Sex is a significant theme in Closer, yet it exists separately from love. Throughout the play sex is used as a device for the characters to manipulate each other. Larry and Alice are the most adept at using it, albeit it in different ways. Larry frequently uses it as punishment, particularly in his excoriation of Anna for her affair with Dan. He demands to know every detail of the sexual encounter that occurred in their home just before his return from New York. Once he establishes this line of attack, Anna responds equally forcefully. She tells Larry that Dan is a more sensitive lover while Larry is a brutish pig. Later, when Larry demands that Anna sleep with him in order to finalize their divorce, he is simultaneously debasing Anna while fueling Dan’s jealousy. Likewise, when he tells Dan that he had a sexual relationship with Alice, it similarly drives Dan to extremes. In these exchanges, Marber portrays the men as being territorial about sex and sexuality.

Alice uses her sexuality as a kind of power. In the strip club scene, Larry debates whether or not stripping is in anyway empowering. To prove his point, he makes her strip when she will not give him the information he so desperately craves. Ironically, Alice does yield power over Larry because she will not reveal herself to him. He accurately recognizes that her sexuality as a stripper is all artifice, designed to tell men what they want to hear. Alice hides her true identity (including her true sexuality) and presents Larry with a man’s ideal of female sexuality.

The idea of detachment is another strong undercurrent in the play. In the first scene, Dan describes his lack of passion for his dead-end job. In some ways, his attraction to Alice is built on the notion of escaping his everyday ennui. Larry’s encounter on the Internet in which Dan poses as Anna also reveals a level of disconnects. Larry’s pursuit of anonymous sex with no emotional baggage indicates a compartmentalization of sex. Marber explores the notion of detachment most fully, however, in the two female...

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