Sociology | Constructing Sexuality
S422 | 4140 | Weinberg


Note:  The title of S422 has been changed from “Variations in Human
Sexuality II” to “Constructing Sexuality.”  It is, however, the same
course.  If you have already completed it under the old title, you
will not receive credit for the current course.

The aim of the course is to provide an understanding of the social
constructionist perspective and its development in the area of human
sexuality.  It will cover the sources of its evolution: symbolic
interactionism (and other interpretive approaches) in the United
States, what developed out of the U.S. perspective in England, the
influence of the French post-structuralists, the role played by
feminist scholars and queer theorists, and the contributions of
postmodernism and cultural studies.  Students will see how these
different origins have complemented each other in a contemporary
approach to the study of human sexuality.  In terms of substantive
content, the course will examine how the constructions (e.g.,
interpretations, meanings) of various forms and facets of sexuality
are related to the evaluator’s historical, cultural, and social
location.  We will look at the role of power, politics, and discourse
in shaping constructions of sexualities and the misconceptions and
socially-linked processes that underlie certain traditional
interpretations.  This analysis casts into relief the role of macro-
sociological factors as well as those on the interpersonal level
(such as the “slight of hand” used in transforming notions about
statistical normality into imputations about psychiatric abnormality—
e.g., most people are heterosexual, so bisexual and gay/lesbian
people are psychologically abnormal).  A “sex radical pluralist”
model of interpretation (one that has been delineated by social
constructionists) is proposed as an alternative to the conservative
traditional one.  The specific sexualities to be discussed include
nudism, forms of sex work, intergenerational sex, homosexuality,
bisexuality, sexual contact with animals, transgender variations,
fetishism, sadomasochism, fisting, urine play, and the playing with
and eating of feces.  The course will be organized around lectures,
guest speakers, audio-visual materials (explicit sexual materials of
many of the behaviors listed above), and discussions.  If you will be
offended by these videos or by explicit sexual language, please do
not take this class.

BOOKS/READINGS (The reader is available at Collegiate Copies; the
book at TIS)

	(RDR)	Xeroxed Reader: Constructing Sexuality, 2001

	(AS)	Arlene Stein, Sex and Sensibility: Stories of a
Lesbian Generation, Berkeley: University
		of California Press, 1997.

GRADING:	Three in-class essay examinations, weekly take-home
essay questions, preparation and participation grades.