Vicarious Kinks - S/M in the Socio-Legal Imaginary

07 October 2014

Ummni Khan is an associate Professor in the Department of Law and Legal Studies at Carleton University. Her new book entitled 'Vicarious Kinks - S/M in the Socio-Legal Imaginary' explores various aspects of Sado-Masochism in terms of its practices and impact on wider culture and the law. Here, the author discusses the themes with Dr Raj Persaud

Professor Khan explores the position of S/M and other sexual practices regarded as 'perverse' in the DSM - the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual which in the USA defines mental disorders. Why and when do certain sexual activities become signals of psychiatric problems?

Her book ranges over topics such as the way S/M is portrayed in popular culture such as best-selling fiction like 'Fifty-Shades of Grey' and Hollywood block buster movies like 'Basic Instinct' and 'Nine and a half Weeks' and also examines how and when S/M comes up against the law. Fascinating topics investigated in the book include the 'sex wars' when Feminists, who regarded S/M as anti-feminist, took on Lesbians who were into S/M. The book is published by the University of Toronto Press.

Who decides where “normal” stops and “perverse” begins? In Vicarious Kinks, Ummni Khan looks at the mass of claims that film, feminism, the human sciences, and law make about sadomasochism and its practitioners, and the way those claims become the basis for the legal regulation of sadomasochist pornography and practice. Khan’s audacious proposal is that for film, feminism, law, and science, the constant focus on taboo sexuality is a form of “vicarious kink” itself.

Rather than attempt to establish the “truth” about sadomasochism, Vicarious Kinks asks who decides that sadomasochism is perverse, examining how various fields present their claims to truth when it comes to sadomasochism.

The first monograph by a new scholar working at the juncture of law and sexuality, Vicarious Kinks challenges the myth of law as an objective adjudicator of sexual truth.

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