Comphet is societal but also internalized, so that queer people may have difficulty acknowledging their sexual attraction because they assume themselves to be straight. Further, comphet describes the habit of viewing all close relationships between men and women as romantic or sexual. In other words, heterosexuality is seen as compulsory in many modern societies.
Feminist writer Adrienne Rich coined the concept of compulsory heterosexuality in 1980. In her paper “Compulsory Heterosexuality and the Lesbian Experience,” she argued that it wasn't as natural for women to pair up with men as society claims. Instead, she said an oppressive, male-dominated society leads women to heterosexual relationships. She suggested women formed straight relationships to fit in with society and gain economic advantages.
The shortened term comphet gained mainstream acceptance in the 2020s when a Google Doc, “The Lesbian Masterdoc,” focused on compulsory heterosexuality, went viral. Its writer Angeli Luz discussed the way compulsory heterosexuality made it more difficult to understand and accept her own sexuality. These ideas resonated with young people who began reflecting on how they related to their own lives. These millennials used the shorthand term comphet when sharing their views on social video platform TikTok. The term is most commonly used by lesbian and queer people.
Comphet encourages people to see all attraction towards people of the opposite gender as romantic or sexual attraction, without digging deeper to find other motivations. For example, comphet can lead lesbians who enjoy the company of men to date them or even marry them. These women may mistake respecting a man’s accomplishments or liking their taste in music for a romantic attraction. They may also reject romantic or sexual feelings towards people of the same sex because they do not fit with the cultural norm.
However, understanding comphet and how it works can be enlightening. People who understand comphet may think more deeply about what they really like about people and why they're attracted to them. They may use the term comphet crush to describe an attraction towards a good-looking actor or talented musician of the opposite gender. They know a comphet crush is not really based on a true romantic attraction, but one society expects they’ll have.