Doctor of Philosophy
School of Law
The overwhelming majority of research into bisexual erasure and in/visibility attributes the phenomenon to the hetero/homo binary. Within this view, bisexuality represents ambiguity or uncertainty in a sexual orientation system and must be erased for heterosexuality and homosexuality to emerge as separate, distinct (and hierarchical) sexual orientation categories. While this dominant understanding of bisexual in/visibility as a product of the hetero/homo binary is a crucial starting point, I suggest that more than just oppositional logic is at stake here. In this research, I pick up on the themes of monogamy and temporality – which are evident in broader academic and cultural discourses around bisexuality – and explore how they can assist in developing additional or alterative frameworks for theorising bisexual in/visibility.
Bringing together recent scholarly interest in critical monogamy studies and queer temporality, this thesis makes the case for the analytic value of thinking mononormativity and temporality together, which I refer to as ‘mono-temporality’. I deploy mono-temporality as a lens for understanding and explaining bisexual in/visibility across three different research sites, undertaking a multi-modal research project based in critical cultural studies traditions. This includes: qualitative interviews focusing on the lived experiences of 30 bi-spectrum individuals in NSW/ACT, Australia; media analysis of the television series You Me Her; and analysis of the 2017 reforms to Australian marriage law which legalised same-sex marriage.
Together, this analysis seeks to demonstrate the apparent contradiction between bisexuality and monotemporality which can result in bisexual erasure. I argue that bisexuality is often associated with a failure to attain mono-temporal norms of stability and permanence, framed instead as a temporary phase or inability to commit, and erased as a legitimate orientation in the process. Bisexuals who have serially monogamous relationships can be subsumed into ‘coming out’ or ‘going straight’ narratives, while the simultaneous exploration of same-sex and cross-sex desire (e.g. love triangles, non-monogamy) is often framed as a phase prior to monogamous couplehood. In this way bisexuality may be rendered as something other than a viable sexual orientation and obscured even at the moments it does appear in discourse. At the same time, however, I demonstrate that bisexual visibility can produce disruptions and dislodgments in the mono-temporal order by refusing to obey the mono-temporal logics of relationships. This thesis therefore makes the argument that bisexual in/visibility and mono-temporality form a tight discursive relationship such that the invocation of bisexuality will have mono-temporal effects, and vice-versa.
By analysing the fraught and complicated relationship between bisexual in/visibility and monotemporality, this thesis offers mono-temporality as a useful rubric for analysing bisexual in/visibility. At the same time, this thesis also makes contributions beyond the field of bisexuality studies, presenting bisexuality and mono-temporality as valuable theoretical resources for scholars working in critical monogamy studies, queer temporality, and queer studies generally. In particular, I present bisexuality as another critical queer resource, and as a lens for thinking through the logics of sexuality, monogamy and time in new and productive ways.
Stanford, Dylan, Bisexual erasure revisited: Exploring how norms of temporality produce bisexual invisibility, Doctor of Philosophy thesis, School of Law, University of Wollongong, 2022. https://ro.uow.edu.au/theses1/1513
FoR codes (2008)
180199 Law not elsewhere classified, 189999 Law and Legal Studies not elsewhere classified, 200204 Cultural Theory, 200205 Culture, Gender, Sexuality
Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.