Preprint Article Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

A Phone of One’s Own: Woolf, TikTok and the Aesthetic Evolution of Bisexuality

Version 1 : Received: 13 November 2021 / Approved: 19 November 2021 / Online: 19 November 2021 (17:33:57 CET)

A peer-reviewed article of this Preprint also exists.

Wells, C.J. Doubt, Havelock Ellis, and Bisexuality in Jacob’s Room. Humanities 2022, 11, 39. Wells, C.J. Doubt, Havelock Ellis, and Bisexuality in Jacob’s Room. Humanities 2022, 11, 39.


Whereas bisexuality, as it existed in modernity, has been described as a ‘floating signifier', one that was problematically conflated with gender and intersex bodies, the articulation of bisexuality is now experiencing a discursive resurgence in spaces and platforms online. Through a deliberately disparate comparison between Virginia Woolf’s modernist writing and the discussions of bisexuality on the video-sharing social networking service TikTok, this essay presents a reflective reassessment of how far bisexual representation in the popular imagination has progressed and by extension, evaluate extant limitations. To realize these ambitions, I compare the reception of sexology (the new science of sexuality) in ‘high’ modernist literature with a post-modern demographic whose bisexuality is articulated in the 2020s online via TikTok’s towards what I would demarcate as a post-queer theory user base. This essay is not intended as an overview of the advancements made in psychoanalytic institutions about bisexuality nor does it set out to comment on the refinement of bisexuality’s aestheticization through time. Instead, it uses these two temporally specific moments in the cultural zeitgeist to compare and contrast how differently two different demographics articulate bisexuality, both as a written mode in modernism and as a visual apparatus online. This is less a critique of bi-erasure, but an interrogation of why and how bisexual representation, as an aestheticized subjectivity that compromises romantic, spiritual, and erotic desires for bodies of all genders, continues to be problematically restrictive.


bisexuality; Woolf; modernism; sexology; TikTok


Arts and Humanities, Literature and Literary Theory

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