WGS200Y5 Lecture Notes - Lecture 2: Heterosexuality, Orgasm, Heteronormativity

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Published on 8 Mar 2011
School
UTM
Department
Women and Gender Studies
Course
WGS200Y5
Professor
Summary of Compulsory Heterosexuality and
Lesbian Existence
(Adrienne Rich)
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 listseight
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, isboth the fact of the
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historical presence of lesbians and our continuing
creation of the meaning of that existence. The other,
lesbian continuum, refers to the overallrange -
through each womans life and throughout history -
of woman-identified experiences, not simply the fact
that a woman has had or consciously desired genital
sexual experience with another woman . Below are
the characteristics in which male power has
demonstrated the suppression of female sexuality.
1. To deny women their own sexuality: destruction of
sexuality displayed throughout history in sacred
documents.
2. Forcing male sexuality upon women: rape, incest,
torture, a constant message that men are better, and
superior in society to women.
3. Exploiting their labor to control production:
women have no control over choice of children,
abortion, birth control and furthermore, no access to
knowledge of such things.
4. Control over their children: lesbian mothers seen
as unfit for motherhood, malpractice in society and
the courts to further benefit the man.
5. Confinement: women unable to choice their own
wardrobe (feminine dress seen as the only way), full
economic dependence on the man, limited life in
general.
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