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Sex + Relationships

A New Lesbian Manifesto: What Is Compulsory Heterosexuality?

You may have seen Tik Toks, like the one below, about the struggles of understanding your sexuality as a woman. A master doc titled “Am I A Lesbian,” sparked this conversation among women and circulated social media while women discussed the difference between genuinely liking men and only desiring them because of societal standards.

@b1imbosammy

I may jokes about it but it’s scary to accept it #lgbt🌈

♬ original sound – 🌱Luna/Luca🍄

Let’s clarify what compulsory heterosexuality means (it’s a pretty heavy word). Compulsory heterosexuality, also known as comp-het, is involuntary sexuality forced upon women because of their predestined role in society. Being straight is something that society expects us to be.

Before anyone wonders how this may affect men, we know that men are expected to be heterosexual throughout social norms. But, compulsory heterosexuality disproportionately affects women because it correlates to society’s misogynistic and patriarchal standards.

Women are consistently defined by their relationships with men, whether you realize it or not. I am someone’s girlfriend. I am someone’s daughter. I am someone’s sister. I am someone’s cousin. I am also a woman.

Ever since I was a young girl, I have wanted to make as many men happy as I could. Male validation to women is like nicotine to the bloodstream. It’s addictive, and for some disturbing reason, it increases your self-worth tremendously.

Now, here’s the question of the hour: Are queer women still chained by these inherent desires to please men and fulfill lives with them? Absolutely!

In fact, many women who are either lesbian and/or queer have explained that they have to mourn the fact that they will never pursue a heterosexual relationship with men. Many of these women have been in heterosexual relationships with men because they couldn’t distinguish what they desire vs. what they have been taught to desire.

Although you may not think it, many women have wondered whether they are straight, lesbian, bisexual or any other sexuality on the spectrum. According to a report from an adult video website, “lesbian” is the most popular category among female viewers. However, a recent poll discovered that only 6.4% of women identify as LGBTQIA+. So, what’s the distinction between identifying as LGBTQIA+ and being attracted to a member of the same sex?

Well, it’s important to understand attraction vs. the desire to fulfill a relationship. If being with a woman romantically makes you uncomfortable, you probably aren’t lesbian. However, if being with a man romantically makes you uncomfortable, you may be lesbian.

@amphibian.enthusiast

is this a universal experience for bi women? or am i going thru it#wlw #bisexual #bisexualdisaster #comphet #comphetlesbian #lgbt

♬ original sound – wah

What if you think you are lesbian and/or queer but feel like an impostor? That’s okay! These are suppressed feelings from a society that enables compulsory heterosexuality. You do not have to be validated by other women or men to express your sexuality.

Many lesbian and/or queer women also find fictional male characters and celebrities attractive. In my opinion, this is completely normal. If straight people are allowed to comment on the attractiveness of a member of the same sex without jeopardizing their straightness, lesbians should be able to comment on men without invalidating their own sexuality.

I think the biggest difference between being a lesbian and being bisexual is the current desire to fulfill relationships with men. Past relationships should not define one’s sexuality because those relationships are part of your own self-discovery. The whole point of dating is to see what kind of people you want to spend the rest of your life with, so who cares if there are a few different genders in there?

Here are some signs that you should look into compulsory heterosexuality as someone who identifies as a woman:

  • If you like the idea of being with a man, but get uncomfortable whenever a man makes a move on you or tries to flirt with you.
  • If you choose to be attracted to a man and can “switch it off.”
  • If you are more confident in being attracted to a woman than being attracted to a man.
  • If you think you are attracted to men because they are attracted to you.
  • If you feel like something is missing within every relationship that you have with a man.
  • If being around men gives you intense anxiety and fear (yeah, me too).
  • If you are fascinated by any lesbian relationships that you see on social media,
  • If you feel uncomfortable while changing around other women and try to look away.
  • If you think that all women must be attracted to other women.
  • If you assume that people think you are gay even though they had no suspicion.
  • If you fantasize about pursuing a relationship with another woman but assume that it’s just a desire for friendship.

If some of the signs above resonate with you, it’s not guaranteed that you are lesbian and/or queer. Researching compulsory heterosexuality is merely a suggestion.

On a personal note, I don’t like to categorize my sexuality with labels, and if you feel the same, that is okay! I believe that you love who you love, and there is no reason to stress over what you cannot control. Yes, I love my current boyfriend, but I do not limit myself as a heterosexual. In the long run, just be with who you want to spend the rest of your life with! Humans are designed to learn and change, so do what feels right.

Whether you are straight or not, I hope this article helps you on your journey of self-realization!

Arden Ericson plans to graduate from Penn State in 2023. She is majoring in Public Relations and French Language. She is very passionate about social justice, literature, and music.
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