Habitus dislocation and the importance of affinity groups for older lesbians and bisexual women

PhD Thesis

Wilkens, J (2016). Habitus dislocation and the importance of affinity groups for older lesbians and bisexual women. PhD Thesis London South Bank University School of Law and Social Sciences https://doi.org/10.18744/PUB.001817
AuthorsWilkens, J
TypePhD Thesis

This research investigates the intersection of ageing, gender, class and
sexual identity with a particular focus on the role of same-sexuality social
groups and networks for older lesbians and bisexual women.
Thirty-five women aged between 57 and 73 were interviewed about a range
of topics including what it was like to come out in the 1950s and 1960s, their
education and employment, their feelings about ageing, whether they had
been lonely or isolated and their experiences of attending groups for
lesbians and bisexual women.
The research found that many participants experienced feelings of being
‘out of place’ that were not to do with financial or structural inequalities but
were culturally and socially shaped by aspects of their social mobility,
generation, gender and sexuality. Using an intersectional approach, I draw
on Bourdieu’s work, using the concept of habitus dislocation to consider the
contradictions of these mobilities. I suggest that many of my participants
faced unprecedented and unique disjunctures between their original habitus
and the new classed, sexual and gendered locations in which they finally
The research indicates that participants’ friendships and families of choice,
as well as the social groups they have created and attended across the life
course, have had an important role to play in helping to alleviate the feelings
of difference that are a consequence of multiple mobilities. For many
participants they are sites of resilience and help to promote positive ageing,
offering a sense of belonging to a generation of lesbian and bisexual women
who have faced marginalisation across their life course. However, they are
also locations of hierarchy and privilege, where some are excluded or
precariously positioned.
This study offers a unique view of habitus dislocation as a consequence of
multiple mobilities across the life course of a generational cohort of women,
often under-represented or absent from sexualities research. It makes an
important contribution to the literature on lesbian, gay and bisexual ageing
that focuses solely on loneliness and isolation and the significance of social

PublisherLondon South Bank University
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.18744/PUB.001817
Publication dates
Print01 Sep 2016
Publication process dates
Deposited12 Feb 2018
Publisher's version
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