Here's how to work out if you're a little bit gay.

If you clench your fist really tightly for a minute, you can witness a psychological phenomenon in real time.

Maintaining the position is initially torturous, but after 45 seconds or so, the pain magically dissipates.

What’s really interesting though, is what happens when you try to release it. It’s surprisingly difficult. 

Relaxing your hand hurts almost more than it did to clench it in the first place, because it’s (temporarily) become your body’s new preferred homeostasis.

This is kind of how compulsory heterosexuality – more commonly known as comphet – works.

Though it’s neither a natural nor comfortable construct for a lot of people, we’re so accustomed to living our lives by it, it can be easy to forget it’s there.

Okay, so what’s comphet?

Simply put, comphet is the idea heterosexuality is treated as a default setting in our culture – women are expected to be sexually attracted to men. 

We're reminded of this in constant, insidious ways, from the fairytales we grow up having read to us, to rom-coms, song lyrics, and never-ending questions about whether we have boyfriends or husbands (questions that start disturbingly early, when adults coo, “Is this your boyfriend?” to little girls who befriend boys).

The message we hear on repeat, is that our lives are bereft of meaning until they’re attached to men.

And this narrative compels women – and by extension, femme and non-binary people – to centre our existence around men without pausing to ask ourselves whether we genuinely want to be with a man, or if we’re just doing it because it’s something we’ve been told to do.


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Which is why unpacking your comphet conditioning can be an incredibly confronting experience. It’s likely the first time you’ve interrogated your sexuality, and it may result in a complete and total recalibration of your life. Because, even if you still come to the conclusion you’re straight, you’ll never look at yourself or the world the same way again.

Here are some of the most powerful, covert ways comphet is probably affecting you…

Confusing attractiveness with attraction.

How do you know you’re sexually attracted to men?

This would seem to be a simple question, but it’s one many women find difficult to answer, largely because we aren’t actually taught how to identify attraction.

What we ARE taught to be very good at identifying, are the precise ways to make ourselves attractive to men. The male gaze determines our cultural beauty standards (read: be thin, but not TOO thin. Be sexy, but not TOO sexy. Wear makeup, but not TOO much makeup, etc) and often, how we’re treated by men.


Women who fall outside the criteria set by the male gaze, such as fat, butch and gender non-conforming women, routinely experience discrimination and are dismissed or treated as less human than their conventionally attractive peers. 

And this ultimately leads us to overvalue our appeal to men. Being noticed by a man, asked on a date, flirted with, or sexually pursued takes on a disproportionate level of importance in our lives, so we feel compelled to obsess over our desirability to men and consequently elated when men confirm it.

But here’s the thing: craving and even enjoying male attention isn’t the same thing as being attracted to men. Likewise, wanting men to find you attractive isn’t an indicator you’re sexually attracted to men; it’s merely a byproduct of living in a culture that’s conditioned you to prioritise men’s approval above all else.

Performing pleasure.

Do you enjoy sex with men? Or do you just enjoy being “good” at sex and doing the things you’ve been taught get men off, and therefore make you desirable?

It’s surprisingly challenging to separate the two when you’ve been taught to view sex as something men enjoy and women endure. 

As young women, we learn boys get boners, have wet dreams, and experience ejaculation, while being simultaneously instructed to prepare ourselves for painful periods and childbirth. We’re even warned losing our “virginity” (a heteronormative construct if ever there were one) will likely hurt.


Many of us additionally grew up reading magazines that provided us with tips for giving better blowjobs and being “the best he’s ever had” in bed. 

Porn reinforces this performative idea of sex, depicting women’s bodies as vessels for men’s erections, rarely featuring foreplay, clitoral stimulation or a scene in which someone reaches for a bottle of lube.

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This has led to the normalisation of disappointing, unfulfilling sex among women, epitomised in the archetypal joke of a wife feigning a headache to get out of sex with her husband, and backed up by research, which suggests that, while up to a third of women experience sexual discomfort or pain at some stage, only half will tell their partners about it.

In truth, sex is supposed to feel really, really good. If the only thing you enjoy about it is the knowledge you’re adept at going through all the motions of various acts male partners enjoy, or the feeling of being wanted, it’s possible you’re confusing genuine sexual attraction with a desire for sexual validation.

Mistaking “girl crushes” for crushes.

Has there ever been another woman you’ve been completely fascinated with? Someone you referred to as your “girl crush”?

Was that because you wanted to be just like her, or was it because you actually wanted to be with her?


Queer female relationships are so minimised and dismissed by our culture that, even when we experience legitimate romantic or sexual feelings toward another woman, we’re taught to instantly write them off as admiration or sexual fodder for straight men.

If you’ve ever made out with another woman at a party or in any kind of public setting, there’s a good chance you’ve had men thank you for “the show” or tell you how “hot” they found it, reinforcing the idea your same-sex experiences exist for their enjoyment.

Men are so centralised in women’s lives within comphet, even lesbians in fully fledged long-term relationships are assumed to be “good friends” – the connotation being, if a man isn’t involved, a meaningful, sexually satisfying relationship isn’t occurring.

And this belief is so pervasive, women frequently dismiss their queerness as “experimentation” or the result of having a few drinks. 

However, straight women don’t fantasise about or make out with other women. And if your “experimentation” happens on a regular basis, or you kiss women every time you’re drunk, it’s definitely worth considering whether your “girl crushes” are more than just admiration or fun between friends. 

Nadia Bokody is a queer sex columnist, YouTuber and professional over-sharer. Follow her on Instagram for more.

Feature Image: Supplied.