Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

The Invention of Heterosexuality

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

The Invention of Heterosexuality

Article excerpt

The Invention of Heterosexuality. Jonathan Ned Katz. New York: Dutton. 1995. 291 pp. Hardcover ISBN 0-525-93845-1. $22.95.

The title of the book suggests Katz's views that heterosexuality is not unquestionably natural and eternal for everyone. The book may seem an absurd attack on a core characteristic of human nature and may initially offend both liberal and conservative readers. However, Katz begins his argument with an examination of the historical and political data regarding the term heterosexuality. He focuses on two major periods: the late 19th century when the term heterosexuality was first created, and the period after the 1960s when the term was targeted for discussion by feminists and gay and lesbian liberationists. Katz documents that early use of the term heterosexual was used to describe someone who engaged in sex for pleasure with a member of the opposite sex. Because in the 1890s the "sexual instinct" was generally identified as a procreative desire of men and women and becuase it was thought that sex was intended solely for procreation, heterosexuality was not equated with normal sex; it was seen as perverse. This categorization and discrimination of individuals in regard to "sex-for-pleasure" and "sex-for-procreation" that was prevalent in the 1890s may seem odd today. Yet today, the categorization and discrimination of individuals in regard to same-sex and oppositesex behavior is pervasive. The reader is left with the obvious question: "In another 100 years when one examines the political discourse of the 1990s, will the classification of heterosexual and homosexual seem odd? …

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