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Disturbing Disgust: Gesturing to the Abject in Queer Cases


Emotion plays a central role in the criminalisation of non-normative sexualities, desires, and relationships. Disgust, in particular, has been mobilised as a gesture to condemn queer bodies or intimacies that refuse to subscribe to reproductive heterosexuality. In law, this gesture has been particularly manifest in jurisprudence that deals with same-sex relationships or alternative sexual practices like sadomasochism. While there has been significant law reform attempts to move away from disgust to recognise sexual minorities, such recognition has been fraught with problematic consequences. In particular, the containment of disgust has led to a sanitisation and domestication of sexuality to render it palatable. By examining the impacts of this affective turn, I critique the way disgust figures and is figured in legal texts. This paper begins by outlining the juridical construction of homosexuality and how the tethering of privacy with disgust has been used to obscure queer subjects even in its attempts to provide recognition. My chapter then juxtaposes the decriminalisation of sodomy with the continuing prohibitions on queer sadomasochism to explore how legal decisions turn away from “disgusting” subjects. In doing so, I argue that disgust is a legal gesture that we must think about more “queerly.” Disgust is a gesture that troubles how we frame progressivist conceptions of law reform while enabling us to challenge our attachment to legally entrenched ideas of sexual intimacy.

Publication Date Dec 1, 2015
Pages 83-101
Book Title Queering Criminology
ISBN 9781137513342
Keywords Queer, Criminology, Emotion, Law, Sexuality, Criminal Law
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