Bisexuality

Bowes-Catton, Helen and Hayfield, Nikki (2015). Bisexuality. In: Richards, Christina and Barker, Meg-John eds. The Palgrave Handbook of the Psychology of Sexuality and Gender. Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 42–59.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137345899_4

Abstract

The term ‘bisexual’ is generally used in minority Western cultures to refer to an individual who experiences sexual attraction to more than one gender – or whose attractions are based on characteristics other than gender (e.g. build or eye colour). As we will show in this chapter, psychology is deeply implicated in the construction of current cultural understandings of bisexuality. Within these understandings, gender and sexuality are most commonly conceptualised as entirely dichotomous: ‘man’ and ‘woman’ and ‘homosexual’ and ‘heterosexual’ are understood to be distinct from, and opposite to, each other. Bisexuality has been particularly problematic for researchers and academics because they have found it challenging to make bisexuality fit this model of sexuality, which has its roots in the work of early sexologists and has since gained scientific and cultural currency. Consequently, bisexuality has often been invalidated or simply overlooked by sexologists, psychologists, and social scientists more widely. In this chapter we outline a brief history of how bisexuality has been conceptualised within psychology and the social sciences before turning to more recent research, issues, and debates. We end with recommendations for future directions for research.

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