Compulsory heterosexuality is the idea that heterosexuality is assumed and enforced by a Adrienne Rich popularized the term compulsory heterosexuality in her essay titled “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence”. Rich’s. 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.

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Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. It allows ardienne to connect aspects of woman-identification as diverse as the impudent, intimate girl-friendships of eight- or compupsory and the banding together of those women of the twelfth and fifteenth centuries known as Beguines who “shared houses, rented to one another, bequeathed houses to their room-mates.

She isn’t dismissing lesbian identity– I believe she’s including women who choose each other, sexually or not, under the patriarchy as a “continuum”, and “existence” as identity.

Compulsory heterosexuality – Wikipedia

Johns Hopkins University Press. It is one of the founding structures of social life, in our historical context. It is not that I disagree with this opinion, but Rich seems to constantly try to find a bridge between lesbians and feminists, which I don’t think is always necessary. Katie rated it really liked it Feb 25, A Few of My Favorite… on Womanism.

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.

Feb 19, ada rated it liked it. African American History and Compulsory Heterosexuality “, Mattie Udora Richardson discusses the additional complexities faced by Black women in terms of forced compulsory heterosexuality.

What a clincher at the end.

Ultimately, Rich suggests a “lesbian continuum” that encourages female relationships, regardless of sexual desire, and views heterosexuality as an institution imposed on women.

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Conclusively, women feared to raise the issue of female-female relationships and desires for fear of losing social status both amongst women and men.

Despite the contemporary more popular theoretical view that sexuality is […]. Indeed, Rich objects to the term lesbianismwhich she sees as a stigmatized clinical term, instead advocating the terms lesbian existence for the historical and contemporary presence of lesbian creation and lesbian continuum to include the entire range of a woman-identified experience; she feels that new understanding and language must be created to counter the limited and clinical terms that society has historically used to describe those it views as deviant.

Books by Adrienne Rich.

Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence

In Diving into the Wreck and The Dream of a Common Languageshe continued to experiment with form and to deal with the experiences and aspirations of women from a feminist perspective.

Kathleen Debold, in her book Dilemmas of desire: Rich holds that compulsory heterosexuality denies women of their own sexuality and comfortability in exploring their bodies and those of others.

Dec 02, Cait rated it it was amazing. Aug 11, Noor rated it really liked it. Email required Address never made public. Que e rying Religion: 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.

Rich argues that these feminist texts do not examine the issue of compulsory heterosexuality or acknowledge that a woman might not choose heterosexuality if she were socialized in a more equal society.

Rich goes on to argue that regardless of a woman’s sexual orientation, any woman can choose to be a lesbian.

Consequently, anyone who differs from the normalcy of heterosexuality is deemed deviant or abhorrent. Rich’s theory demonstrated what was normal, expected, required, demanded of all women. Create a free website or blog at WordPress. However, it’s an important read due to its influence on later feminist and lesbian scholarship. Overall, this is a really important piece that helped me understand my identity as a lesbian woman in ways I never thought about previously, and inspired me to seek out more lesbian-feminist literature.


Rich claims male dominance and its presence in social institutions are major factors in enforcing female heterosexuality. Silenced sexualities in schools and universities.

It is not a strategy for all women to use so they can better resist patriarchy, and heterosexual and bisexual women should not be encouraged to co-opt lesbian women’s identities to further their own political agendas. Rich demonstrates that the debate over what is good, bad, right or wrong is a detailed and subjective one. Oct 14, Lesliemae rated it it was ok Recommends it for: It was written to challenge the erasure of lesbian existence from a large amount of scholarly feminist literature.

Additionally, Rich criticizes feminist scholarship for its exclusion of lesbian as a genuine, natural option for women. Tin argues that negative connotations were associated with male and female relationships prior to this, and that this was because sexual relations were considered to interfere with spiritual obligations, and it was believed that same-sex relationships would not become sexual.

Adrienne Rich, who popularized the term compulsory heterosexualityargues that heterosexuality is a political institution which needs to be re-examined for women to escape dis-empowerment.

It is not about politics and it is not about platonic and familial female relationships. Rich claims that women may not have a preference toward heterosexuality, but may find it imposed, managed, organized, propagandizedand maintained by society. Along with an explanation of the designated term and its uses I shall illustrate its importance in contemporary criticism, particularly in the fields of gender, feminist and queer studies. The lesbian continuum is the overall “range—through each woman’s life and throughout history—of woman-identified experiences, not simply the fact that a woman has had or consciously desired genital hfterosexuality experience with another woman”.