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Can’t resist an I Called Off My Wedding essay! (“On another plane ride, I watch Pride and Prejudice. Despite my tendency to be gay, Mr. Darcy makes my heart leap.”)

Discussion  6 comments

Margaret M. Edited

Yanni doesn't explicitly mention the phrase, but boy oh boy is compulsory heterosexuality a weird hill to get over. People who aren't queer sometimes don't get the concept, "What do you mean compulsory heterosexuality? It's the 21st century and we're in a country where lots of people are out; surely if you're gay you know right away." But if you're socialized as a girl/woman, you often grow up socialized to climb a ladder of success whose rungs are attention from men, dating men, and ultimately marrying them.

For people who are actually heterosexual this ladder is less problematic for sexuality reasons (like, if you are really and truly a woman who is into men, the successes of the comphet ladder are like getting achievement badges for a quest you were already going on). It's still a set of misogynist expectations, though.

But if you're queer and grow up with comphet, you're wondering when boys are going to start noticing you, and you may not realize that when you finally kiss one you feel more like "yes, I am desirable, I am kissable" than actually enjoying that kissing. If you're caught up in that, sometimes it can be hard to notice that the reason you want to hang out around that *really cool* girl isn't because she's *really cool*; it's because you want to make out with her.

Extra difficulty if you're bi/pan; you actually do like dudes and enjoy kissing them, so you just kind of assume that you must be straight until your sapphic desires sucker punch you one night at a party when you're 25 and you meet a lighting designer who is just so REALLY COOL that you finally realize that your brain has been trying to tell you that "really cool" is its way of telling you that yes, you want to play tonsil hockey with that person.*

Then you slowly realize that when you think about dating women you don't feel the societal pressures that you feel when you're dating men. Maybe the biological clock doesn't feel like such a hurdle, or you realize that dating a woman has somehow made it so that people aren't pressuring you to get married in the same way, or whatever.

And if you happen to already be in a relationship with a man when the really cool lighting designer sapphic feelings sucker punch happens, it can be even harder to parse out the comphetness of it all. Because you can absolutely love someone you're not actually in love with. You can be good partners and friends and not hate sex with them, and not fully realize what you're missing because you haven't had it yet.

Of Little Women, Yanni says "The entire film is a commentary on the female heroine, and how impossible it is for a story not to end with said heroine either married or dead." Compulsory heterosexuality is what drives that impossibility; stepping outside that box (whether to queerness or to happy singleness or to heterosexual relationships that acknowledge that societal pressure and exist despite it or outside of it) feels pretty fucking revolutionary. When you're not focused on the comphet game, you can build your narrative and your sense of self-worth very differently.

*Reader: it happened to me. She was REALLY, REALLY COOL. She was also really, really not single. Thank you, random Brooklyn lighting designer, for my queer epiphany! I did eventually get to play tonsil hockey with other really cool women.

Also: this is the post that finally got me to pony up my money for a membership! I've been reading since 2004-ish, I think? When I was about 20 and had someone yell a slur at me in the street for being queer (even though I thought I wasn't...). But look, a post that relates to late realization of queerness, and now I feel like I have something to say!

Edith ZimmermanMOD

This comment is kinda blowing my mind. So glad you wrote it. And, so glad you joined.


This is an extraordinary comment. Thank you for posting!

Margaret M.

Given that this comment was called out in another post, I do want to add one thing: because I'm a queer woman, I wrote the whole above comment from the perspective of people socialized as girls/women, but compulsory heterosexuality is absolutely something that can affect queer people socialized as boys/men, too. I just don't know as much about it from that perspective.

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Margaret M.

This summer’s biggest lesbian hit is about being spurned by a woman who is hanging onto comphet despite herself: “Good Luck, Babe” by Chappell Roan.

I'm cliché, who cares?
It's a sexually explicit kind of love affair
And I cry, it's not fair
I just need a little lovin', I just need a little air
Think I'm gonna call it off
Even if you call it love
I just wanna love someone who calls me "baby"
You can kiss a hundred boys in bars
Shoot another shot, try to stop the feeling
You can say it's just the way you are
Make a new excuse, another stupid reason
Good luck, babe (well, good luck), well, good luck, babe (well, good luck)
You'd have to stop the world just to stop the feeling

Edith ZimmermanMOD

Song also just rules in general. Resharing the link bc I think yours is missing a symbol or something


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