Social and cultural meanings of legal responses to homicide among men : Masculine honour, sexual advances and accidents

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)423-437
Journal / PublicationAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology
Issue number3
Online published12 Dec 2012
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012
Externally publishedYes


This paper discusses Australian controversies over defences and excuses to homicide that serve partly to normalise violence in fatal conflicts between men. The 'homosexual advance defence' (HAD), describes a specific use of the provocation plea to seek a reduction of murder charges to a finding of manslaughter in cases of alleged male on male sexual advance. Successful uses of HAD to support claims of provocation have reflected legal acceptance of the alleged affront to masculine honour that such an advance can comprise. Likewise, the excuse of 'accident' has become a matter of growing debate when used to counter homicide charges arising from petty disputes or unprovoked assaults between men. The ineffective outcome of debate and the extent of this violence mirrors official resignation about this phenomenon and casts doubt on the progression of 'civilising' trends against social brutality. Anti-violence activists and reformers have mobilised against the use of HAD and the excuse of accident with mixed success. Reform of provocation law to abolish HAD is still incomplete, and the accident excuse continues to impact on cases involving alcohol-related violence among men. Anti-homosexual attacks and other fatal male on male conflicts have been viewed as unrelated forms of crime, yet there is a symmetry between HAD-related and 'accidental' killings that arise in social scenarios where sudden rage in reply to insults to male honour is a common social expectation.

Research Area(s)

  • criminal law, homicide, masculinity, victims, violence