am i a lesbian who is experiencing comphet?

let's take a moment to discuss what comphet is and how it affects lesbians and their relationships with their identities. tap the lesbian flag below to continue!

this carrd is a bite-sized and up-to-date version of the ‘am i a lesbian?’ masterdoc.

this carrd was last updated on june 14th, 2023.

helloooo white text as a spacer

what is comphet?

comphet is short for compulsory heterosexuality. compulsory heterosexuality is the idea that heterosexuality is forced upon lesbians by our patriarchal culture. the term was coined by
adrienne rich in her 1980 essay, compulsory heterosexuality and lesbian experience.
tap here for some very important information on adrienne rich and how the meaning of comphet has changed since she coined the term!

comphet is a common experience for lesbians because of the misogyny and the patriarchy that causes the sexualities and identities of lesbians to be defined by their relationships with men and is a lesbian-only term. tap here for more information on why comphet is a lesbian-only term as well as some information on heteronormativity.

there is no way to deny the idea that, from a very young age, lesbians are accustomed to the idea that they have to please men or that they are required to be attracted to men.

an example is how heterosexuality is presented in media. there are so many movies that feature heterosexual couples. when a young lesbian sees that all of the time as they are growing up, it is only natural that they are being trained to believe that heterosexuality is the only option that they have.

as these lesbians get older, how will they separate what they want from what they were conditioned to believe? this is where comphet comes in!

am i a lesbian?

if you're questioning if you're a lesbian with comphet or not, tap here for some questions that may help you to ask yourself!

asking yourself questions like those can be very uncomfortable and difficult, but it’ll help you throughout your self-discovery process!

it’s important to remember that attraction is supposed to feel good! it's not supposed to scare you or make you feel uncomfortable.

if you find yourself having thoughts like “wow, that is how i feel” when you answer the questions that are linked above, you may be a lesbian! and that's okay! being a lesbian is a beautiful thing.
lesbian is not a dirty word.

it's important to know that those questions can be difficult to answer, though! it takes time to accept yourself and be happy about who you truly are. it'll all be okay. it's also important to know that, even if you know that you're a lesbian, comphet can still affect you! and that's valid. so many other lesbians are in the same boat as you. you are so valid.

but i feel attracted to fictional men and celebrities! does that mean that i can't be a lesbian?

no! lesbians are allowed to feel attracted to fictional men and celebrities. that doesn't mean that it's actual attraction! you can find men attractive but not be actually attracted to them. that can be a hard concept to understand, especially when you're struggling with your sexuality!

these men are unattainable. having crushes on unattainable men is a symptom of comphet!

because it's impossible to ever be with an unattainable man, lesbians get to avoid the idea of legitimate intimacy with that person, which can be comforting. it can make self discovery a little more difficult, though.

long story short, you can like unattainable men and still be a lesbian.

that doesn't make you any less of a lesbian!

but i have had relationships with men in the past. i thought that i was attracted to who i was with. does that mean that i can't be a lesbian now?

no! you could have had relationships with men in the past and still be a lesbian now. a lot of lesbians have had boyfriends in the past! that does not make you any less valid.

you are 100% allowed to identify differently than you previously had.

it is not shameful to change your label, and it's not shameful to experiment and change it again as you continue to discover yourself and who you are!

you are growing and learning more about yourself every day. change is expected sometimes! and that's okay! you'll be okay.however, if you were in a realtionship with a man in the past and it was legitimately fulfilling and you were genuinely attracted to who you were with, you probably aren't a lesbian!figuring out whether your past attraction was legitimate or fabricated is hard, but not impossible. if you are in this difficult period of self-reflection, it'll all be okay in due time. you'll get there!

thank you for reading!

hopefully i was able to clear some stuff up about comphet and how people can figure out whether or not they are struggling with comphet.

please educate yourself and others on comphet.
it is a universal lesbian experience and it can be so helpful to know about when it comes to learning about who you are and finding the label that makes you feel the most comfortable!

if you're here trying to figure out if you're a lesbian or not, you'll get there! sexuality can be a really difficult thing to grasp and it takes time. don't stress yourself out! go with the flow. you'll be okay and you'll find yourself soon, i promise.

more questions to ask yourself!

“do i feel like i must be attracted to men? does it feel like an obligation?”“can i be truthfully happy with a man?”

“do i test my attraction to men and decipher whether or not i am allowed to be attracted to them based on their traits?”“can i see myself having a happy and fulfilling relationship with a man?”

“do i find myself thinking about how badly i wished that i did or didn't like men?”“does my attraction to men make me uncomfortable?”

“do i feel intrigued with the idea of being with a man hypothetically but then feel uncomfortable when it's an actual possibility?”“if i imagined myself marrying a man, would i feel content or would i feel like something was missing?”

“do i have incredibly high standards for men?”“would i be comfortable with a man seeing me in a vulnerable position? ex. would i be okay with a man seeing me cry, seeing me naked, etc.?”

"i still have warm, positive, and strong feelings towards men that i know. is this actual attraction? can i still be a lesbian if i have these feelings?"

you absolutely can be a lesbian and still have positive feelings towards men in your life!

these feelings can be very easily confused with actual attraction, but it is not actual attraction for lesbians! these feelings are platonic for us.

lesbians are allowed to have close and meaningful friendships with the men in their lives, but these feelings can be really hard to figure out when it comes to self-discovery.

"is this romantic or platonic attraction?" is an intimidating question to ask yourself, but you'll come to a conclusion, i promise. there's no rush!

give yourself all of the time that you need.

why is the term comphet only for lesbians?
what is heteronormativity and why is it different?

comphet is a subcategory of heteronormativity that relates to the patriarchy, and makes people feel like they have a requirement to please men. the patriarchy makes lesbians feel as if there is an obligation to feel attracted to men due to how society centers around them.

that is why the term comphet is
only for lesbians to use.

anybody can experience heteronormativity, no matter what label they use. gay people, bi people, pan people, ace people, aro people, anybody who feels any type of attraction.

while bi/pan sapphics may have a similar experience in feeling like they are obligated to feel attracted to men due to the patriarchy, the experience itself is different because bi/pan people still have the attraction to men that lesbians don’t have.

people who struggle with heteronormativity can feel like they must force themselves to like the opposite gender and feel denial about feeling attracted to people of the same gender, but it's not comphet because they still feel attracted to men.

the biggest difference between comphet and heteronormativity is that anybody can experience heteronormativity, but comphet is a term only for lesbians because of its relation to the patriarchy.

sometimes i think of/see men in sexual contexts and i find them/their bodies attractive, but i don’t think that i would feel comfortable actually having a sexual relationship with a man. what does this mean?

this section is about a sexual aspect of false attraction. if you don’t feel comfortable reading about this because it is a little nsfw, please don’t hesitate to skip this page. take care of yourself first and foremost!

this aspect of comphet, while it's very common and experienced widely by many lesbians, can feel taboo to talk about because of its sexual nature — but that does not mean that it’s an abnormal feeling to have!

this part of comphet can be very easily compared to the “i think that some men are attractive, but i still wouldn’t want to be in a relationship with a man” idea. this sprouts from lesbians feeling like they are obligated to feel attracted to men, whether that be romantically, physically or sexually.

you can think that men are attractive without actually being attracted to them! figuring out if the attraction is legitimate or not can be really scary and hard to do and it can take time, but it’ll come to you sooner or later. you’ll be alright!

if you find yourself having thoughts like this, that doesn’t make you weird. it just means that you have some more thinking to do! and that’s okay!

wasn't adrienne rich a terf?
if so, why are we using a term that a terf coined?
tw: transphobia
yes, adrienne rich was a terf. she was horribly transphobic, and her transphobia does play a role in the essay that the term “compulsory heterosexuality” is from. she was a firm believer that trans women had no say in the feminist movement or place in the lesbian community.however, this is not how the term is used currently! over multiple years of use, the term has been molded to define the experience that many lesbians share instead of being a term that is used to separate trans women from the lesbian label.trans lesbians can, and often do, experience comphet, and have a place in the lesbian community.

though the term was unfortunately coined by a transphobe and was originally trans-exclusive, the experience that rich wrote about is an important concept in lesbian theory and experienced widely by lesbians.

while speaking of comphet, be aware and critical of its origins and use it in a constructive and remodeled manner. the term has utility far beyond what adrienne rich originally used it for.due to the fact that the term “comphet” was coined by a terf, lots of lesbians use the term “cohet”, short for “coercive heterosexuality”, instead! it is simply a different word for the same experience!

before you continue, read this!
if you…

are an ‘mspec (bi/pan) lesbian’, believe that ‘mspec lesbians’ exist, believe that ‘lesbian men’ exist, or are a ‘lesbian man’…you are not welcome here.if you’re a man or your gender identity is man aligned (not the same as ‘masc aligned’, many lesbians have masculine gender identities and are still lesbians), you can’t be a lesbian. if you’re not only attracted to women and/or nonbinary people, you’re not a lesbian.note: lesbian men and he/him lesbians are not the same. lesbians who use he/him pronouns are completely valid and a treasured part of the lesbian community and are not men.that being said, if you are/support any the people mentioned above, this is not for you. here is a resource that explains why mspec lesbians and lesbian men are harmful if you are interested in learning more.stop intruding on lesbian spaces.