The Tragedy of Heterosexuality: Invitations Forward with Author Jane Ward

‘Jane Ward is worried about straight people.’ Well, I’m worried about Jane Ward and her desperate hanger-on.  

<Insert snarky comment>

About this event

You’re not going to hear this in couples therapy. Straight people need to challenge heterosexual culture and patriarchy to heal.

Jane Ward is worried about straight people. 

As an activist and professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies at University of California, Riverside, Jane also calls on the “wisdom of the dyke experience – wherein lust, objectification, humanization and friendship live in complementary relationship to one another”. 

Her most recent book, the Tragedy of Heterosexuality, is addressed to Jane’s straight women friends who continually complain about their relationships. Straight women like me. 

Here’s my bias: As a daughter of straight parents, mother to a currently-cisgender boy, feminist therapist and supervisor, business owner, and “tragically heterosexual” cisgender woman, devouredJane’s book. 

She first outlines the absurdity and racist underpinnings of what she calls “the heterosexual repair industry”, that started during the eugenics movement in the late 1800s. Researchers in this era were most concerned about educating men and women on how not be repelled by one another. 

After discussing the history of heterosexual culture and how it harms everyone, Jane invites us to think differently. She asks straight people to dig into a deeper version of heterosexual culture. 

For men: Deep heterosexuality might look like undoing toxic masculinity and learning how to adore women after a lifetime of being trained to think we’re less human. 

For women: Our work is to be compassionately curious about what we love about men and why we stay in such close relationships with them (even though these relationships haven’t been great for us past and present). 

This 2 hour live (recorded) webinar is by donation – our suggested minimum donation is $20. Proceeds will be split between Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre (DEWC) and the LA Community Action Network.

The DEWC provides a safe, non-judgmental environment for self-identifying women (cis, trans, 2S), from all walks of life, who live and/or work in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, BC. To achieve their mission, DEWC provides supportive surroundings with meals, counselling, advocacy, and programs which nurture and empower members.

LA CAN helps people dealing with poverty create & discover opportunities, while serving as a vehicle to ensure we have voice, power & opinion in the decisions that are directly affecting us.

From the blurb

Introduction

The audience were mainly therapists, likely with a specialism in couples therapy, and the host, Jennifer Hollinshead of the counselling service Peak Resilience, began with a land acknowledgement. She encouraged us to visit the land acknowledgement website she was reading from, so that we too could get tongue-tied over tribe names we have never heard of. Gender and sex was intricately linked to colonialism, she told us, and these tribes had a much more diverse gender system than ours (I don’t see how though, when we have at least a gazillion). The gender binary had been used to suppress peasant uprisings in Europe. The money raised from the webinar would go to an indigenous women’s group in Vancouver (note the blurb uses the term ‘self-identifying’) and what sounded like a BLM-type justice project in LA. Neither project are registered charities, nor appear to have any governance in place.

From the LA Community Action Network website – it’s like the website was just thrown together

Why did Jane Ward write the book The Tragedy of Heterosexuality?

Since becoming a parent, Jane Ward, Professional Lesbian and Professor of Gender Woo, had met a lot more straight women and had heard many stories from these friends and acquaintances about their dissatisfaction with men. She has decided to exploit those personal stories by writing this book. Jane told us that it was a continuation of the solidarity work that lesbians had done with ‘cis het’ women in the 70s. Right on.

This is Ward’s third book, having previously written about ‘men who have sex with men’, with particular focus on white men who do, since they can have sex with other men without being ‘pathologised’.

Jane has internet connection problems

Which meant that Hollinshead had to fill in whilst Ward found another room to set up. She quite happily talked indulgently about herself and we learnt that she had invited her parents to attend, that she identifies as a ‘daughter’ (we are all children, how ridiculous) and she didn’t want her five year old son to be harmed by heterosexuality (not explained). Of course, she was fully signed up to her lesser moral role as a ‘white cis het woman’ and admitted she could and should do better. She was very hopeful for the potentials that this book offered.

I checked her website and Hollinshead’s company charges $165 per 50 minute session for individuals, and that leaps up to $214.50 for a couple. These are the charges before service taxes. I have no idea why she’s unhappy, -oh wait …

Jane comes back

Ward was going to be working on a project to do with kids but has dumped that in favour of a new book. Other Peoples’ Genitals it’s going to be called. Of course it is. And it was going to cover: Why do straight people care so much about genitals? And, why are people bothered about the shape of genitals? Stop thinking about your baby’s genitals and the genitals of trans people. You white cis het scum. Or summink.

Its conclusion was going to be: Genitals are over.

Why the gender binary is bad

Because it(s):

  • leads to suffering when we think there are only two and in opposition to one another
  • a set of practices, like assigning sex of unborn babies in the womb
  • mental health consequences for women are baaaaaddd
  • forces women to contribute to upholding of patriarchy

Only when people admit all of the above can they be free. No opt outs.

What is ‘heterosexual culture’?

Neither of them could really explain this one, but at least Hollinshead provided us with a link to what she thought it might be, i.e. a rather lame jokey queer instagram account called Hets Explain Yourselves, apparently run by a frothing at the mouth dyke.

Ward told us that queer people, especially lesbians, had been talking about heterosexual culture forever. One of the secrets that got revealed in her book was that boredom had been eroticised (it certainly has) and that it had been exhausting to listen to (it certainly is). Women would tell her ‘I wish I could be a lesbian,’ and Ward, in her wisdom, would respond ‘just be one’. Someone in the chat then asked ‘how?’ and Ward responded enigmatically ’email me’. We never got further than that I’m afraid, on how women hardwired for men can actually become fully fledged muff wranglers.

Ward told us that everything was mainly the fault of men obviously, but that women were also to blame for choosing to be straight.

Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus

There followed a rant about John Gray’s book, which has sold millions of copies and has been read by millions more. I can’t comment since I have never read it, but in comparison to the dirge I had already sat through, they made Gray sound a towering intellect, forming a concept and then giving concrete advice according to that concept. However bad Gray’s advice might be, and I have heard many about the Mars book over the years, it has to be more helpful than someone asking us to criticise a concept they then refuse to define.

Ward told us the master-servant dynamic had been romanticised – an observation which has been noted by female authors since at least the time of Jane Austen and she was writing in 1813. Illiterate dickhead.

Reality check

A truth that needs to be acknowledged. Beautiful women can make demands of men that simply wouldn’t pass muster otherwise. And that’s why, when Hollinshead asks the men in her life to show their femininity, they even bother to hear the second half of her demand.

It’s similarly true of Ward. You would also think a woman who had eschewed men and the patriarchy would see the implicit irony of paying shitloads of money for tiny bottles of goo, but no, make-up was caked on with a trowel. She told us that men needed to be ‘invited into feminism’ and once they were in and behaving, they could ‘love women like lesbians do’ (whatever that means). Men had to become ‘woman-identified men’, so no wonder so many men feel invited to self-identify as women.

On conversion therapy

Hollinshead is a supervisor for her team of therapists. Currently one of the conversations amongst the female therapists was: Should I become a lesbian?

I think Ward was a little surprised by that but told us that there were more lesbians than were known and that many women didn’t realise they were. Ward also deliberately added in that mens’ bodies didn’t bother her, it was their horrible personalities she hated. She needed feminism in a relationship for it to be ‘hot’.

She told us that the women she speaks to about men clearly articulate their desire for being with a person of the opposite sex, wanting to be next to a bigger body, facial hair and – of course – dicks. There was a strong erotic pull. She came across a little voyeuristic and pervy.

Hollinshead was keen that her team of therapists might address the issue of ‘heteronormativity’ with their couple clients but admitted that it was not the role of a therapist to introduce outside ideas into therapy sessions and that it didn’t happen. It was also the reason why she wasn’t able to talk about how white supremacy might be affecting people. Hmm.

Reactions to the book

Women were grateful but depressed and resigned to their heterosexuality. Ward was a little upset that male feminist academics had ignored the book. (A step too far even for them?) On the plus side she had had death threats and hate mail from the type of men she hates and which had affirmed her position about them being creepy little shitheads, so something of a win-win.

Advice for attendees

Buy the book! Ask yourself: When did you first know you were straight? Refer boyfriends and husbands to feminist groups. Ward had a particular group in mind, one which was a men-only group and also working against white supremacy – Organizing White Men for Collective Liberation.

Deep heterosexuality

Once men are fully initiated in the rites of feminism and woman worship, this will put them on the path to better sex. But don’t be one of those men who joke about doing it just to get laid!

Women will have better orgasms if they become lesbians, Ward promised. Ward, in her role as Groomer and Professor of Gender Woo, asks her young female students why they want to have ‘unequal relationships’ and ‘bad sex’. Ward said precisely nothing about the supposed benefits of a lesbian relationship, precisely nothing about her partner or the state of their relationship, and Hollinshead asked her nothing about it either. Therefore it all felt a little like lesbians were pixies at the bottom of the garden.

Hollinshead piped up she had seen a woman on TikTok say that she wouldn’t ever live with a man again and how great that was, but then dimly admitted most couples with children can’t afford to live separately.

Ward was unable to expand further on the benefits of ‘deep heterosexuality’ because at the moment it was a goal we should be working towards and not something that had never happened yet.

Final moments

People in the chat were claiming that the book had changed their life. Hollinshead wanted to give a shout out to a feminist book written by Jordan Shapiro How to be a Feminist Dad, as a tip to give to the men in our lives. (Shapiro has lectured on “How Men Can Be Allies in the Workplace” to the United States Air Force in May 2022 – see here.)

Ward claims that her book, The Tragedy of Heterosexuality, is an academic one, but revealed that she was a self-help book junkie, having read a lot of Pema Chodran and recommended Pleasure Activism by adrienne maree brown (sic).

A therapist, who charges a whopping $225 per 50 minute session, wanted to know did Ward think there was a ‘dialectical’ difference between the use of the words ‘heterosexuality’ and ‘straight’. Yes, said Ward, she uses the former to describe everything to do with the physical side of such relationships, and the latter to describe everything to do with the cultural side. Which doesn’t really explain why she called her book ‘The Tragedy of Heterosexuality’ when her main bug bear is the ‘culture’ of it, nor why she has repeatedly used the expression ‘heterosexual culture’. Doh!

Reflection

I’ve always been suspicious of therapists and this hasn’t done anything to calm my nerves. Apart from the astronomical prices, which only the rich can afford (remember this will be twice weekly sessions for at least 4 months), what possible help can those seeking therapy receive from therapists under the tailspin of such a hateful contradictory ideology? If it is really true that members of Hollinshead’s therapy team are reconsidering their heterosexuality for ideological reasons, what use will they be to anyone in distress? Or those couples whose relationships may be salvageable and who probably should stay together for the children? How will such couples navigate the (likely unstated) political urges of such a therapist? Or what kind of counselling would they deliver to a lesbian couple for that matter? The gender identity ideologists may always be funny, but they are also always dangerous.


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