I am generally interested in representations of sexual desire in psychiatric, cultural, and religious systems. These interests come out of my training in feminist and queer theory, disability studies, religious studies, and feminist science studies. My current project focuses on the medicalization and criminalization of certain types of sexuality.
In my dissertation, I examine the role of psychiatric, popular, and religious representation in the creation of “sexually violent offender” legislation in the United States, and the feedback of that criminal category into systems of sexual identity. The sexually violent offender, also known as the violent sexual predator, is a specific type of criminal incarcerated for committing a non-capital crime who, at the end of his or her criminal sentence, is deemed too dangerous to release and instead is transferred to a special psychiatric holding facility to be detained indefinitely.
Both the criminal category of sexually violent offenders and the concept of sexual identity are constituted as a material somatic truth revealed through behavior and action. The violent sex offenders that are the subject of my dissertation all represent what I call criminal sexual identity: an identity gained by the commission of specific criminal acts. My current project focuses on the formation of this identity. I chronicle how sexual identity, a category with roots in psychiatric and criminal discourse, has emerged as both proof of guilt and as an explanation for horrific crimes. Ultimately, this new way of thinking about sexual identity is a foil to the traditionally liberatory trajectory of queer theory and sexuality studies.