Friday Feminist – Adrienne Rich

The assumption that ‘most women are innately heterosexual’ stands as theoretical and political stumbling block for many women. It remains a tenable assumption, partly because lesbian existence has been written out of history or catalogued under disease; partly because to acknowledge that for women heterosexuality may not be a ‘preference’ at all but something that has had to be imposed, managed, organized, propagandized, and maintained by force, is an immense step to take if you consider yourself freely and ‘innately’ heterosexual. Yet the failure to examine heterosexuality as an institution is like failing to admit that the economic system called capitalism or the caste system or racism is maintained by a variety of forces, including both physical violence and false consciousness.

Adrienne Rich, “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence” Signs 5/4, 1980


4 responses to “Friday Feminist – Adrienne Rich

  1. False consciousness is the name Marxists give to behaviour that violates the predictions of Marxist theory. In short, the proles are not doing as they are told.

  2. I’m sorry, but this quote makes no sense to me. “Most women are innately heterosexual” is not an assumption. It is biological fact. If approximately 10% of the population, male and female, are gay, which I believe has been supported by numerous studies, then 90% of the population are either heterosexual or bisexual. Even if a large number of women who self-identify as heterosexual are actually gay or bisexual – say 10% and that is really stretching, that still leaves 80% of women as heterosexual. That is most. I find saying these women are not “innately” heterosexual extremely insulting, just as describing a lesbian’s sexuality as a disease or phase or whatever is extremely insulting.

  3. Yes. But please bear in mind my purposes w.r.t this Friday Feminist series:

    Each week I post a “Friday Feminist” or a “Friday Womanist” quote. In some cases I agree with what the writer says, and in others, I don’t. Sometimes the quote I have chosen reflects something I am thinking about, sometimes it reflects current events, sometimes it commemorates a person’s life and death, sometimes it elucidates the history of feminist thinking, sometimes it is something I find confronting. The main criteria are that the writing is feminist (broadly construed) or womanist, and interesting.

  4. Ah. This quote certainly meets the criteria. Thank you for reminding me.