The End of Normal? We’re Not There Yet

Arlene Stein


Being normal isn’t all that its cracked up to be. In 1963, Betty Friedan exposed the dark underside of “normal” femininity in a book that helped launched the women’s movement, The Feminine Mystique. Michael Warner’s 1999 polemic, The Trouble with Normal, made an impassioned case for how queer people, unencumbered by marriage, subvert gender and sexual norms.

The collapse of normal gender and sexuality has rapidly progressed, according to some observers. As the argument goes, rising divorce rates, the growing affirmation of queer relationships, and the proliferation of singles, among other developments, are changing the way we live. The expectation that we’ll fall in love and spend our lives with one person, that heterosexuality is normal and natural, and even that there are two, and only two sexes, is fading.

Recent Hollywood rom-coms like The Break-Up, Wedding Crashers, and Knocked Up, filled with nebbishy guys and relationships gone…

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About steinarlene

Sociologist and author. Writes about politics, culture, sexuality; engages in scholarly/journalistic cross-talk; editor of Contexts Magazine; professor, Rutgers University.
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