chapter  22
18 Pages

VIRGINS AND QUEERS: REHABILITATING HETEROSEXUALITY?

F r o m the b e g i n n i n g o f f i rs t -wave f e m i n i s m , feminists have p r o d u c e d sear-

i n g cr i t iques o f heterosexuali ty, p o i n t i n g i n par t i cu lar to the abuses associated

w i t h heterosexual sex ( c h i l d sexual abuse, rape i n marr iage , c l i t o r i d e c t o m y ,

w i f e - b e a t i n g , sexual slavery), a n d to the c o m p u l s o r y nature o f heterosexual i ty

i n a society that systematical ly inculcates a n d rewards heterosexual i ty w h i l e

p u n i s h i n g a n d r e n d e r i n g lesb ianism invis ib le . S u c h cr i t iques , a d v a n c e d f r o m a

range o f dif ferent feminis t perspectives ( i n c l u d i n g l ibera l a n d socialist f e m i -

nisms) have o f t e n left o p e n the poss ib i l i ty o f a (potential ly) nonabus ive a n d

n o n c o m p u l s o r y heterosexuali ty, freely c h o s e n by w o m e n i n egal i tar ian a n d

personal ly r e w a r d i n g relat ionships w i t h m e n . T h e radical feminis t c r i t i q u e o f

heterosexuali ty, b y contrast, c r i t iques even p u r p o r t e d l y n o n c o m p u l s o r y a n d

nonabus ive heterosexual i ty as reinscribing sex differences, and hence, inevitably,

women's subordination and men's power. T h i s latter c r i t i q u e w o u l d seem to r e n -

der heterosexual i ty p o l i t i c a l anathema for feminists .