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The Invention of Heterosexuality

The Invention of Heterosexuality
Author: Jonathan Ned Katz
ISBN 13: 9780226426013
ISBN 10: 226426017
Edition: N/A
Publisher: University Of Chicago Press
Publication Date: 2007-06-15
Format: Paperback
Pages: 305
List Price: $20.00

“Heterosexuality,” assumed to denote a universal sexual and cultural norm, has been largely exempt from critical scrutiny. In this boldly original work, Jonathan Ned Katz challenges the common notion that the distinction between heterosexuality and homosexuality has been a timeless one.  Building on the history of medical terminology, he reveals that as late as 1923, the term “heterosexuality” referred to a "morbid sexual passion," and that its current usage emerged to legitimate men and women having sex for pleasure. Drawing on the works of Sigmund Freud, James Baldwin, Betty Friedan, and Michel Foucault, The Invention of Heterosexuality considers the effects of heterosexuality’s recently forged primacy on both scientific literature and popular culture.


 “Lively and provocative.”—Carol Tavris, New York Times Book Review


 “A valuable primer . . . misses no significant twists in sexual politics.”—Gary Indiana, Village Voice Literary Supplement


 “One of the most important—if not outright subversive—works to emerge from gay and lesbian studies in years.”—Mark Thompson, The Advocate


Publishers Weekly

Katz (Gay American History) argues that heterosexuality is a social construct rather than a natural, unambiguous given. He notes that the terms heterosexual and homosexual were coined in 1868 by German sex-law reformer Karl Maria Kertbeny and did not gain wide currency until the early 20th century. Katz contends that heterosexuality as a universal, presumed, normative ideal was invented by men, such as Kertbeny, Sigmund Freud and German psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing. Prior to the late 19th century, he maintains, the social universe was not polarized into ``hetero'' and ``homo.'' The examples he cites in support of his thesis-ancient Greece, the new England colonies (1607-1740) and the U.S. between 1820 and 1850-do not substantiate Katz's claims. Nevertheless, this often provocative work challenges rigid notions of gender identity, building on the ideas of French historian Michel Foucault and on feminist critiques of heterosexuality by Betty Friedan, Kate Millett, Adrienne Rich and others. (Mar.)