Psychosocial Influences on Bisexual Women's Body Image: Negotiating Gender and Sexuality


Student author: Jennifer Chmielewski

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Psychology of Women Quarterly


Research on body image has focused almost exclusively on heterosexual women and lesbians, leaving bisexual women's experiences largely ignored. The present study sought to gain an understanding of psychosocial factors (including sexual prejudice, romantic relationship history, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender [LGBT] communities, and feminist identity) that may contribute to bisexual women's experiences of body image. The authors conducted semistructured interviews with six bisexual women and used interpretative phenomenological analysis to analyze the results. This analysis resulted in four themes: bisexual women's desire to accept their bodies in a context of societal objectification; the influence of dominant sexuality and gender binaries that leave bisexual women feeling invisible; the protective role of LGBT communities and feminist identification in helping them resist the thin ideal; and the positive and the negative influences of romantic relationships with men and women. Results highlight the importance of validating sexual identity and promoting feminist identification and inclusion within an LGBT community for bisexual women. Future research might further explore the role of feminist communities and romantic relationships in bisexual women's body satisfaction and should include the experiences of bisexual women from diverse backgrounds. Editor's Note: Findings for the present study must be considered along with the discussion across the accompanying set of three reflection papers: Yost and Chmielewski (2013); Wilkinson and Kitzinger (2013); and Crawford (2013).


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