“Heterosexual Histories” co-edited by Rebecca Davis

Heterosexuality is usually regarded as something inherently “natural”—but what is heterosexuality, and how has it taken shape across the centuries? By challenging ahistorical approaches to the heterosexual subject, Heterosexual Histories constructs a new framework for the history of heterosexuality, examining unexplored assumptions and insisting that not only sex but race, class, gender, age, and geography matter to its past. Each of the fourteen essays in this volume examines the history of heterosexuality from a different angle, seeking to study this topic in a way that recognizes plurality, divergence, and inequity.

Editors Rebecca L. Davis and Michele Mitchell have formed a collection that spans four centuries, addressing the many different racial groups, geographies, and subcultures of heterosexuality in North America. The essays range across disciplines with experts from various fields examining heterosexuality from unique perspectives: a historian shows how defining heterosexuality, sex, and desire were integral to the formation of British America and the process of colonization; a legal scholar examines the connections between race, sexual citizenship, and nonmarital motherhood; a gender studies expert analyzes the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, and explores the intersections of heterosexuality with shame and second-wave feminism. Together, these essays explain how differently earlier Americans understood the varieties of gender and different-sex sexuality, how heterosexuality emerged as a dominant way of describing gender, and how openly many people acknowledged and addressed heterosexuality’s fragility.

By contesting presumptions of heterosexuality’s stability or consistency, Heterosexual Histories opens the historical record to interrogations of the raced, classed, and gendered varieties of heterosexuality and considers the implications of heterosexuality’s multiplicities and changes. Providing both a sweeping historical survey and concentrated case studies, Heterosexual Histories is a crucial addition to the field of sexuality studies.

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