Study Guide

The Joy Luck Club Sex

By Amy Tan

Sex

Part 1, Chapter 3
Lindo Jong

"From the beginning, I was always scared that Tyan-yu would someday climb on top of me and do his business." (I.3.61)

Lindo has no desire for sex with Tyan-yu. She actually fears having sex with him, probably because, as a Chinese wife, she knows that if he did want to "do his business," she’d have no way or right to stop him.

That’s when I could see what was underneath Tyan-yu. He was scared and turned his face. He had no desire for me, but it was his fear that made me think he had no desire for any woman. He was like a little boy who had never grown up. (I.3.67)

Lindo hypothesizes that Tyan-yu is asexual, essentially still in a child-like state. Interestingly enough, this revelation that Tyan-yu is like a scared little boy means that Lindo doesn’t have to fear him and his power over her sexuality, allowing her to learn to love him.

I watched this same movie when you did not come. The American soldier promises to come back and marry the girl. She is crying with genuine feeling and he says, "Promise! Promise! Honey-sweetheart, my promise is as good as gold." Then he pushes her onto the bed. But he doesn’t come back. His gold is like yours, only fourteen carats. (I.3.2)

The guy in the movie promises the girl anything to get sex. Lindo sees the movie and worries about Americans’ abilities to commit to promises. And by Americans, we all know she’s thinking about her own American daughter.

Part 2, Chapter 2

"Because it is too terrible to consider. A man can grab you off the streets, sell you to someone else, make you have a baby. Then you’ll kill the baby." (II.2.31)

Based on this and other warning stories, Ying-ying’s worst fear is that her daughter will be forced to have an unwanted baby.

Part 2, Chapter 3
Rose Hsu Jordan

The emotional effect of saving and being saved was addicting to both of us. And that, as much as anything we ever did in bed, was how we made love to each other: conjoined where my weaknesses needed protection. (II.3.19)

Rose and Ted’s relationship isn’t defined so much by their sex life as their emotional life, which plays itself out in a pattern: damsel in distress and strong savior.

Part 2, Chapter 4
Lena St. Clair

"Lena, you’re really extraordinary," Harold said after six months of dinners, five months of post-prandial love-making, and one week of timid and silly love confessions. We were lying in bed, between new purple sheets I had just bought for him. His old set of white sheets was stained in revealing places, not very romantic. (II.4.20)

This is called symbolism – they’re lying on sheets that Lena has bought for Harold, just like their lives are built mostly on what Lena has sacrificed and worked for. Also, notice that one of the most important things about the sex in this scene is the sheets, not the action that just took place.

And he nuzzled my neck and whispered, "I don’t think I’ve ever met another woman, who’s so together…" – and I remember feeling a hiccup of fear upon hearing the words "another woman," because I could imagine dozens, hundreds of adoring women eager to buy Harold breakfast, lunch, and dinner to feel the pleasure of his breath on their skin. (II.4.21)

First of all – together?!?! What a terrible compliment. Second of all, notice that this "compliment" seems to mean more to her than the sex they just had. It’s the second-rate compliment that makes her think Harold might love her, not the sex.

Part 3, Chapter 2
Waverly Jong

The sexual chemistry was what really surprised me, though. I thought he’d be one of those quiet types who was awkwardly gentle and clumsy, the kind of mild-mannered guy who says, "Am I hurting you?" when I can’t feel a thing. But he was so attuned to my every movement I was sure he was reading my mind. He had no inhibitions, and whatever ones he discovered I had he’d pry away from me like little treasures. He saw all those private aspects of me – and I mean not just my sexual private parts, but my darker side, my meanness, my pettiness, my self-loathing – all the things I kept hidden. So that with him I was completely naked, and when I was feeling the most vulnerable – when the wrong word would have sent me flying out the door forever – he always said the right thing at the right moment. (III.2.78)

Rich has KEEPER written all over him. And, the most important thing about Rich isn’t their sexual chemistry in a physical sense (Waverly had that with her first husband too), but their ability have emotional openness in their sexual relationship.

Part 4, Chapter 1
An-mei Hsu

"As your mother slept soundly in Second Wife’s bed, Second Wife got up in the middle of the night and left the dark room, and Wu Tsing took her place. When you mother awoke to find him touching her beneath her undergarments, she jumped out of bed. He grabbed her by her hair and threw her on the floor, then put his foot on her throat and told her to undress. Your mother did not scream or cry when he fell on her.

"In the early morning, she left in a rickshaw, her hair undone and with tears streaming down her face. She told no one but me what had happened. But Second Wife complained to many people about the shameless widow who had enchanted Wu Tsing into bed. How could a worthless widow accuse a rich woman of lying?

"So when Wu Tsing asked your mother to be his third concubine, to bear him a son, what choice did she have? She was already as low as a prostitute. And when she returned to her brother’s house and kowtowed three times to say good-bye, her brother kicked her, and her own mother banned her from the family house forever." (IV.1.142)

Not only is An-mei’s mother blamed for being raped, she receives no support from her family because she is considered unfaithful to her dead husband. And thus the patriarchal bonds tighten…

Part 4, Chapter 2

Yes, it is true I was a wild girl, but I was innocent. I did not know what an evil thing he did when he cut open that watermelon. I did not understand until six months later when I was married to this man and he hissed drunkenly to me that he was ready to kai gwa [open the watermelon]. (IV.2.23)

First of all, that sounds like a terrible wedding night. Second of all, her husband is obviously really crude. Sex here isn’t some pleasant and emotional experience, it’s about this drunken guy lusting over a young, pretty woman.

I had a swimming feeling in my heart like a creature thrashing to get out and wanting to stay in at the same time. That is how much I came to love this man. This is how it is when a person joins your body and there is a part of your mind that swims to join that person against your will. (IV.2.40)

This is also called: having sex with someone and then developing feelings for them, against your will.