Like the typewriter and the light bulb, the heterosexual was invented in the 1860s and swiftly and permanently transformed Western culture. The idea of "the heterosexual"? was unprecedented. After all, men and women had been having sex, marrying, building families, and sometimes even falling in love for millennia without having any special name for their emotions or acts. Yet, within half a century, "heterosexual" had become a byword for "normal,"? enshrined in law, medicine, psychiatry, and the media as a new gold standard for human experience.
In this surprising chronicle, historian Hanne Blank digs deep into the past of sexual orientation, while simultaneously exploring its contemporary psyche. Illuminating the hidden patterns in centuries of events and trends, Blank shows how culture creates and manipulates the ways we think about and experience desire, love, and relationships between men and women. Ranging from Henry VIII to testicle transplants, from Disneyland to sodomy laws, and from Moby Dick to artificial insemination, the history of heterosexuality turns out to be anything but straight or narrow.
With an eclectic scope and fascinating detail, Straight tells the eye-opening story of a complex and often contradictory man-made creation that is all too often assumed to be an irreducible fact of biology.
Click here to read an interview with Hanne Blank featured on LA Weekly's sex blog.
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Review Publishers Weekly - September 1, 2011
“From its thorough but brisk explorations of sexual orientation’s intersections with sex, gender, and romance, this illuminating study examines our presuppositions and makes a powerful, provocative argument that heterosexuality—mazy, unscientific, and new—may be merely 'a particular configuration of sex and power in a particular historical moment.'"
Review Kirkus - November 1, 2011
“The author uses wisdom and wit to substantiate her contention that love and passion are not definable by biology.”
Review Haaretz - January 1, 2012
“Blank writes with great erudition and humor, so that, even a skeptical (or anxious) reader will be hard-pressed not to find it enjoyable and thought provoking.”
Review BUST - January 1, 2012
“Blank’s tenacious research and insightful arguments make clear how malleable the attitudes of the world we live in really are.”
Review New York Times - January 31, 2012
“[A]musing, readable synthesis…Ms. Blank darts from one intriguing, thought-provoking point to another…Ms. Blank offers the provocative solution that soon we will move on from our present fixation on the binary to a more fluid understanding…a controversial but evidence-based scholarly footnote to the chocolates and pink hearts of the season.”—New York Times
Review EDGE Publications - January 1, 2012
“Using wit and wisdom, Blank substantiates her argument that love and passion are not defined by biology.”
Review New York Journal of Books - February 1, 2012
“Straight …is accessible and engaging, often witty and penetrating in its insights.”
Review Lambda Lit - March 26, 2012
"Blank's work reaches further and deeper into the history of heterosexuality…highly accessible."
Review Library Journal - April 15, 2012
"Blank has produced a challenging, clear, and interesting study of how Western views of what it means to be 'straight' have changed over the past two centuries and continue to change."
Review Lavender Magazine - April 15, 2012
"Wry, witty and thoroughly researched."
Review CHOICE - May 1, 2012
"A lively, accessible synthesis of decades of scholarship on the history and sociology of sexuality."
“With impeccable research and detail, Hanne Blank uncovers the fascinating, often hidden, history of heterosexuality. Straight is a marvelous cultural history that is as entertaining as it is profoundly enlightening and necessary for understanding the world in which we live.”—Michael Bronski, author of A Queer History of the United States
“Hanne Blank has rendered a meticulously researched romp through the history of ‘heterosexuality’—that pesky orthodoxy still looming over Western culture like smog. Her sweeping synthesis takes on everything from Freud to Larry Craig, expertly weaving this untold history with insight and a refreshing dose of irreverence.”—Lisa M. Diamond, author of Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women’s Love and Desire
“What would it mean to dispense with our current categories of sexual identity? Writing with grace and wit, Hanne Blank demonstrates that what sounds like a radical proposition is also historically inevitable. This is a book that really shakes up an assumption or two!”—Laura Kipnis, author of How To Become a Scandal and Against Love
“Challenging our culture’s deeply entrenched, stubborn assumption of heterosexuality, Straight helps us to think newly and critically. Starting from her own experience, Hanne Blank creatively analyses the unexamined idea that heterosexuality is given, unchanging, ahistorical.”—Jonathan Ned Katz, author of The Invention of Heterosexuality and co-director OutHistory.org