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Oscar Wilde's Long Tail: Framing Sexual Identity in the Law

59 Pages Posted: 10 Jul 2011  

Laura I Appleman

Willamette University College of Law

Date Written: July 5, 2011


This article argues that narrative has been the hidden link in the intersection between law and sexual identity, shaping and structuring the relationship between the two. The power of the hidden narrative continues to influence legal decisions today, most recently including the national debate on same-sex marriage. I contend that the basis for this complicated relationship began with a few critical 19th-century events, in particular the widely publicized trials of Oscar Wilde for the crime of sodomy. I aim to restore the camouflaged work of narrative to its rightful place in our understanding of sexual identity in the law. In so doing, I hope to not only dissect and expose the complex interrelationships between law, narrative, and sexuality, but also clarify the shifting dynamics of legal sexual identity. This Article asserts that only through recognizing the role of narrative in structuring our legal definition of sexual identity will we ever be able to understand how and why courts are deciding gay rights cases in the way they do.

Keywords: same-sex marriage, identity, sexuality, narrative, Wilde

JEL Classification: K30, K39

Suggested Citation

Appleman, Laura I, Oscar Wilde's Long Tail: Framing Sexual Identity in the Law (July 5, 2011). Maryland Law Review, Vol. 70, p. 985, 2011. Available at SSRN:

Laura I Appleman (Contact Author)

Willamette University College of Law ( email )

245 Winter St. SE
Salem, OR 97301
United States
(503) 370-6651 (Phone)

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