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Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence

4.2 of 5 stars 4.20  ·  rating details  ·  272 ratings  ·  10 reviews
32 pages
Published (first published 1980)
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Ruth Marner
This is the book that got me kicked out of graduate school.
A very interesting reading, although I find some parts relatively narrow-minded- she uses strong arguments to support her views, but sometimes she goes too far, perhaps overwhelmed by her own sexuality. I was a bit suspicious from the beginning (foreword) where shes writes that the essay was written to "encourage heterosexual feminists to examine heterosexuality as a political institution which disempowers women-and to change it". It is not that I disagree with this opinion, but Rich seems to co ...more
Stephanie Kelley
4.5 because she sidesteps & erases the lives of bisexual women (arguably even tramples on them a bit) but other than that, this is wonderful
Althea Lazzaro
I've read this before, and am reading it a second time for this month's reading group meeting. I love reading Adrienne Rich's literary criticism and feminist theory because her talent as a poet infuses her non-poetic writing. Insead of dry but informative texts, Rich's are always lively, emotional and beautifully written, as well as well-formulated and well-researched. This essay discusses the way that our cultural assumptions about sexual identity erase, sublimate and destroy the lesbian, and m ...more
this is not rich's most coherent piece of writing. the ideas are solid, but the language is dense and everything's all jumbled up. if she hadn't restated her thesis half way through, i would have forgotten all about it. wanted to read it because it is referenced constantly by other feministgender authors. glad i did, but it didn't live up to the hype.
I think that Rich presents the concept of "compulsory heterosexuality" in a very interesting way. I had never really considered it as merely a long-standing social construct, but she make some very sound arguments that are well thought out. I'm not sure I'm 100% convinced, but it's definitely food for thought.
Oct 17, 2008 Lesliemae rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: lesbian feminists
Recommended to Lesliemae by: Nick Mount
Shelves: women-writers, theory
Thesis topic for one of my classes, once I'm done writing the paper, I'll probably have a lot to write in this box.
I loved this. This offers a basic understanding of what lesbians are subject to in a patriarchy.
Ana Alvarez
A must read for anyone interested in queer studies.
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Adrienne Rich (b. 1929). Born to a middle-class family, Rich was educated by her parents until she entered public school in the fourth grade. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Radcliffe College in 1951, the same year her first book of poems, A Change of World, appeared. That volume, chosen by W. H. Auden for the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award, and her next, The Diamond Cutters and Other Poems ...more
More about Adrienne Rich...
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“The most pernicious message relayed by pornography is that women are natural sexual prey to men and love it; that sexuality and violence are congruent; and that for women sex is essentially masochistic, humiliation pleasurable, physical abuse erotic. But along with this message comes another, not always recognized: that enforced submission and the use of cruelty, if played out in heterosexual pairing, is sexually "normal," while sensuality between women, including erotic mutuality and respect, is "queer," "sick," and either pornographic in itself or not very exciting compared with the sexuality of whips and bondage. Pornography does not simply create a climate in which sex
and violence are interchangeable; it widens the range of behavior considered
acceptable from men in heterosexual intercourse-behavior which reiteratively
strips women of their autonomy, dignity, and sexual potential, including the potential of loving and being loved by women in mutuality and integrity.”
“I question the more or less psychoanalytic perspective that the male need to control women sexually results from some primal male "fear of women" and of women's sexual insatiability. It seems more probable that men really fear, not that they will have women's sexual appetites forced on them, or that women want to smother and devour them, but that women could be indifferent to them altogether, that men could be allowed sexual and emotional-therefore economic-access to women only on women's terms, otherwise being left on the periphery of the matrix.” 6 likes
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