, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 21–39 | Cite as

Too much? Excessive sexual experiences in bisexual women’s life stories

Original Article


This article explores bisexual women’s sexual experiences at the edges of or between relationships. It draws on the follow-up interviews of a longitudinal interview set conducted in 2005 and 2014–2015 with bisexual women and their partners, who do not identify as bisexuals. Bisexual women’s spontaneous, detailed and affective narrations of sexual experiences in the follow-up interviews caught the author’s attention. Although the experiences were often narrated as pleasurable, they could be overwhelming, and women also expressed concern that they were excessive, “too much”. The analysis of the women’s accounts utilizes and develops a psychosocial concept of excess. It reveals that the excessiveness of the women’s sexual experiences is constituted by bisexuality and monogamy-related norms that restrict women’s sexuality, and also by the non-rational psychic dimensions of these experiences. Within the normative limits of feminine sexuality, sexuality’s excess often plays a propulsive role as the women strive to become sexual subjects.


Sexuality Excess Women Bisexuality Psychosocial Relationships 


  1. Adkins, L. 2002. Revisions: Gender and sexuality in late modernity. Philadelphia: Open University.Google Scholar
  2. Baraitser, L., and S. Frosh. 2007. Affect and encounter in psychoanalysis. Critical Psychology 21: 76–93.Google Scholar
  3. Barker, M., and R. Gill. 2012. Sexual subjectification and Bitchy Jones’s Diary. Psychology and Sexuality 3 (1): 26–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barker, M., and D. Langdridge. 2008. II. Bisexuality: Working with a silenced sexuality. Feminism and Psychology 18 (3): 389–394.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Barker, M., and D. Langdridge. 2010. Whatever happened to non-monogamies? Critical reflections on recent research and theory. Sexualities 13 (6): 748–772.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bataille, G. 1957. Erotism: Death and sensuality. San Francisco: City Lights Books.Google Scholar
  7. Bataille, G. 1976. The accursed share. An essay on general economics. The history of eroticism (Vol. 2). New York: Zone Books.Google Scholar
  8. Beck, U., and E. Beck-Gernsheim. 1995. The normal chaos of love. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  9. Benjamin, J., and G. Atlas. 2015. The ‘too muchness’ of excitement: Sexuality in light of excess, attachment and affect regulation. International Journal of Psychoanalysis 96 (1): 39–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Berlant, L.G., and L. Edelman. 2014. Sex, or the unbearable. Durham: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Bersani, L. 1995. Homos. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Blackman, L. 2010. Embodying affect: Voice-hearing, telepathy, suggestion and modelling the non-conscious. Body and Society 16 (1): 163–192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Blackman, L. 2015. Researching affect and embodied hauntologies: Exploring an analytics of experimentation. In Affective methodologies: Developing cultural research strategies for the study of affect, ed. B.T. Knudsen, and C. Stage, 25–44. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  14. Blackman, L., J. Cromby, D. Hook, D. Papadopoulos, and V. Walkerdine. 2008. Creating subjectivities. Subjectivity 22: 1–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Brewster, M.E. 2016. Lesbian women and household labor division: A systematic review of scholarly research from 2000 to 2015. Journal of Lesbian Studies. Online Publication 3 Sep.
  16. Butler, J. 1990. Gender trouble: Feminism and the subversion of identity. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  17. Butler, J. 1991. Imitation and gender insubordination. In Inside/out: Lesbian theories, gay theories, ed. D. Fuss, 13–31. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  18. Clough, P.T. 2013. Intimacy, lateral relationships and biopolitical governance. In Intimacies: A new world of relational life, ed. A. Frank, P.T. Clough, and S. Seidman, 165–180. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  19. DePaulo, B.M., and W.L. Morris. 2005. TARGET ARTICLE: Singles in society and in science. Psychological Inquiry 16 (2–3): 57–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Eisner, S. 2013. BI. Notes for a bisexual revolution. Berkeley: Seal Press.Google Scholar
  21. Farvid, P., and V. Braun. 2013. Casual sex as “not a natural act” and other regimes of truth about heterosexuality. Feminism and Psychology 23 (3): 359–378.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Finn, M. 2012. Monogamous order and the avoidance of chaotic excess. Psychology and Sexuality 3 (2): 123–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Firestein, B.A. (ed.). 1996. Bisexuality: The psychology and politics of an invisible minority. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  24. Foucault, M. 1981. The history of sexuality, vol. 1. Harmondsworth: Penguin.Google Scholar
  25. Freud, S. 2000/1905. Three essays on the theory of sexuality. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  26. Frosh, S.S., and L.L. Baraitser. 2008. Psychoanalysis and psychosocial studies. Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society 13 (4): 346–365.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Giddens, A. 1992. The transformation of intimacy: Sexuality, love and eroticism in modern societies. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  28. Giffney, N. 2009. Introduction: The ‘q’ word. In The Ashgate research companion to queer theory, ed. N. Giffney, and M. O’Rourke, 1–13. Burlington: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  29. Gill, R. 2007. Postfeminist media culture: Elements of a sensibility. European Journal of Cultural Studies 10 (2): 147–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Gill, R. 2008a. Culture and subjectivity in neoliberal and postfeminist times. Subjectivity 25 (1): 432–445.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Gill, R. 2008b. Empowerment/sexism: Figuring female sexual agency in contemporary advertising. Feminism and Psychology 18 (1): 35–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Gregg, M., and G.J. Seigworth (eds.). 2010. The affect theory reader. Durham: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Gustavson, M. 2009. Bisexuals in relationships: Uncoupling intimacy from gender ontology. Journal of Bisexuality 9 (3–4): 407–429.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Harvey, L., and R. Gill. 2011. Spicing it up: Sexual entrepreneurs and The Sex Inspectors. In New femininities: Postfeminism, neoliberalism and subjectivity, ed. R. Gill, and C. Scharff, 52–67. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Hayfield, N., and A. Lahti. 2017. Reflecting on bisexual identities and relationships: Nikki Hayfield in conversation with Annukka Lahti. Psychology of Sexualities Review 8 (2): 68–75.Google Scholar
  36. Hayfield, N., V. Clarke, and E. Halliwell. 2014. Bisexual women’s understandings of social marginalisation: ‘The heterosexuals don’t understand us but nor do the lesbians’. Feminism and Psychology 24 (3): 352–372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Heaphy, B., and A. Einarsdottir. 2013. Scripting civil partnerships: Interviewing couples together and apart. Qualitative Research 13 (1): 53–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Heaphy, B., C. Smart, and A. Einarsdottir. 2013. Same sex marriages: New generations, new relationships. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Hemmings, C. 2002. Bisexual spaces: A geography of sexuality and gender. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  40. Jefferson, G. 2004. Glossary of transcript symbols with an introduction. In Conversation analysis: Studies from the first generation, ed. G.H. Lerner, 13–31. Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Johnson, K. 2015. Sexuality: A psychosocial manifesto. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  42. Kalha, H. 2007. Pornografia halun ja torjunnan kulttuurissa [Pornography in the culture of desire and repression]. In Pornoakatemia!, ed. H. Kalha, 11–76. Turku: Eetos.Google Scholar
  43. Kangasvuo, J. 2014. Suomalainen biseksuaalisuus: Käsitteen ja kokemuksen kulttuuriset ehdot. Series B, Humaniora 121. Oulu: Acta Universitatis Ouluensis.Google Scholar
  44. Karkulehto, S. 2011. Seksin Mediamarkkinat. Helsinki: Gaudeamus.Google Scholar
  45. Ketokivi, K. 2012. The intimate couple, family and the relational organization of close relationships. Sociology 46 (3): 473–489.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Klesse, C. 2005. Bisexual women, non-monogamy and differentialist anti-promiscuity discourses. Sexualities 8 (4): 445–464.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Koivunen, A. 2010. Yes we can? The promises of affect for queer scholarship. Lambda Nordica 15 (3–4): 40–64.Google Scholar
  48. Kolehmainen, M. 2012. Managed makeovers? Gendered and sexualized subjectivities in postfeminist media culture. Subjectivity 5 (2): 180–199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Kontula, O., and M. Mäkinen. 2009. Between sexual desire and reality: The evolution of sex in Finland. Helsinki: Population Research Institute, Family Federation of Finland.Google Scholar
  50. Lahti, A. 2015. Similar and equal relationships? Negotiating bisexuality in an enduring relationship. Feminism & Psychology 25 (4): 431–448.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Lahti, A. Under review. Bisexual desires for more than one gender as a challenge to normative relationship ideals. Psychology & Sexuality.Google Scholar
  52. Lahti, A. Submitted. Listening to old tapes: Affective intensities and gendered power in bisexual women’s and ex-partners’ relationship assemblages.Google Scholar
  53. Laplanche, J. 1987. New foundations for psychoanalysis (trans: Macey, D.), 1989. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  54. Lucey, H., J. Melody, and V. Walkerdine. 2003. Uneasy hybrids: Psychosocial aspects of becoming educationally successful for working-class young women. Gender and Education 15 (3): 285–299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. MacLure, M. 2013. Classification or wonder? Coding as an analytic practice in qualitative research. In Deleuze and research methodologies, ed. R. Coleman, and J. Ringrose, 164–183. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.Google Scholar
  56. Magnusson, E. 2005. Gendering or equality in the lives of Nordic heterosexual couples with children: No well-paved avenues yet. NORA: Nordic Journal of Feminist and Gender Research 13 (3): 153–163.Google Scholar
  57. McLean, K. 2004. Negotiating (non)monogamy. Journal of Bisexuality 4 (1–2): 83–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Melzer, P. 2010. ‘And How Many Souls Do You Have?’: Technologies of perverse desire and queer sex in science fiction erotica. In Queer universes: Sexualities in science fiction, eds. W. Pearson, V. Hollinger, and J. Gordon, 161–179. Liverpool University Press.
  59. Mistry, R. 2000. From “Heart and Home” to a queer chic: A critical analysis of progressive depictions of gender in advertising. Accessed 25 Nov 2017.
  60. Monro, S. 2015. Bisexuality: Identities, politics, and theories. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Moran, C., and C. Lee. 2014. Women’s constructions of heterosexual non-romantic sex and the implications for sexual health. Psychology and Sexuality 5 (2): 161–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Perel, E. 2007. Mating in captivity: Unlocking erotic intelligence. New York: Harper.Google Scholar
  63. Pirskanen, J. 2008. The Other and the Real: How does Judith Butler’s theorizing of the subject and contingency differ from the new Lacanian thought? SQS Journal 3 (1): 1–14.Google Scholar
  64. Ringrose, J., and E. Renold. 2014. “F**k rape!”: Exploring affective intensities in a feminist research assemblage. Qualitative Inquiry 20 (6): 772–780.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Roseneil, S. 2006. The ambivalences of Angel’s “arrangement”: A psychosocial lens on the contemporary condition of personal life. Sociological Review 54 (4): 847–869.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Roseneil, S. 2007. Queer individualization: The transformation of personal life in the early 21st century. NORA: Nordic Journal of Women’s Studies 15 (2): 84–99.Google Scholar
  67. Sears, J.T. 2014. Becoming and being: Bisexuality and the search for self. Journal of Bisexuality 14 (1): 3–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Sedgwick, E.K. 2003. Touching feeling: Affect, pedagogy, performativity. Durham: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  69. Shaw, D. 2013. Intimacy and ambivalence. In Intimacies: A new world of relational life, ed. A. Frank, P.T. Clough, and S. Seidman, 98–114. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  70. Stein, R. 2008. The otherness of sexuality: Excess. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association 56 (1): 43–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Storr, M. 1999. Bisexuality: A critical reader. New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Umberson, D., M.B. Thomeer, and A.C. Lodge. 2015. Intimacy and emotion work in lesbian, gay, and heterosexual relationships. Journal of Marriage and Family 77 (2): 542–556.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. van Hooff, J. 2017. An everyday affair: Deciphering the sociological significance of women’s attitudes towards infidelity. Sociological Review. First published online 1 Feb 2017.
  74. Walkerdine, V. 2015. Transmitting class across generations. Theory and Psychology 25 (2): 167–183.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Warner, M. 2000. The trouble with normal: Sex, politics, and the ethics of queer life. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  76. Wengraf, T. 2001. Qualitative research interviewing: Biographic narrative and semi-structured methods. London: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Woodward, K. 2015. Psychosocial studies: An introduction. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social Sciences and Philosophy, Gender StudiesUniversity of JyväskyläJyväskyläFinland

Personalised recommendations