Photo of Lara Karaian

Lara Karaian

Associate Professor

Degrees:Ph.D. (Gender and Sexuality Studies); MA (Gender and Sexuality Studies), York University; BA Honours (Criminology/Sociology), University of Toronto
Phone:613-520-2600 x 1458
Office:C578 Loeb

*On sabbatical leave July 1st, 2015 to July 1st, 2016.

Areas of Interest

My broad research interests include: the legal regulation and construction of sex, gender and sexuality; feminist, critical race, queer and transgender legal theory; risk management and regulation; (self)surveillance; the intersections of criminal and constitutional law; law and morality; critical criminology, cultural criminology, and porn studies.

Some of my ongoing and future research interests include: The pursuit of a positive theory of pleasure and sexuality in law (through a radical re-reading of case law on swinging, sexting and sex work); The power of feminism in law (particularly the extent to which it has shaped, and continues to shape, our obscenity laws); and Male pregnancy and discrimination law. 

Current Research

I am the recipient of two year SSHRC Insight Development Grant (2012-2014) for my project titled “Selfies, Sexuality and Teens: A Canadian Study”.  Canada has only recently witnessed a criminal law response to teenagers’ self-produced and distributed digital sexual text messages and images (referred to by youth as selfies and by the media and academics as sexting). In this context, my research examines the crime control and legal responses to ‘sexy’ selfies, particularly how the courts and crime prevention efforts—such as criminal diversion programs, online Internet Safety initiatives, and televised public service announcements (PSAs)—construct and propose to regulate teenage digital sexual expression.

In addition to analyzing the representational and regulatory practices of extra-legal and legal institutions and organizations, I will be conducting focus groups with teenagers across Canada. My project seeks to answer the following questions: How does the criminal law and crime prevention efforts enact governmental rationalities and disciplinary power relations that produce sexters as objects of thought, thus further rendering them as sites of social and legal regulation? How do teenage sexters’  racialized and classed sexual identities become invested with legal, cultural and political meaning in disputes about the “risks” of sexting? To what extent, if at all, do teenagers’ sexual narratives inform these meaning making projects and shape emerging legal and cultural discourses about digital sexual expression rights? How does teenagers’ use of digital technology shift the boundaries of public/private, risk/opportunity, subject/object, and victim/perpetrator? And finally, how do teenagers understand their complex identities, the practice of sexting, and its/their regulation in a digital age?

Courses Taught

SOCI 5805F: Graduate Seminar: Contemporary Criminological Issues (Team taught)
CRCJ 4001: Special Topics – Policing Sex
CRCJ 3003: Legal Research Methods
FYSM 1502R: Topics in Legal Studies: Law, Sex and Gender 

Selected Publications

Karaian, L. (Forthcoming, 2015)   “Consensual Sexting and Child Pornography: Legal and Cultural Controversies” In Shira Tarrant (Ed.). Gender, Sex, and Politics: In the Streets and Between the Sheets in the 21st Century. New York: Routledge.

Karaian, L.  (Forthcoming 2015) “Data Doubles and Pure Virtu(e)ality: Headless Selfies, Scopophilia, and ‘Surveillance Porn’” In Emily van der Meulen and Rob Heynen (Eds.), Expanding the Gaze: Gender and the Politics of Surveillance. University of Toronto Press (manuscript under review).

Karaian, L. (Forthcoming, 2015)  “Selfies, Sexualisation and ‘Self-Exploitation’ in Law-and-Order Times” In Danielle Egan, Emma Renold, Jessica Ringrose (Eds.) Children, Sexuality and ‘Sexualisation’: Beyond Spectacle and Sensationalism (Praeger, UK).

Karaian, L. and Van Meyl, K. (2015) “Reframing Risqué/Risky: Queer Temporalities, Teenage Sexting, and Freedom of Expression” Laws, 4(1): 18-36. doi:10.3390/laws4010018 (free download at

Karaian, L. (2014) “Policing ‘Sexting’: Responsibilization, Respectability and Sexual Subjectivity in  Child Protection/Crime Prevention Responses to Teenagers’ Digital Sexual Expression” Theoretical Criminology.  18(3): 282-299. (Published on-line first, Sept. 27. 2013 DOI: 10.1177/1362480613504331)

Karaian, L. (2013) ‘Pregnant Men: Repronormativity, Critical Trans Theory and the Re(conceive)ing of Sex, Gender and Pregnancy in Anti-Discrimination Law. Social and Legal Studies 22(2): 211-230.

Karaian (2012) “Lolita Speaks: ‘Sexting’, Teenage Girls and the Law”, Crime Media Culture 8(1): 57-73.

Karaian (2009) “The Troubled Relationship of Feminist and Queer Legal Theory to Strategic Essentialism: Theory/Praxis, Queer Porn, and Canadian Anti-discrimination Law.” In Martha Albertson Fineman et al. (eds.) Feminist and Queer Legal Theory: Intimate Encounters, Uncomfortable Conversations. Ashgate Press.

Karaian, L. and Mitchell, A. (2009) “Third Wave Feminisms.” In Nancy Mandell (Ed.). Feminist Issues: Race, Class and Sexuality (Fifth Edition). Pearson Prentice Hall. pp. 63-86.

Karaian, L. (2006) “Strategic Essentialism on Trial: Transgender Legal Interventions and Social Change” In Krista Scott-Dixon (Ed.). Trans/Forming Feminisms. Sumach Press.

Karaian (2005) “Troubling the Definition of Pornography: Little Sisters, a New Defining Moment in Feminists’ Engagement with the Law?” Canadian Journal of Women and the Law. 20th Anniversary Special Issue. 17(1):

Mitchell, A. Rundle, L and Karaian L. (2001) Turbo Chicks: Talking Young Feminisms, Sumach Press. (Turbo Chicks is first Canadian anthology on Third Wave Feminism. In 2002 it won the Independent Publisher Book Award).

Karaian, L. Mandell, N. (2000). “Bias in Data Collection.” In Lorraine Code (Ed.). Encyclopedia of Feminist Theories. Routledge.