Sociology | Constructing Sexuality
S522 | 21727 | Weinberg
The aim of this course is to provide an understanding of the social
constructionist perspective and its development and application in the
area of human sexuality. The course will cover the sources of the
evolution of constructionism: from symbolic interactionism (and other
interpretive approaches) in the United States, the influence of the
French post-structuralists, inputs from Britain and New Zealand, the
role played by feminist scholars and queer theorists, and the
contributions of postmodernism and cultural studies. Students will
see how these different contributions have complemented one another in
a contemporary approach to the study of human sexuality.
In terms of substantive content, the course will examine how the
constructions (i.e., meanings and interpretations) 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
interpretations (one that has been delineated by social
constructionists) is proposed as an alternative to the traditional
one. The specific “sexualities” to be discussed include nudism, forms
of sex work, intergenerational sex, homosexuality, bisexuality, sexual
contact with animals, transgenderism and sexuality, fetishism,
sadomasochism, fisting, urine play, and playing with and ingesting
feces. The course will be organized around lectures, audio-visual
materials (explicit sexual material of many of the behaviors listed
above), a guest speaker, and discussions. If you will be offended by
the explicit videos or by explicit language, please do not take this
Packet of Articles available at TIS
Arlene Stein, Sense and Sensibilities: Stories of a Lesbian
See attached sheet for additional readings for S522
Papers and Exams
Five short papers and three essay examinations.
See attached sheet for additional papers for S522.
S522 (Constructing Sexuality)
Re: Additional Reading and Book Reviews
The additional readings (all ordered for the course and available at
TIS) for S522 (to be done in addition to the S422 readings,
assignments, and exams) are:
(1) Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality: An Introduction, Vol.
1, which is to be read in addition to the secondary sources provided
in the course packet. No paper is assigned for this book.
(2) Steven Epstein, Impure Science, Berkeley: University of California
Press, 1996. Paper assigned (see below).
(3) Ken Plummer, Telling Sexual Stories: Power, Change, and Social
Worlds, New York: Routledge, 1995. Paper assigned (see below)..
(4) Wayne H. Brekhus, Peacocks, Chameleons, Centaurs: Gay Suburbia and
the Grammar of Social Identity, Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
2003. Paper assigned (see below.
Assignment for three prior books (2 – 4): Read book completely and
write an 8-10 page book review that provides: (1) a good summary of
the book (longest part of paper), (2) a clear description of what
qualifies the book as a work in social constructionism (or perhaps
breaches what you think a social constructionist work should provide),
and (3) a scholarly evaluation of the book.
Late Receipt Policy: If a paper is not turned in on (or before) date
it is due, my policy is to lower the grade on the paper 1/3 of a grade
for each day that it is late (e.g., A to an A-, A- to a B+, etc.).