2 Stars Reviews

Book Review: Straight: The Surprisingly Short History of Heterosexuality by Hanne Blank

Hanne Blank looks at the invention of heterosexuality and what is has meant for society throughout history. Though existing for thousands of years, it wasn’t until the 1860s that heterosexuality first ‘made a name for itself’. Blank examines how the creation of this label has shaped politics, culture, and media, as well as our personal lives.

We don’t just want what we want because we want it; we want what
we want because that’s what we’ve learned to want.

I’ve had this on my TBR for some time now after I took a Postmodern Genders class at university and my lecturer recommended it. The idea that sexuality didn’t have all these different labels until the late 1800s really interested me, but unfortunately the book didn’t hold my attention as well as I’d hoped.

It’s well written and covers a lot of ground, but I personally didn’t learn all that much, which is always my goal when reading non-fiction. Straight covered a lot of topics, but most I’m already fairly aware of; essentialism, sex ≠ gender, the socialisation of gender, how media perpetuates gender stereotypes, heteronormativity, etc. These are all things I covered pretty in depth at university. There were also some interesting points about marriage, and how historical contexts have shaped our views on marriage, but I wasn’t fascinated. I’m not sure what I expected from this book, but I did expect to learn more than I did.

I will say that the writing is accessible, so if you’re completely new to gender studies it’s a great starting point. I did find myself skimming some parts of the earlier chapters because it was stuff I was already very familiar with, but still, I wouldn’t hesitate to read more of Blank’s work, as she makes these topics very approachable. I have another of her books on my TBR: Virgin, about the history of the concept of virginity, which I hope will be just as readable but a little more enlightening than Straight.

Rating: 2 / 5 stars

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