Gender & Identity,Politics & Lifestyle

Compulsive heterosexuality: Maybe you are born with it. Maybe you are a little queer

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On Dec 19, 2022

Here is a question for you: re you straight or is it just compulsory heterosexuality?

In a lot of ways a lot of us don’t think about this. From when we are tiny humans we are paired across the ‘two’ genders.

Awwwwww, such a cute boy you will break little girls hearts.

You will make a pretty wife one day?

Is that your boyfriend?

Straightness is often seen as the default and not only that a very particular type of straightness. One that involves monogamy and babies and marriage and a whole societal set up.

But in this internet age, sexuality is something we are thinking about more and more. Who are we attracted to? Who turns me on? Who makes me think of forever? Why is this Tik Tok of a queer woman licking her lips making me feel some type of way?

These are some real questions.

Despite these deep ponderings we are socialised to think about our sexuality in different ways and one of those tricky sticky ways is to be straight enter – compulsive heterosexuality.

‘Compulsory heterosexuality’ aka ‘Comphet’ aka ‘the idea that heterosexuality is the expected norm’. The phrase “compulsory heterosexuality” originally referred to the assumption by a male-dominated society that the only normal sexual relationship is between a man and a woman.

Adrienne Rich popularized the phrase “compulsory heterosexuality” in her 1980 essay “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence.”  Rich, who died in 2012, was a prominent feminist poet and writer who came out as a lesbian in 1976. In the essay, she argued from a specifically lesbian feminist point of view that heterosexuality is not intrinsic in human beings.

‘Nor is it the only normal sexuality’, Rich said. She further asserted that women can benefit more from relationships with other women than from relationships with men. ‘Heterosexuality may not be a “preference” at all but something that has had to be imposed, managed, organised, propagandised, and maintained by force.’ – Adrienne Rich

After the Am I A Lesbian MasterDoc remerged in the Tik Tok streets folx started thinking about this again. Created by Angali Luiz is tackled the obstacles that many lesbian faced when coming out that were *outside* of the classics i.e. family, religion etc etc. In a Vice interview  she said that, ‘I realised I loved women when I was a teenager, but I never quite knew if my attraction for men was real or a social construct I took in as a facet of my identity.’

The Lesbian Masterdoc’s primary focus is the social and internal obstacles known as compulsory heterosexuality and heteronormativity and the internalized homophobia that comes with that. It looks at how people struggled with their feelings because they thought being straight is how they were *supposed* to feel not how they actually felt.  Luiz says ‘Compulsory Heterosexuality is the voice in my head that says I must really be het ​even when I’m in love with a woman.​’

And this does not have to be all about love, it can be about who you are attracted to or want to have a sexual engagement with, no matter how deep and intense. Becausee are socialised to believe being straight is the default setting swerving from that even for a second could feel like this big thing, this deep tectonic shift that goes against everything that is holy and natural to human beings. Thus, even something as small as looking at another woman and being like ‘damn, I would love to spend one afternoon pressed against that body’ suddenly feeling like this HUGE diversion from ‘the norm’ and what is natural.

The idea of comphet is harmful, it isn’t hard to see why. By automatically thinking that everyone is cis het and straight then queer, trans and other bodies are erased and marginalised and automatically othered.  You are automatically going against society, nature, the natural order of things and are there for ‘deviant’, and with deviancy comes discrimination and sometimes even violence.

Not only that but damn does it make dating *even* harder cause now we all outchea thinking everyone is trying to be heterosexual. And then how do you find someone to sit on your face on a Friday night?

One Cosmo article quotes the awesome co-hosts of Inner Hoe Uprising, Sam Riddle saying that ‘although compulsory heterosexuality can be overt—like a massage parlour using the term “couples massages” as meaning a massage for a man and a woman … it’s often more subtle and insidious.’

“Compulsory heterosexuality is the societal nudge that pushes folks into opting into heterosexual relationships regardless of whether or not they truly desire to do so,” Riddle says.

And it’s not just the queers, comphet has us all by the balls/labia being heterosexual comes with SO MANY rules. CompHet prescribes a whole bunch of things, even to the straights.  The idea of compulsory heterosexuality is not simply for queer folx discovering their sexuality but for all folx to sit and truly unpack their identity. Download some programs and apps and not simply just use the default settings. What does your straightness look like?

An article by Maggie Zhou in Refinery29 says that ‘a part of figuring out who you are and what your sexuality is is taking steps to unlearn certain truths from your life.’

Sexuality is so broad and more and more people are beginning to see that although they may not be the lesbian waving a flag at Pride month they might not be completely straight either. With sexuality falling on a spectrum there are so many ways to create and come into, from being strictly dickly to sometimes being romantically attracted to people of the same sex or gender, to only wanting to sleep with a beautiful non-binary pansexual on Thursday nights.

We need to genuinely unpack our romantic and sexual attractions on the spectrum they lay on, sometimes they could match, sometimes they might not.  It really is for the best to unpack the ideas we have around our sex and sexuality, not simply accept what we have around us, and this goes for queer and non-queer folx. How are you sitting in your sex, your love, your attraction and your engagements.

Don’t just accept the default settings, download the apps, filters, widgets and wallpapers that you want to make life lovely.  


Check out the Basically…Life Podcast (on all platforms) and our YouTube series We Are F**kin Here for other vibes that show how queers are living, lovin’ and f*ckin.

For more info about all things gender and sexuality download our Touch Manual which has a bunch of info about dating, sexuality, gender, sex and much more!

Also visit our Instagram page and Twitter account for even more great content!

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