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The Invention of Heterosexuality

Overview

“Heterosexuality,” assumed to denote a universal sexual and cultural norm, has been largely exempt from critical scrutiny. In this boldly original work, Jonathan Ned Katz challenges the common notion that the distinction between heterosexuality and homosexuality has been a timeless one.  Building on the history of medical terminology, he reveals that as late as 1923, the term “heterosexuality” referred to a "morbid sexual passion," and that its current usage emerged to legitimate men and women having sex for pleasure. Drawing on the works of ...

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Overview

“Heterosexuality,” assumed to denote a universal sexual and cultural norm, has been largely exempt from critical scrutiny. In this boldly original work, Jonathan Ned Katz challenges the common notion that the distinction between heterosexuality and homosexuality has been a timeless one.  Building on the history of medical terminology, he reveals that as late as 1923, the term “heterosexuality” referred to a "morbid sexual passion," and that its current usage emerged to legitimate men and women having sex for pleasure. Drawing on the works of Sigmund Freud, James Baldwin, Betty Friedan, and Michel Foucault, The Invention of Heterosexuality considers the effects of heterosexuality’s recently forged primacy on both scientific literature and popular culture.

 “Lively and provocative.”—Carol Tavris, New York Times Book Review

 “A valuable primer . . . misses no significant twists in sexual politics.”—Gary Indiana, Village Voice Literary Supplement

 “One of the most important—if not outright subversive—works to emerge from gay and lesbian studies in years.”—Mark Thompson, The Advocate

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Editorial Reviews

New York Review of Books

“Superb and iconoclastic critique of the history of heterosexuality.”—Richard Horton, New York Review of Books

— Richard Horton

New York Review of Books - Richard Horton

 “Superb and iconoclastic critique of the history of heterosexuality.”

Edmund White

"A pioneer in gay history now breaks new ground in uncovering the origins of heterosexuality. Not for the faint-hearted, this book is funny, compassionate, and seemingly all-knowing.
Samuel R. Delaney

"A necessary, important, and brilliant work."
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Katz (Gay American History) argues that heterosexuality is a social construct rather than a natural, unambiguous given. He notes that the terms heterosexual and homosexual were coined in 1868 by German sex-law reformer Karl Maria Kertbeny and did not gain wide currency until the early 20th century. Katz contends that heterosexuality as a universal, presumed, normative ideal was invented by men, such as Kertbeny, Sigmund Freud and German psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing. Prior to the late 19th century, he maintains, the social universe was not polarized into ``hetero'' and ``homo.'' The examples he cites in support of his thesis-ancient Greece, the new England colonies (1607-1740) and the U.S. between 1820 and 1850-do not substantiate Katz's claims. Nevertheless, this often provocative work challenges rigid notions of gender identity, building on the ideas of French historian Michel Foucault and on feminist critiques of heterosexuality by Betty Friedan, Kate Millett, Adrienne Rich and others. (Mar.)
Library Journal
Although we take for granted that heterosexuality is and has always been the sexual norm, historian Katz reexamines the constructions of sexual identity and postulates that heterosexuality has a history that has heretofore never been analyzed and that "such privileging of the norm accedes to its domination." Tracing the first appearance of the terms heterosexual and homosexual in 1868 in Germany, the author of Gay American History LJ 12/15/76 analyzes the changes in usage in dictionaries, medical journals, and a wide variety of other published sources. Carefully building his argument using Richard von Krafft-Ebing's and Sigmund Freud's seminal theories in the creation of heterosexuality, he goes on to challenge such influential figures as Alfred Charles Kinsey, Betty Friedan, and Michel Foucault. This provocatively original research, recalling similar problematizations of race, gender, and other seemingly immutable, ahistorical constructs, is complemented by Gore Vidal's foreword and Lisa Duggan's afterword. For informed readers.-James E. Van Buskirk, San Francisco P.L.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226426013
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/2007
  • Pages: 305
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

 Jonathan Ned Katz is the author of many books, including Gay American History and Love Stories: Sex Between Men Before Homosexuality, the latter published by the University of Chicago Press.

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Table of Contents

Preface
 
1 The Geneology of a Sex Concept
   From Homosexual History to Heterosexual History
2 The Debut of the Heterosexual
   Richard von Krafft-Ebing and the Mind Doctors
3 Before Heterosexuality
   Looking Backward
4 Making the Heterosexual Mystique
   Sigmund Freud's Seminal Conceptions
5 The Heterosexual Comes Out
   From Doctor Discourse to the Mass Media
6 Questioning the Heterosexual Mystique
   Some Liberal Feminist and Radical Feminist Verdicts
7 The Lesbian Menace Strikes Back
   Some Lavender Feminist Critiques
8 Toward a New Pleasure System
   Looking Forward
           
Afterword by Lisa Duggan
Acknowledgements
Notes
Bibliography
Index

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