Study Guide

The Lovely Bones Sex

By Alice Sebold

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Other than a single kiss and a few fantasies, Susie's rape is her first experience with sex. In The Lovely Bones Susie describes how her sexuality changes and grows after her death as she watches those she left behind in their sexual lives. Through Abigail's affair with Detective Len Fenerman and Len's frequent sexual encounters after Abigail, Susie learns that sex can be a way to forget, to stop time for a moment and keep the horrors of reality at bay. In the figures of Ray and Ruth, both utterly fixated on Susie after her death and both unclear about their sexual identities, sexuality is complicated and not necessarily fixed by gender. It doesn't even necessarily have to be between two living people. Whatever the sexual arrangement, the novel depicts consensual sex as a positive act, a means of developing and discovering identity. Always, consensual sex is held in contrast to the horrible rapes Mr. Harvey commits.

Questions About Sex

  1. What are Abigail's motivations for sleeping with Len Fenerman? What are Len's motivations for sleeping with her?
  2. How would you describe Ruth's sexuality? Ray's?
  3. Is sex still important to Susie after she has it with Ray? Why, or why not? If she hadn't had sex with Ray, would she have been able to get over being raped and move on to the other Heaven anyway?
  4. How does Susie's rape impact the way she views sex?
  5. Is it OK that Samuel and Lindsey carry on a sexual relationship starting at age fourteen? Why, or why not?
  6. What are some of the positive and negative representations of sex and sexuality in the novel?

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