Sexual Subjects: Introduction to Sexuality Studies

What does it mean to study sex and sexuality within humanities and social science traditions?  What constitutes knowledge or evidence in this field?  What kinds of categories and arguments simultaneously produce and challenge conventional wisdom about sex?  How have fields and movements like history, feminism, psychoanalysis, biology, critical race studies, anthropology, sociology, and literature fostered a multi-disciplinary scholarly tradition that today we call “sexuality studies”?  What “natural,” “obvious,” or “timeless” ideas about sex or sexuality turn out to be none of those things?  This lecture course will address these and other questions across two major “movements” in the syllabus, each putting its own spin on the course title.  In the first half of the quarter, students will absorb some fundamental texts that continue to frame sexuality as a subject of investigation in various branches of the humanities and social sciences.  These include famous pieces, in full or in excerpt, by Michel Foucault, Sigmund Freud, Audre Lorde, Gayle Rubin, Erving Goffman, Cherríe Moraga, John D’Emilio, Anne Fausto-Sterling, Eve Sedgwick, Anne Koedt, and Alfred Kinsey.  In the second half of the quarter, we will adopt more of a “case history” approach to certain human subjects often defined by their sexuality.  Likely subjects include the black lesbian, the Asian male, the welfare mother, the cis- or trans-gendered sex worker, the HIV/AIDS patient, the porn actor, the horny teen, the sex therapist, and the consenting sexual partner.  In general, the course is designed to offer a strong foundation for future coursework in gender and sexuality studies or to provide a useful and, in many senses, a diverse primer for students whose major curricula lead them in other directions.