Why Heterosexuality Didn’t Really Exist Until the 19th Century

[Hanne] Blank mentions her personal story at the beginning of her provocative new history of heterosexuality, “Straight,” as a way of illustrating just how artificial our notions of “straightness” really are. In her book, Blank, a writer and historian who has written extensively about sexuality and culture, looks at the ways in which social trends and the rise of psychiatry conspired to create this new category in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Along the way, she examines the changing definition of marriage, which evolved from a businesslike agreement into a romantic union centered on love, and how social Darwinist ideas shaped the divisions between gay and straight. With her eye-opening book, Blank tactfully deconstructs a facet of modern sexuality most of us take for granted.

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