Feminist Jurisprudence, S/M Theory and the 'Meiers' Case

Principal speaker

Annette Houlihan

Abstract: This paper examines how criminal law treats sadomasochism (s/m) and sexuality with particular reference to Q v Jean Margaret Meiers (Unreported, Supreme Court of Queensland Trial Division, Lyons J, 8 August 2008). Using feminist philosophies of law and contemporary theories of s/m, it will explore legal constructions of violence. Sadomasochism has received considered legal academic inquiry since R v Brown, much of which applies queer theories of the heterosexist character of law. In Meiers, the female defendant was found guilty of manslaughter and received a three year sentence suspended after 12 months. The complainant (her husband) died from asphyxiation when she bound and gagged him at his request. The sentencing judge gave comments about the couple’s relationship indicating the victim had a history of violence towards the defendant. This paper will consider the construction of (feminine) culpability for (a fatal act of) sadomasochism, questioning her consent to enact his fantasy and whether she was able to deny his request.

Speaker: Annette Houlihan is a Lecturer in Criminology in the Murdoch University School of Law. Previously, she taught Criminal Justice at Monash University, Criminology at the University of Queensland and Law at Griffith University. Annette completed her doctorate entitled “(Ill-legal) Lust is a Battle Field: HIV Risk, Socio-sexuality and Criminality” through the Socio-Legal Research Centre in 2007. She has researched and published in the area of HIV and law. Her other research interest is violence, law and culture. This includes analyses of prosecutions for sadomasochistic-related activities. She also researches socio-legal processes surrounding domestic/family violence. Her research includes analysis of case law and legislation in these areas, along with cultural and media images of HIV and violence (e.g. film, television, news media).

Lunch will be served.

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RSVP on or before Friday 23 July 2010 , by email slrc-events@griffith.edu.au , or by phone 07 3735 3747

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