Study Guide

Their Eyes Were Watching God Sex

By Zora Neale Hurston

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Sex triggers the protagonist's interest in love; Janie is fascinated by both the bodily pleasure triggered by sex as well as its implications for new life and spiritual union. The protagonist’s view of sex is strongly associated with love; she sees sex as a blissful expression of love...and feels that sex without love is practically a desecration of the sacred emotion.

In stark contrast, many other characters see sex as a source of shame or a form of violence and domination—and a woman should protect herself against sex at all costs unless legitimately married. This negative notion of sex is one that the protagonist battles against.

Questions About Sex

  1. For Janie, is sex inherently about love? Why do you think it is that the only time the narrator explicitly tells us that Janie has had sex is when she’s with Tea Cake? She’s obviously had sex with Logan and Joe, so why does Hurston omit any mention of it?
  2. Do most characters in the novel feel the same way Janie does about sex? Are they more likely to agree with Nanny?
  3. Why is it that even though Janie’s mom was raped (and probably Nanny, too), Janie has a fairly romantic view of sex?

Chew on This

In Janie’s mind, sex is inherently about love.

In Janie’s mind, sex, like marriage, isn’t necessarily about love.

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