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Law as a Weapon in Sexual Conflict Revisiting Turk’s Law Power Thesis Debate clearly still has its place in the academy, as evidenced by attendance here. The quantity, and perhaps quality of it has changed, but I don’t lay awake at night fearing consensus. Although some claim it’s fun to trash3, I believe there are rational limits, helping us avoid the tragic descent to that place where homo academicus meets homo-gee-you’re-bitter-ness. That is the spirit in which my engagement with Turk’s (in)famous and elegantly short article published in Social Problems is intended. Rather than bind the theory and sacrifice it to be run over by the train on the clickety-clack tracks on its way to Oakland1,4, I intend to engage Turk’s ideas and pick it up where I left off as a student in his seminars some 12 years ago: struggling to bring together my commitment to conflict sociology and the importance it places on using law-power, with the revolution spurred on by queer theory that tried to reassure me that I should not panic, for had this been an actual emergency, a recording would have played to tell me what to do next. Using data from my dissertation, I reconcile these two seemingly oppositional views by extending Turk’s final conceptualization of law power, what he calls diversionary power, to the much contested realm of the sexual. I frame this as “perversionary” power. Examining these transgressive sexualities addresses some of the debates that have emerged from his work2,5,7 The paper ends with a critique of his claim6 that there are no absolute empirical standards of rightness or wrongness for human behaviour. This missing figure is provided, at least in the case of the men in my dissertation, through the detection and measurement of the HIV virus. Other examples of regulation and resistance will be used. 1. Abel, R . (1980). “Redirecting Social Studies of Law’ Law and Society Review 14(805-829). 2. Ayer, R. (1982) “Objectivity versus Political and Moral Commitment? For Science and Partisanship in Criminology” Contemporary Crises 6: 133-154. 3. Freeman, A (1981) “Truth and Mystification in Legal Scholarship” 90 Yale Law Journal (1229-1237). 4. McCauly, S (1984). “Law and the Bahevioural Sciences: Is There any There,There?” Law and Policy 6(2): 149-187. 5. Turk, A. (1976) “Law as a Weapon in Social Conflict” Social Problems 23 :276-291 6. ______ (1978) “Analyzing Official Deviance: For Non-Partisan Conflict Analyses in Criminology Criminology 16(4): 459-476. 7. ______ (1982). “Values and Objectivity in Criminological Inquiry: Ayer’s Dilemma” Coontemporary Crises 6: 155-159.


Society for the Study of Social Problems Abstract