Compulsory Heterosexuality

Compulsory heterosexuality is the hegemony of heterosexual relationships as well as social expectations that heterosexuality is the norm and all other sexual orientations are deviant.

What is Compulsory Heterosexuality?
Compulsory heterosexuality is often used within groups that advocate for the rights of people whose sexuality or gender identity differs from heterosexuality, including intersex people, transgender people, gay people, or asexual people. The concept of compulsory heterosexuality is closely tied to the concept of heterosexual privilege, a system that preserves the rights of heterosexual people and enables heterosexual people to benefit from rights that non-heterosexual people do not have access to.

Common examples of compulsory heterosexuality include:

  • The assumption that children will marry a person of the other sex and the grooming and socialization of children for heterosexuality.
  • Sexual education books that exclusively discuss heterosexuality.
  • Religious and secular organizations that assume that all members are heterosexual or treat heterosexuality as the norm.
  • The belief that anyone can be heterosexual and that, even if one must pretend to be heterosexual, that this is better than being homosexual.

Compulsory Heterosexuality and Homophobia
Almost everyone participates in compulsory heterosexuality in some way, and the social assumption of heterosexuality is not in itself homophobic. However, compulsory heterosexuality contributes to homophobia by marginalizing non-heterosexuals, treating heterosexuality as the superior default, and decreasing awareness of the large number of people within the population who are not heterosexual.


  1. Compulsory heterosexuality. (n.d.). A Feminist Theory Dictionary. Retrieved from

Last Updated: 08-4-2015

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