Sexuality & Law

As developed by Robson, lesbian legal theory is a theory of law that has as its purpose lesbian survival. It constitutes a way to examine the law from both individual and community lesbian perspectives and is committed to being “relentlessly lesbian,” putting lesbians, rather than law, at the center. For example in Lesbian (Out)Law, Robson argues that the law’s traditional categories and themes sacrifice and damage lesbians. She reveals the centuries of legal punishment of lesbians, hidden behind the myth of lesbian impunity.

According to Robson’s vision, lesbian legal theory respects a variety of lesbian traditions and does not emphasize some elements of lesbian identity over others. It understands the inevitability of the law’s influence but is not knowingly complicit in the creation of the law’s dominance. It makes lesbians visible in the law and challenges what Robson calls the domestication of lesbians by the law, or the diminishment of lesbians though interaction with laws. For example, Robson argues that reform of marriage laws to include lesbian relationships would further domesticate lesbians, reforming lesbians as much as the law. Robson has examined legal history, lesbians as criminal defendants, the use of contract law by lesbian couples, intralesbian intimate violence, and family law, among other areas.

“LESBIAN LEGAL THEORY” entry, by Professor Joan Howarth, in THE ENCYLOPEDIA OF LESBIAN HISTORIES AND CULTURES, edited by Bonnie Zimmerman

In addition to lesbian legal theory, my writings and theorizing about sexuality have ranged farther and further. For example, I am the editor of a three volume set: The Library of Essays on Sexuality and Law (2011), which looks at sexual minorities and sexual practices across the globe.

Here are the volumes: