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Heterosexuality in Post-Closeted Culture

James Joseph Dean

Publication Year: 2014

Since the Stonewall Riots in 1969, the politics of sexual identity in America have drastically transformed. It’s 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 community—heterosexuals are also in the midst of a sea change in how their sexuality plays out in everyday life. In Straights, 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, Straights explores 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 heterosexuality—notably, 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, Straights provides an in-depth look at the changing nature of sexual expression in America.

Published by: NYU Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

...call my friend. I thank my mother, Rita Ramirez, for listening to my ideas and for her intellect and belief in me, my father, John, for his passion, directness, and ability as a coach to be heard across a court to play defense, and my brother, Gene, for our...

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pp. 1-22

...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...

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1. Thinking Straight: Gender, Race, and (Anti)homophobias

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pp. 23-46

...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 the...

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2. From “Normal” to Heterosexual: The Historical Making of Heterosexualities

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pp. 47-86

...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...

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3. Straight Men: Renegotiating Hegemonic Masculinity and Its Homophobic Bargain

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pp. 87-132

...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...

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4. Straight Women: Doing and Undoing Compulsory Heterosexuality

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pp. 133-180

...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...

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5. Queering Heterosexualities? Metrosexuals and Sexually Fluid Straight Women

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pp. 181-246

...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...

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6. Conclusion: Straights, Post-Closeted Culture, and the Continuum of Identity Practices

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pp. 247-264

...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...


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pp. 265-268


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pp. 269-274


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pp. 275-296


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pp. 297-304

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About the Author

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p. 305-305

...James Joseph Dean is Associate Professor of Sociology at Sonoma State University. His research focuses on the sociology of sexualities, particularly the sociology of heterosexualities. Recent publications...

E-ISBN-13: 9780814785812
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814762752
Print-ISBN-10: 0814762751

Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2014