Sociology | Constructing Sexuality
S522 | 24935 | Weinberg
The aim of the 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: 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, 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 interpretation (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
materials of many of the behaviors listed above), a guest speaker,
and discussions. If you will be offended by the explicit videos or
by explicit sexual language, please do not take this class.
Martin Weinberg, Xeroxed Packet: Constructing Sexuality, TIS, Spring
Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality: An Introduction, Vol. 1,
NY: Vintage, 1990.
Steven Epstein, Impure Science, Berkeley: University of California
Wayne H. Brekhus, Peacocks, Chameleons, Centaurs: Gay Suburbia and
the Grammar of Social Identity, Chicago: University of Chicago
Arlene Stein, Sex and Sensibility: Stories of a Lesbian Generation.
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.
Course Grade : The course grade will be based on five one-two page
papers, book reviews of the Epstein and Brekhus books above, three
in-class essay examinations and class participation. Students also
have the option of giving a 15 minute class presentation for extra