I found all of this class’ readings different and somewhat captivating in their own senses. However, it was Adrienne Rich’s “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence” that really caught my attention.
I agree with Rich in that the characteristics of male power include the power of men denying women sexuality, forcing male sexuality upon them, commanding/exploiting their labor for control, etc. I strongly feel that all 8 aspects of Rich’s feelings regarding this are valid. I find it difficult though to agree with her “consideration that all women- from the infant suckling at her mother’s breast, to the grown woman experiencing orgasmic sensations while suckling her own child… to two women, like Virginia Woolf’s Chloe and Olivia, who share a laboratory, to the women dying at ninety, touched and handled by women—exist on a lesbian continuum” (page 319).
She feels that everyone, whether or not they identify as lesbian, fall on somewhere along this continuum. In connecting women who choose and/or enjoy being sexually with other women, to “intimate girl friendships of eight or nine year olds”, and women who are clearly happy involved in heterosexual relationships or marriage, I think she is making a huge claim. I know for a fact that some people do fall along this continuum, and they are certainly more than welcome to act as they please. However, I still do not believe that women who believe that men are oppressive and feel powerless should be considered lesbians just because they feel this way. Nor should women who have female friends be considered in the same way as women who feel attracted sexually to other women. I personally have many friends that are female and also feel that women are placed lower in society than men in many regards, and yet I don't consider myself lesbian at all.
Similarly, I know that many lesbians face enormous difficulties in their lives, and I agree that sexuality should not be a defining factor of treatment or opportunities. I understand what Rich says about “women who do not attach their primary intensity to men must be, in functional terms, condemned to an even more devastating outsiderhood than their outsiderhood as women” (page 323) and it is not too surprising to me that lesbians are more hidden of a population than male homosexuals. I think that it is somewhat outrageous of Rich to claim that all women are lesbians. There are people that fall along a continuum of sexuality and that is all fine and no two people should be alike, but I honestly don't think that Rich can generalize and/or truly believe that every woman who has other female friends has some type of sexual feeling towards them. I really just don't think that this can hold true for ALL women.