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1762 / AORIENNE RICH BIBLIOGRAPHY Rich has published nearly two dozen books of poetry. Her prose is collected in On Lies, Secrets, and Silence: Selected Prose, 1966-1978 (1979), Blood, Bread, and Poetry: Selected Prose, 1979-1985 (1986), and What Is Found There: Notebooks on Poetry and Politics (1993). Her book on motherhood, Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution, was published· in 1976. Adrienne Rich’s Poetry and Prose, edited by Barbara Charlesworth Gelpi andAlbert Gelpi (1993), offers selections from the whole span of Rich’s career, along with critical essays on her work. The best biographical source remains Wendy Martin’s “Adrienne Rich,” in American Writers, supplement I, part 2 (1979). For more recent information, see the entry on Rich in Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series 53 (1997). Reading Adrienne Rich: Reviews and ReVisions 1951-1981, edited by Jane Roberta Cooper (1984), is a collection of critical responses to Rich. A book-length treatment of Rich’s feminist work Is Liz Yorke’s Adrienne Rich: Passion, Politics and the Body (I997). Alice Templeton’s The Dream and the Dialogue: Adrienne Rich’s Feminist Poetics (1994) focuses primarily on the poetry. Two broader studies that consider Rich’s contribution to feminism are noteworthy: Krista Ratcliff’s Anglo-American Feminist Challenges to the Rhetorical Tradition: Virginia Woolf, Mary Daly, Adrienne Rich (1996) and Sabine Sielke’s Fashioning the Female Subject: The Intertextual Networking of Dickinson, Moore, and Rich (1997). Both biographical sources noted above also offer good working bibliographies of Rich’s own writings and of critical responses to the work. . From Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence l Foreword (1983) I want to say a little ·~bout the way “Compulsory ~eterosexuality” was originally conceived and the context in which we are now living. It was written in part to c~allenge the erasure of lesbian existepce from so m~ch of scholarly feminist literatur~, an erasure which I felt (~nd feel) to be not just antilesbian, but anti-feminist in its consequences, and to distort the experience of heterosexual women as well. It was not writt~n to widen divisions but to encourage heterosexual feminists to examine he~erosexuality as a political institution which Hisempowers women-and to cltange it. I also hoped that other lesbians would feel the depth and breadth of woman identification and woman bonding tha~ has run like a continuous though stifled theme through the heterosexual experience, and that this would become increasingly a politically activating impulse, not simply a validation of personal lives. I wanted the essay to suggest new kinds of criticism, to incite new questions in clasl!rooms and academic journals, and to sketch, at least, some bridge over the gap between lesbian and feminist. I wanted, at the very least, for feminists to find it less possible to read, write, or teach from a perspec~ive of unexamined heterocentricity. . Within the three years since I wrote “Compulsory HeterosexuaJity”-with this energy of hope and desire-the pressures to conform in a society increasingly conservative in mood have become more intense. The New Right’!pl I. This essay was first published In Signs: Journ .. 1 of Women in Cult”,e ….d Society (I 980). The shorter version printed here originally appe,ared in Adrien …. Rich’s Poetry and Prose, edited by Barbars Charlesworth Gelpi snd A1bert Gelpl (1993); the asterisks mark their deletions. 2. Social or cultural conservatives who stres. “0called moral and Ufamily” values, and who are often COMPULSORY HETEROSEXUALITY AND LESBIAN EXISTENCE I 1763 messages to women have been. precisely, that we are the emotional and sexual property of men, and that the autonomy and equality of women threaten family, religion, and state. The institutions by which women have traditionally been controlled-patriarchal motherhood, economic exploitation, the nuclear family, compulsory heterosexuality~are being strengthened by legislation, religious fiat, media imagery, and efforts at censorship. In a worsening economy, the single mother trying to support her children confronts the feminization of poverty which Joyce Miller of the National Coalition of Labor Union \”‘omen has named one of the major issues of the 1980s. The lesbian, unless in disguise, faces discrimination in hiring and harassment and violence in the street. Even within feminist-inspired institutions such as battered-women’s shelters and Women’s Studies programs, open lesbians are fired and others warned to stay in the closet. The retreat into sameness-assimilation for those who can manage it-is the most passi\”(~ and debilitating of responses to political repression, economic insecurity, and a renewed open season on difference. I want to note that documentation of male violence against womenwithin the home especially-has been accumulating rapidly in this period. At the same time, in the realm of literature which depicts woman bonding and woman identification as essential for female survival, a steady stream of writing and criticism has been coming from women of color in general and lesbians of color in particular-the latter group being even more profoundly erased in academic feminist scholarship by the double bias of racism and homophobia. 3 There has recently been an intensified debate on female sexuality among feminists and lesbians, with lines often furiously and bitterly drawn, with sadomasochism and pornography as key words which are variously defined according to who is talking. 4 The depth Qf women’s rage and fear regarding sexuality and its relation to power and pain is real, even when the dialogue sounds simplistic, self-righteous, or like parallel monologues. Because of all these developments, there are parts of this essay that I would word differently, qualify, or expand if I were writing it today. But I continue’ sdf-id”ntified Christians. They played a huge role in the U.S. election of President Ronald Reagon in 19R(). .~. S””. for example, PAULA GUNN “LLEN, TI,e Sm.Ted I-Ioop: Rec01Jeri”s tl,e Fen7;”ille in;· (;,111 J”,linn Traaitions (Boston: Beacon, 1986); Ht,th Brant, ed., A Gat1rering oISpirit: \V,’iriJlg IJud ;\'”‘ b.l’ Nor,l •.4.merican 1.ldin”, Wo”.,.”,,, (!\·1011tpclier, VL, Sinister Wisdom Book., 1984), (;LOIUA t\ “‘-iZ \LDLiA and Cherrfe Moraga, etls., ‘n,i!O Bddge Cal/ed l\1y Back: Writings by Rac/kal Hhnr”lf of Colo,- (\,y.:ltertown, Mass.: Persephone, 1981 j dis· ,ributcd by Kitchen Table IWomen of Color Press, Alban)” !,;.Y.); J. R. Roberts, Black l_eshia …: An Allllo,,,,.d Bibliography (Tallahassee, 1’1 •. , Naiad, 19~ I·” 1l.’RIlARA SMITH, ed., Home Girls: A Blacl. Fe”,i,,;”t !\tlt.hokJgy (Albany. N.Y.: Kiteh .. n Table I \\lomen ofColar Press, 1984). As Lorraine Bethel and Barbara Smith pointed out in Conditions 5: TI,e Blnck ~Vomen’s Issue (I980), .. great deal of fiction by Black women depicts primary relation· ship!’. hetween women. [ would like to cite hel’e the wurk of Ama Ata Aidoo, Toni Cade Balnbara, Buclli Elnecheta, Bessie Head, ZOHA N(~ALE IIUR· ‘To”. !\lice Walker. Donna Allegra, Hed Jordan l\ruhaleclu, Auc1re Lorde, Ann Alien Shockley, among others, who write directly 3!O Blcu.:k k·!Obians. For fiction by other lesbians of color, see Elly Bulkin, ed., Lesl>i”n Fiction: An AntholollY (Watertown, Mass.: Persephone, 1981). ~ . See also, for accounts of contemporary Jewishlesbian .,xistent’e. Evdyn Torton Beck, ed., Nice Jewisl, Girls: A Lesbi”” Anthology (Watertown, Mass.: Persephnne, 1982; distributed by Crossing Press, Trumansburg, N.Y.); Alice Bloch, Lifetime Gr4.arnlltee (\\’:-otertown, Mass.: Pcrscphone, 1982); and Melanle Kaye-Kantrowitz and Il’ena K1epfisz, eds., n,e Tribe of Dina: AJewish Wom,,”‘s Ant/lology (Montpelier, Vt.: Sinister Wisdom Books, 1986). The earliest formulation that I know of heterosexuality as an institution was in the lesbian· feminist paper The Furies, founded In 1971. For·a collection of articles from that paper, see Nancy Myron and Charlotte Bunch, .,ds., Lesbianism ‘!lid tIle Women’s Movement (Oakland, Callf.: Diana Press, 1975; di.tributed by Crossing Press, Trumansburg, N.Y.) [Rich’s note). 4. The so-called sex wars within feminism-with the status of sadomasochism a key Issue as femi· nists argued about pornography-flared in the wake of an academic conference, C1Towarc1 a Puli tics of Sexuality.” held at Barnard College in April 1982. a 1764 / AORIENNE RICH to think that heterosexual feminists will draw political strength for change from taking a critical stance toward the ideology which demands heterosexuality, and that lesbians cannot assume that we are untouched by that ideology and the institutions founded upon it. There is nothing about such a critique that requires us to think of ourselves as victims, as having been brainwashed or totally powerless. Coercion and compulsion are among the conditions in which women have learned to recognize our strength. Resistance is a rnajor theme in this essay and in the study of women’s lives, if we know what we are looking for. I Biologically men have only one innate orientation-,-a sexual one that draws them to women,-while women have two innate orientations, sexual toward men and reproductive toward their young. 5 I was a woman terribly vulnerable, critical, using femaleness as a sort of standard or yardstick to measure and discard men. Yes-something like that. I was an Anna who invited defeat from men without ever being conscious of it. (But I am conscious of it. And being conscious of it means I shall leave it all behind me and become-but what?) I was stuck fast in an emotion common to women of our time” that can turn them bitter, or Lesbian, or solitary. Yes, that Anna during that time was … [Another blank line across the page:]6 The bias of compulsory heterosexuality, through which iesbi;;tn.expeiience’ is perceived on a scale ranging from deviant to abhorrent or simply rendered invisible, could be illustrated from many texts other than the two just preceding.’ The assumption made by Rossi, that women are “innately” sexllally oriented only toward men, and that made by Lessing, that the lesbian is simply acting out of her bitterness toward men, are by no means theirs alone; these assumptions are widely current in literature and in the’sociafsciences. I am concerned here with two other matters as well: first, how ~md why women’s choice of women as passionate comrades, life partners, co~workers, lovers, community has been crushed, invalidated, forced into hiding and disguise; and second, the virtual or total neglect of lesbian existence in a wide range of writings, including feminist scholarship. Obviously there is a connection here. I believe that much feminist theory and criticism is stranded on this shoal. My organizing impulse is the belief that it is nqt enough for feminist thought that specifically lesbian texts exist. Any theory or cultural/political creation that treats lesbian existence as a marginal or less “natural” phenomenon, as mere “sexual preference,” or as the mirror image of either heterosexual or male homosexual relations is profoundly weakened thereby, whatever its other contributions. Feminist theory can no longer afford merely to voice a toleration of “lesbianism” as an “alternative life style” or make 5. Alice Rossi, “Children and Work in the Lives of Women,” paper delivered at the University of Arizona, Tucson, February 1976 [Rich’s note]. 6. Doris Le.sing, The Golden Notebook (1962; reprint, New York: Bantam, 1977), p. 480 [Rich’s note]. COMPULSORY HETEROSEXUALITY AND LESBIAN EXISTENCE I 1765 token allusion to lesbians. A feminist critique of compulsory heterosexual orientation for women is long overdue. In this exploratory paper, I shall try to show why. ‘” ‘” ‘” II If women are the earliest sources of emotional caring and physical nurture for both female and male children, it would seem logical” from a feminist perspective at least, to pose the following questions:’whether the search for love and tenderness in both sexes does’ riot originally lead toward women; why in fact women would ever redirect that search; why species survival, the means of impregnation, and emotional/erotic relationships should ever have become so rigidly identified with each other; and why such violent strictures should be found necessary to enforce women’s total emotional, erotic loyalty and subservience to men. I doubt that enough feminist scholars and theorists have taken the pains to acknowledge the societal forces which wrench women’s emotional and erotic energies away from themselves and other women and from woman-identified values. Th~se forces, as I shall try to show, range from literal physical enslavement to the disguising and distorting of possible options. I do not assume that mothering by women is a “sufficient cause” oflesbian existence. But the issue of mothering by Women has been much in the air of late, usually accompanied ‘by the View that’ increased parenting by men would minimize antagonism between the sexes and equalize the sexual imbalance of power of males over females. These discussions are carried on without reference to compulsory heterosexuality as a phenomenon, let alone as an ideology. I do not wish to psychologize here, but rather to identify sources of male power. I believe large numbers of men could, in fact, undertake child care DJ; a large scale without radically altering’ the ‘balance of male power in a male-identified society. In her essay “The Origin of the Family,” Kathleen Gough lists eight characteristics of rt’Uile power in archaic and contemporary societies which I would like ‘to use’ as a framework: “men’s ability to deny women sexuality or to force it upon them; to command or exploit their labor to control their produce; to (:ontrol or rob them of their children; to confine them phys~ally and prevent their movements; to use them as objects in male transactions; to cramp their creativeness; or to withhold from them large areas of the society’s knowledge and cultural attainments.”? (Gough does not perceive these power characteristics as specifically enforcing heterosexuality, only as producing sexu~l inequality.) Below, Gough’s words appear in italics; the elaboration of each of her categories, in brackets, is my own. Characteristics of male power include the pawer of men 1. to deny women [their own] sexuality-[by means of clitoridectomy and infibulation;” chastity belts; punishment, including death, for 7.

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