Ways that People Challenge Compulsory Heterosexuality and Heteronormativity

Ways that People Challenge Compulsory Heterosexuality and Heteronormativity

Black Mirror – Season 3 Episode 04: San Junipero


As a society, there are things or issues that people are expected to comply with as they undertake day to day activities. These issues are usually embroiled within the confines of the structures that govern the people. It is more of a norm thing as there are things that are considered good while others are considered as being undesirable. People are expected to comply with these expectations without questioning the aspects that do not feel appropriate. There is the tendency of the norms oppressing certain people in the society while favoring some in the process.  This aspect culminates to rebellion, and the people that feel oppressed are usually trying to go against these norms (Martinsson and Eva 34). The paper argues that compulsory heterosexuality is more of an institution that is imposed on the society in order to present women as subordinates and efforts to challenge this construction results to both negative and positive consequences to the people involved.


The series “Black Mirror – Season 3 Episode 04: San Junipero” portrays a classical example of how people challenge the concept of compulsory heterosexuality and heteronormativity. This episode challenges heterosexuality in that it makes lesbianism seem like something normal that has been embraced by the society. In the film, Kelly meets Yorkie in a bar, and they tend to get acquainted fast. Kelly encompasses a free spirit where she takes every initiative and opportunity to have fun. Yorkie, on the other hand, is quite conservative based on the way that she approaches life. Kelly is a bisexual, and her way of life tickles Yorkie in a way. Her advances to take her to bed bear fruits after the initial reluctance from Yorkie. From this episode, Yorkie comes out as an independent woman that embraces life in a way that she deems it fun. She has the tendency of sleeping around with both men and women. This aspect goes against compulsory heterosexuality. This type of behavior is anticipated from men and not women. Women that lead such a life end up being regarded as being “sluts” (Rich 61). Kelly and Yorkie falling in love also challenges the dynamics of compulsory heterosexuality. It is the expectation in the society that a man is supposed to fall in love with a woman, and this is not expected from people of the same gender. Going against this norm is likely to have negative repercussions on the people involved.

To some extent, the norm of compulsory heterosexuality and heteronormativity needs to be challenged. This norm does not give people the opportunity to pursue their own personal sexual preferences if they do not conform to the default sexual orientation. As a result, women that are lesbians find it difficult to come out since compulsory heterosexuality makes it difficult for them to separate “true sexual desires” from “compulsions toward heterosexuality”( Emmagunde 1).  Compulsory heterosexuality is developed under the patriarchal structure where male hold the primary power that helps them to predominate roles, moral authority and social privilege (Rich 23). Compulsory heterosexuality is not a natural human instinct but more of an institution that is imposed on the society to present women as subordinates compared to men.

The norm is more of a binary thinking as it only stipulates what is right or wrong without giving people the autonomy to express their personal sexual preferences. This is like giving people the freedom to do something, but there are limitations on how to do it. This does not really sound like freedom. Further, individuals choosing their sexual orientation do not get in the way to affect other people in the society negatively. As a result, people should be given the opportunity to explore their sexual preferences as it is likely to bring happiness on their side. The dominant discourse of sexuality, on the other hand, tends to reinforce social inequality in the society. This is because compulsory heterosexuality tends to further oppress some people at the expense of others. Men are usually the beneficiaries when women are left to feel oppressed by the institutionalization of norms that do not favor them (Provenzo 231).


Compulsory heterosexuality tends to overlap with other social identities that are related to domination, discrimination or oppression. There are multiple identities that tend to intersect and result in the formation of a “whole” system. The intersectionality between compulsory heterosexuality with gender, social class, race, sexual orientation, disability among others works to systematically bring about aspects of social inequality and injustice. This is because conceptualizations of oppression such as sexism, racism, homophobia, classism and transphobia do not work independently of each other. These forms of oppressions tend to interrelate hence creating a system of oppression, which reflects the “intersection” of varied forms of discrimination (Martinsson and Eva 34). As a result, aspects of intersectional identities are not addressed within the normal social discourses as they come with varied sets of domination, discrimination and oppression. Policies and laws only tend to address a given marginalized identity but fail in addressing the intersection of the diverse oppressed identities. Intersectional identities are usually overlooked, and this results in the absence of resources to help curb discrimination and oppression that are cyclically perpetuated (Napikoski 1). This is why aspects of an individual’s identity ought to be examined as if they are interacting simultaneously to affect the individual’s privileges and cannot be observed separately.

Intersectionality helps to explain how compulsory heterosexuality is subversive in a way. This is because it goes against the norm of giving people the freedom of choosing what is right for them as long as they do not infringe on other people’s wellbeing. It tends to pave the way for oppressions and discrimination of some people in the society in the same way that sexism, homophobia, racism, transphobia among others do.


Challenging the normative constructions of compulsory heterosexuality is likely to result in various consequences. Among them is the emergence of conflict among the people in the society. The conflict would between the people that uphold compulsory heterosexuality and those that are against it. People against heterosexuality are usually of the opinion that everyone should have the autonomy to determine their sexual orientation where everyone reacts based on their preferences. This would mean people embracing concepts of lesbianism, homosexuality, and women sleeping around without fear of what the society thinks of them. The people that are for compulsory heterosexuality in return are expected to reject these ways. This will result in the division of families as some members will be disowned as a result of their sexual preferences going against the set norms in the society.

Another effect is that challenging the normative constructions of compulsory heterosexuality will result to relieving many people in the society from oppression and discrimination. Most people that have different sexual orientation from what is expected usually tend to keep if for themselves. This makes them feel oppressed as they do not have the autonomy of practicing whatever they feel would make them feel liberated. Challenging these constructions would make them feel liberated from the discrimination that comes with adopting different sexual preferences from what the society expects.

The forms of resistance against compulsory heterosexuality presented in the series “Black Mirror – Season 3 Episode 04: San Junipero” disturbs the dominance of heteronormative discourse in a big way. This is because people get an understanding that they have the autonomy to lead a life of happiness so long as whatever they are doing does not infringe on the rights of others. There is an understanding that life is short and people should take the initiative of enjoying it as they live (equalityarchive.com 1). This implies that people will start viewing compulsory heterosexuality as something that stands in their way of living a happy life hence opt to go against it.


Compulsory heterosexuality is developed under the patriarchal structure where male hold the primary power that helps them to predominate roles, moral authority and social privilege. This is why some people view compulsory heterosexuality as not being a natural human instinct but more of an institution that is imposed on the society to present women as subordinates compared to men. Trying to challenge the construction of compulsory heterosexuality is likely to bring about division since the people in the society have come to view it in different ways. On one hand, it is likely to result in liberation on the people that have always viewed it as a stumbling block in leading their lives. The same people also run the risk of being disowned by the other members that hold this norm dear and close to their hearts.


Works Cited

Emmagunde,. “Compulsory Heterosexuality”. A Feminist Theory Dictionary, 2007, https://afeministtheorydictionary.wordpress.com/2007/07/18/compulsory-heterosexuality/.

equalityarchive.com,. “Compulsory Heterosexuality | Equality Archive”. Equality Archive, 2017, http://equalityarchive.com/issues/compulsory-heterosexuality/.

Martinsson, Lena, and Eva Reimers. Norm-Struggles: Sexualities In Contentions. 1st ed., Newcastle, Cambridge Scholars, 2010,.

Napikoski, Linda. “Feminists Question Compulsory Heterosexuality”. Thoughtco, 2017, https://www.thoughtco.com/compulsory-heterosexuality-overview-3528951.

Provenzo, Eugene F. Encyclopedia Of The Social And Cultural Foundations Of Education. Thousand Oaks, Calif. [U.A.], Sage, 2009,.

Rich, Adrienne. Compulsory Heterosexuality And Lesbian Existence. Denver Co., Antelope Publications, 1982,.

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