Daly, Sarah Jane (2018) A Rock and a Hard Place: A Hermeneutic Phenomenological Exploration into the Lived Experience of Bisexual Women in Monogamous Relationships. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

This qualitative research explores the lived experience of nineteen bisexual women from all across the UK who are in monogamous relationships or who are single but desire a future monogamous relationship. The research has three broad aims 1) To explore the lived experience of bisexual women who identify as monogamous. 2) To understand the ways in which women who identify as bisexual and monogamous maintain their identity. 3) To explore the ways in which bisexual women in 'same-gender' and 'different-gender' relationships construct their identity. The research was carried out in three phases with each stage using a different data collection technique. The first stage required participants to keep a written diary for a period of four consecutive weeks, detailing thoughts and events that were related to their sexual identity.

In the second stage participants took part in a semi-structured telephone interview. The interview used participants’ diary entries as a starting point to explore the research questions. The final stage involved a subset of participants taking part in a photo-assisted telephone interview. Participants in this stage were supplied with disposable cameras and were asked to take up to twelve photographs of places, objects and people who were significant in relation to their sexuality. Five participants completed this stage and took part in a photo-assisted telephone interview where they discussed the photographs they had taken. The research as a whole and the approach to analysing data was underpinned by the hermeneutic phenomenology of Ricoeur. Two different but complementary approaches were taken in the analysis of the data. Firstly, Template Analysis (King, 2004) was used to analyse the data from diaries and telephone interviews. This approach provides an opportunity to explore the data as a whole and identify themes and sub-themes relevant to the research questions. In order to complement this cross-case approach the photo-assisted interviews were analysed using a within-case approach (Hermeneutic Phenomenological Analysis) developed specifically for this research. Some of the findings support existing research which demonstrated that some bisexuals do experience ‘invisibility’ and misappropriation in relation to their sexual identity (Monro, 2015; Hayfield, Clarke & Halliwell, 2014; Savin-Williams, 2005; Blackwood, 2000; Angelides, 2001). Other findings point to aspects of bisexual monogamous women’s experience that appear to have been neglected by researchers. In particular, the gender of a participant’s partner seems to present different challenges in relation to their sexual identity. Participants in different-gender relationships appear to utilise more strategies related to displaying their same-gender attractions and keeping their bisexuality alive than those in same-gender relationships. Participants in same-gender relationships choose feminine appearance markers that are more likely to signify a heterosexual identity in contrast to participants in different-gender relationships who choose ‘traditional’ lesbian appearance markers. Women in different-gender relationships articulated a sense of longing or reminiscence for relationships or sex with women. Women in same-gender relationships did not express the same sentiment for sex and relationships with men. Identifying a community which provided support for their bisexual identity was of particular importance to all participants. The LGBT+ community seemed to be important in the early stages of participants’ struggles with the development of their sexual identity. However, over time participants experienced various forms of hostility from the LGBT+ community and one of the ways they coped with this was to disengage from it and turn to smaller network of friends.

Sarah Daly FINAL THESIS.PDF - Accepted Version
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