In this week’s reading of Adrienne Rich’s essay Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence (1980) brings light to the issues, such as freedom of sexuality, that directly affect women due to the pressure and extreme force of a male dominated society. However, what I latched onto in the essay was Rich’s notion that compulsory heterosexuality is a “lie”. What is compulsory heterosexuality? Why is it considered a lie? And how are women affected by this lie?
Compulsory heterosexuality is a fixed and required sexual attraction to the opposite sex. The institution of compulsory heterosexuality denies the “reality and visibility to women’s passion for women, women’s choice of women as allies, life companions, and community, the forcing of such relationships into dissimulation and their disintegration” that is “under intense pressure”. (296) Woman is not free to explore and examine her sexuality in a society that strategically places her in a box (objectified) that is set-aside for a man. The lie, or lies is man’s way of controlling the female’s mind, and as a result, her body too.
According to Rich, the lie of compulsory female heterosexuality “keeps numberless women psychologically trapped, trying to fit mind, spirit, and sexuality into a prescribed script”. This script that Rich refers to is the social script, that tells women what to say and what to do. It is the script that guides our mothers, grandmothers and aunts, as well fathers, grandfathers, uncles and brothers. The men have a role to play and so do women.
Rich concludes the essay asserting a message to her audience that we must “address the institution itself… It will require a courageous grasp of the politics and economics, as well as the cultural propaganda, of heterosexuality to carry us beyond individual cases or diversified group situations into the complex kind of overview needed to undo the power of men everywhere…” (297) Woman has been given a role in society. She is referred to as a nurturer that is innately motherly. She is too the object of a man’s attraction. In order to exist in a man’s world, she must abide by the rules, which is to stay in her place Yet, what man says does not have to be so. If man will not give us options then we should create them, whether sexually or creatively. The type of discourse that seeks to control and manipulate the freedoms of women needs to be examined and challenged.