“It’s almost like an ownership of my body”: Negotiating Identity and Marginalisation in the Lives of Bisexual and Other Plurisexual Women
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Bisexuality is becoming increasingly visible as the diversity of sexual identities is becoming more recognised in mainstream Anglo-Western societies. At the same time, rigid categorisations that views sexual identity as a heterosexual-homosexual binary remains entrenched in our social and academic contexts. As a result, bisexual people face suppression and erasure of their sexual identity. Further, recent movements within queer spaces have led to a shift in the languaging around bisexuality and attraction to multiple genders; bisexuality being only one identity under the plurisexual umbrella. However, little research has explored bisexuality alongside new plurisexual identities and the lives of people who identify with them. This thesis identifies large gaps in psychological literature surrounding the intersecting identities of plurisexual women and examines how discourses of sexual identity – and more specifically bisexuality and plurisexuality – shape plurisexual women’s social and intimate lives, and constructions of their sexual identity. Using a social constructionist epistemology, and underpinned by intersectionality theory and critical feminism, an exploratory mixed-method approach was taken. Data were collected from a community-based sample through interviews (n = 20) and a quantitative online survey (n = 994) with women who identified as attracted to multiple genders. This thesis uses descriptive statistics and a critical thematic analysis to critically explore the ways plurisexual women talk about their experiences and identities related to their plurisexuality and how this is informed by, or contravenes, dominant discourses around plurisexuality. The data indicated that bisexuality and other plurisexualities are fraught and contradictory. Plurisexual women experienced their sexual identities as spaces for political action and as sites for both community and empowerment, and alienation and marginalisation. Dominant and counter discourses were drawn on by plurisexual women to understand their sexual identities. These findings are placed in the context of how new knowledges can lead to changes in how plurisexuality is experienced, to better deconstruct the marginalisation of plurisexual women.