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Dr Helen Bowes-Catton

Monochrome picture of Helen Bowes-Catton, a white woman in her early forties. She is wearing glasses and has long dark hair.

Profile summary

Professional biography

Having caught the social sciences 'bug' during my A Levels in the early 1990s, I went on to study Sociology and Hispanic Studies at Liverpool University, before moving to Keele to train as a secondary school teacher. For the following seventeen years, I taught the social sciences in schools and colleges while completing my MSc in Social Research Methods and my PhD in Psychology at the Open University.

I joined the OU as an Associate Lecturer in 2010, and later worked as a consultant author in the Psychology Department. In January 2015 I joined the OU full-time as a Lecturer in Social Psychology. I am currently Lecturer in Social Research Methods in the Graduate School, where I am responsible for the provision of core skills and methods training for doctoral students across the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.

Research interests

Issues of identity, subjectivity and intersectional social justice are at the heart of my research work. I am currently publishing outputs from a ten-year research project on bisexual people's spatialised experiences of subjectivity. Sited at the intersection of micro-sociology, critical social psychology and cultural geography, this work contributes to the field of sexuality studies by using creative methods (such as Lego and Plasticine modelling and photo-diaries) and hermeneutic phenomenological analysis to develop an experiential approach to bisexual subjectivity, and to present a critical analysis of the ways in which it is constituted in different social spaces.

I am passionately interested in critical pedagogy and issues of social justice in education, particularly the obstacles faced by first-generation HE students and part-time postgraduates, and am currently undertaking scholarship research in this area.


I’m currently supervising work on bisexuality, monogamy and wellbeing, fat people's experiences of weight stigma in therapy, and fathers' perinatal mental health.

I'm interested in supervising qualitative projects with a social justice focus, particularly those using creative, visual or discursive methodologies.

Topics I’m interested in supervising include;

  • sexualities, subjectivities and space (especially bi+ and trans)

  • classed and racialised, and disability inclusion/exclusion in social and political movements (especially, although not exclusively, movements around sexuality and ‘alternative’ lifestyles and practices, and their potential impact on wellbeing)

  • critical pedagogy (especially LGBT+ inclusion)

  • inclusive SRE (sex and relationships education) in schools and colleges

  • social nudity and wellbeing

  • the social politics of naturism

Teaching interests

In the School of Psychology, I was Module Team Chair on Social Psychology: Critical Perspectives on Self and Others (DD307). I was a consultant author on Living Psychological Issues (DD210), contributed to Advancing Social Psychology (DD317), and have also taught Introducing the Social Sciences (DD102) and its predecessor module (DD131).

I am currently based in the OU Graduate School, where I am Academic Lead for PGR Training. My post involves working with colleagues from across the university and our DTP partner institutions to scope, design, curate and oversee the delivery of social science research methods and transferable skills training.

Impact and engagement

I am Chair of BiUK, the national network for bisexuality research. My work with BiUK has included appearing on television (Newsnight, 2016), co-authoring The Bisexuality Report (2012) and a set of guidelines for social scientific research on bisexuality, co-organising its biennial conference in 2012, and meeting with the Government Equalities Office to discuss policy issues affecting bisexual people.

I have given invited presentations and keynote addresses at BiReCon, Belfast Pride Week, and at conferences run by the teaching unions NUT and NASUWT.

External collaborations

My work in the Open University Graduate School involves substantial collaboration with colleagues at Brunel and Oxford universities and at our Affiliated Research Centres.

From 2015-2018 I was Book Reviews Editor of the Taylor and Francis journal Psychology and Sexuality.


‘This magical place’: Understanding BiCon 2008 as a heterotopic place-event. (2021)
Bowes-Catton, Helen
Sexualities ((In press))

Talkin’ ‘bout a revolution? From quiescence to resistance in the contemporary university (2020)
Bowes-Catton, Helen; Brewis, Joanna; Clarke, Caroline; Drake, Deborah; Gilmour, Alison and Penn, Alison
Management Learning, 51(4) (pp. 378-397)

Guidelines for researching and writing about bisexuality (2012)
Barker, Meg; Yockney, Jen; Richards, Christina; Jones, Rebecca; Bowes-Catton, Helen and Plowman, Tracey
Journal of Bisexuality, 12(3) (pp. 376-392)

'All the world is queer save thee and me...': defining queer and bi at a critical sexology seminar (2009-10)
Barker, Meg; Richards, Christina and Bowes-Catton, Helen
Journal of Bisexuality, 9(3&4) (pp. 363-379)

British bisexuality: A snapshot of bisexual identities in the United Kingdom (2008)
Barker, Meg; Bowes-Catton, Helen; Iantaffi, Alessandra; Cassidy, Angela and Brewer, Laurence
Journal of Bisexuality, 8(1) (pp. 141-162)

Resisting the binary: Discourses of identity and diversity in bisexual politics 1988-1996 (2007)
Bowes-Catton, Helen
Lesbian and Gay Psychology Review, 8(1) (pp. 58-70)

Bisexuality (2015-04-28)
Bowes-Catton, Helen and Hayfield, Nikki
In: Richards, Christina and Barker, Meg-John eds. The Palgrave Handbook of the Psychology of Sexuality and Gender (pp. 42-59)
ISBN : 978-1-349-46671-9 | Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan

Visualizing experience: using creative research methods with members of sexual and gender communities (2012-10-05)
Barker, Meg; Richards, Christina and Bowes-Catton, Helen
In: Phellas, Constantinos N. ed. Researching Non-Heterosexual Sexualities (pp. 57-80)
ISBN : 9781409412656 | Publisher : Ashgate | Published : Farnham

“All the World is Queer Save Thee and Me…”: Defining Queer and Bi at a Critical Sexology Seminar (2011-11-23)
Barker, Meg; Richards, Christina and Bowes-Catton, Helen
In: Alexander, Jonathan and Anderlini-D'Onofrio, Serena eds. Bisexuality and Queer Theory: Intersections, Connections and Challenges (pp. 171-188)
ISBN : 9780415686716 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London

‘I didn’t know that I could feel this relaxed in my body’: Using visual methods to research bisexual people’s embodied experiences of identity and space (2011)
Bowes-Catton, Helen; Barker, Meg and Richards, Christina
In: Reavey, Paula ed. Visual Methods in psychology: using and interpreting images in qualitative research (pp. 255-270)
ISBN : 978-0415483483 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London

'Like a playground should be?' Experiencing and Producing Bi Subjectivities in Bisexual Space. (2016-01-05)
Bowes-Catton, Helen Talitha
PhD thesis The Open University

The Bisexuality Report: Bisexual inclusion in LGBT equality and diversity (2012)
Barker, Meg; Richards, Christina; Jones, Rebecca; Bowes-Catton, Helen; Plowman, Tracey; Yockney, Jen and Morgan, Marcus
Centre for Citizenship, Identity and Governance. The Open University