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'Never judge a book by its cover?': students' understandings of lesbian, gay and bisexual appearance

Hayfield, Nikki



This research aimed to explore (predominantly heterosexual) students' perceptions of sexuality and appearance. A short qualitative survey, which contained questions about the 'typical appearance' of lesbians, gay men, bisexual and heterosexual people, was completed by 36 university students. Previous research on dress and appearance in relation to sexuality has mainly focused on lesbian, gay or 'queer' individuals and communities. Minimal research has considered whether heterosexual people recognise non-heterosexuality through the dress and appearance of lesbians, gay men and bisexual people, and it would seem that previous studies have not explicitly considered the notion that heterosexuality might also be recognisable through appearance. Data were analysed using thematic analysis. Findings indicated that while students were able to provide appearance norms for lesbians and gay men (which conformed to those identified in previous research), they were also reluctant to give credence to (what they perceived as) 'stereotypes' of sexuality and appearance. They described heterosexual men and women in ways that conformed to 'traditional' gender norms, but were less able to identify any appearance norms for bisexual people, reflecting the invisibility of bisexuality within Western culture. © 2013 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jan 1, 2013
Journal Psychology and Sexuality
Print ISSN 1941-9899
Electronic ISSN 1941-9902
Publisher Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 4
Issue 1
Pages 16-24
APA6 Citation Hayfield, N. (2013). 'Never judge a book by its cover?': students' understandings of lesbian, gay and bisexual appearance. Psychology and Sexuality, 4(1), 16-24.
Keywords bisexual, lesbian, gay, appearance, stereotypes, thematic analysis, body image
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