Looking heteronormatively good! Combining story completion with Bitstrips to explore understandings of sexuality and appearance

Nikki Hayfield*, Matthew Wood

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


This study sought to develop knowledge about understandings of sexuality and appearance by using a story completion task combined with an innovative visual methodology. Fifty-four (mainly female) participants were randomly assigned to complete a story about a fictional bisexual, lesbian, or heterosexual character who is going on a date, and then asked to build a Bitstrips online avatar of their character. Our social constructionist thematic analysis identified that looking good was a common feature of the stories and that this was understood in largely heteronormative terms. This imperative was also clear in stories of the date, which relied on traditional notions of gender and heterosexuality. Finally, individuality and authenticity were rewarded in participants’ stories, yet this was simultaneously constrained by (dominant) heteronormative narratives. We conclude that combining story completion with visual methods enabled deeper insights into representations of appearance, dating, and relationships, than a textual method alone.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-135
Number of pages21
JournalQualitative Research in Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes

Cite this