What Is Heteropessimism And Why Are So Many Women Affected By It?

While you may have never heard of heteropessimism, if you’re a straight person in the dating world, you may very well have experienced it yourself. The meaning of the word focuses on having negative feelings about your heterosexual identity and straight dating culture. It’s especially popular among women, many of whom become disillusioned by the reality of how difficult it is to find meaningful, lasting relationships. However, men can also experience heteropessimism, with incel culture being the most extreme (and dangerous) form.

Where did the term originate?

The term heteropessimism was first coined by a writer named Asa Seresin in a 2019 article in The New Inquiry. In the article, she writes about the trend of straight people being ashamed, embarrassed, and overwhelmingly negative about their sexual orientation. It’s a concept (and a feeling) that’s been around for a long time, but it becomes ever more popular with each passing year.

According to Seresin, heteropessimism is performative in that it acts as a defense mechanism. She cites Lee Edelman in describing it as “a feeling that aims to protect against overintensity of feeling and an attachment that can survive detachment.” In layman’s terms, by externalizing the problem and exuding a general feeling of hopelessness, many people think they can protect themselves from heterosexual dating/relationship culture altogether. Ultimately, that rarely works.

Signs you’re a heteropessimist

1. You regularly complain about the available men out there.

All the good guys are taken. There are no good guys. They’re all misogynists and incels, cheaters and players, or lazy losers with no ambition. There are no guys on your level. Going on like this is heteropessimism to a T. You claim to want love in one breath. In the next, you insist it doesn’t exist.

2. You feel disappointed in your relationships with men.

Even when you meet a decent guy who treats you well, it’s never enough. You try to be happy, but there’s a part of you that’s always a bit disappointed and let down. You may not even be able to pinpoint the problem. You just know that this boyfriend-girlfriend thing is a bit of a drag.

3. You swear off men and decide to “go gay.”

Sorry to tell you, but that’s not how it works. Straight women who claim they wish they were lesbians are obnoxious. Human relationships are complicated regardless of gender. Sure, men are frustrating, but women can be too. Oh, and as if it had to be said, sexuality is not a choice.

4. You’re overly defensive about and resentful of gender roles.

If a guy so much as holds a door open for you, you lose it. He’s either being chivalrous to try and get you into bed or he thinks you’re helpless, right? Not necessarily. Women can cook meals and men can offer romantic gestures. The opposite is true too. Not everything is propping up the patriarchy.

5. You’re always trashing men/the dating scene to your friends and family members.

You don’t necessarily plan to be alone forever, but your friends and family wouldn’t know that by the way you go on. Your heteropessimism is so overwhelming that you can’t help but talk trash about men and dating constantly. It’s exhausting for those around you.

6. You insist you’d rather be single than deal with men/dating.

Even you don’t believe the words coming out of your mouth. But, that doesn’t stop you from saying them. You claim that straight men are so terrible, you’d rather be alone forever. You probably know deep down that you’re kidding yourself, though.

7. You take an involuntary vow of celibacy.

The way you tell it, you’re choosing not to get busy for the foreseeable future. In reality, you’ve repelled not just the crappy men but the decent ones too with your incessant negativity. You don’t give anyone the chance to get close to you, so your vow of celibacy isn’t so voluntary after all.

How it can negatively affect your love life

1. You miss out on great dates by writing men off too quickly.

You can’t judge a book by its cover, as they say. While there are some immediate dealbreakers — being openly misogynistic or threatening, insulting you, lying to you — you can’t turn down dates because you’ve tarred all men with the same terrible brush. By doing this, you miss out on a lot.

2. You ruin your relationships because of your harsh views.

Even when you do end up with a guy, you always self-sabotage. You fight back against everything he does and constantly accuse and criticize him of things he hasn’t done because of your heteropessimism. It’s too much for anyone to deal with.

3. You fail to understand or really listen to your dates/partners.

Because you have an idea in your head of what “all men” are like, you never truly give them a chance. You never hear them out because you’ve already made up your mind about them. We don’t need to tell you why that’s a problem.

4. You get a reputation as someone who’s very negative/man-hating.

You might claim you don’t care, but you should. Being called a “Feminazi” by misogynistic men is one thing, but it’s another if even your friends are starting to think it. Soon enough, no one will want to be around your extreme views.

5. You end up alone long-term because no one is ever good enough.

It’s exactly as it sounds. And that’s not really what you want, is it?

How to change

1. Give what you want to give in dating and relationships.

Leading by example is a good principle to follow in all walks of life, and that’s especially true in dating. If you want to be treated with kindness and respect, extend men the same courtesy. If you want them to get to know you before judging you, offer them the same opportunity.

2. Become more self-aware: is your perception clouding reality?

Sometimes you have to be able to assess your own feelings, thought patterns, and behaviors. Could you possibly be caught up in your own heteropessimism to the point that you’ve lost sight of reality? Be honest enough to face reality.

3. Set and uphold healthy boundaries.

Just because you need to give guys a chance doesn’t mean you should drop your standards. Quite the opposite. Setting boundaries in relationships is healthy and important for your relationship. You want to be with someone who respects yours, and vice versa.

4. Want a partner? Attract love with the power of your mind.

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5. Learn how to communicate better with men.

Yes, think and communicate differently than women. That’s just a fact. And while it’s not your responsibility to teach them how to communicate, you should learn to meet them halfway. Try to understand their point of view and their communication style. Doing so will give you more insight into who they really are. Plus, it will save you a lot of frustration.

6. Recognize, accept, and appreciate your differences.

In the same vein, it’s important to realize that men being different to women doesn’t make them worse. It makes them different. The less you lead with your preconceived notions about who they are and what they’re like, the more you’ll transform your relationships.

7. Focus on the good rather than the bad.

There’s always bad. While there shouldn’t be more bad than good, focusing on the high points rather than the low ones is life-changing. Trust us.

Jennifer Still is a writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience. The managing editor of Bolde, she has bylines in Vanity Fair, Business Insider, The New York Times, Glamour, Bon Appetit, and many more. You can follow her on Twitter @jenniferlstill