Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence

Compulsory Heterosexuality And Lesbian Existence

Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence

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Description:
"Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence" is a 1980 essay by Adrienne Rich, published in her 1986 book Blood, Bread, and Poetry.

Summary

Rich argues that heterosexuality is a violent political institution making way for the "male right of physical, economical, and emotional access" to women. She urges women to direct their energies towards other women rather than men, and portrays lesbianism as an extension of feminism. Rich challenges the notion of women's dependence on men as social and economic supports, as well as for adult sexuality and psychological completion. She calls for what she describes as a greater understanding of lesbian experience, and believes that once such an understanding is obtained, these boundaries will be widened and women will be able to experience the "erotic" in female terms.

In order to gain this physical, economical, and emotional access for women, Rich lays out a framework developed by Kathleen Gough (both a social anthropologist and feminist) that lists “eight characteristics of male power in archaic and contemporary societies”. Along with the framework given, Rich sets to define the term lesbianism by giving two separate definitions for the term. Lesbian existence, she suggests, is “both the fact of the historical presence of lesbians and our continuing creation of the meaning of that existence. The other, lesbian continuum, refers to the overall “range - through each woman’s life and...
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