Heterosexuality (with Dr. Hanne Blank Boyd)
Heterosexuality isn’t what you think it is. In this episode, historian Hanne Blank Boyd flips the script on how we view sexual orientation, showing how the concept of “heterosexuality” has only existed for around 150 years. Hanne traces how modern capitalism led “heterosexual” to emerge as a term for normal, moral sexuality, allowing the middle class to prove their respectability. Even now, assuming heterosexuality as the default norm skews scientific research on sexuality. Being straight isn’t as simple as being attracted to the opposite sex — it’s all encompassing and ever changing. Tune in to find out why.
Pick up Hanne’s book “Straight: The Surprisingly Short History of Heterosexuality.”
Citations and further reading:
- LeVay, Simon. (1991). A Difference in Hypothalamic Structure Between Heterosexual and Homosexual Men. Science.
- Nimmons, David. (1994). Sex and the Brain. Discover Magazine.
- Sullivan, B. (2019, September 3). Stop calling it a choice: Biological factors drive homosexuality. The Conversation.
- Dean H. Hamer et al. (1993). A Linkage Between DNA Markers on the X Chromosome and Male Sexual Orientation. Science.
- McLaughlin, Michael. (2018). Is There a Gay Brain? The Problems with Scientific Research of Sexual Orientation. The Great Lakes Journal of Undergraduate History.
- Byne, William. (2008). Why We Cannot Conclude That Sexual Orientation Is Primarily a Biological Phenomenon. Journal of Homosexuality.
- Andrea Ganna et al. (2019). Large-scale GWAS reveals insights into the genetic architecture of same-sex sexual behavior. Science.
- Servick, Kelly. (2014). Study of gay brothers may confirm X chromosome link to homosexuality. Science.org.
- Dean Hamer, Wikipedia
- Votinov, Mikhail et. al. (2021). Brain structure changes associated with sexual orientation. Scientific Reports.
- Wilson, E. A. (2000). Neurological Preference: LeVay’s Study of Sexual Orientation. SubStance.
- Reardon, S. (2019). Massive Study Finds No Single Genetic Cause of Same-Sex Sexual Behavior. Scientific American.
- Sodomy Laws by State. (2023). Worldpopulationreview.com.
- Update on the Status of Sodomy Laws (2001). American Civil Liberties Union.
- Saletan, W. (2008). Was oral sex always normal? Slate Magazine.
Ashley: In 1991, a scientist completely changed how we think about being straight or gay. That scientist was Simon LeVay, a neuroscientist and a gay man who had been out about his sexuality since he was a teenager.
Ashley: LeVay had been studying the brain’s role in vision when he took a leave of absence to care for his partner of 21 years who had contracted AIDS. As he watched the love of his life wither away, he realized that he didn’t wanna be studying vision anymore.
Ashley: He said that he had an emotional need to do something more personal, something more connected with his gay identity. It was around then that a pair of scientists published evidence that a particular area of the brain’s hypothalamus called the INAH3 was bigger in men than in women. That was LeVay’s lightning bolt moment. If this area differed by sex, would it also differ by sexual orientation?
Ashley: To find out, LeVay got 41 cadavers and sliced up their brains. About half of them were homosexual men who had died of AIDS, though he didn’t actually publish how he defined their orientation. 16 were presumed heterosexual men, six of whom had died of AIDS. And a small handful were heterosexual women. Samples from homosexual women, he wrote, could not be obtained.
Ashley: He found that yes, the INAH3 was smaller in gay men than it was in straight men. The media exploded. The study was featured by PBS, Newsweek, Nightline, Donahue, and the one and only Oprah Winfrey.
Ashley: The world took this as proof that gay men were born this way. Homosexuality was biological, genetic, it was in your brain. LeVay, to his credit, warned everyone not to overstate the findings. That those conclusions aren’t actually what he found. But as with so many discoveries like this, it all fell on deaf ears.
Ashley: Then came the scientific objections. All of the gay men had died of AIDS and nobody knew what effect the AIDS virus had on the brain. LeVay hadn’t taken sexual histories of his cadavers and didn’t really know whether all the gay and straight subjects really were gay or straight. Nevermind that sexuality isn’t binary and there are many ways to define it. Also, the INAH3 structure that was so much bigger in straight men. At its largest, it’s no bigger than a grain of sand. One writer said it wouldn’t even fill the O in macho. So it was very likely he just hadn’t found it in some of his samples.
Ashley: And the differences weren’t that large.
Ashley: Some gay men in the study had larger structures than some straight men, and as one scientist put it, if LeVay had chosen a nucleus size in the middle, he couldn’t tell if it was heterosexual or homosexual.
Ashley: LeVay’s study is a microcosm of almost every scientific study into sexual orientation. Heterosexual is the control, the norm, and scientists look for aberrations in biology to explain anything that isn’t that. But heterosexual, as we’ll learn, doesn’t have one single scientific definition. It’s a moving target that doesn’t mean the same thing for you as it did for your parents. And if you go back just a couple hundred years, the word didn’t exist at all. I’m Ashley Hamer and this is Taboo Science. The podcast that answers the questions you are not allowed to ask.
Hanne Blank Boyd: —
Hanne Blank Boyd: the word heterosexual wasn’t coined until the 1860s, the late 1860s. And it didn’t really come into common use until after the turn of the 20th century, which is not very long.
Hanne Blank Boyd: I am Hanne Blank Boyd. I write under the name Hanne Blank, at least so far. I am trained as a historian. I’m a historian of sexuality and medicine, but what I’m most known for is my work on bodies and sex and culture and how those things intersect or don’t, as the case may be.
Ashley: Hanne has written a lot of books that listeners to this podcast would love. Virgin: The Untouched History, The Unapologetic Fat Girl’s Guide to Exercise and Other Incendiary Acts, and Straight: The Surprisingly Short History of Heterosexuality.
Ashley: And it’s not just the word heterosexual that’s new. The very idea that what you do in the bedroom is part of your identity is incredibly recent.
Hanne Blank Boyd: prior to the middle of the 18 hundreds, we tended to think about what humans did with their bodies and with their, their actions, their genitals es pecially as these are actions, they’re activities.
Hanne Blank Boyd: You can do right activities, you can do wrong activities, you can do moral activities, you can do immoral activities depending on, you know, sort of what your scale is and, and how Catholic you are. Um, you can do things that are considered natural or unnatural depending on how you think about what nature is.
Hanne Blank Boyd: But you’re not doing something that tells the world, I am x kind of person. I have x kind of trait. You can expect x things out of me based on knowing this about me. We just kind of saw it as, okay, so everybody has genitalia. Um, most people choose to use them in some kind of sexual way. And whether if they’re doing that in the way that we currently at this moment in time and in this place, think is a good use, fantastic.
Hanne Blank Boyd: If we think it’s a bad use or an immoral use, not so great. But we didn’t call it something. It was really about what you did, not who you were. And so I was really fascinated, became really fascinated about this shift in thinking about sexuality as something you did to being about part of who you were.
Ashley: To understand how this shift happened, well, do you know that joke? How many podcasters does it take to change a light bulb? One, but to understand why we’re gonna have to go way back? Well, yeah, we’re gonna have to go way back, back to when governments in Europe were extricating themselves from the Roman Catholic Church and trying to modernize.
Hanne Blank Boyd: one of the things that this does is that creates a power vacuum in terms of law. Especially laws about what we can and can’t, or should, or shouldn’t do with our bodies.
Hanne Blank Boyd: And so we end up with this inherited legal system that comes out of church law or what’s called canon law. And a lot of that for secular things goes away over time. Over the centuries, people stop using Canon law for things like, you know, who gets to build their house on this particular piece of land. But when it comes to things that are considered part of morality and sexuality certainly falls into that box,
Hanne Blank Boyd: um, they retain the Canon law or something that looks very much like the Canon law, it may no longer say according to the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church, you know, you shouldn’t be having oral sex with your wife, but it still says you shouldn’t be having oral sex with your wife.
Ashley: If you’re a brand new nation state who’s like, yeah, screw the church, we’re making our own rules. You might start to notice all the laws that are like exactly the same from when the church was in power. It’s kinda like if you moved outta your parents’ house but maintained a 10:00 PM curfew. You’re your own boss now.
Ashley: Live a little.
Hanne Blank Boyd: We’re supposed to be a secular nation state now, so can a secular nation state retain what are essentially church laws and call that secular law?
Hanne Blank Boyd: And that becomes a big legal question. And some countries dealt with it in, in, you know, ba by basically saying, yeah, sure, why not? And other countries got a little more critical and a little more sort of investigative and analytical about it. And one of the countries that got really analytical about it was Germany.
Ashley: This might be because Germany was an old hand at flipping off Catholicism. It is where Martin Luther famously canceled the Roman Catholic Church with a 16th century tweet thread.
Hanne Blank Boyd: So there’s a lot of conversation happening about, okay, so what do we do? How do we make these laws happen? What do we do with the ones that basically sound like Canon law with, you know, the, the God words taken out?
Hanne Blank Boyd: And one of the bits of that was part of the Prussian legal code. So these are, these are Germans, north Germans, um, that outlawed sodomy. And sodomy is a really vague word. It has its own really complicated and interesting history. Um, but according to the Catholic church, it basically means any sexual activity between people of the same biological sex, uh, another problematic term. And it means, any kind of sexual acts also that are not potentially procreative. And so this is so new and so weird that they’re, they’re talking about this in, you know, in courts of law and trying to figure out what to do with this law that reporters start showing up, to hear what people are saying. And sexologists are showing up to hear what people are saying.
Ashley: Two of the people who showed up were Karl Ulrichs , a then lawyer who is now a hero of the gay rights movement, and a journalist named Karl Maria Kertbeny. These two are both against the outlawing of sodomy, Ulrichs being what some call the first out gay man in history and Kertbeny having been traumatized by the suicide of a gay coworker who had been blackmailed. But if you go by his diaries was probably also gay himself.
Ashley: These two have a lot in common and they get into a correspondence.
Hanne Blank Boyd: In their correspondence, Kertbeny starts referring to heterosexuals and homosexuals. He was not a scientist, but like every good scientist, he could mix his Greek and Latin, um, like no one’s business and. So basically what he meant by saying that is, sexual acts between two people of different sexes, different biologies and sexual activities between two people of, of same or similar biologies.
Ashley: He wasn’t talking about identity, he was just talking about action.
Hanne Blank Boyd: The next thing that happens is, kind of filters out a little bit and people start talking and using these words at least in scientific conversations. And that’s where we, um, come into contact with the Baron. Um, Richard von Krafft-Ebing, who wrote a book called Psychopathia Sexualis. He was a jurist, he was a legal guy and he wrote this index, this compendium of disorders of the sexual instinct. Now he wrote it mostly in Latin so that people who weren’t supposed to have access to that kind of information couldn’t read it. um, cuz only only people with, you know, high class educations could read Latin. So all the dirty parts were in Latin.
Hanne Blank Boyd: Um, but so he, he wrote this book, Psychopathia Sexualis, and in it he refers to heterosexual as normal sexual. Which is really telling, right?
Hanne Blank Boyd: So we suddenly, we have this word and we have it being equated with normal sex. Whatever that is. But for Krafft-Ebing, it was a very specific thing. You couldn’t have sex if you were too young. You couldn’t have sex if you were too old. You couldn’t have, you know, there were all kinds of limits that he was putting on what normal sex looked like, and basically what normal sex looked like was what he assumed was normal for, um, well off Germans in the middle third of the 19th century. Um, not particularly adventurous by modern standards, but it would keep you out of jail.
Ashley: Weird, not particularly adventurous, but will keep you out of jail is on my Tinder profile! Anyway, that’s when heterosexuality really hits the big time
Hanne Blank Boyd: because this word that stands in or starts to stand in for the idea of normal sexuality becomes, okay, so this is what is acceptable. Everything else isn’t. When we’re making laws, we can say normal sexuality, A-OK, completely fine. If you have been found doing anything else, please see, Krafft-Ebing’s book for this, you know, this laundry list of other things that human beings might get up to, all of which are naughty, naughty, no-nos.
Ashley: Heterosexuality becomes popular as a concept, as a way to separate the normals from the not normals. Of course, heterosexuals as we define them today, have existed throughout history. But the reason why, and timing when we created the term is important.
Hanne Blank Boyd: As a historian, my interest is not so much in, you know, what did people do? They did everything they could possibly get their hands on. We know that. My interest is why did they care? Why did it matter what they did or didn’t do?
Hanne Blank Boyd: And so what I try to do with Straight book is to say, So we have this change. We know when this word comes into being, and when we start thinking about this thing called sexuality for the first time, and when we start grouping people by our, you know, what we think in terms of, you know, groups, sexual groups and sexual types, why did we do it? Why did we do it when we did it, and where we did it because those things always matter. You know, we don’t change the way we interpret our own behavior without there being something behind it.
Hanne Blank Boyd: And one of the things that’s behind it is, you know, going the way back machine back to, you know, the social order is changing.
Ashley: This is after the American Revolution. This is after the French Revolution. People are like, we didn’t like how things were before, and shit’s gonna be different now.
Hanne Blank Boyd: Things are changing hugely in the, the places that have traditionally been the centers of power. Right. And all of these northern European, Western European places that have been the centers of power, the laws are changing, the ways we run the countries are changing, who gets to work at certain jobs, is changing.
Hanne Blank Boyd: the structure of the way people run their lives and the kinds of expectations they have for how their lives are going to be, are changing. And all of a sudden we have this moment in time where the power structures are changing along with it. Right?
Hanne Blank Boyd: We are no longer dependent on this aristocratic power structure that says, you know, if you were born to the right people, then you’re good to go for the rest of your life, and the rest of you get busy.
Hanne Blank Boyd: It’s all of a sudden that’s not as important as it, as it used to be. And so these people who are working and, you know, creating industries and creating, uh, a lot of capital, and this is all also twined in with a rise of capitalism and industrialism. We have all of these people who realize that, okay, the deck is not stacked in the way it used to be. What the hell do I do? How do I prove that I am a worthwhile person? How do I prove to people that I will do things that are considered socially good and socially, you know, laudable and praiseworthy?
Hanne Blank Boyd: How do I prove to people that I deserve to be part of this new world order? And, and on the, on the good side of things, rather than, you know, being crushed under the heels of everybody else. and heterosexuality becomes really useful in that context. You can say, this is my beautiful wife. This is my beautiful house.
Hanne Blank Boyd: Do you see how well I am obeying all of these expectations about what people should do with regard to their bodies and their families and their kin formation and you know, and how we handle all of these things and how we, how we transfer wealth from generation to generation. And you know, how we raise our children.
Hanne Blank Boyd: You know. So all of a sudden, being heterosexual and being able to prove that you are heterosexual becomes an important part of maintaining some kind of social legitimacy.
Ashley: When we come back, we’ll get into why heterosexuality isn’t just about getting it on with the opposite sex. It’s a whole vibe.
Ashley: You might be wondering, wait, how did we get from who you have sex with to how you form families and kin and raise children and transfer wealth? I mean, yeah. When you have the kind of sex and form the kinds of relationships that are appropriate for society, a whole world opens up to you.
Ashley: That doesn’t open up to other people.
Hanne Blank Boyd:
Hanne Blank Boyd: When we’re talking about heterosexuality, it’s a portmanteau. It’s like, um, it’s like a really big tote bag, right? We have this really big to tote bag that says heterosexuality on it, and a whole bunch of stuff gets dumped into it.
Ashley: For example, the privilege of being in a relationship that can be witnessed in public and supported by a community, the ability to have children together, at least for most of history.
Hanne Blank Boyd: We use it to mean all that stuff at once. And when we have that tote bag, there are also things that we just say, well, that doesn’t fit in our tote bag. We’re not gonna put that in our tote bag because we don’t, it doesn’t belong there, right? So for example, something as simple as oral sex.
Hanne Blank Boyd: Everybody has a mouth. It doesn’t matter what kind of genitalia you have, everybody has a mouth, right? So in theory, oral sex should be something that would fit in any tote bag, right? But for a really long time, oral sex did not fit into the heterosexuality tote bag because it was associated with, you know, any non procreative sex as according to the Catholic church, is sinful. Right? And it’s, if it’s sinful, then you can’t put it into your nice, shiny, beautiful heterosexuality tote bag. It doesn’t belong there. It’s not appropriate. It’s not right. It’s not moral. It’s not what we. right? So we have this behavior that for a very long time, even though plenty of people who were having sex with opposite sex partners, were doing it.
Ashley: And before you go thinking, wow, people in the 17 hundreds had some hangups, I might remind you that every state in the US had a law against oral sex until the first one was repealed in 1961. I mean, people were still doing it, but studies show that oral sex only started to go mainstream in the 1970s, and it had a slow rise in popularity through the nineties and early aughts.
Ashley: By the way, those laws against oral sex, those are anti sodomy laws, sodomy, again, being anything sexual that can’t lead to a baby. And anti sodomy laws are still on the books in 16 US states. They haven’t been enforceable since 2003 when the Supreme Court decided that people have the right to privacy in their own bedrooms in Lawrence v Kansas.
Ashley: But if that case sounds, familiar, it’s because it’s one of the right to privacy cases that the Supreme Court mentioned when they struck down Roe v. Wade. It could very well be on the chopping block next, and we’d be back to banning blowjobs.
Ashley: But while oral sex now knows no orientation, back then, it was not what good heteros did.
Hanne Blank Boyd: It was not something that fit into the heterosexuality tote bag, which meant that we, if we found people doing this thing, we could say, you are deviant. You don’t fit. You don’t belong here. We’re going to punish you for not fitting in. You know, we’re gonna take our tote bag and go to the beach and you have to stay here. Um, and that’s why having those words matters is because it puts boundaries around stuff that we do and who gets included and who gets disin included. And it has a lot less to do than most people think with what people actually do. but it’s what’s admissible, what can be witnessed, what can be known, and still be accepted.
Ashley: For a lot of history, and honestly, still today, in many places, not fitting into that heterosexuality tote bag meant you couldn’t have a family, you couldn’t have children. You might even be jailed or killed. No one would wish that life on their own kids, to look at it charitably, so those expectations about heterosexuality started young. But even now that things aren’t so dangerous, the tradition is still there.
Hanne Blank Boyd: You get born, they say, oh, congratulations Mrs. Gunderson, it’s a girl. They wrap that baby up and this is less and less common, but they used to, you know, wrap the girl babies up in a pink blanket and the boy baby’s in a blue blanket.
Hanne Blank Boyd: If you’ve ever had the displeasure of shopping for a baby gift, it is really hard to find things that are not sexualized. I mean, there’s a lot of talk these days about, you know, queers set inappropriately sexualizing children and grooming children. Straight people do it from jump. Like they literally start putting those horrible elastic headbands on these little bald squirmy babies heads that have like a flower on it or something like that, just to make sure you know that that baby has a vulva.
Ashley: Counterpoint, those headbands are awful. Cute. I mean, as someone who very recently had a baby, this is incredibly tough. Yes, you can treat your baby as genderless and without a sexual orientation, but the rest of society is just gonna keep societying.
Ashley: You’re gonna get the pink blankets and the giant bows as gifts. Okay, I bought the giant bows because again, cute. Are you kidding me? But there’s not a lot you can do about it. Cisgender heterosexuality is the assumption and honestly, trying to swim against the current before your child is old enough to have an opinion feels like it’s making an already hard thing like early parenthood, even harder. I’m not saying I’m right, I’m just saying there’s nuance here.
Hanne Blank Boyd: I have a very good friend who tells a lot of stories about having parents who they really, really, really wanted her to want to dance, and they wanted her to do ballet.
Hanne Blank Boyd: And they had decided that, you know, their daughter was going to be this, you know, delicate, ethereal, you know, gorgeous floaty thing. And all she wanted was Tonka trucks. Like that, you know? And her parents didn’t know what to do with that, because here’s this six year old kid saying, no, your, your expectations of what I want for my gender are, are really wrong and I want Tonka trucks.
Hanne Blank Boyd: And apparently she found out much later that her, her mother actually went to a child psychologist to see if the child psychologist thought that she was a lesbian. She’s six.
Hanne Blank Boyd: know?
Hanne Blank Boyd: And so the fact that, you know, parents can get so hung up on what? Little things like, no, I don’t wanna go to ballet class. I wanna stay home and play with my Tonka trucks. That means so much, and that, that creates pressure that gets put on kids. That’s how we
Hanne Blank Boyd: learn. That goes on.
Ashley: I mean, it sounds like this is a very unscientific definition then.
Hanne Blank Boyd: Oh no, there’s no, there’s no, science. There’s, there’s absolutely zero science in the modern sense
Ashley: So how does that affect our understanding of it scientifically today? Because, I mean, there, there are studies about heterosexuality
Hanne Blank Boyd: There are lots, there are lots of studies about, actually a lot more studies about homosexuality than heterosexuality because we always like to, we always like to study the outliers. We like to use what we consider normal as our control.
Hanne Blank Boyd: So there are fewer studies about heterosexuality than you might think.
Hanne Blank Boyd: And that’s exactly the problem, right, is if we inherit a, a term people are using in their scientific lives and we inherit this term whose meaning has actually not been adequately established, and mind you, who’s meaning morphs and changes over time without people particularly paying a lot of attention to how it’s morphing and changing.
Hanne Blank Boyd: Because our ideas of what’s normal change. So whatever is normal today, as opposed to what, what was normal in 1928? We called it normal then. We still call it normal now, but we’re not talking about the same thing. Right. For instance, actually get, paying attention to whether or not women are having orgasms is not part of normal sexuality. It’s not part of heterosexuality in 1928. It is now. But nobody’s bothered to stop and say, oh, hey, wait, y’all just changed the rules.
Hanne Blank Boyd: So that’s the big problem with using these legacy terms that they, they’ve never really been defined adequately. I certainly was unable to do it myself. This causes problems. Because if we’re all assuming that we’re using the same criteria for our analyses and we’re not, then the information that we get from doing our experiments, from doing our studies, it’s basically meaningless.
Ashley: which is why research like Simon LeVay’s study of the brains of gay and straight men is so flawed. LeVay was trying to prove that the human brain was binary, either male or female, gay or straight. That kept him from noticing as critics did, how the differences he found weren’t a smoking gun for homosexuality, but a product of natural variation across the human species.
Ashley: Brain studies since have made similar mistakes.
Ashley: We have made some scientific progress, for lack of a better term, since LeVay’s study. In 1993, we got the first hint of a quote unquote, gay gene from research done by geneticist Dean Hamer. No relation. Unfortunately. I’d love to have an uncle on the cover of Time Magazine. He found that maternal relatives of gay men had higher rates of same sex orientation than paternal relatives. And since men get their X chromosome from their mom, that’s where they went looking.
Ashley: They found markers in a region on that chromosome that they said were associated with homosexuality. And studies since, while not all have found what Hamer found, they’ve at least corroborated the idea that there are genes in that general area that influenced this stuff.
Ashley: Though some of them used different definitions of gay surprise, surprise, so it’s tricky to untangle.
Ashley: And that’s, if you think finding a gay gene is even possible, which it might not be. Sexual orientation is a tote bag, remember. There’s a lot of different stuff at play.
Hanne Blank Boyd: Genetics are a wild and wooly hinterland, and there’s all kinds of interesting things that go on in the genome. There are translocations and transcription errors and there are chimeras and just all kinds of stuff that can happen, and we don’t really know what all of it does, which puts us back in the same place we were to start with. Is it nature or nurture? Is it because the body is doing something quote unquote different than it’s supposed to do, or is it because somehow this person learned environmentally to have certain preferences, to have certain desires to engage in certain types of HA behaviors.
Hanne Blank Boyd: And you know, a lot of the behaviors that we’re talking about are complicated behaviors. We can’t just say, you know, does this behavior have an evolutionary advantage in terms of increasing the number of offspring and the survival of offspring? That’s clearly not what’s happening either with heterosexual people or non heterosexual people, cuz anybody can have a kid or, or, you know, beget a child depending on what kinds of gametes you have.
Hanne Blank Boyd: So that’s clearly not what’s going on. This is not about evolutionary advantage. So what is it about?
Hanne Blank Boyd: We don’t know. I wish somebody would figure it out. but we really don’t know. And scientifically, I’m not sure what you would have to do in order to answer that question.
Hanne Blank Boyd: I do know with complex behaviors, you know, you, you don’t get, as I have, I’ve said to many people, look, you don’t get from DNA to dick sucking in an afternoon.
Hanne Blank Boyd: That’s just not how it works.
Ashley: I mean, it’s just like art and music that, you can speculate about what the evolutionary advantage is of, of all sorts of human behaviors, but at the end of the day, it is just speculation. There not everything has to be on purpose.
Hanne Blank Boyd: And maybe we just like it and maybe we don’t know yet because we haven’t studied it, what the evolutionary advantage of pleasure is.
Ashley: We like to think of science as pure logic, divorced from the messiness of human affairs. The people doing science are human living in a human society with human beliefs and biases. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the search for the biological basis for sexual orientation. If a scientist thinks that you can only be gay or straight, or they think gay men are similar to straight women, or they forget that gay women exist or they think that a single same sex encounter makes you gay, all of which have happened in the studies mentioned in this episode.
Ashley: That’s gonna color their research. If we ever do understand sexual orientation scientifically, it’ll have to be after a hard think about how deeply our beliefs about heterosexuality as the default normal state seep into everything.
Ashley: I loved the way you put it where you said that it’s heterosexuality is like air cuz it’s all around us, but you have to treat it like you’re a pilot.
Hanne Blank Boyd: Yeah. Yeah. Or you know, you will crash
Hanne Blank Boyd: You really will.
Ashley: Thanks for listening. Massive thanks to Hanne Blank Boyd for speaking to me. I’ve had her on my list since I started this show, and I’m so glad we finally made it happen again. Her book is straight, the Surprisingly Short History of Heterosexuality, and you can find a link to pick it up in the show notes.
Ashley: Taboo Science is written and produced by me, Ashley Hamer. The theme was by Danny Lopatka of DLC Music. Episode music is from Epidemic Sound. If you need music for a project, just use the referral link in the show notes and it’ll help out the show.
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