The University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Department of English

Adrienne Rich, "Compulsory Heterosexuality
and Lesbian Existence," 1980

In what political climate was this essay written, and what attiudes does Rich wish to challenge? (1762) What forms of literatue does she believe have been repressed? (1763)

What human ties does she believe are central to heterosexual women's experience? (1762) What social construct does she believe women need to resist?

What dose she see as the underlying motive for the denigration of women's attachments to each other? (1765)

What does she think of the notion that were men to have an equal part in the raising of children a greater equality of gender roles would result? (1765)

Rich lists eight categories of experience in which men dominate women or limit their independence. What are these categories? (1765-76)

Does Rich omit any forms of oppression from her list? Do her examples seem persuasive? Which of these seem prevalent in contemporary U. S. society?

What does she believe are the harmful messages promulgated by prnography? (1768) What does she claim are added psychological pressures on women in the workplace? (1768-69)

Which aspect of rape does she believe is ignored by those who claim that it is not a crime of sex but of violence? (1769)

What view of women and of male sexuality do these social behaviors promote? (1769-70)

On what grounds does she disagree with those who believe that women's inequality results from a primal fear of women? (1770) What, on the contrary, does she believe men may really fear? (being ignored, loss of automatic access to women, 1773)

What does she see as some of the effect on women of a socially encouraged male identification? (1772)

What effects on women and feminism are created by the repression of knowldge about the possibilities of lesbianism or other non-heterosexual ways of life?

What is meant by ther term, "lesbian continuum"? (1174) What are some advantages of the use of this term?

What does she criticize about the use of the term "homosexual" to refer to both gay men and lesbians? (1775)

What does she believe is a defining characteristic of female/lesbian erotic experience? (1775)

What are some aspects of women's history which can be reclaimed in the light of notions of women's attachments to each other? (1776)

What have been some little-recognized forms of rebellion against the constraints of "compulsory heterosxuality"? (1777-78)

What does she believe are the liberating effects of woman identification? What forms of distortion will it remove? (1778-79) What does she see as distorted in Colette's portrayal of embracing women?

Which group in particular does she believe has benefitted from female bonding? (1779)

Why is lesbianism itself not enough, in her view? What does she mean by "lesbian feminism"? (1780)

What final imperative will be necessary to redeem both heterosexual and other relationships? (choice, 1780) Wha does she see as the relationship bewteen "the poer men everywhere wield over women" and toher forms of poppresission? (1780) Would this be a view held by many feminists?

For what change does she appeal at the conclusion of her essay?

What resemblances and contrasts may be found betwwen Adrienne Rich's ideas in this essay and those of Helene Cixious, Annette Kolodyny, Barabara Smith, Nancy Chodorov and other feminists?

Do Richa's ideas seem less controversial now than when this essay was published?

Would it be consistent with her viewpoint to argue that men are also under some circumstances oppressed by the consequences of "compulsory heterosexuality"?

Page numbers are from the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism.


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