Different Heterosexualities: Different Histories
Throughout this book we have explored the pervasiveness of heterosexuality as one of everyday life’s taken-for-granted underpinning principles. This has involved examining what might account for its stability, for example, the family and its location as the legitimate site for the expression of sexuality, its centrality to the reproduction of hegemonic heterosexuality and the silences and omissions which characterise everyday — often mundane — lived experiences. We now shift our focus towards the mutability of heterosexuality and those social, structural and historical factors which have been argued to contribute to perceived changes in how heterosexuality has been negotiated, rejected, reproduced and lived out, particularly in the post-Second World War period. Indeed, if we concern ourselves with the ‘making’ of heterosexual relationships, as was the focus of our empirical study, what emerges from our data is an image of heterosexualities as neither imposed by one generation upon the next, nor as a form of top-down patriarchal control. Further, what we argue is that the institution of heterosexuality be seen as a residual discourse, a set of ideas and practices, which emerge by virtue of the silencing or exclusion of aspects of everyday experience which are either ambiguous or ill-fitting in terms of women’s and men’s implicit conceptions of themselves and their relationships as ‘heterosexual’, a naturalised social, rather than sexual identity.
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