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 Arguing that heterosexuality was invented, Katz (Gay America, not reviewed) traces the concept to its tenuous roots. Previous works have also sought to break down the dichotomy of homosexual (deviant) and heterosexual (normal), but Katz's innovative approach is notable in that he demonstrates that such a dichotomy is impossible to establish. He provides several examples of specific societies, such as ancient Greece, in which the distinction between heterosexual and homosexual didn't exist in the form it does now. The invention of the modern notion of heterosexuality, he documents, occurred around the turn of the 20th century and originally referred to sex for pleasure--then considered deviant--rather than procreative intercourse. Discussing the term's evolution, Katz focuses narrowly on a few influential contributors to sex history, including Sigmund Freud, whom he holds largely responsible for introducing heterosexuality as a norm rather than a deviation. Freud devoted most of his attention to the ``abnormal,'' creating a hidden assumption of a heterosexual standard with his repeated references to the ``normal'' love between women and men. Michel Foucault, another theorist of sexuality, focused on homosexuality, virtually ignoring male-female sex, his silence based on the assumption of a heterosexual norm. According to Katz, such liberal and radical feminists as Betty Friedan and Kate Millett have played a key role in debunking the presumption of heterosexuality--perhaps unintentionally--primarily through their challenging of the social organization of human reproduction: By questioning the validity of that organization- -women staying home with their children, for instance--they also cast doubt on the heterosexuality that underlies it. Unfortunately, he contends, many sex historians fail to challenge the presumption of heterosexuality, therefore accepting and upholding it as the norm. A courageous challenge to reconsider heterosexuality's privileged position in modern society.

Pub Date: March 13th, 1995
ISBN: 0-525-93845-1
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Dutton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1995