Kathryn Harrison: “female heterosexuality”, May 30, 2010

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The first (!) (and the only!) use of the phrase “female heterosexuality” in The New York Times, occurred in a review by Kathryn Harrison of Emma Donoghue’s Inseparable: Desire Between Women in Literature, published in The Times Book Review on May 28, 2010.

Harrison first explains that,

as the work of a lesbian academic, “Inseparable” must establish its relationship to Adrienne Rich’s seminal — sorry, it is a phallo centric popular culture — 1980 essay “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence,” which proposed a “lesbian continuum” that includes all relationships between women, regardless of their sexual orientation.

Harrison concludes that Donoghues’

choice not to draw distinctions among friendship, non-incestuous familial attachment and sexual attraction places “Inseparable” in the company of critical works that adopt [Adrienne] Rich’s paradigm, which regards female heterosexuality not as a fact but as an “enormous assumption.”[1]


  1. Kathryn Harrison, “From Sappho to ‘Fried Green Tomatoes’”, New York Times Book Review, May 30, 2010, page BR11.

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