Sociology | Sexual Diversity
S321 | 3675 | Elizabeth Armstrong
This course was formerly titled Variations in Human Sexuality I
Section open to undergraduates only
Starting with the premise that sexual meanings and practices are
socially organized, the course first challenges assumptions about the
"naturalness" of sexual organization in the contemporary United States
by exploring the quite different ways sexuality has been structured in
other times and in other places. Then we turn to the diversity of
sexual experience in the American context. To further dislodge
notions that sex is a simple biological function, the course will
investigate the myriad meanings of sexuality. While some think that
sex is for pleasure, others believe it belongs only in the context of
exclusive, loving relationships, and perhaps should be primarily for
reproduction. Some use sex as a way of achieving power over others.
Sexuality is also a source of identity, self-esteem, and status.
While most see sexuality as a private issue, the state has a stake in
private sexual practices, because sex is also a public health and
social welfare issue. How people make sense of sex influences what
kinds of sexual practices and relationships they see as acceptable.
Who are acceptable partners? How many? Of what age, race, gender?
Beliefs about sexuality vary by gender, culture, religion, urbanity,
age, cohort, physical attractiveness and other dimensions. And, it is
not just groups that vary; individuals themselves are frequently
inconsistent. What people want may be different than what they do.
Sexual practices may not be related to sexual identities. These
themes are explored through a variety of topics including: childhood
sexual socialization (including teenage sexuality and teen pregnancy);
adult masculinities/femininities and heterosexuality; date rape; gay,
lesbian, bisexual, and transgender identities; relational sexuality
(including heterosexual marital relationships and lesbian/gay
relationships); alternative sexualities (pornography, S/M,
non-monogamy, and public sex); sex work; and sexually transmitted