Of Signifiers and Sodomy: Privacy, Public Morality and Sex in the Decriminalisation Debates Academic Article uri icon


  • This article focuses on the use of parliamentary debates as an important and effective form of social 'education', demonstrating that power relations between social groups often leads to explicit declarations of competing and sometimes contradictory 'truth claims' or 'ideologies '. The author demonstrates the degree to which fundamental belief~about patriotism, morality, and humanity are articulated. defended and critiqued in the debates surrounding the decriminalisation of sodomy in England and Australia, The role of law in guarding the boundaries between legitimate and illegitimate uses of State power, the role of the family, the 'problem' of homosexuality, the meaning of gender, the place of minorities within a liberal legal system and the increasing separation of religious based morality, and scientific values are also explored. The author argues that the theory of privacy articulated in the debates demonstrates a form of social control intended to 'disappear' gay men (and lesbians) which operates at the expense of other liberal values such as freedom and equality.

publication date

  • 1996