Study Guide

Disgrace Sex

By J.M. Coetzee


No sooner do we crack open the book and read the first line than we see the word "sex" – and the rest of the book follows suit. You don't need us to tell you that Disgrace is chock-full of sex. That said, for all the sex that we encounter, we don't see any starry-eyed, bosom-heaving, passionate lovemaking here – at least, nothing that is mutual and consensual. Instead, we see sex used as a method of domination, as in Lucy's rape; as a way of filling in a void, as in David's pursuit of prostitutes or Bev's invitation to David; and, perhaps most importantly as a source of shame – or, dare we say it, disgrace – as in David's relationship with Melanie and, once again, Lucy's rape.

Questions About Sex

  1. Was David actually in love with Melanie, or was it all about sex?
  2. Is there any example of romantic sex in the novel? If so, who is involved? If not, why do you think it's absent?
  3. Why do you think Bev decides to initiate a sexual relationship with David?
  4. What is the relationship between sex and disgrace for David? For Lucy? For Melanie? For Bev?

Chew on This

In the novel, having sex leads to personal disgrace.

In the novel, feeling disgraced leads characters to seek comfort in sexual relationships.