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Straight: The Surprisingly Short History of Heterosexuality
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Straight: The Surprisingly Short History of Heterosexuality

3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  373 ratings  ·  79 reviews
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 ...more
ebook, 240 pages
Published January 31st 2012 by Beacon Press (first published January 1st 2012)
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Nataliya

Whaaat? This 228-page book of nonfiction thought-provoking accessibly-written goodness ends on page 166? With the remaining pages all being annotations and bibliography and index?


Ok, that gets the obligatory Darth Vader 'nooooooooo' out of the way, and we can safely continue without the danger of the world imploding.

I loved this book. I've bookmarked roughly a billion of quotes, and I enjoyed the discussions some of them led to in the comments to me posting them.

This book is written in a very
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Melodie
I almost never read non-fiction unless forced and this was not an exception. I wasn't expecting much when I picked up this book to read for a class but I actually enjoyed it. The title was interesting enough and the content serves as a huge eye-opener. There are so many things I learned from this book and it also made me rethink many things I thought I knew. This might be the most interesting book I've ever read for school.

This book puts romance novels in a bad light, basically accuse them of b
...more
Nina
The fact that it took me four fucking months to finish this says a lot. Okay, there were only three days of actual reading, but still - four months. That's unprecedented.

It's not that there are any glaring flaws, or inaccuracies, or an unlikeable writing style. It's more of a pamphlet than a book, at 180 pages of writing plus 60 of bibliography and notes (I know), but it's informative and eye-opening, even though some of the information was incomplete. (Kinsey scale, anyone? Is nobody gonna ment
...more
Luke Strzegowski
Not what I was hoping for. While I think a discussion of how something as fluid as sexuality became binary, with one of the options being labeled as "abnormal" would be useful, Hanne seems more interested in devoting pages to wondering how penis in vagina sex became the standard. Her flawed arguments and poor technique just got to be too much for me. Sure, maybe she's right that Viagra targets hetero couples because we've all been trained to think of erect cocks and their insertion into vaginas ...more
Cissa
This excellently written book looks into the history of "heterosexuality" as a Thing in and of itself. In so doing, Blank touches on may related issues, such as theories of male and female sexuality, the history of marriage, and many more. While I suppose these could be considered tangential, they also enrich and inform the overall points, and for me have put many things into a context of which I was previously unaware.

It is not exclusively about "straight"; in exploring how this concept came to
...more
Lindz
I loved this book. It was fascinating and very well-researched. She begins by pointing out that terms like "heterosexuality" weren't coined until the late 1800's. Obviously, people were living "straight" lives before that, but they didn't "identify" themselves as heterosexual - it was just "normal" for them. What does the changing term mean in terms of our assumptions and stereotypes? What does it mean for women's rights?

Overall it's a great history of marriage, feminism, and queer activism, but
...more
Theresa
Here is what this book was missing for me:
1. Author as an expert I can trust. I love non-fiction because I believe that individuals are the experts in their own experiences. However, this book is more of a historical reference, which is fine! I knew that going in! But why should I consider this author as the expert on the topic, if she does not give me a reason to? I Googled her so that I could get some background on the woman, but I do not think I should have to reference a book to justify read
...more
Elena
A light, quick read. Like Blank's previous cultural history, Virgin, this book is full of fascinating anecdotes, some of which you're likely to know about if you've spent much time involved in gender or sexuality studies. The book combines broad strokes of history with these anecdotes and details smoothly and readable, and like Virgin, ought to be accessible to the general reader.

Like Blank, I have been in relationships that might - or might not - be definable as heterosexual, and so I have a p
...more
Wei Ming
The history of sexual orientation has nearly always focussed on LGBT - the 'others', the ones outside of the mainstream and 'normal' - but as this book suggests, to have a fuller understanding of why and/or how attitudes have developed as they have today, the dominant sexuality - what is considered 'normal' - should be investigated too. Hanne Blank does so in a brilliant piece of writing - an anthropological study of heterosexuality that takes in etymology, history, psychology, social studies an ...more
Varina
This is a very interesting, engaging, non-scholarly deconstruction of norms surrounding sexuality/sexual orientation, gender identity, love, marriage, and sex. I think focusing on the history and construction of heterosexuality, most similar histories focus on homosexuality, was an especially effective stance to get the reader to look beyond and underneath our usual cultural assumptions by focusing on the construction of that which we generally normalize. To a certain extent the author exchanged ...more
Zach
An incisive, entertainingly written book on history of the concept of "heterosexuality", which, as it turns out, was a term invented in the late 1800s and only picked up for reals in the early part of the 20th century. The author tends to go on tangents a bit and the introduction is a little self-absorbed, but it provides a nice overview of how male-female couplings evolved as they went from being "just the relationships everyone has" to "heterosexuality". A fairly short book, as it says, it clo ...more
Martine
This book’s introduction is a thought-provoking insight into the author’s personal life and how it intersects with the topic of this book. Unfortunately, the dilemma’s broached in the introduction are not resolved in the ensuing chapters. Rather, the main body of the book describes a process of which the introduction shows its future flaws. In that way, the introduction makes the book itself seem tragically outdated. After that introduction, I wanted to look forward, philosophise about better de ...more
Kamau Rashid
This book offers an interesting history of the concept of heterosexuality in the West. Its very instructive of the socially-constructed nature of marriage, love, eroticism, legitimacy, science, religion, and policy.
Jhinoakland
I'm not someone who has to be convinced of Hanne's central thesis - I teach workshops on similar topics myself. So there are no surprises there. But, even as a longtime fan, I continue to be surprised and delighted by the crisp intelligence of her writing. Straight is erudite but not stuffy, knowledgeable but refreshingly free of academic-speak, objective but with enough personal insight to keep us aware of the author's (and, by extension, many other people's) stake in the material. I will add t ...more
Evalangui
The title of this book might mislead you into thinking its subject is narrow, nothing further from the truth! Black analyses the history of human perception from the perspective of heterosexual love, both the old fashioned version centered in reproduction and the lattest romantic fashions, passing through the effects of the sexual liberation movement and lifechanging scientific advances like contraception. But in the meantime she analyses the changing perspectives regarding life in general in th ...more
Audrephilia
This book is more for someone who hasn't already read tons of nonfiction regarding human sexuality, sexual identity, gender identity, etc. I'm always submerged in this and I know it, believe it, and teach it: It's extremely subjective and nothing "means" anything. The book plays with concepts of sexuality that are entirely forged by social constructs, namely heterosexuality. I think my disappointment with this is that I'm already informed about its thesis and basic supportive arguments but also ...more
Johnnie Gray
Straight is a scholarly examination of how the term “heterosexuality” came to be, how it is used and how it has come to be the norm. Easily read and engaging, the book takes you along several avenues including dating, the sexual revolution, genetics and of course, love and marriage. Historical beginnings of marriage and of dating, lend themselves to how the book establishes doxa, or a common belief held. This doxa created the idea that a man and woman are acceptable in marriage because their uni ...more
Jean Roberta
This new look at sexual orientation by the erudite and versatile Hanne Blank is not the first of its kind. Blank acknowledges her debt to Jonathan Katz’ The Invention of Heterosexuality as a forerunner of this study. However, the evidence that “heterosexuality” was invented, not discovered—and quite recently at that—bears repeating. As Blank points out, if “the attribute we now call ‘heterosexuality’ were a prerequisite for people to engage in sex acts or to procreate, chances are excellent that ...more
Sarah
Men and women! Boys and girls! Getting it on! What's so hard about that?

As it turns out, kind of a lot.

If you consider yourself unquestionably heterosexual, you would benefit from reading this book simply because if you think about it, you've probably never questioned what the concept of heterosexuality entails.

For example, what is the purpose of marriage? What is its ideal form? How do you find a mate? What is the purpose of sex? How should sex be done? You might have an answer to all these que
...more
Miki Habryn
The book opens with an interesting conceit, being that heterosexuality is taxonomically unusual in the sense that the norm is not often named. Unfortunately, after sketching out that argument, the remainder of the book through most of the final chapter is a recounting of the history of relationships, marriage, feminism and sexuality, with few critical inferences drawn to the titular theme. The subjects and the treatment of them are fine, but the writing is academic and dry enough that, despite g ...more
Jenny
Very good book, ought to be widely read, it's a topic central to everyone's lives and it isn't interrogated often enough. A real pleasure to read by an excellent writer. I very much liked adding the word "doxa" to my vocabulary. For example, in reference to some feminist critiques of heterosexuality: "(...)such uncompromising critiques did pierce the extremely durable armor of the doxa of romantic love."

Final paragraph:
"Heterosexuality seems to be bigger than we are, independent, more powerful.
...more
Matthew Leroy
Straight: The Surprisingly Short History of Heterosexuality, is written in a pithy, humorous yet well researched and informative way. This is one of the few books I have encountered where it manages to straddle the line between history and amusing commentary. Blank explains in multiple ways the fallacy of heterosexuality, and how the term itself is a newer creation. It's also interesting to think of how what is acceptable in heterosexual practice has shifted throughout history. The piece of the ...more
Ann
This book should be required reading for everyone. It is well-written, informative, well-supported, and a fun read. Hanne Blank charts the development of the concept of heterosexuality from its inception as a legal term in 1869 through modern-day dogma about social structures and power distribution. This is an excellent in-depth look at a far-reaching aspect of history. It is also an excellent social commentary on why we believe what we believe about "the way things are" related to sex and gende ...more
Daniel Watkins
I love finding books that put a historical context on important questions I never would have thought to ask. The author illustrates how much of what we take for granted about heterosexual relationships is a very recent development with a rocky history. Highly recommended, although you probably shouldn't read it aloud to a class of high-schoolers.
Jennifer
This book covers a very interesting topic in a sometimes interesting way. As is often the case with non-fiction, when the author is telling stories about real human experiences it's very engaging. However, at many points in the book she comes across as a PhD student who is just trying to prove to a particularly picky team of professors how smart she is. She is smart, and she has lots of great references (the notes section is almost longer than the core of the book). However, lots of repeated, we ...more
Anna Bongiovanni
Interesting and FULL of facts, this book sheds light to the way heterosexuality has been constructed and made into the concept that it is today.
Matthew
I liked her point about heterosexuality being a socially constructed phenomena that originated in the mid-1800's, but that was kind of her only point. I feel like a 20 page article could have summed up her work nicely.
Emily Joyce
Blank presents a brief overview of sexuality and marriage in the Western world in regards to the emergence of the term "heterosexuality." Her premise is that sexuality wasn't defined in terms of hetero or homo for most of history, and that same sex acts didn't change or define sexual identity. There's plenty of information about socialization and doxa and sexual norms in the Victorian age through present. She examines the evolution of marriage as exchange, to household stability, to love based a ...more
Elizabeth
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Vivian
Interesting overview. Goodreads deleted my review the first time I wrote it so this will be shorter. I went in thinking I would enjoy the book, and I did. However, a few things that got on my nerves: 1. The tempting looking notes are hard to find in the back of the book, and then not half as interesting as you had hoped they would be. 2. The credibility of her sources is harder to judge, as they too are in the back. 3. The author makes a few poorly articulated broad statements.
Advice: read if y
...more
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Hanne Blank is a writer and historian.
Periodicals which have featured her work include Penthouse, In These Times, Southwest Art, Lilith, Bitch: Feminist Response to Pop Culture, the Baltimore CityPaper, the Boston Phoenix, Santa Fean Magazine, and others. Her short fiction and essays are frequently anthologized.

Ms. Blank's work has been reviewed in The New York Times, The Chicago Sun-Times, The W
...more
More about Hanne Blank...
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“We don't just want what we want because we want it; we want what we want because that's what we've learned to want.” 6 likes
“The models we have, and the standards we are expected to maintain, come to us via heterosexuality as a normative state. Heterosexuality--whatever the current version of that concept happens to be--is unremarkable because it is the standard by which everything else is measured. That is heterosexual privilege.” 6 likes
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