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Literature Comparison: “Lust” and “Sex Without Love”


The story ‘Lust’ by Susan Minot is very sensational and describes the carefree life of young college students who are keen to enjoy life without giving much consideration to the consequences involved. In this book, the narrator is a young college girl. She brings her audience to a world of the youth, where caution about sex and excessive partying is disregarded and pleasure and happiness is given priority over any other thing.

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Sharon Olds, on the other hand, questions how people would engage in love making without being in love. In her poem ‘Sex without Love’, Sharon wonders how people would do such a thing and still feel that everything is okay. In this paper, the researcher will compare and contrast these two pieces of literature.

Analysis of the Literary Works

Sex remains one of the most sensitive and controversial topics in the global society despite the fact that it is and has been practiced since time in memorial. It is part of our nature. However, people still talk about it in hushed tones and only when it is unavoidable. According to Reik and Roazen, people know about sex, and they know that it is one of the most common practices in our society, whether done in the legal institution of marriage or in illicit affairs, but still many people feel uncomfortable by a simple mention of the word (76). These two authors did not shy away from this sensitive topic and from their works a number of similarities and differences can be identified.

Comparing the short story and the poem

The short story and the poem both share a common primary theme of irresponsible sex. Reading both texts, it comes out clearly that the authors have come to appreciate that the modern society is increasingly embracing casual sex despite the existing institutions that try to fight it. The two texts show that there is a new culture that is emerging in the society where pleasure and love are treated as two different things that sometimes may be completely unrelated. Olds says, “They do not mistake the lover for their own pleasure” (para. 1). The use of diction in this statement clearly brings out the new culture that is emerging in the society.

It is clear that a section of the society have come to distinguish the process of making love and love itself. The process is what the author calls getting pleasure. The author says that some people will get this form of pleasure even if they are not really in love with the partner because they have learnt to separate pleasure from love. Susan simply calls it Lust (Minot 14). The narrator talks about her own life, and how she would engage in illicit affairs with a number of boys without the slightest feeling of love. Minot says, “Lots of boys, but never two at the same time. One was plenty to keep you in a state,” (14).

This is a very bold way of describing her casual relationship with men. However, she confirms the fears brought out in the poem ‘Sex without Love’. To her, it is lust and pure pleasure. The partners are tools for the pleasure she needs, not people who deserved to be loved. In the poem, the author uses simile to show her admiration to the youths who she believes need to be reformed. Olds says, “Beautiful as dancers,” (para. 1).

In both the poem and the short story, the authors bring out some aspect of religion and spirituality. Olds says, “These are the true religious, the purists, the pros, the ones who will not accept a false Messiah, love the priest instead of the God” (para. 4). The author emphasizes on the need to believe in God and His virtues and not in anyone else. Minot says, “… in the morning before chapel” (15).

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The narrator admits that although they had a life full of fun and pleasure, they often went to church for prayer. According to Klein, religion is believed by many to be the custodian of morality in our society (54). It prohibits irresponsible behavior. The religion in these two texts is Christianity, given that they talk about chapel, Messiah and priest. Christianity is very clear about the issue of sexual relationships.

It is prohibited unless the individuals involved are legally married. It therefore, means that pleasure driven from making love should only be available to people who are in love and most probably married. However, the texts demonstrate that even with the right knowledge, people still indulge in irresponsible acts of sex just for pleasure. The desire for pleasure, as demonstrated in both texts, overrides morality as taught in our religious institutions.

On prayer days we get time to go and warship God and show our commitments towards his teaching. However, soon after church everything about God and morality are put aside so that fun, leisure, and pleasure can take its central position. This is the truth about what is taking place in the modern society. The society is increasingly becoming rebellious towards the teachings of morality and responsible behavior as taught in places of worship.

Contrasting the short story and the poem

A critical analysis of the poem and the short story shows that although they share a number of themes, there are some differences which also come out very clearly. In the poem, the narrator is wondering how someone can be intimate with another when there is no bond of love between them. Olds says, “How do they do it, the ones who make love without love” (para. 1). The narrator is apparently disgusted by the idea of having intimacy for the purpose of pleasure. She insists that the pleasure of intimacy must be derived from love and by people who are in love with each other. According to her, it is only through love that one can make love.

However, this view sharply contrasts with the message brought out in the short story ‘Lust’. In this book, the narrator brings out an idea about the pleasure that is often generated from having casual no string attached intimacy. The narrator, talking from her own experiences, demonstrates how she would drive pleasure from different boys without feeling guilty or remorseful. Minot says, “There’d times when you overdid it, you’d get carried away, the more girls a boy has, the better,” (16).

It is not easy for members of the society to believe that their teenage children are getting involved in such irresponsible sexual behavior. In fact, most parents often want to believe that their children lack knowledge of intimacy even when there are indications showing that they are doing it. This short story demonstrates this fact. The parents of the narrator never took time with their daughter to counsel her about relationships and the dangers of having multiple partners.

Another major contrast between the poem and the book is angle of morality that the two narrators have taken when presenting their work. In the poem, the narrator takes the position of a moralist, a person concerned about the escalating cases of casual relationships in the name of pleasure. The narrator feels that the society should believe in God and His teachings. From her moral grounds, she insists on the need to be responsible at all times, especially when it comes to the issue of intimacy.

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On the other hand, the narrator in the short story gives no serious consideration to the concept of morality as taught in religion. In fact, to her the chapel meant nothing to her on non-prayer days. They would creep to the balcony of the chapel and get their pleasure there without feeling guilty. Minot says, “We crept to the chapel and spent the night in the balcony” (17). The morals exhibited in the poem are completely disregarded in this short story. Values that are promoted in the poem are considered irrelevant in this poem.


The poem ‘Sex without Love’ and the short story ‘Lust’ focuses on sex, a topic that has for a long time been considered sensitive and controversial in many societies around the world. In the modern society, illicit intimate affairs are increasingly becoming common, but the stakeholders have not been able to come up with proper ways of handling it. While the short story narrates the pleasure and joy that is derived from having such illicit affairs with numerous people, the poem laments that morality in sexual relationship is becoming degraded at very high rates. As a society, the narrator in the poem believes that we need to find a way of addressing the issue.

Works Cited

Klein, Marty. America’s War on Sex: The Continuing Attack on Law, Lust, and Liberty. Santa Barbara: Praeger, 2012. Print.

Minot, Susan. Lust and Other Stories. New York, NY: Vintage Books, 2005. Print.

Reik, Theodor, and Paul Roazen. Love and Lust: On the Psychoanalysis of Romantic and Sexual Emotions. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2002. Print.

Olds, Sharon. Sex Without Love. New York, N.Y: Prometheus Books, 2002. Print.

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