It might not seem like it at first, but "They Flee from Me" is basically all about sex. The speaker tells us he used to get lucky all the time, but now he's in a bit of a dry spell. But it's about more than just the physical act. There are power plays involved. At first, our guy's in charge. These women come to him, and he seduces them. But suddenly, the tables turn, and the seducer becomes the seduced. So how does a Renaissance man like our speaker – who used to have all the power – handle a sexually assertive woman? The answer to that question remains a mystery.
Questions About Sex
What do you make of the description of the woman removing her clothes (10-14)? Is it romantic? Cheap? Is she being bold and brave or is she being unvirtuous? What do you think is running through our speaker's mind in this moment?
If the act itself is never mentioned, how do we know this poem is actually about sex? Could it be about something else, too?
Why do you think our speaker is so preoccupied by the fact that these women flee from him? Is he just sad because he no longer has any sexual partners, or is there another side to his concern?
Why does our speaker feel the need to use animals and hunting (birds, deer, catching) in order to talk about sex? What does this comparison say about how our speaker sees women?
Chew on This
"They Flee from Me" suggests that sex is never equal. There is always one person who is in control, seducing his or her submissive partner.
The poem's many references to animals and hunting suggest that our speaker sees sex as a way to control women. It's no wonder it bothers him so much that they no longer seem interested in being controlled.