How I recognized comp het/coercive heteronormativity
I get a lot of asks about how to tease apart genuine attraction from compulsory heterosexuality/coercive heteronormativity and how I figured it out and all that and the sucky answer is that there’s no cut-and-dry test or yes or no way to figure it out. Ultimately, in the end, you’ll have to decide whether you feel genuine attraction for men or whether it’s been conditioned into you. That doesn’t mean your conclusion can’t change over time, but you have to make the call in the end. No one else can make it for you.
Statements I have that helped me (speaking from my own experience) conclude that I was experiencing compulsory heterosexuality and not genuine attraction to men that might resonate with you:
- I like getting attention from men and being validated in my attractiveness, but the moment it goes from attention to an interaction (i.e. from flirting to asking out) I start panicking.
- I’m constantly testing my attraction to men. I pick one or more conventionally attractive men in the room, and try to force myself to be attracted to them.
- I like the idea of being with a man, but any time a man makes a move on me I get incredibly uncomfortable.
- I like the idea of marrying a man/being in a relationship with a man, but I can always pick out a reason to not want to date any man that is interested in me or any man suggested to me. These reasons are sometimes reasonable, but often insignificant (i.e. “I don’t like guys who do their hair like that, he has a weird mole on his face, he’s too tall”).
- I can fantasize about men and find men attractive, but thinking about realistically being with a man makes my stomach churn.
- The guys I like always seem to be incredibly feminine or gay. (This never happened to me specifically, but it has happened to many friends).
- Alternatively, the guys I like are always a hyper masculine man’s man who embodies everything about manliness.
- The guys I like are always unattainable.
- I get crushes on guys but they immediately disappear the moment they might like me back.
- When I think about guys, I think about all the things that I could tolerate doing with them (dating, kissing, sex, marriage) but always in terms of what I could force myself to do, not what I want to do.
- Being around guys that are interested in me gives me intense anxiety.
- I like male celebrities, fictional men, and men in art, but never men in real life.
- All of my fantasies around men are always with faceless, nameless men; the more realistic the fantasy and the more details about my partner I invent, the less excited and into the fantasy I become.
- I want to marry a man, be a stay at home, have 2.5 kids and a dog named Spot, live in the suburbs, and have my kids play sports and paint. I have no idea why I want this, I can’t pick out anything about this goal that is appealing to me, but I want this to happen.
- Your fantasies about men still somehow turn out to be a little gay. Maybe you’re penetrating him, you don’t have to look at his face/don’t want to look at his face (I had and still have this one big time), you want a threesome with another woman, he’s very feminine, etc. It might be a “straight fantasy” but you’ve altered it in a way straight people might not be totally interested in.
- Your fantasies about men give you intense distress or anxiety. They could be intrusive thoughts, forms of self-harm, or otherwise.
- You figure you’re attracted to men but don’t really have any evidence for it. (i.e. “I guess I’m attracted to men because I had a crush on Brian in 2nd grade. I don’t hate men and I have men who I am friends with and whose company I enjoy. Why wouldn’t I be attracted to men?”)
This by no means an exhaustive list of how compulsive heterosexuality/coercive heteronormativity affects people, and there are plenty of people who are genuinely attracted to men who may relate and identify with one or more of these bullet points. However, if you relate to or identify with a lot of these things, I’d say it’s worth an investigation into why so many of these things resonate with you. Is it because you have a specific taste in men or because society has conditioned you to want this? Is it because you have bad experiences with men related to trauma or because these kinds of desires have been ingrained into you? I can’t answer those questions for you, and it will probably take some soul-searching but these are things I noticed for myself that indicated to me I wasn’t experiencing genuine attraction to men.
If anyone else has any compulsory heterosexuality/coercive heteronormavitiy signs they’d like to share, feel free!