Thinking Straight: The Promise, the Power, and the Paradox of Heterosexuality

Thinking Straight: The Promise, the Power, and the Paradox of Heterosexuality

Thinking Straight: The Promise, the Power, and the Paradox of Heterosexuality

Thinking Straight: The Promise, the Power, and the Paradox of Heterosexuality

Synopsis

This collection of original essays will unravel the current heterosexual scene in two parts: one on rights and privileges, the other on popular culture. Topics covered include weddings, proms, citizenship, marriage penalties, cartoons, mermaids and myth.

Excerpt

While she may have been a precocious child, Molly, at the ripe old age of 11 had figured it all out. She returned home from school one day and exclaimed to her mother, “I get it now, Mom! It's like a grid! You ask a boy to go with you and if he says yes, you're in. Then you dump him and you become more popular!” Of course, Molly's mom took her daughter very seriously and considering her age asked how she planned to go out with this boy. Molly replied, “Oh mom, you're so old-fashioned. You don't actually go out, it's just a phrase!” What this organic sociologist had discovered by sixth grade was an institution or patterned set of social behaviors and rituals we commonly understand as heterosexuality or in the contemporary vernacular, what it means to “be straight.” By sixth grade, this young woman had developed her own heterosexual awareness-she had not only learned to act straight, she had also learned to think straight.

One of the most significant aspects of this story is that Molly was learning heterosexuality. She was discovering how the heterosexual world is constructed and how it operates. More importantly, she was discovering the path to heterosexual privilege or status. Of course, she was also learning that success in this world would mean leaving bodies in her wake but Molly was no shrinking violet when it came to mastering her social world.

In American society, we frequently refer to heterosexuality as something that is naturally occurring, overlooking the myriad ways we have learned how to practice heterosexuality, have given meaning to it, and allow it to organize the division of labor and distribution of wealth. To access the “natural” world in any objective way would require that we somehow step outside of meaning systems or cultural bias. In fact, we

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