Study Guide

White Noise Sex

By Don DeLillo


"I'm here to avoid situations. Cities are full of situations, sexually cunning people. There are parts of my body I no longer encourage women to handle freely." (3.12)

Murray is an open book when it comes to talking about sex. The guy totally loves sex, but he realizes that it can cause a lot of headaches in the long run. That's part of the reason he's happy to be in a small town like Blacksmith. 

"The irony is that I love women. I fall apart at the sight of long legs, striding, briskly, as a breeze carries up from the river, on a weekday, in the play of morning light." (3.12)

Murray likes women just as much as the next straight guy. In fact, he's pretty poetic when he describes the different things he likes about them and their bodies. However, he's happy to get away from them in the sleepy town of Blacksmith. No doubt, Murray has a pretty love/hate relationship to sex. 

"What do you want to do?" she said.

"Whatever you want to do."

"I want to do whatever's best for you."

"What's best for me is to please you," I said. (7.4-7.7)

In Jack and Babette's sex life, it seems like both of them want to feel like they're doing a service for the other one. Jack wants to please Babette, and Babette wants to please Jack. The situation goes on for so long that it becomes humorous. Jack and Babette start to sound as if they're arguing who's going to pick up a check at a restaurant. 

I said, "Pick your century. Do you want to read about Etruscan slave girls, Georgian rakes? I think we have some literature on flagellation brothels. What about the Middle Ages? We have incubi and succubi. Nuns galore." (7.30)

When it comes to spicing things up in the bedroom, Jack likes it when Babette reads erotic literature to him. But he's not just looking for some dirty "It Happened To Me" story; he's a real connoisseur of erotic literature from centuries ago. Yikes. Behind closed doors, you never really know what the parents of America are up to. 

"I will read," she said. "But I don't want you to choose anything that has men inside women, quote-quote, or men entering women. "I entered her." "He entered me." We're not lobbies or elevators." (7.35)

Babette's not cool with the word "enter." It really icks her out, in much the same way that a lot of a people cannot stand the word "moist." She also dislikes it because it sort of dehumanizes women and portrays them as empty vessels to be filled.

I began to feel an erection stirring. How stupid and out of context. Babette laughed at her own lines. The TV said: "Until Florida surgeons attached an artificial flipper." (7.42)

Jack feels embarrassed at the fact that he gets an erection even while Babette is laughing at the ridiculous stuff she's reading from a book and the TV is talking about artificial flippers. Jack's penis doesn't seem to understand when it's appropriate and not appropriate to have an erection.

"I don't think this is the kind of disaster that leads to sexual abandon. One or two fellows might come skulking out eventually but there won't be an orgiastic horde, not tonight anyway." (21.460)

Murray thinks that the prostitutes near him won't get much business from people who've evacuated from Blacksmith after the Airborne Toxic Event. He imagines a couple might come by, but not a whole bunch. Normally, you might think a disaster would make people want to have sex, just in case they're about to die. But the Airborne Toxic Event has a certain dullness to it that keeps any sexual energy from building. 

"It's none of my business," I said, "but what is it she's willing to do with you for twenty-five dollars?"

"The Heimlich maneuver." (21.492-21.493)

For Murray, there are many ways to get a sexual thrill. One of them just happens to be giving a prostitute the Heimlich maneuver? Where's the thrill in that? Murray likes to fantasize about saving a woman's life and being a hero, which for him is pretty much the same thing as the glory of having sex. For him, there's nothing biological about it. It's all about feeling like a big man. 

"This was the only way I could get Mr. Gray to let me use the drug. It was my last resort, my last hope. First I'd offered him my mind. Now I offered my body." (26.42)

Babette eventually admits to Jack that she traded sex to a man so he would give her Dylar pills to take away her fear of death. This is one of the book's most shocking admissions, and it fills Jack with murderous rage. But Babette continues to talk as though it's reasonable. For her, the fear of death goes deeper than the intimacy of sex. 

This was the grayish figure of my torment, the man who took my wife […] Did they make the bed spin with their love-making, a froth of pillows and sheets above the small wheels on swivels? (39.52)

Jack can't stop picturing the scene of his wife having sex with the man she calls Mr. Gray. Not knowing what Mr. Gray looks like only seems to make the situation worse for Jack. He's a really smart dude, but when it comes to sex, he can't control his jealousy. 

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