Like most teenagers, Holden struggles with his sexuality. He considers himself a "sex maniac," but is also completely inexperienced. In addition, he has very strong and often contradictory feelings about women. Most women, such as Bernice Krebs and Sally Hayes, he sees as utterly stupid, largely because they seem interested in boys and men, whom Holden knows from experience are up to no good. On the other hand, Holden sees Jane Gallagher as a perfect woman: kind, loving, gentle, innocent, wonderful. In other words, he idealizes her. Yet the fact that he is so frightened to call or talk to her implies that he knows that she can't possibly be as perfect as he wants her to be. In the end, Holden's feelings about women and sex mirror his feelings about society as a whole. He desperately wants to have a girlfriend, have sex, and achieve emotional intimacy, and at the same time is desperately afraid as well.
The Catcher in the Rye
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The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Women and Sex appears in each chapter of The Catcher in the Rye. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Below you will find the important quotes in The Catcher in the Rye related to the theme of Women and Sex.
Chapter 10 Quotes
She knocked me out. I mean it. I was half in love with her by the time we sat down. That's the thing about girls. Every time they do something pretty, even if they're not much to look at, or even if they're sort of stupid, you fall half in love with them, and then you never know where the hell you are. Girls. Jesus Christ. They can drive you crazy. They really can.
Chapter 13 Quotes
If you want to know the truth, I'm a virgin. I really am. I've had quite a few opportunities to lose my virginity and all, but I've never got around to it yet. Something always happens... I came quite close to doing it a couple of times, though. One time in particular, I remember. Something went wrong, though—I don't even remember what any more.
The trouble was, I just didn't want to do it. I felt more depressed than sexy, if you want to know the truth. She was depressing. Her green dress hanging in the closet and all. And besides, I don't think I could ever do it with somebody that sits in a stupid movie all day long. I really don't think I could.
Chapter 17 Quotes
Then, just to show you how crazy I am, when we were coming out of this big clinch, I told her I loved her and all. It was a lie, of course, but the thing is, I meant it when I said it. I'm crazy. I swear to God I am.
"You ought to go to a boys' school sometime. Try it sometime," I said. "It's full of phonies, and all you do is study so that you can learn enough to be smart enough to be able to buy a goddam Cadillac some day, and you have to keep making believe you give a damn if the football team loses, and all you do is talk about girls and liquor and sex all day, and everybody sticks together in these dirty little goddam cliques."