Irvine Welsh

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Sex, Libido, and Gender Norms Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Addiction and Society Theme Icon
Scottish Identity Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Sex, Libido, and Gender Norms Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Trainspotting, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Sex, Libido, and Gender Norms Theme Icon

Though characters frequently put heroin above all else, sex is often nearly as important to them. Sick Boy is notorious for his ability to have sex with almost any woman, whereas Rent Boy and particularly Spud tend to be less successful in their attempts—and constantly anguish over it. Sex is so important to Johnny Swan that it’s the first thing on his mind even after he gets his leg amputated. Many sections of the novel take place in pubs, where the characters all try to find a sexual partner before the end of the night, further emphasizing the central role that sex plays in their lives.

In addition, the sexual encounters in the novel often highlight the unequal relationship between male and female characters. When Begbie impregnates June, she’s the one who has to care for their child. Meanwhile, Lesley largely takes the blame for the seemingly accidental death of her young child, Dawn, even though Sick Boy was likely the father but took no responsibility for the child. Kelly deals with catcalling and harassment from men throughout the novel, Tommy and Second Prize witness a man violently beating a woman in a crowded pub, and Gi, a gay man, also suffers due to ideas about masculinity in his home country of Italy. The experiences of all these characters show how ingrained traditional gender roles are in their society—and how these norms have the potential to inflict harm on characters whose gender or sexual orientation places them on the margin of society. In addition, Trainspotting portrays the intensity and power of libido, particularly in young men, to show how sexual desire can have wide-ranging social consequences, helping to define and enforce gender role, often in negative ways.

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Sex, Libido, and Gender Norms ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Sex, Libido, and Gender Norms appears in each chapter of Trainspotting. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Sex, Libido, and Gender Norms Quotes in Trainspotting

Below you will find the important quotes in Trainspotting related to the theme of Sex, Libido, and Gender Norms.
Kicking Quotes

The sweat wis lashing oafay Sick Boy; he wis trembling. Ah wis jist sitting thair, focusing oan the telly, tryin no tae notice the cunt. He wis bringing me doon. Ah tried tae keep ma attention oan the Jean–Claude Van Damme video.

Related Characters: Rent Boy (speaker), Sick Boy, Johnny Swan
Related Symbols: Heroin
Page Number: 1
Explanation and Analysis:

The train was nearly twenty minutes late, an excellent performance by British Rail standards. Stevie wondered whether she’d be on it. Paranoia hit him. Waves of fear shuddered through his body. The stakes were high, the highest ever. He couldn’t see her, couldn’t even picture her in his mind’s eye. Then she was almost upon him, different to how he thought of her, more real, even more beautiful. It was the smile, the look of emotion reciprocated. He ran the short distance to her and held her in his arms. They kissed for a long time. When they stopped, the platform was deserted and the train was well on its way to Dundee.

Related Characters: Stevie , Stella , Tommy, Lizzy
Related Symbols: Trains
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:

Ah never wanted anything mair in ma life than fir her tae stoap screamin.— The bairn’s away . . . the bairn’s away. . . Dawn. . . oh my god. . . oh fuckin god, wis aboot aw ah could pick ootay the horrible sound. She collapses oantae the threadbare couch.

Related Characters: Rent Boy (speaker), Lesley (speaker), Dawn , Sick Boy
Related Symbols: Heroin
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:
Relapsing Quotes

Ah sing out, a twisting, pogo–ing mass of rubber. Iggy Pop looks right at me as he sings the line: ‘America takes drugs in psychic defence’; only he changes ‘America’ for ‘Scatlin’, and defines us mair accurately in a single sentence than all the others have ever done.

Related Characters: Tommy (speaker), Lizzy
Related Symbols: Heroin
Page Number: 75
Explanation and Analysis:

An unspoken contract was forged between them in a split–second. Jackie’s screams reverberated around the stairwell, as they booted and dragged him from landing to landing. He vainly tried to protect himself and, through his fear and pain, hoped that there would be something left of him to move out of Leith, when the ordeal was over.

Related Characters: Jackie , Lenny , Granty , Fiona , Billy , Rent Boy
Page Number: 104
Explanation and Analysis:
Kicking Again Quotes

Perhaps, he allowed himself to speculate, they had some perverse parental feelings for her. He had noted that with older people. They often try to control younger, more popular and vivacious people; usually due to the fact that they are jealous of the qualities the younger people have and they lack.

Related Characters: Rent Boy (speaker), Dianne
Page Number: 145
Explanation and Analysis:

Rents picks up a stane and flings it at the squirrel. Ah feel likes, sick, ma hert misses a beat as it whizzes past the wee gadge. He goes tae pick up another, laughin like a maniac, but ab stoap um.

Related Characters: Spud (speaker), Rent Boy, Sick Boy, Begbie
Page Number: 159
Explanation and Analysis:
Blowing It Quotes

He wis ma felly. Ye eywis think it’ll be different, thit ye kin change. Thum, thit ye kin make a difference.

Related Characters: Sharon (speaker), Rent Boy (speaker), Billy , Second Prize , Tommy, Begbie
Page Number: 221
Explanation and Analysis:
Exile Quotes

Anywey, ah widnae mind gaun aw the wey wi a gadge, if it felt right. Jist fir the experience. Problem is, ah only really fancy birds. Guys jist dinnae look sexy. It’s aw ahoot aesthetics, fuck all tae dae wi morality.

Related Characters: Rent Boy (speaker), Gi
Page Number: 234
Explanation and Analysis:

“I always find the term ‘opportunistic infection’ amusing. In our culture, it seems to invoke some admirable quality. I think of the ‘opportunism’ of the entrepreneur who spots a gap in the market, or that of the striker in the penalty box. Tricky buggers, those opportunistic infections.”

Related Characters: Davie Mitchell (speaker), Venters , Tommy, Rent Boy
Related Symbols: Heroin
Page Number: 239
Explanation and Analysis:

The guys are looking embarrassed, really shit up by the crowd that’s developed. It’s sortay like, feeding off itself.

Related Characters: Kelly (speaker), Alison , Rent Boy, Begbie
Page Number: 275
Explanation and Analysis:
Home Quotes

—Ah well, ah’ll leave yis tae it. Keep up the trainspottin mind! He staggered oaf, his rasping, drunkard’s cackles filling the desolate barn. Ah noticed that Begbie seemed strangely subdued and uncomfortable. He wis turned away fae us.

It wis only then ah realised thit the auld wino wis Begbie’s faither.

Related Characters: Rent Boy (speaker), Begbie
Related Symbols: Trains
Page Number: 309
Explanation and Analysis:
Exit Quotes

Now, free from them all, for good, he could be what he wanted to be. He’d stand or fall alone. This thought both terrified and excited him as he contemplated life in Amsterdam.

Related Characters: Rent Boy, Spud
Related Symbols: Heroin
Page Number: 344
Explanation and Analysis: