Study Guide

Candide Sex

By Voltaire


Sex, like many other topics, is subject to Voltaire’s satirical assault in Candide. Sex is never mentioned positively; rather, sexual exploitation and violence are widespread. Voltaire seems to mock the discrepancy between women’s sexual expectations and sexual realities. Although he is well aware of repeated incidents of sexual abuse, the protagonist is startled and disappointed to discover that the multitude of assaults his love interest endured have impacted her beauty and innocence.

Questions About Sex

  1. Why might Voltaire choose to portray sexual abuse in Candide? Is he just satirizing sex the way he does everything else?
  2. When, if ever, is being a woman an asset rather than a hindrance in the novel?

Chew on This

In Candide, sex is simply a way for men to expression ownership over women.