There's no getting around it; sex is seriously important in Freedom (and important to any discussion of the book too). Relationships are founded upon sex; relationships dissolve because of sex. At least one character is defined by his sex addiction; another character we hardly know aside from her sexual activity. Franzen recognizes the incredible power and weight that sex and sexuality have, and have always had, in human life. He doesn't shy away from the uglier sides of sexuality, either, from obsession and abuse to rape and adultery. More importantly, though, he explores what sex means now in the 21st century.
Questions About Sex
How does Patty's rape in high school affect her sexual identity as an adult?
Richard is embarrassed by his attraction to older women and admits that it stems from never having a relationship with his own mother. Does that make sense? Or is he just a sex addict, plain and simple?
Should we be surprised that Walter is unable to please Patty sexually, yet can effortlessly satisfy Lalitha?
Can we draw any conclusions from Joey's inability to perform in the hotel room with Jenna? Should we?