Synopses & Reviews
A sweeping history of heterosexuality—from its origins in nineteenth-century Germany to the court cases and controversies of today.
Heterosexuality is not a fact of nature, it’s a nineteenth-century invention, only about as old as the traffic light. In this surprising chronicle, historian Hanne Blank digs deep into the past of sexual orientation while simultaneously exploring its contemporary psyche. Illuminating the hidden patterns in centuries of events and trends, Blank shows how culture creates and manipulates the ways we think about and experience desire, love, and relationships between men and women. Ranging from Henry VIII to testicle transplants, Disneyland to sodomy laws, and Moby Dick to artificial insemination, the history of heterosexuality turns out to be anything but straight or narrow. With an eclectic scope and fascinating detail, Straight tells the eye-opening story of a complex and often contradictory man-made creation that is all too often assumed to be an irreducible fact of biology.
"Framed by a discussion of her partner's intersex condition, Blank (Virgin) explores the invention of heterosexuality as a term and norm. The concept of heterosexuality was created (along with homosexuality) in the 19th century by German researchers protesting the criminalization of same-sex relations. While the law remained unchanged, the taxonomy passed into popular use, and complemented by the theories of Krafft-Ebing and Freud, became 'doxa,' what everyone knows (or believes they know). So while homosexuality has been extensively studied and debated, heterosexuality and 'straight' genes have remained 'amorphous and undefined' despite carrying the 'monolithic aura of inevitability and authority.' A natural or biological basis for sexual orientation is commonly claimed, because it appears to be the case, even though none of the experiments performed to find a biological or genetic cause for homosexuality have yielded any evidence. From its thorough but brisk explorations of sexual orientation's intersections with sex, gender, and romance, this illuminating study examines our presuppositions and makes a powerful, provocative argument that heterosexuality mazy, unscientific, and new may be merely 'a particular configuration of sex and power in a particular historical moment.'" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
It's surprising that the term "heterosexuality" is less than 150 years old and that heterosexuality's history has never before been written, given how obsessed we are with it. In Straight, independent scholar Hanne Blank delves deep into the contemporary psyche as well as the historical record to chronicle the realm of heterosexual relations--a subject that is anything but straight and narrow. Consider how Catholic monasticism, the reading of novels, the abolition of slavery, leisure time, divorce, and constipation of the bowels have all at some time been labeled enemies of the heterosexual state. With an extensive historical scope and plenty of juicy details and examples, Straight provides a fascinating look at the vagaries, schisms, and contradictions of what has so often been perceived as an irreducible fact of nature.
Like the typewriter and the light bulb, the heterosexual was invented in the 1860s and swiftly transformed Western culture. The idea of “the heterosexual” was unprecedented. After all, men and women had been having sex, marrying, building families, and sometimes even falling in love for millennia without having any special name for their emotions or acts. Yet, within half a century, “heterosexual” had become a byword for “normal,” enshrined in law, medicine, psychiatry, and the media as a new gold standard for human experience. With an eclectic scope and fascinating detail, Straight tells the eye-opening story of a complex and often contradictory man-made creation that turns out to be anything but straight or narrow.
About the Author
is a writer, historian, and public speaker whose work has been featured everywhere from Out
. An independent scholar, she is the author of Virgin: The Untouched History
and seven other books that explore the intersections of sexuality, gender, the body, and culture. She has been a visiting scholar at the Institute for Teaching and Research on Women, as well as an instructor, guest lecturer, and visiting speaker at colleges and universities, including Tufts, Brandeis, and Johns Hopkins.
Table of Contents
Table of Contents...
Introduction Sexual Disorientation
Chapter One: The Love That Could Not Speak Its Name
Chapter Two: Carnal Knowledge
Chapter Three: Straight Science
Chapter Four: The Marrying Type
Chapter Five: What’s Love Got to Do with It?
Chapter Six: The Pleasure Principle
Chapter Seven: Here There Be Dragons