What is Compulsory Heterosexuality?

What is Compulsory Heterosexuality?


Compulsory Heterosexuality, or comphet, is the harmful assumption that everyone is “straight until proven otherwise.” Adrienne Rich coined this term in her 1980 essay “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence.” The term compulsory heterosexuality refers to how our society influences women to perceive all interactions with men as romantic or sexual.  

This can be incredibly harmful for everyone because not everyone is straight and not all women are attracted to men. By deciding that heterosexuality is the only kind of relationship that is acceptable, our society reinforces this systemic issue and erases LGBTQIA+ people. 


What is the Lesbian Masterdoc? 

The Lesbian Masterdoc is a 30-page document that is targeted at women who are questioning their sexuality. It explores the nuances between compulsory heterosexuality and actual attraction, empowering many people to recognize that they identify with being a lesbian. The document delves into the intricate details that distinguish between compulsory heterosexuality, which refers to societal expectations of being heterosexual, and genuine feelings of attraction. Its aim is to empower individuals by acknowledging and validating their lesbian identity. Through this resource, many people are able to gain a better understanding of themselves and confidently embrace being lesbian. 


What are some signs that I am experiencing Compulsory Heterosexuality? 

  1. You like the “idea” of being with men, yet when a man makes sexual or romantic advances towards you, you get incredibly uncomfortable. 
  2. Viewing relationships with men as a “chore” but not truly enjoying spending time with them. 
  3. “Picking” a guy to be attracted to or have a crush on. 
  4. Only being attracted to men that are unattainable or that you rarely or never interact with (Such as teachers, married men, or men that live very far away.)
  5. You lose all “attraction” or get very uncomfortable when there are any signs that a man likes you back. 
  6. Having to be drunk or high to have sex with men. 


What are some early signs that I am interested in women sexually or romantically? 

  1. Having an unusually close relationship with a female friend growing up that felt “different” and “special” in a way that you could not explain. 
  2. Having strong and abiding feelings of admiration for a specific teacher, actor, or other role model that were deep and reverent. 
  3. Feeling weirdly guilty and uncomfortable in locker rooms where female friends are less clothed than usual. 
  4. Feeling overly protective of female friends when they are hurt by men and thinking, “If I were a man, I would never treat her like that.” 


How can I tell the difference between attraction and compulsory heterosexuality? 

It can be difficult to tell the difference between actual attraction and perceived attraction due to compulsory heterosexuality. For example, someone who is a lesbian might blush when around men because she is uncomfortable. She might believe that she is experiencing butterflies due to the new relationship, when in actuality, she is feeling anxiety and fear. 

Some indicators that you might be going through compulsory heterosexuality instead of genuine attraction include having negative emotions such as discomfort, disappointment, or distress when imagining a future with a man. In addition, you may feel uneasy and self-conscious when men show interest in you.


I relate to a lot of this. Am I a lesbian? 

Maybe! If you relate to this article, it is something that you might want to consider. It can feel super overwhelming to question your romantic and sexual orientation yet there are resources out there to help support you in this journey. 

For the full version of the Lesbian master doc click here. It is a good place to start when considering whether or not you might identify as lesbian. If you continue to relate to the statements in the document, you may want to seek out an LGBTQIA+ therapist to help you navigate your feelings as you learn more about your identity. 

Finding community is very important when coming out and figuring out your identity, and it can be super validating and affirming to find a therapist in the LGBTQ+ community themselves. In addition, surrounding yourself with other members of the community can be invaluable in coming to terms with your sexuality. 

It is important to give yourself grace and understanding when learning about your sexuality. Compulsory heterosexuality affects everyone, and it is normal to have conflicting feelings when coming to terms with your sexuality. 



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