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Straights: Heterosexuality in Post-Closeted Culture

James Joseph Dean
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Since the Stonewall Riots in 1969, the politics of sexual identity in America have drastically transformed. Its almost old news that recent generations of Americans have grown up in a culture more accepting of out lesbians and gay men, seen the proliferation of LGBTQ media representation, and witnessed the attainment of a range of legal rights for same-sex couples. But the changes wrought by a so-called post-closeted culture have not just affected the queer communityheterosexuals are also in the midst of a sea change in how their sexuality plays out in everyday life. InStraights, James Joseph Dean argues that heterosexuals can neither assume the invisibility of gays and lesbians, nor count on the assumption that their own heterosexuality will go unchallenged. The presumption that we are all heterosexual, or that there is such a thing as compulsory heterosexuality, he claims, has vanished.Based on 60 in-depth interviews with a diverse group of straight men and women,Straightsexplores how straight Americans make sense of their sexual and gendered selves in this new landscape, particularly with an understanding of how race does and does not play a role in these conceptions. Dean provides a historical understanding of heterosexuality and how it was first established, then moves on to examine the changing nature of masculinity and femininity and, most importantly, the emergence of a new kind of heterosexualitynotably, for men, the metrosexual, and for women, the emergence of a more fluid sexuality. The book also documents the way heterosexuals interact and form relationships with their LGBTQ family members, friends, acquaintances, and coworkers. Although homophobia persists among straight individuals, Dean shows that being gay-friendly or against homophobic expressions is also increasingly common among straight Americans. A fascinating study,Straightsprovides an in-depth look at the changing nature of sexual expression in America.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-8581-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)

    My white straight younger brother, Gene, graduated from college and started living with a black gay male friend after graduation.¹ His friend was dark-skinned with dreadlocks, and had a jovial but conventionally masculine demeanor that most people, including my mother, took to be indicative of a straight identity. However, one day when I was on the phone with my mother, she expressed her surprise after Gene informed her that his roommate was gay. She had never before questioned his roommate’s sexuality and assumed he was straight upon meeting him. I think the discovery that my straight brother was living with...

  5. 1 Thinking Straight: Gender, Race, and (Anti)homophobias
    (pp. 23-46)

    When I started graduate school in 1997, I moved from Southern California to upstate New York. In order to keep up with current events, I subscribed to theNew York Times. That same year, I started to follow theTimes’s coverage of a court case in Vermont, where three same-sex couples filed lawsuits arguing that the state discriminated against them by not offering them the same rights as heterosexual married couples. The case proved disappointing. In 1999, the Vermont State Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to deny the same benefits of marriage to lesbian and gay couples, but...

  6. 2 From “Normal” to Heterosexual: The Historical Making of Heterosexualities
    (pp. 47-86)

    Images of heterosexual identity invoke well-worn associations of a nuclear family, or a married straight couple, or, to use the current lingo, the casual sex “hookups” of college students and other nonmonogamous straight men and women. These images, though, are not natural results emanating from biological male and female differences, nor are they socially random. Rather, they are socially constructed. That they are not natural phenomena is demonstrated not only by their variance across time and place but also by their ever-changing social status, identity conception, and historical arrangement. Further, these variations are largely explained by the shifts and changes...

  7. 3 Straight Men: Renegotiating Hegemonic Masculinity and Its Homophobic Bargain
    (pp. 87-132)

    If being homophobic is still one of the clearest ways for straight men to signal their straight identity status, then one of my central questions was, How does this identity practice change in contexts where lesbians and gay men are out and other straight individuals disapprove of hostile homophobic attitudes? Although homophobia persists, I argue that straight men, like Eric Ward, a white man in his twenties, use boundaries of social distance from gay individuals, symbols, and spaces to more tactfully and subtly project being straight. Eric’s straight identity practices include not wearing light-colored and tight-fitting shirts because of the...

  8. 4 Straight Women: Doing and Undoing Compulsory Heterosexuality
    (pp. 133-180)

    Are straight women less homophobic than straight men? Like other researchers (LaMar and Kite 1998; Loftus 2001), I find that the homophobic stances of the straight women in my sample are less defensive than the straight men’s. Nonetheless, I do find homophobic prejudices among straight women. In particular, their antigay prejudice comes to the surface regarding the issue of same-sex marriage and granting social and legal recognition to lesbian and gay couples. For example, Beth Moore, a twenty-six-year-old white married woman, disagrees with the idea that gays should be entitled to the civil right to marry. As a Christian, Beth...

  9. 5 Queering Heterosexualities? Metrosexuals and Sexually Fluid Straight Women
    (pp. 181-246)

    Matt Becker told me that on his drive over to my office, his girlfriend asked whether he was going to come out to me as a “metrosexual.” I thought to myself, “When did metrosexuality become part of Americans’ discourse around straight masculinities? And what does it mean to the straight men who embrace the term as well as those who don’t?” Similarly, new terms like “heteroflexible” signal that some straight women now define their sexualities to include same-sex experiences. Although my interviews predate the rise of this neologism, why did ten of twenty-nine straight women I interviewed think of their...

  10. 6 Conclusion: Straights, Post-Closeted Culture, and the Continuum of Identity Practices
    (pp. 247-264)

    Since the Stonewall riots of 1969, significant changes have occurred in the lives of gay and lesbian Americans—from their increasing local, state, and federal enfranchisement to their unprecedented normalization in popular culture. But, just as emphatically, patterns of normative heterosexuality have changed significantly over the last four decades. Although straight identities and practices are still normative and enforced in seemingly every institution, from the family and mass media to religion and the government, the increase in the visibility and social incorporation of gays and lesbians, no matter how uneven and unequal, underscores the decline of the centrality of the...

    (pp. 265-268)
  12. NOTES
    (pp. 269-274)
    (pp. 275-296)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 297-304)
    (pp. 305-305)