Compulsory Heterosexuality as a Result of a Heteronormative Society

Compulsory Heterosexuality as a Result of a Heteronormative Society

Erica Jiang, Staff Writer

Harper Rosenberg (10) and Naz Yetis (10) hosted a Unity Week workshop on  compulsory heterosexuality (comphet) for lesbians, on Wednesday D period. Comphet is the idea that a patriarchal, heteronormative society assumes and enforces heterosexuality, according to “It’s really toxic and invalidating,” Yetis said during the presentation.

30 students from multiple grades attended the workshop. “I wanted to hear others’ experiences with compulsory heterosexuality as an ace person, as the societal prejudices against other sexual orientations are different from those that I’ve faced,” Alex Rosenblatt (12) said.

Sofia Filardo (10) came to the workshop to support Rosenberg and Yetis and discuss comphet, which is not widely talked about otherwise, she said. “Comphet is a confusing concept that’s difficult to understand on your own, and being able to talk about it with others can help me gain a better understanding.”

Rosenberg and Yetis presented for the first half of their workshop and held an open discussion for the second half. Both students and faculty participated in the conversation. “I enjoyed the discussion, especially with the teachers, because it’s interesting to see how people’s experiences have changed over time,” Celia Stafford (10) said.

The two spoke about the history of comphet, which has origins in literary works such as Adrienne Rich’s 1980 book, “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence.” “I liked that they discussed literature and modern resources as aid in one’s identity search,” Rosenblatt said.

The pair then introduced modern-day symptoms of comphet, such as when lesbians feel pressured to be in romantic relationships with men, even when they are not attracted to them, Rosenberg said. However, Rosenberg and Yetis emphasized that there are a multitude of definitions for comphet. “Everyone’s experiences are really different, and everyone can have their own play on it,” Yetis said in the workshop.

Stafford had known about the symptoms beforehand from the internet, she said. “I wasn’t really surprised by the symptoms, but I think symptoms is a weird thing to call it,” she said.

Rosenberg and Yetis also talked about how to support lesbians in a society that sexualizes them. “Women liking women is so fetishized now in the media and can be found in many things, such as trending songs,” Rosenberg said at the workshop. “It’s important to get rid of the biases that you were taught by heteronormative and cisnormative institutions growing up.” 

Stafford said she agreed with all of Rosenberg and Yetis’ suggestions for ways to be supportive. “Just being there for your friends and letting people commit to their own identities is helpful,” she said. “A lot of times people are afraid to say the word lesbian, so overcoming that fear is a really good way to support your friends.”

Rosenberg and Yetis added that discovering one’s sexuality is a journey that takes time. “You don’t owe anyone an explanation or a label,” Yetis said. “You are the only person who can really know yourself, and letting others dictate your journey is really unhealthy.”

Filardo completely agreed with Rosenberg and Yetis. “Sexuality is very fluid and difficult to understand, and our society doesn’t allow for much discussion or discovery in regards to it,” she said. “That’s why workshops like Naz and Harper’s are so useful.”

Rosenberg and Yetis prepared for the workshop by examining their personal experiences and researching online sources, then compiling the information into a Google Slides presentation, Yetis said. “We divided the slides amongst ourselves and aimed to present in a natural form that is more based on fluid feelings than statistics,” she said. “It was intimidating to present such a personal topic, but it felt amazing to be able to express ourselves and exist in such an accepting and passionate environment.”

After their workshop, Rosenberg and Yetis hope that the attendees better understand lesbian experiences and how to ensure that they feel valid, Yetis said. “I wish that there was more education on how to respect queerness at school that existed in the classroom and not just in voluntary work,” she said. Yetis also wants students to know that they have students and faculty with similar experiences that they can go to if they ever want to to talk, she said.