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heterosexuality: political institution that disempowers women. guide to adrienne rich’s article compulsory heterosexuality and lesbian existence. about the. The phrase ‘compulsory heterosexuality’ calls attention to society’s assumptions about relationships. Read about Adrienne Rich’s explanation. COMPULSORY HETEROSEXUALITY AND. LESBIAN EXISTENCE. Adrienne Rich. Originallypublished in , when the relationship between lesbianism.

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You are commenting using your Twitter account. These are furthermore to Rich, obviously formative elements in the creation of compulsory heterosexuality to the point that it is accepted by heterosexualitj men and women in modern Western compulsoty as a given.

Doing this Rich gathers credible points against the male denial of lesbian existence and other negative assumptions. Women raising healthy daughters and bonding with other women are noble goals that I support wholeheartedly but they are not lesbian acts.

Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence by Adrienne Rich

It was written to challenge the erasure of lesbian existence from a large amount of scholarly feminist literature. Journal of Women’s History. I love reading Adrienne Rich’s literary criticism and feminist theory because her talent as richh poet infuses her non-poetic writing.

Rich claims that once women see lesbian existence as more than mere sexuality, it is more likely that more forms of “primary intensity” between and among women will be embraced. She calls for what she describes as a greater understanding of lesbian experience, and believes that once such heterossxuality understanding is obtained, these boundaries will be widened and women will be able to experience the ” erotic ” in female terms.

What a clincher at the end. Rich thinks of the word lesbian as meaning more than a sexual attraction and physical act, but an emotional and strong bond that women can share as they go through the same experiences. Would lo I don’t take Rich’s theory of the “continuum” as meaning all women are in some way lesbian–She often mentions women throughout history who resisted marriage and created communities for themselves without men.

A recurring point that Rich points out is the destruction of lesbian experiences in history misplacement of documents, or destroying them in general has led to a society in which having a lesbian experience, or being a lesbian all together is seen as ‘the other’ and unacceptable to most men and women.

This essay discusses the way that our cultural assumptions about sexual identity erase, sublimate and destroy the lesbian, and m I’ve read this before, and am reading it a second time for this month’s reading group meeting.


Jun 18, Polytimi rated it really liked it Shelves: Rich demonstrates that the debate over what is good, bad, right or wrong is a detailed and subjective one. This article may contain an excessive amount of intricate detail that may interest only a particular audience. Would love to discuss. And lesbians have the right to be mad. I was surprised to find a hard copy of this at my school’s library and read comoulsory on my terms and honestly Lists with This Book.

A lesbian is a woman who is romantically and sexually attracted to women, and not to men–there are no other criteria for being a lesbian and it heterosexualiyt do us any favours to politicise our sexuality this way and hold it to standards that no other sexuality is held to.

Books by Adrienne Rich. Insead of dry but informative texts, Rich’s are always lively, emotional and beautifully written, as well as well-formulated and well-researched.

Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence

Consistent male control of female relationships and desires, through male-helmed media, advertising, and entertainment exists, she continues, to assuage a male fear: She gives the example of as female infants suck at their mother’s breast in order to grow and obtain nutrients, the mother, experiences some orgasmic or pleasant sensation because of this act.

As Rich says, despite attempts to erase it from history, there has always been resistance to compulsory heterosexuality. She is arguing against the homophobic idea that women pursue relationships with women only because they had bad experiences with men. I thought I was writing an exploratory piece, an essay in the literal sense of ‘attempt: I don’t take Rich’s theory of the “continuum” as meaning all women are in some way lesbian–She often mentions women throughout history who resisted marriage and created communities for themselves without men.

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Monthly Review Press,pp. This entry was posted in Social Science and tagged adrienne richfeminismfeminist perspectiveheterosexualitylesbianmale dominance. On a more radical note, Rich describes the possibility that all women exist on a lesbian continuum, and we see each other moving in and out of this space throughout the lives of women.

Rich emphasises that it is important to recognise these methods of male power as reinforcing heterosexuality, and she provides various examples one example being prostitution, through which men force their sexuality on women who, due to poverty and lack of other options, are obliged to have sex with men in order to survive.


By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. In Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existenceshe begins by criticising the works of heterosexual writers who made the assumption in their writings that all women are innately heterosexual, or ignored or dismissed the existence and validity of lesbian relationships.

This not-desire can be formed as a lesbian desire or a desire for female-female sexual or romantic relations, but it can also be conceived of as a simple lack of desire for men. Rich further quotes from Kathleen Barry that: It is a failure of inequality and obligations to the important role that women play.

I know adrlenne lesbian who married a man On a different note, I really like this distinction she makes: A feminist critique of compulsory heterosexual orientation for women is long overdue.

Women fighting against male copulsory and refusing to associate with men are noble goals hterosexuality I support wholeheartedly but they are not lesbian acts. I mean the term lesbian continuum to include a range–through each woman’s life fompulsory throughout history–of woman-identified experience; not simply the fact that a woman has had or consciously desired genital sexual experience with another woman. It would perhaps be useful to employ psychoanalytic feminist theorizing at moments it would seem like she’s negating the innateness Rich struggles through the tautology that is the socially constructed versus innate and therefore, timeless, biological, not historically contingent arguments about lesbianism, and homosexuality.

This binarisation of sex as a masculine desire and dependence as a feminine is encouraged even today, as respectively male and female approaches to a romantic relationship. Furthermore, her essay deconstructs what many would have considered necessary and natural links between sexuality, reproduction, and social attachment; illustrating these institutions and behaviours to be socially constructed and merely performed as if they had always been innate.

Guess what we hear when we heterosexuslity out to straight people? But then, after all this, she undermines her message about the naturalness of lesbianism by suggesting that the definition of lesbianism should expand heterksexuality include experiences that are not lesbian. She not only showed how lesbians are silenced and hidden, she also shows how this theory restricts heterosexual women’s sexuality.