male characters – Cholly Breedlove, Mr. Henry, and Soaphead Church – sexually desire young girls. As far as we know, Soaphead never, or rarely, acts on these desires (the novel keeps this ambiguous), but Mr. Henry gropes Frieda, and Cholly rapes his daughter Pecola at least twice, maybe more.
The larger point of all this is that black girls in the novel are victims, sexually and socially powerless. Adolescence for these girls does not involve having harmless crushes or discovering sexuality on their own – things we might expect of teenage girls. Rather, the young black girls in this novel are used to make the men feel more powerful. When we think about the importance of sex in the novel, we might consider how sex interacts with the intense power dynamics that Morrison establishes between white men, African-American men, and African-American women.
Questions About Sex
- Who enjoys sex in the novel?
- Do any characters associate sex with love?
- How do women and men experience sex differently in the novel?
- How do the characters' early sexual experiences influence their later sexual practices?
- How does racism influence sexual practices in the novel?
Chew on This
It is a rare occurrence that anyone in the novel experiences sex as pleasurable.
Perhaps Cholly would not have raped Pecola had he not been sexually humiliated as a youth.