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Job Talk - Sodomy's Penumbra

by rjp218 Feb 10, 2016
When Feb 16, 2016
from 3:30 PM to 5:00 PM
Where 216 Willard
Contact Name
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Abstract: Sodomy’s Penumbra

Fischer headshotWhy did the state of Louisiana register over 700 Orleans Parish women as “sex offenders”?  For selling or attempting to sell oral and anal sex. The law, known as CAN, criminalizes “solicitation for a crime against nature.”  Unlike a conviction for prostitution, CAN triggered sex offender registration and notification requirements. CAN enforcement amplified after Katrina.

What is a crime against nature when “nature” is so queer? And what is a crime against nature alongside the unnatural twinning of carceral governance and institutional abandonment that followed the storm? 

Fischel examines the history of CAN in NOLA, and recounts the successful grassroots organizing that led to the declassification of hundreds of women—mostly black and economically disadvantaged—as sex offenders. 

He considers too the hidden career of anti-sodomy law.  “Crime against nature” not only symptomizes and propels phobia, but also remedies the failure of rape law.  This observation offers a way to reconcile a feminist theoretic premium on sexual violence with the queer theoretic premium on sexual freedom. 

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Joe Fischel

Joe Fischel is an Assistant Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Yale University. He received his PhD from the Political Science Department at the University of Chicago in 2011, and served as a postdoctoral fellow at the Pembroke Center at Brown University in 2011-2012. His research interests are in normative political theory, feminist and queer studies, public law, and the legal regulation of sex/gender/sexuality. His first book, Sex and Harm in the Age of Consent (U. of Minn. Press, 2016), examines how the figures of the child and the sex offender, and figurations of consent, organize contemporary understandings of sexual harm and freedom in the United States. He is currently working on two new book projects. Against Nature: A Solicitation to Sodomitical Justice, surveys the life and afterlife of sodomy law in Louisiana from multiple perspectives: ethnographic, queer theoretic, race critical, and historical. Screwing Consent loosens the normative grip of consent by investigating cases of non-normative, atypical, or weird sex.  

He has published articles in several scholarly journals, including differences, Law Culture & the Humanities, the Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy, the Yale Journal of Law & Feminism, and the Columbia Journal of Gender & Law, as well as on the Huffington Post, The Feminist Wire, and The Bilerico Project. His chapter, “A More Promiscuous Politics: LGBT Rights without the LGBT Rights” is forthcoming in After Marriage Equality: The Future of LGBT Rights (NYU Press, 2016). He is a committed fan of running, yoga, beaches, and mediocre legal television series.  He is currently on academic leave under a Morse Fellowship.