What You Need To Know About Heteropessimism

As many straight women will tell you, dating heterosexual men isn't what it used to be — or at least what we assume it must have been like for our parents and grandparents. Dating apps have taken away the courting we've heard so much about, the orgasm gap continues to persist, and toxic masculinity stands in the way of many men allowing themselves to have a softness about them.

It's making some wonder if being straight is all it's cracked up to be. In fact, for sexuality and gender professor Jane Ward, heterosexuality looks like a tragedy. "It really looks like straight men and women don't like each other very much, that women spend so much time complaining about men, and we still have so much evidence of misogyny," Ward told Insider. "From an LGBT perspective, [being straight] looks actually very tragic."

Oof. It's sometimes hard not to be pessimistic about heterosexuality. But is it okay to be? Considering the ignorance and hate that our LGBT+ friends and family are still up against, are we wrong to spend our time complaining about being straight and wishing we could magically change our sexual orientation? That's where heteropessimism comes in.

What is heteropessimism?

Coined in 2019 by Asa Seresin in The New Inquiry, heteropessimism "consists of performative disaffiliations with heterosexuality, usually expressed in the form of regret, embarrassment, or hopelessness about straight experience." As Seresin goes on to further explain, heteropessimism usually focuses on the idea, for lack of better phrasing, that "men are the worst." But, as Seresin points out, while some women may be in agreement on this, rarely do they ditch their heterosexuality in favor of celibacy. 

What Seresin also illustrates is how some feel it is "uncool" to be heterosexual. In a world where there are dozens and dozens of sexual orientations and being queer is far more acceptable than it's ever been — albeit society still has a long way to go on this front– some straight woman are shaking their fist at the sky and asking, "Why me?" While heteropessimism may not be as hostile as incel culture, it still doesn't bode well for those wishing their heterosexuality away. Nevertheless, ask yourself the last time you had to fight to be straight. While sexuality is fluid, research, such as that published in Archives of Sexual Behavior, has found time and again that you can't simply change your sexual orientation. You can't will yourself into being gay, straight, bisexual, pansexual, or any other sexuality, though your sexuality may naturally move along the spectrum throughout your life.

Why heteropessimism is so bad

What straight people seem to forget is that there are awful people no matter where you go. If you think your queer friends have fantastic love lives if they don't date straight people, you're mistaken. You're also being heteropessimistic. "Reducing the queer experience to something that would be 'so much easier' than dating crappy men is incredibly out of touch and privileged," non-monogamy educator Leanne Yau tells Cosmopolitan. "Ultimately, the straight experience is not inherently toxic and flawed, and the queer experience is not free and devoid of issues."

Not only is heteropessimism putting your LGBT+ friends into a box and doing them a grave disservice, but it's also not doing you any favors. While there's nothing wrong with being disappointed about your personal experiences, hating on your heterosexuality at the expense of a group of people who had to fight for their right to love who they love and who are still prosecuted around the world for their queerness is wrong. 

No one ever said dating was going to be easy. No one ever guaranteed you a fairytale ending. So while your experiences and feelings are valid, hooking them to heteropessimism isn't the way to do it.