Study Guide

Nausea Sex

By Jean-Paul Sartre

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For many people, sex is one of the most beautiful ways that two people can express their love for each other. But for Antoine Roquentin in Nausea sex can be a completely loveless—and often violent—thing.

At its best, he thinks, sex is simply a way of distracting ourselves from the realization that human life is totally absurd. We come to realize this in moments of loneliness or boredom, and sex is a way of shooing away both of these feelings. But like raccoons on your back porch, those feelings always come back… and rifle through your garbage.

Questions About Sex

  1. Why does Antoine think of sex as nothing more than a distraction? Is there anything in his past that might help explain why he's so cynical about sex?
  2. Are there any positive examples of sex in this book? If so, why are they positive? Use specific examples to support your answer.
  3. What does the Self-Taught Man's preference for young boys tell us about sex in this book? Do his sexual preferences tend to devalue sex as a whole, or is he just a bad apple?
  4. Why does Sartre decide to place Antoine in a loveless sexual relationship with Francoise? How does this relationship set the tone for the rest of the book?

Chew on This

In Nausea, Sartre shows us that there is no comfort to be taken in the idea of sex. People spend their wholes lives thinking about sex, but it can never create happiness the way people think it should.

Antoine Roquentin tries to act like he doesn't care about sex. But the truth is that he really loves his ex Anny and would totally be happy if he were able to get her back.

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