Are Straight Women Okay?

Performative heterosexuality will never not stun me into silence. And how? It’s an every day, all day experience. From a.m. to p.m., it’s engagement photos of women in camo training their rifle at their man buck this, and “lock up your daughters” bibs on your infant sons that.

But a stroll down the “his and hers” retail section will still have me on some Family Feud Steve Harvey levels of disbelief. I mean, “his and hers” towels I get. A piece of material that collects whatever excretes from a man’s skin even after he’s showered should never come in contact with another human being and I’m gonna need some stitching, some exclamations, maybe a marching band through the bathroom to alert me of one such towel. But y’all need gendered coffee mugs?

When you further investigate this phenomenon, as I did, things get real dark, real quick. The items themselves are worrying enough on their own as they reveal a prison of what women are allowed to be and should want, but then you dive deeper and the culture that lurks just behind these items reveals itself. I’ve seen the depths of this landscape and I need to ask a question: are straight woman okay? Like, not in a joking way — do they need assistance?

More specifically:

Straight women who buy this Husband and Wife Conversation Starter Game to play with the man you’ve married and have presumably known long enough to not need icebreakers but actually still do need icebreakers to engage in a conversation with the person you share a space with, are you okay?

Straight women who are married to men who need to buy a book called How Not To Be An A-hole Husband and Lose Your Wife in order to not be an a-hole, are you okay?

Straight women who so relate to the features this Inflatable Husband is meant to counter that it becomes a funny joke, are you okay?

Straight women for whom Sex Checks in order to maintain balance in the bedroom had in mind, are you okay?

Straight women who spend 31 days literally praying for a future husband, are you okay?

Straight women who are fine with less coffee because at least my husband’s cup fits into mine, are you okay?

Straight women who fetishize a trend of facial hair — that has been proven to contain ample amounts of fecal matter — and who prefer to spend their mornings looking at a man drinking out of a cup that says I LIKE HER BUTT, are you okay?

Straight women who maybe feel scared that being alone is the worst thing you could possibly be and so you confidently lean into the overbearing, possessive wife trope for some semblance of control in this increasingly terrifying world, are you okay?

ONCE FOR YES, TWICE FOR NO, LADIES!


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Writer by way of GA/PDX/MPLS/NASHVILLE. Let's keep it clean out there!

Erin has written 114 articles for us.

181 Comments

      • 7

        See, I don’t even need the big mug, because I like mine pipping hot, so a little cup is just an excuse to go back for another americano, and that is totally ok with me, but seriously those cups are awful. I do not need nesting, labeled coffee cups. Also, if you like his beard that wild and wooly, he probably needs a sippy-cup or a funnel instead of a mug…

    • 1

      Same. They are poorly designed (the pictures don’t stylistically match! and the text is bleh!), but besides that, if men are going to butt territory, why shouldn’t we ladies? MAKE ME A MUG THAT SAYS I LOVE HIS BUTT AND PUT A DAMN BOY BUTT ON THERE!

  1. 55

    The best (only redeeming?) part about the 31 Days of Prayer book is that in the Amazon description the author encourages women to be like Ruth. And I mean, ahem. Last time I checked, Ruth’s big declaration of love was for Naomi, so like, is this book secretly trying to tell straight women to run away with a lady of their choice? I’m gonna hold on to that hope in this garbage fire world.

  2. 37

    OMG

    I feel compelled to report that my (cis male) husband and I have managed to share household chores and have sex without resorting to sex checks for 15 years (thank you very much).

    Because I’ve been married to a man for 15 years, sometimes I worry that I’m not queer enough or not bi enough. Or that I’m more straight identified than queer identified. Blah blah blah.

    But I am definitely not identified with ANY of that. JFC. (And yes, I’m worried about our straight sisters).

    • 24

      I’m going through a weird moment with stuff like this currently, as after 15 years of dating women I’ve met a man out of the blue. He’s incredible, queer minded, feminist, and doesn’t buy into any of this bullshit… but I find myself regressing into a particular mindset, emulating my mother, saying and doing things I used to roll my eyes at straight women for. It’s like I’m battling to hold onto my queerness everyday – and he is not responsible, it’s all me! I’m scared I’ll end up finding these mugs funny…

    • 17

      Articles like these always seem to devolve at some point from a starting point of “heteronormativity, what the hell?” (which I totally agree with) to jabs like “male bodies are gross, why would you go near them?” which is so disappointing and sends the message that queer women with male partners are somehow less enlightened queers.

      • 22

        I think the part about asking “why would you go near them?” definitely sends a less than positive message to queer women who date men, yes, and that is unfortunate. That being said, I think there is something to be said for an oppressed group expressing negative sentiments about those who have oppressed them (cishet men), which is generally how I take such things.

        (I also have the heart shaped misandrist pin and wear it all the time…so.. maybe not coming from the same place)

        • 7

          Yeah, I flinched a little about the eww male bodies because I don’t feel that way, but I mostly took it as a jab against an oppressive group not a jab against me (or my lovely, not eww-y spouse).

      • 9

        Thank you queer girl! I mean, I think I’m more or less over my queer insecurities, but it also really, really helps to have affirmations from my people.

        (I did not even think about queer cred when choosing my avatar photo, I just really love my cat and how skeptical she looks in that photo.

        Kind of like I had no idea that plaid or flannel was a queer signifier when I bought my most favoritist black and blue plaid flannel shirt when I was 16. I just loved that shirt so, so much that I wore it with everything, even to church (with a black wool skirt and a white button down).)

    • 5

      You’re queer enough and so wonderful enough and you are gorgeous and fabulous. I’m also bi and partnered with a man (just celebrated 10 years in January!!!).

      Compulsive heteronormativity is the worst because some women partnered with men and some men partnered with women are told that a lack of communication is totally normal and that women should bear the burden of the emotional labor.

      AND ALSO: I kinda like that beard / butt mug set cause it’s not about emotional labor and also talking about fecal matter in beards is kinda not cool.

  3. 42

    Straight women who wear “boyfriend jeans” rather than call them what they are (genderless comfortable cute clothes) are you okay? Can I help? Possibly direct you to the “”men””‘s clothes department where you’ll find the exact same jeans for less money with more pockets? (I don’t know why this article prompted me to post my first comment here but somehow it did. The horrible coffee-manspreading mug compelled me)

  4. 25

    straight people are insane. like, straight culture scares me. everyone has seen those memes on twitter, right, like, “i don’t want to write my essay so i accused my bf of talking to other girls just to start a fight and distract me from working lmao i’m extra” like what? babes, what are you doing? that is not healthy or normal.

    • 4

      You do know that there are same-sex versions of lots of these products, right? Can we all admit that we know people in same-sex relationships that would buy/wear/drink out of most of these? I’m expecting a follow-up article entitled “Are WE okay?” Are you also going to critique butch/femme relationships as part of the patriarchy? Definitely neeeever heard of a queer person who, as you write, “maybe feel scared that being alone is the worst thing you could possibly be and so you confidently lean into the overbearing, possessive wife trope for some semblance of control in this increasingly terrifying world”……

  5. 47

    When they discuss (very seriously) if you can wear high heals as a tall woman when your boyfriend is not tall. Then complain that they can never wear high heals on a date because looking taller than your boyfriend is obviosly a disaster. One time I suggested that the boyfriend should wear high heals and I just got a weird look from everyone.

    • 0

      Thanks for saying exactly what I was thinking about. Short guys dating taller gals shouldn’t care if their gal wears sneakers or heels. If their relationship is solid that’s all they need.

  6. 15

    So this is what happened to all of my exes? Wow, I almost feel bad.

    Also, my god, why doesn’t it bother them that the fonts on Mr. And Mrs. don’t match? Those mugs don’t belong together if the fonts don’t match! (For some reason the beard and butt mugs don’t bother me as much, but then again, I’m a Virgo; I only care if you’re neat.)

    • 2

      Your comment exemplifies the problem with articles like this. Gay women use them as an opportunity to hate on queer women who end up in relationships with men AKA BIPHOBIA. Just because your ex ends up with a man doesn’t mean she’s going to be psychologically unhealthy, unhappy, or begin to perform heteronormative gender roles.

      • 32

        *Misandry =/= biphobia.

        *You don’t know the gender of the exes Mavi is talking about

        *This is an article about the weird cult of straightness we soak in since we’re born, ok? Like little boy babies are “flirting” with nurses and then they grow up and they’re from Mars and we “can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em” and every sitcom is like “ahahaha she nags, he’s fat, he likes football and she likes cleaning the kitchen!” And it’s ok to take that shit to task, and for me, as someone who has dated about the same number of cis men as I have queer women, thus far in my life, it’s validating, not invalidating, to talk about those weird-ass cultural norms.

        • 11

          The genuine critique would probably have been more powerful if not covered in bizarre biphobic micro-agressions like “a piece of material that collects whatever excretes from a man’s skin even after he’s showered should never come in contact with another human being”. I get the POINT behind the article, but when we aren’t careful, our words have unintended consequences. That’s all I’m saying.

      • 10

        Wow, Kaya, that was a lot to read into my comment. I’m sorry that you read that post as me hating on people whose identities you do not even know. Or that I hate women who marry men after they are no longer in relationships with me. Like I even have time to hate someone I stopped loving.

        Those products make me sad for straight people in general; I thought I’d joke about the lives of people who are no longer queer with me because I like the sound of my own voice. I’m sorry that it triggered assumptions from you, but those are the breaks, right?

        To clarify, because I like my voice, what I hate is that mug set with unmatching fonts. I hate it with a passion stronger than if my next ex were to cheat on me with Donald Trump. I’m a Virgo; this matching font shit is real.

        Speaking of real shit. What is it like to assume the worst of someone you’ve never met? Why assume that this stranger’s (my) hypothetical exes are all female and BI? What is it like to guess wrong?. Really. Fucking. Wrong. (Well, except for assuming the worst. I am the worst.)

        Special thanks to Queer Girl for being able to recognize that I have, in fact, been in relationships with men as well as women. And yes, all three of what I would consider exes self-identify as straight. SELF-IDENTIFY AS STRAIGHT.

        I thought I should say it loudly in case it was unclear.

        I don’t assign identities to other people; that’s not my place. It isn’t yours either. I don’t assume things about people I have never met; you shouldn’t either. Also, to assume that I believe that a woman who once dated me and then dates a man is somehow psychologically unhealthy is a HUGE stretch, don’t you think? I didn’t even hint at that. That’s all you.

        Again, I am annoyed by those ugly products that are geared towards straight people, but there is nothing inherently unhealthy about heterosexuals. There is also nothing inherrently wrong about people who choose to experience their relationships through heteronormativity. That is THEIR LIFE. Performing those roles, if they choose to, is something I have no right to police, and I find it odd that you would imply that a person choosing that performance would or should be viewed negatively. But then again, maybe I read that wrong. If I did, then I am sorry.

        I am not sorry about hating those mugs. Fuck those mugs.

  7. 48

    88 Great Conversation Starters for Husbands & Wives:

    1. What if this is all an illusion created by the white supremacist capitalist cisheteropatriarchy in order to keep us mindlessly preoccupied with our social roles and status while they systematically dismantle the rights and freedoms of marginalized peoples?

    2. I want a divorce.

  8. 34

    My #2 thought: have none of the people who sound horrified in the comments ever been to a straight hen do/bachelorette party?

    The items mentioned in the above article, while highly researched with an unparalleled degree of journalistic integrity, would struggle to compare with the real life bleurghsperience (this is a new word I am coining that means “experience” crossed with the sound of vomiting) of having to intermingle with straight women at the apogee of their straightness.

  9. 5

    FWIW, I worry about both the men and the women in those relationships…it’s stockholm syndrome, right?

    All that stuff is pretty scary, but the beard/butt mugs are just…yuck…and those possessive t-shirts can only be described as sickening.

    I think I need to get some fresh air…

  10. 55

    HEY YALL ITS ME TAMMY TAYLOR NO KIDDING ITS ME ERIN AND I JUST WANT TO SAY THAT WHILE I DON’T LIKE MEN I UNDERSTAND THAT THERE ARE OTHER QUEER PEOPLE OUT THERE THAT HAVE THE CAPACITY FOR DIFFERENT FEELINGS TOWARDS MEN IN THAT THEY AREN’T REPULSED BY THEM AND I DON’T THINK THAT MAKES THEM LESS QUEER I JUST THINK THAT MAKES THEM A DIFFERENT PERSON THAN ME AND BOIYIYIYIYIYIOOOOY WHAT A CONCEPT AM I RIGHT

  11. 15

    I recently had a kid and the grossness of performative heterosexuality has never been so glaring to me.

    The worst one I can think of this second is “ohhh look, 6 month old baby boy looked at 6 month old girl, THEY’RE GONNA GET MARRIED, AWWWWWWWWW”.

    Just stop.

  12. 7

    Oh dear… and in case the list wasn’t scary enough… a few years ago (while she was still a bit in denial) my mom bought me a book “The ABCs of Finding a Good Husband.” I was going to read it for a laugh, but 2 or 3 pages in, my gag reflex overtook me.

  13. 21

    tfw you have to listen to straight moms talk about how they don’t trust their husbands to watch their kids, or how their husband has never been alone with their kid, or call a dad watching their own child “babysitting”. Straight women, are you okay?

  14. 4

    This wouldn’t be a healthy relationship either but if a gay man and a lesbian were closeted and got married and the woman had a nice butt then the woman got a girlfriend, can the girlfriend have both the ‘I love his beard’ and the ‘I love her butt’ mugs?

    Also I’d demand separate towels regardless of gendered partner but that’s prob cosi live at home and I have a problem of either my parents using all the towels before my bath or them putting back still damp towels. So I want my own working towel…

    • 1

      Okay, now I need clarification. Am I doing it wrong? Do queer people usually share towels? Cuz, um, I thought the weird thing was labeling the towels not having your own. I am legit nervous here.

      Also, I vote that yes, the girlfriend can have the mugs. I laughed out loud. I’d be willing to consider an exception for anyone who could legit own both just their own self.

  15. 8

    It’s a war zone out there. There was a thousands-long comment thread on Jezebel the other day about how men are socialized “not to see dirt” or something and thereby passive aggressively foist housework onto women in their hetero live-in relationships. Just so many women commenting on how awful horrible no good very bad roommates these men made. I don’t think straight women are okay.

        • 1

          Or maybe just an expectations thing? My straight cis-het male husband and I share the household chores and cleaning equally, and it’s not a big deal. He’s capable of cleaning and I’m capable of using my words and asking him to step up if I think he’s not living up to his side of the bargain (and vis versa). I do know straight men that clean and share household chores equally – although every one that I can think of is married to a feminist.

          I’ve been thinking about this thread and wondering where my ability to completely ignore social norms that I think are toxic or outdated, etc, comes from – being queer? being a feminist? being raised by a feminist mother? being an artist? being a stubborn weirdo? IDK but thank goddess for it.

  16. 6

    This was hard to read through, by the time I got to the end of the article I forgot my original comment–my brain was exhausted. Phew! But then I remembered. A certain family member of mine is particularly into the his and hers tropes… (to the point that she is better at engaging with her male children than her female offspring…) But one of my weirdest most favorite memories of her playing out this dynamic was when she got a second dog for her family. Their FIRST dog belonged to her son, and was particularly close with her husband, so this dog–a female dog–was the “boy dog” and got to wear a red color. This person’s puppy (that she mostly bought for herself on a whim) was hers so got to be “girly” and wear a pink daisy color. This one had me puzzled. Puzzled and pleased, a little accidental gender bending in an effort to neatly package up the whole house into gender squares. Gender squares–like a desert or afternoon treat–one big block of sugar cut neatly into pretty little digestible squares. Like a girl dog that wears pink and is girly because she belongs to an adult girl and a boy-dog who is also a girl but for boys and thus wears red. (As an aside the pink wearing dog is WAY more butch and she and I get along great…now that she knows I’m the top)

  17. 1

    This was hard to read through, by the time I got to the end of the article I forgot my original comment–my brain was exhausted. Phew! But then I remembered. A certain family member of mine is particularly into the his and hers tropes… (to the point that she is better at engaging with her male children than her female offspring…) But one of my weirdest most favorite memories of her playing out this dynamic was when she got a second dog for her family. Their FIRST dog belonged to her son, and was particularly close with her husband, so this dog–a female dog–was the “boy dog” and got to wear a red collar. This person’s puppy (that she mostly bought for herself on a whim) was hers so got to be “girly” and wear a pink daisy collar. This one had me puzzled. Puzzled and pleased, a little accidental gender bending in an effort to neatly package up the whole house into gender squares. Gender squares–like a dessert or afternoon treat–one big block of sugar cut neatly into pretty little digestible squares. Like a girl dog that wears pink and is girly because she belongs to an adult girl and a boy-dog who is also a girl but for boys and thus wears red. (As an aside the pink wearing dog is WAY more butch and she and I get along great…now that she knows I’m the top)

      • 3

        Lily reminds me a lot of a butch women. It’s not like her haircut or anything, but just something in her demeanor, idk the voice I use to personify her happens to be the same voice I use to quote my ex-girlfriend… As for me being alpha–I didn’t like her when she was young–sadly she doesn’t get as much attention at home as she needs and due to her over-excitement she was always jumping on me, biting me whenever I would come over… so I taught her to lie down when I come in the room. I meant to just teach her to lie down so that I could pet her without getting clawed and chewed on, but now she lays down, belly up whenever she sees me. We get along great.

  18. 12

    Has anyone else noticed that gendering-by-colors has been reduced to pink, purple, or white for girls (or anything with flowers), and eeeeeverything else for boys? I’m much older than my little sisters, and when we dressed them in anything but the aforesaid template when they were babies they were “little-boyed” all the time. As someone who grew up in the rainbow 80s I find this hella worrying.

  19. 1

    I very much agree that these things are disgusting — but come on. Straight people come in all stripes and sorts, just like us queerdos, and many/most of them would also find these disgusting/demeaning. Plus, have you never seen Mrs/Mrs mugs? “I’m hers ->”/”<- I'm hers" shirts? Queer relationships in which one person gives a larger shit about cleaning the bathroom, or talking about feelings?

    If you believe that we should not be judged based on our loves, what gives you the right to turn around and pretend that all straight people are patriarchal robots? What happened to "you do you"? Be the change, people.

      • 12

        YESSS, @queergirl

        … Critical, angry, mocking etc. comments made by people who are oppressed about their oppressors and/or the dominant culture/power structures/capitalist heteropatriarchy to which they are subject are examples of speech acts that attack, confront, oppose and/or subvert. I.e. they are social actions, material actions that exist within a specific context and are responsive to it. They’re also an emotional outlet, particularly when occurring in the context of a space created exclusively for the oppressed group. Comparing the disparagement or judgement of oppressors and/or oppressive systems by those being oppressed and saying it is the same as the oppression they experience, (“If you believe that we should not be judged based on our loves, what gives you the right to turn around and pretend that all straight people are patriarchal robots?”) is an incorrect and inappropriate false equivalency. Here’s the thing: Speaking Up and Out IS Being The Change, Even When It Hurts People’s Feelings Because Fragility.

        You’re effectively saying #notallstraightpeople (“Straight people come in all stripes and sorts”), which yeah, no one said all straight people but also.. not the point… because the post isn’t actually about straight people as individuals in the world and all their positive and negative qualities. Its about Erin’s experience of the world through the lens of her sexuality, of heteronormativity, of gender performance. Its mocking, its challenging, its not always polite and THATS OK. That’s good, even.

    • 0

      Rae gets to express Rae. Autostraddle is safe for open diverse conversation. I think.

      Personally Erin’s article cracks me up. I don’t however think it accurately represents most of the straight folks that I am close with, it just makes me laugh to think about the straight folks who are like this and to find an outlet to express the extent to which performative heterosexuality triggers me.

      Like the moms I overhear saying that “they know” that girls and boys are intrinsically “different” from each other because they have 1 boy and 1 girl… and because that’s SCIENCE!

  20. 3

    This doesn’t even scratch the surface of the wild shit hetero (particularly older women idk why that is) have told me about gender norms in relationships. I had a friend whose girlfriend’s mom once said “Women are in relationships for love but men are in them for respect.” LIKE. WHAT. I-I’d like both of those things in a relationship please?

    Like, these are all jokey-joke, but I am really concerned.

  21. 2

    Some ppl (all straight and either old or middle aged that I know) have the same email address as their spouse as their only email address. I don’t get that. I only really mind it when it’s in his name (sometimes its in both, I’ve never seen it just ) but it doesn’t seem very good boundary wise to me. it’s not post. Post is in envelopes and people can’t practically have two mailing addresses whereas that’s really easy w email addresses. I don’t care what gender my partner is, I’ll never feel that ready.
    And I’m someone who shares a secondary, professional email with my mum cos my social anxiety sometimes gets in the way of reading rejection emails. It’s under our surname and just for work.

      • 4

        I’m in an association where I’m literally 35 years younger than the second youngest member, and I’m probably the only married woman with my own e-mail address, and an e-mail address in my name to boot. My father, who is active in an association that arranges activities for retired folks, goes on regular rants about it because it messes with their e-mail system when they send invitations, confirmations and invoices.

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