Straight: The Surprisingly Short History of Hetrosexuality

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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 ...
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Straight: The Surprisingly Short History of Hetrosexuality

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Overview

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.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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.” (Jan.)
Kirkus Reviews
Independent scholar Blank, a social historian who has written extensively on sexual subjects (Virgin: The Untouched History, 2007; Big Big Love: A Sourcebook on Sex for People of Size and Those Who Love Them, 2000), turns her attention to changing attitudes toward mainstream sexual identity. She begins with the startling information that the term heterosexuality was invented as an identifying category in 1869. Until then, the term "sodomy" was used to describe proscribed sexual relationships outside of marriage—the presumption being that the purpose of a proper sexual relationship was procreation. In this chronicle of changing sexual mores, the author challenges the common preconception today that the distinction between homosexuality and heterosexuality is legitimate. Beginning on a personal note, Blank reveals the circumstances of her own long-term partnership with a person whose genetic structure is anomalous—his sex chromosome is XXY rather than XX or XY—something he only found out belatedly since to all appearance he was a typical male, albeit with an absence of facial hair. The author explores the various ways that our beliefs about biological sex and gender have varied historically and why, in her opinion, they are still confused. Patterns of appropriate behavior have changed radically from the 19th century, when lawyers typically shared a bed when they rode the circuit without any implication of impropriety. While women since then have increasingly gained equality politically and in the workplace, only very recently has that autonomy extended to the bedroom. Blank uses the case of erectile dysfunction to illustrate a hidden meaning of heterosexuality today: In "the model of pleasure that Viagra is marketed to serve…Viagra-fueled erections are intended for vaginal penetration…the only fully legitimate source of sexual pleasure for most of Western history." Moreover, homosexual "men who take the insertive role of sex with other men are likely to be perceived as more masculine and sexually respectable" than their passive counterpart. The author uses wisdom and wit to substantiate her contention that love and passion are not definable by biology.
From the Publisher
“Fascinating.”—Vanity Fair

“[An] amusing, readable synthesis . . . Blank darts from one intriguing, thought-provoking point to another. . . . [And she] offers the provocative solution that soon we will move on from our present fixation on the binary to a more fluid understanding.”—Abigail Zuger, New York Times

“Using wit and wisdom, Blank substantiates her argument that love and passion are not defined by biology.”—EDGE Publications

“A lively, accessible synthesis of decades of scholarship on the history and sociology of sexuality.”—CHOICE 

Wry, witty and thoroughly researched.”— Lavender Magazine

“Blank has produced a challenging, clear, and interesting study of how Western views of what it means to be ‘straight’ have changed over the past two centuries and continue to change.”—Library Journal

“Blank’s work reaches further and deeper into the history of heterosexuality…highly accessible.”—Lambda Lit

Straight …is accessible and engaging, often witty and penetrating in its insights.”—New York Journal of Books

“Blank’s tenacious research and insightful arguments make clear how malleable the attitudes of the world we live in really are.”—Michelle Kehm, Bust

“Blank writes with great erudition and humor, so that, even a skeptical (or anxious) reader will be hard-pressed not to find it enjoyable and thought provoking."—Haaretz

“Hanne Blank has rendered a meticulously researched romp through the history of ‘heterosexuality’—that pesky orthodoxy still looming over Western culture like smog. Her sweeping synthesis takes on everything from Freud to Larry Craig, expertly weaving this untold history with insight and a refreshing dose of irreverence.”—Lisa M. Diamond, author of Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women’s Love and Desire

“The author uses wisdom and wit to substantiate her contention that love and passion are not definable by biology.”—Kirkus

“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

“With impeccable research and detail, Hanne Blank uncovers the fascinating, often hidden, history of heterosexuality. Straight is a marvelous cultural history that is as entertaining as it is profoundly enlightening and necessary for understanding the world in which we live.”—Michael Bronski, author of A Queer History of the United States

“What would it mean to dispense with our current categories of sexual identity? Writing with grace and wit, Hanne Blank demonstrates that what sounds like a radical proposition is also historically inevitable. This is a book that really shakes up an assumption or two!”—Laura Kipnis, author of How To Become a Scandal and Against Love
 
“Challenging our culture’s deeply entrenched, stubborn assumption of heterosexuality, Straight helps us to think newly and critically. Starting from her own experience, Hanne Blank creatively analyses the unexamined idea that heterosexuality is given, unchanging, ahistorical.”—Jonathan Ned Katz, author of The Invention of Heterosexuality and co-director OutHistory.org

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807044438
  • Publisher: Beacon
  • Publication date: 1/31/2012
  • Pages: 264
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Hanne Blank is a writer, historian, and public speaker whose work has been featured everywhere from Out to Penthouse. 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.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 18 )
Rating Distribution

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(14)

4 Star

(1)

3 Star

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2 Star

(1)

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 17 of 18 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 7, 2012

    Interesting

    The book is well written, so it is read as a novel rather than a gender study. It is well researched and follows evolution of definitions of gender, marriage, sex etc in society. Lovely read

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2013

    Rosalie

    I feel ignored. Or is everyone feeling like no one here is answering?

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2013

    Bella

    "Idk. Hey Rosalie, truth or dare?"

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2013

    Masked Ninja

    Well that was quick.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2013

    Pyro

    *flies in*

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2013

    Abby

    Wow....im ignored. Maybe i should develope some wierd issue.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2013

    Breeze

    Leaves to human

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2013

    Kaitlynn

    *looks around*

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2013

    SHANNY RHYMES WITH FANNY (Shan)

    Today is MY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!!!

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2013

    Kaelin

    I wt a dare. Ything with se<3>xy lap dances or something.. XD

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2013

    Xion

    Thinka

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2013

    Grace

    Ok. Woof.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2013

    Cristian

    Lets go see who is at humans. And um please dont call me googly chicken, babe.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2012

    Beatriss

    Sighs and hugs her knees rocking back and forth

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2012

    D

    No really i didnt have a condm on

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2012

    Shadow

    Oh great a cat whar do u want

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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