A gender and sexuality professor has written a book explaining the secret to straight people having happier relationships — be more like queer couples.
Jane Ward, a gender and sexuality studies professor at University of California, Riverside, studied tips from marriage manuals, self-help books, dating coaches and marriage therapists while writing The Tragedy of Heterosexuality.
According to the university, she discovered one common assumption; that men and women don’t like each other. But the truth, Ward said, is that heteronormativity is making them miserable.
She said: “One of the ways that heteronormativity has survived is by convincing both gay people and straight people that being straight makes for a happier, healthier, easier life…. It has masked over how much misery straight people — straight women, in particular — actually experience.”
Queer culture is a source of joy for most queer people; it’s homophobia and straight culture that is the source of most queer suffering.
Ward continued: “Straight culture promises women the world, but, in reality, offers women very little.
“Queer culture, on the other hand, is a source of joy for most queer people; it’s homophobia and straight culture, not queer culture, that is the source of most queer suffering.”
Ward found self-help-style relationship resources for straight couples from 19th century onward assume that men and women are opposites in every way (remember Men are from Mars; Women are from Venus?) who must learn to tolerate each other.
She said: “Self-help books for straight couples in the 1980s and ’90s doubled down on the idea that the gap between women and men was innate and therefore unavoidable.
“The best men and women could do was learn a few tricks — or ‘skills’ — to get what they wanted from the opposite sex while minimising conflict.
“This same approach still persists today, as self-help books, webinars, dating coaches, marriage therapists, and a whole slew of what I call ‘hetero repair’ professionals teach straight couples to work around gender inequality, rather than undo it.”
One 2020 study showed that same-sex couples have happier marriages than opposite-sex couples, but Ward proposes a new approach.
By learning from queer couples and breaking free of the prison of heteronormativity, straight couples could reach a state which Ward calls “deep heterosexuality”.
She said: “From a lesbian feminist perspective, many straight men seem to have only a half-baked desire for women, a feeble version of what lesbians feel.
“What I am arguing for is what I call deep heterosexuality, wherein straight men learn to like women so deeply that they actually like women.”
“It is possible to shift gears,” she added, “and imagine what it would be like if men thought of themselves not just as ‘sexually attracted’ to women, but powerfully oriented toward all women’s well-being and liberation.
“This will not only be good for straight women, but also tremendously healing for men.”