Study Guide

Perfect Sex

By Ellen Hopkins


I think/if love is real, and headed/toward the altar, the sex part/can—within reason—wait. (7.20)

Sean's way more sensitive about Cara's feelings before he starts taking steroids, but the "within reason" part is the slippery slope here.

That's not to say/that there aren't any cute girls here./There are a few, and yeah, I've had some/casual sex with one/or two. (Okay, maybe three.) (12.12-13)

One of the reasons Andre takes Jenna more seriously than the other girls he's slept with is that she doesn't feel the need to change herself to meet anyone else's standards. In this way, Jenna is the kind of person Andre wants to be.

I lift up on my knees,/turn to face him, kiss him as if this/might be our last kiss—intention clear/in the race of my heart and the way/my tongue tangos over his. He pulls back. Wait. Are you sure? (13.53-54)

Cara doesn't really feel any sexual attraction to Sean, but she tries to convince herself she does in order to be "normal." It's one more way she's trying to live up to what other people expect her to be.

We have gotten/naked a time or two,/and Lord help me, that girl has shown/me things most grown women/would blush at. (16.9-10)

Jenna might not feel the need to alter her appearance to make other people approve of her, but she's using her body to win their approval in other ways.

But just as I test the barrier,/everything screaming yes,/go, she opens her eyes./And out of her mouth/comes a single word: No. (23.22)

Sean's fully aware that Cara says no. He hears her; he just convinces himself she doesn't really mean it. After all, he thinks she's been leading him on.

She sobs, and her entire/body shakes with the force/of it. No. You raped me./Her voice slices, tempered/steel. I told you to stop. (23.30)

Sean knows in that moment that his relationship with Cara is over, but instead of apologizing, he chooses further physical violence, grabs her, and tells her she didn't really mean what she said. Sensitivity: You're doing it all wrong, Sean.

"Look, I'm not sure exactly/what happened here, but you/are everything to me. Even/if you weren't, you have/to realize you can't get a guy all worked up, then/tell him to stop. It's not fair." (23.37)

Note to guys: Girls get worked up, too, it's just that there are all kinds of shame attached to female desire. This is one more kind of societal pressure to negate who you really are and what you really want.

For the first time ever, the love we/made was unhurried. It's good slow,/he said. Do you like it this way? I did/but wondered just when he'd decided/that, and how. Still, I didn't dare ask/him. Instead I just let him. (26.70-72)

Violation of the female body is a major thread that runs through the narrative of Perfect. Kendra does a lot of "just letting him" throughout the book, despite what she herself actually wants. (Do you think she even knows what she wants, or what she enjoys sexually?)

I told her everything—how I had kept/my virginity until I needed to be sure./How I teased Sean. Challenged him,/even, only to change my mind. (33.34)

Cara feels a lot of guilt about other people's choices. Just as she couldn't have changed what Sean did, though, she couldn't have changed what Conner did, even if she'd told that he was sleeping with his teacher.

Maybe the trick is just having lots/and lots of sex until you get tired/of it? Does everyone eventually/get tired of it? (37.13-14)

Answer: No. But if you've never had a partner who respects you or to whom you're sexually attracted, this is an understandable question.