Have you ever thought of your sexuality as a choice? I’m generalizing here, but if you are a self-identified “straight” person, my guess is that you have never thought of your sexuality as a matter of choice. You probably couldn’t look back into your past and identify the moment where you proclaimed, “Yes, I’m going to be a self-identified biologically ordered woman who likes self-identified biologically ordered men” or vice versa. But then again, have you investigated whether or not heterosexuality has been forced into your society so that you have normalize this form of sexuality?
In her work Compulsory Heterosexuality and the Lesbian Existence theorist Adrienne Rich suggests that we take a closer look into what we perceive to be normal in our society. “I am suggesting that heterosexuality needs to be recognized and studied as a political institution” (Rich, 637).
Within this political institution, Rich notes violence towards women and how it is used as a form of control in a compulsory heterosexual world. Could we then go even further with this argument to suggest that violence towards women enforces heterosexuality? “I do not wish to psychologize here, but rather to identify sources of male power” (Rich, 638).
Within a compulsory heterosexual world, individuals are extremely limited with choice. Women are surrounded by heterosexual relationships: Cinderella and Prince Charming to Zack Morris and Kelly Kapowski. And often the socially explicit forms of lesbianism we see are those that are oriented with the satisfaction of men.
This lifestyle, the heterosexual lifestyle, is normative and any lifestyle that exists outside of this must, therefore, be explained and justified. But does a society that is rooted in compulsory heterosexuality give leeway to acts of patriarchal terrorism and general acts of violence against women?
In her work The Sexual Politics of Murder author Jane Caputi suggests that acts of violence against women are, in fact, “sexually political murders, a form of murder rooted in a system of male supremacy in the same way that lynching is based in white supremacy. Such murder is, in short, a form of patriarchal terrorism” (Caputi, 438).
A compulsory influence on any sex to perform and embody gender differences and enlist in a form of sexuality, leaves little room for one to reflect on choice. Individuals who exist within these confines are limited and, therefore, exposed to the re-enforcement of heterosexuality.
But what about choice? If we lived in a world where individuals took a political stance with their sexuality and stated that whichever sexual orientation they chose to choose was a choice, then what would that mean for our society? We would have to be a society grounded in choice as opposed to a society grounded in providence, “natural” order and procreation, and religious conflicts. Furthermore, what would that mean for the individuals who took a political stance with their sexuality? These individuals would assume an extreme risk owning their “difference” as a choice. Whenever something is perceived to be “normal” we must investigate. For what lies behind a given might not always be natural.