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A deeply-embedded cultural presumption that humanity and heterosexuality are synonymous. The term was coined in 1993 by the American literary critic Michael Warner (b.1958), who quoted the French feminist Monique Wittig (1935–2003): ‘To live in society is to live in heterosexuality…Heterosexuality is always already given within all mental categories.’ Gayle Rubin (b.1949), an American anthropologist, had already coined the phrase compulsory heterosexuality in 1975 to refer to the taboo on homosexuality as being more basic than that on incest, while the American poet Adrienne Rich (1929–2012) used the same term in 1986 to argue that heterosexuality is a social construct sustained by social sanctions. Heteronormativity permeates social life and social institutions, from the reactions of all-male groups when an attractive woman passes to the checkbox for ‘married or single’. However, the presumption of universal heterosexual desire is an inherently unstable myth.

Subjects: Media Studies.

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