Study Guide

The Metamorphoses Sex

By Ovid

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By breaking up "Love" and "Sex" into two distinct Themes, we're not saying that Ovid thinks they don't mix (even though, if you read through the poem, there are surprisingly few couples who enjoy an active sex life and a healthy, loving relationship). What we are saying is that Ovid sees them as distinct experiences: couples can be deeply in love (like Deucalion and Pyrrha, or the elderly Baucis and Philemon) without us hearing a peep about their sex life, and people can be consumed by sexual desire without feeling the slightest tinge of human emotion for the other person. This points to the dangerous side of sex that appears repeatedly in The Metamorphoses. All too often, the uncontrolled sexual desire of Ovid's characters (usually, but not always gods) can make them pursue partners aggressively, often through rape. Even when sexual desire is not negative in this way, it is still represented as an overpowering force.

Questions About Sex

  1. Why do you think Ovid keeps describing sexual desire as a burning flame?
  2. Does Ovid portray one gender as being more interested in sex, or are they both about equal?
  3. Ovid's poem contains a disturbing amount of sexual violence. Does he condone this behavior?
  4. Does Ovid portray human sexuality and animal (or "natural") sexuality as the same or fundamentally different?

Chew on This

Ovid portrays uncontrolled sexuality as dangerous.

Ovid portrays men and women as equally susceptible to sexual desire.

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