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Queer heterosexuality describes heterosexual practice that is queer. The concept was first discussed in the mid-1990s, critically within radical feminism, and as a positive identification by Clyde Smith in a paper delivered at a conference in Amsterdam in 1997; most papers cite these two as their entry point into the discussion. In 2003 Village Voice published an article called "The Queer Heterosexual" which has been referred to in papers published since, as it delineates the territory covered by the term.
Examples of queer heterosexuality are when one or both partners express their gender in non-traditional ways: heterosexual butch women or feminine men, male submission and female dominance, and taking up different gender roles.
Feminist criticism and queer theory
Kitzinger and Wilkinson argued that the rehabilitation of heterosexuality through "'queer' heterosexuality" as "a concept derived from postmodernist and queer theory" is seen as flawed from a radical feminist perspective. Acknowledging that 'queer heterosexuality' is rarely explored in detail, they explain that "the notion of the 'queer heterosexual' had become established in queer theory", gaining currency not because people are convinced it is possible or desirable, but "because queer heterosexuality is a necessary component of 'gender-fucking'" in Butlerian terms. 'Queer heterosexuality' becomes named in the project which destabilises all such categories and moves towards a world where categories like heterosexual are rendered redundant.
In a 2004 paper, Annette Schlichter describes the discourse on queer heterosexuality as aiming at "the de- and possible reconstruction of heterosexual subjectivity through the straight authors’ aspiration to identify as queer." In the paper a genealogy of queer heterosexuality is outlined, pointing out that "the queer critique of sexual normativity is both bound to the history of specific identities and committed to the destabilization of sexual identities—including those that have become hegemonic", while "critics concerned about issues of lesbian visibility and difference occasionally raise the specter of the queer heterosexual [...] as an indication of the queer project’s perversion of social and political identities and their relations to power."
Putting to one side the question of whether the idea of homosexual contagion is necessarily homophobic, Guy Davidson uses the article from the Village Voice as an example of how the idea of queer subversion of heterosexuality can have "politically positive implications", specifically in relation to Tristan Taormino's writing on celebration of the LGBT movement's queering of heterosexual sex practices the production of the "queer heterosexual".
In Straight writ queer, the authors acknowledge that the queer heterosexual is only starting to emerge from the closet, seeking in the book to "identify and out the queer heterosexual" in historic and contemporary literature and to identify "inherently queer heterosexual practices" which critique heteronormativity and open up possibilities for the future. The examples in the book include anchorites, the Marquis de Sade and Algernon Charles Swinburne as examples of queer heterosexuals. "Male masochism disavows a masculinity predicated on phallic mastery, and hence becomes a strategic site for queer heterosexual resistance to heteronormativity".
Examination of masculinity
In 2005, Robert Heasley explored queer heterosexuality among a group of men that he identifies as "straight-queer males." According to Heasely, these men are self-identified heterosexuals who do not find social spaces dominated by traditionally masculine personalities comfortable. Heasley believes that a lack of understanding of masculinity can be addressed by creating a terminology to describe non-hegemonic masculine behavior. He lists behavior such as platonic cuddling, hand-holding and emotional openness among the ones displayed by straight-queer males.
Men who have been surveyed about their "mostly straight" behavior gave various reasons for this self-identification: some felt constrained by traditional models of gender and sexual orientation, others found men attractive. Some had a small amount of sexual interest in men but no desire for romantic same-sex relationships or intercourse, while others felt romantic but not sexual interest in other men.
- Clyde Smith, “How I Became a Queer Heterosexual,” in Calvin Thomas, "Straight with a Twist: Queer Theory and the Subject of Heterosexuality", 60–67 (2000)
- Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, "Tendencies", Duke University Press (1993)
- Ann Powers, “Queer in the Streets, Straight in the Sheets: Notes on Passing,” Utne Reader, November–December 1993
- Roberta Mock, "Heteroqueer ladies: some performative transactions between gay men and heterosexual women," Feminist Review 75, pp. 20–37 (2003)
- Elizabeth Grosz, “Experimental Desire: Rethinking Queer Subjectivity,” in Supposing the Subject, ed. Joan Copjec, Verso (1994)
- Kitzinger, Celia; Wilkinson, Sue (1994), "Virgins and Queers: Rehabilitating Heterosexuality?", Gender & Society (Gender & Society) 8 (Vol. 23): 444–462, doi:10.1177/089124394008003009
- Smith, Clyde (29 July - 1 Aug 1997), How I Became a Queer Heterosexual, “Beyond Boundaries,” An International Conference on Sexuality, University of Amsterdam
- Taormino, Tristan (6 May 2003). "The Queer Heterosexual". The Village Voice.
- Kitzinger, Celia; Wilkinson, Sue (1996), "Vigins and Queers: Rehabilitating Heterosexuality?", in Davis, Sara, Towards a New Psychology of Gender, Routledge, pp. 411–412, ISBN 978-0-415-91308-9
- Schlichter, Annette (2004), "QUEER AT LAST?: Straight Intellectuals and the Desire for Transgression", GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies (Duke) 10 (4): 543–564
- Davidson, Guy (2005), " 'CONTAGIOUS RELATIONS': Simulation, Paranoia, and the Postmodern Condition in William Friedkin's Cruising and Felice Picano's The Lure", GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 11 (1): 23–64
- Fantina, Richard; Thomas, Calvin (2006), Straight writ queer: non-normative expressions of heterosexuality in literature, McFarland, ISBN 978-0-7864-2638-6
- Ingraham, Chrys (2005), Thinking Straight: the power, the promise, and the paradox of heterosexuality, Routeledge, pp. 109–130, ISBN 978-0-415-93273-8
- Savin-Williams, Ritch C.; Cohen, Kenneth M. (November 3, 2010). "Mostly Straight, Most of the Time". The Good Men Project Magazine.