Straight: The Surprisingly Short History of Heterosexuality

Posted by Kelly on July 2, 2012

Cover of Straight: The Surprisingly Short History of HeterosexualityBlank, Hanne. Straight: The Surprisingly Short History of Heterosexuality. Beacon Press, 2012. Hardcover. 228p. $26.95. 978-0-8070-4443-8.

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 dating lend themselves to how the book establishes doxa, or a commonly held belief. This doxa created the idea that a man and woman are acceptable in marriage because their union may bring forth children. The author retorts that not every heterosexual couple can have or even want children. So this aspect cannot define what heterosexuality is or is not.

Blank explains that marriage did not always begin with love but with a partnership more likened to politics or a business. The current idea of marriage defined as the union of one man and one woman shows progress in the form of
breaking down antiquated systems to a more rational and humanistic approach. Speaking from experience, the author mentions in the forward that her husband is not genetically male, as he was born with an extra X chromosome (Klinefelter’s syndrome). Since homosexuality has no biological basis that has been proven, she notes, heterosexuality is a term that bloomed out of science’s attempt to categorize human sexuality.

The book demonstrates that the binary world of homosexuality and heterosexuality is left over from a period where psychological theories attempted to explain human nature in simplified terms. Freud’s influence on what he considered normal behavior still has repercussions today. Having two distinct orientations made it easier for the scientific community and influenced popular culture. Blank uses Disney movies as examples of depictions of a heteronormative world that has influenced every aspect of our world. This in turn has trapped us in a binary world that must be reversed if we are to fully understand the complex nature of human sexuality.

This is an excellent and well-researched book that plainly makes a case for accepting the diverse nature of sexuality in every culture. Suitable for academic and public libraries, the appropriate audience for Straight would be high school age and up.

Reviewer: Johnnie N. Gray
Director of Media Services
Christopher Newport University

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Categories: Adult,Nonfiction

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