Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence

Feminist scholarship loses immense explanatory power if it leaves frequently held assumptions about heterosexuality unquestioned: that heterosexuality is the natural “preference,” “choice,” or “inborn sexual orientation” of most women. Heterosexuality is a coercive and restrictive political institution, a major keystone in the unequal relationship between women and men, which turns women’s economic, creative, emotional and sexual resources into means of exchange between men. The cultural scripts of “normal” heterosexuality embody the logic of domination and control, while they also eroticize the subordination of women, therefore they cannot be easily separated from sexual violence and sexual exploitation, e.g. rape and the modern sex industry. In spite of the constraining and punitive forces of compulsory heterosexuality, there have been resisting women in all eras and cultures, who submitted themselves to the impulses drawing them to other women, choosing women as life companions, community or passionate comrades. Some of these women declined to marry, others lived a double life. These intra-women bonds put all women on a lesbian continuum, and provide the most important resources for women and feminism. Lesbian existence is thus an inherently female experience; to include lesbians under male homosexuality is therefore to strip lesbians of political existence and to erase women’s reality.

Released: Replika 123, 75–103.
Replika block:
Dalma Feró