Sociology of Sexuality (Syllabus)

Sociology of Sexuality (SC 220-02)
T, TH 12:15pm - 1:30pm (Maryland Hall, 344)

Loyola University Maryland
Spring, 2011

Dr. Rebecca Dolinsky
Sociology Department Phone:  (410) 617-2742
Sociology Department Main Office:  Beatty Hall 314
Office Hours:  Tuesdays 10:00am – 12:00pm (and by appointment) in the student center:  either near Starbucks or outside of the university bookstore (if the tables by Starbucks are occupied)

Course Description

A sociological perspective is used to examine human sexuality, focusing on how sexuality reflects the society in which we live. Although it is often assumed that sexual attitudes and behaviors are biologically based, they are strongly shaped by society. In this course we will:  distinguish sex from gender, focus on sociological theories of sexuality, examine a history of sexuality in Western society, link sexuality to “micro” and “macro” levels of social relations, visit societal debates on sexuality, note the historical acquisition of sexuality by normative groups, read and talk about alternative forms of sexuality, understand sexuality as an intersecting concept, and generally underscore sexuality as a social concept. 

Note:  Sexuality is not just a social concept; like any identity, it can also be very personal.  As we explore sexuality throughout this course, please be mindful of your peers’ different and intersecting race, class, gender, and sexual identities in relation to your own positionality.

Learning Goals and Expectations

At the completion of the course, students will be able to understand sexuality as a socially constructed concept that is continuously influenced and (re)shaped by history, the current moment, culture, and society.  Students will also be able to cite and describe important sociological theories and methodologies used to analyze human sexuality.  Furthermore, students will be able to understand sexuality as a diverse and continuously shifting concept.

Required Texts

-          Kimmel, Michael. S. and Rebecca F. Plante.  2004.  Sexualities:  Identities, Behaviors, and Society.  New York:  Oxford University Press.

-          Plante, Rebecca F.  2006.  Sexualities in Context:  A Social Perspective.  Ithaca:  Westview Press.

-          15 Additional Articles on Reserve (Electronic Reserve and Blackboard)


Your syllabus and the 15 additional articles are already posted on Blackboard.  As we move forward in the semester, I’ll continue to post other important documents (including directions for assignments and the study guide for your final exam).

Course Requirements and Assignments

  1. Participation and Attendance (10% of your final grade) *
  2. Midterm Paper:  Due March 3rd  (30% of your final grade)
  3. Written Response #1: Due February 15th (10% of your final grade)
  4. Written Response #2: Due March 31st (10% of your final grade)
  5. Written Response #3: Due April 14th (10% of your final grade)
  6. Final Exam:  May 6th (30% of your final grade)

* You will earn “Participation and Attendance” points by:  attending class, being respectfully engaged in class (i.e., no texting on your cell phone or talking to your neighbors during class), coming to class on time, remaining engaged with the course material, and participating in large/small group discussions.  For further information, see my attendance policy below.

Note:  I will not accept assignments electronically.

Weekly Schedule

Week 1

January 18Introduction to the Course

January 20Sociological Perspectives on Sex and Gender
1)      “Boys, Girls, Men, and Women:  Variables of Experience” – Plante:  Section I, Chapter 3 (pgs. 67-96)

Week 2

January 25Sociological Perspectives on Sex and Gender, cont.
1)      “Doing Gender” – Candace West and Don H. Zimmerman (pgs. 125-151) (Electronic Reserve and Blackboard)
2)      “Gendered Institutions:  From Sex Roles to Gendered Institutions” – Joan Acker (pgs. 565-569) (Electronic Reserve and Blackboard)

January 27Theorizing Sexuality
1)      “Studying the Sexual:  Classifying and Theorizing”  – Plante:  Section I, Chapter 2 (pgs. 31-65)

Week 3

February 1Historical Perspectives on Sexuality
1)      “Why Sex Matters:  A Brief History of Sex/uality” – Plante:  Section I, Chapter 1 (pgs. 3-30)
2)      “The Sexual Response Cycle” – William H. Masters and Virginia E. Johnson in Kimmel & Plante, Chapter 1.5 (pgs. 24-28)
3)      “Historical, Scientific, Clinical, and Feminist Criticisms of ‘The Human Sexual Response Cycle’ Model” – Leonore Tiefer in Kimmel & Plante, Chapter 2.4 (pgs. 52-64)

February 3Historical Perspectives on Sexuality, cont.
1)      “Redrawing the Boundaries” – John D’Emilio & Estelle B. Freedman:  Chapter 12 (pgs. 275-300) in Intimate Matters:  A History of Sexuality in America, Second Edition (Electronic Reserve and Blackboard)
2)      “Sexual Behavior in the Human Male” – Alfred C. Kinsey, Wardell R. Pomeroy, and Clyde E. Martin in “Voices from the Past”:  American Journal of Public Health (pgs. 894-898) (Electronic Reserve and Blackboard)

-          The Midterm paper assignment will be handed out in class today (the assignment will also be posted on Blackboard).  We also will discuss the expectations of the assignment and what it means to write a sociological paper in class today.

Week 4

February 8Theorizing Sexuality, cont.
1)      “La Güera” – Cherríe L. Moraga in This Bridge Called My Back (pgs. 24-33) (Electronic Reserve and Blackboard)
2)      “From Parody to Politics” – Judith Butler in Gender Trouble (pgs. 181-190) (Electronic Reserve and Blackboard)

February 10Sexuality as Identity
1)      “‘Homosexual’ and ‘Heterosexual’:  Questioning the Terms” – Jonathan Ned Katz in Kimmel & Plante, Chapter 2.2 (pgs. 44-46)
2)      “LGBTQQPA(H), BDSM:  The Alphabet Soup of Sexualities” – Plante:  Section III, Chapter 7 (pgs. 195-239)
3)      “Accounts of Sexual Identity Formation in Heterosexual Students” – Michele J. Eliason (pgs. 821-834) (Electronic Reserve and Blackboard)

Media:  U People

Week 5

February 15Sexuality as Identity, cont.
1)      “Two Many and Not Enough:  The Meanings of Bisexual Identities” – Paula C. Rust in Kimmel & Plante, Chapter 5.4 (pgs. 216-229)
2)      “Beyond the Closet?  The Changing Social Meaning of Homosexuality in the United States” – Steven Seidman, Chet Meeks, and Francie Traschen in Kimmel & Plante, Chapter 5.2 (pgs. 184-199)

-          Written response #1 due in class today.

February 17Moving (Further) Beyond the Binary
1)      “The M/F Boxes” – E.J. Graff in Kimmel & Plante, Chapter 5.6 (pgs. 250-253)
2)      “Trans Terminology” – Brett Genny Beemyn, Gender and Sexuality Center at the University of Texas at Austin (Electronic Reserve and Blackboard)
3)      “Intersex” – Gender Equity Resource Center at the University of California, Berkeley (Electronic Reserve and Blackboard)
4)      “Coming Out and Crossing Over:  Identity Formation and Proclamation in a Transgender Community” – Patricia Gagné, Richard Tewksbury, and Deanna McGaughey in Kimmel & Plante, Chapter 5.5 (pgs. 230-249)
5)      “The Five Sexes:  Why Male and Female Are Not Enough” – Anne Fausto-Sterling in Kimmel & Plante, Chapter 2.1 (pgs. 39-44)
6)      “The Five Sexes, Revisted” – Anne Fausto-Sterling (Electronic Reserve and Blackboard)

Week 6

February 22Children/Adolescents
1)       “Sexuality and Gender in Children’s Daily Worlds” – Barrie Thorne and Zella Luria in Kimmel & Plante, Chapter 3.1 (pgs. 74-87)
2)      “Doing Desire:  Adolescent Girls’ Struggles for/with Sexuality” – Deborah L. Tolman in Kimmel & Plante, Chapter 3.2 (pgs. 87-99)

Media:  This American Life, “Somewhere Out There:  Tom Girls”

February 24Sex Education
1)      “Birds Do It, Bees Do It:  Learning about ‘It’” – Plante:  Section II, Chapter 4 (pgs. 99-131)
2)      “Educational Sex Videos:  What Are They Teaching?” – Peggy J. Kleinplatz in Kimmel & Plante, Chapter 10.2 (pgs. 456-459)

Week 7

March 1Dating and Casual Relationships
1)       “Hooking It Up:  Sex in the Bedroom” – Plante:  Section II, Chapter 6 (pgs. 163-192)
2)      “Dating and Romantic Relationships Among Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Youths” – Ritch C. Savin-Williams in Kimmel & Plante, Chapter 3.5 (pgs. 113-122)

March 3:  Midterm paper due in class today

-          Midterm paper due in class today.  We will take some time to discuss our papers as a group.

Week 8

March 8Spring Break (No Class)

March 10Spring Break (No Class)

Week 9

March 15The Marriage Debate
1)      Excerpts from Same-Sex Marriage Pro & Con:  A Reader, edited by Andrew Sullivan (Electronic Reserve and Blackboard)
“Is it So Ordered?  The Path of the Courts,” (pgs. 86-87)
-          “Race and the Right to Marry:  Loving v. Virginia,” from Justice Warren’s ruling for the U.S. Supreme Court, June 1967 (pgs. 88-90)
-          “The Definitional Argument:  Jones v. Hallahan,” from the ruling of the Court of Appeals of Kentucky, November 1973 (pgs. 90-92)
-          “No Right to Sodomy:  Bowers v. Hardwick,” from Justice White’s and Justice Blackmun’s opinions for the U.S. Supreme Court, June, 1986” (pgs. 92-94)
-          “Even Prisoners Can Marry:  Turner v. Safely,” from Justice O’Connor’s ruling for the majority, U.S. Supreme Court, June 1987 (pgs. 95-96)
-          “The Sex Discrimination Point:  Upheld:  Baehr v. Lewin,” from the Supreme Court’s ruling, Supreme Court of Hawaii, May 1993” (pgs. 96-101)
“The Defense of Marriage Act?  The National Debate Begins,” (pgs. 204-205)
-          “H.R. 3396, ‘To Define and Protect the Institution of Marriage:  May 7, 1996” (pgs. 205-207)
-          “The Hearings of the House Judiciary Committee on the Defense of Marriage Act:  May 15, 1996” (pgs. 217-225)
-          “Transcript of the Mark-Up Record of the Defense of Marriage Act:  House Judiciary Committee, June 12, 1996” (pgs. 225-228)

March 17The Marriage Debate, cont.
1)      “Defining Life Partnerships:  Does Sexual Orientation Matter?” – Todd M. Kline, Gary Martz, C. Jason Lesperance, and Merilyne C. Waldo (pgs. 606-618) (Electronic Reserve and Blackboard)

Week 10 

March 22Activism
1)      “Sexual Revolutions” – John D’Emilio & Estelle B. Freedman:  Chapter 13 (pgs. 301-325) in Intimate Matters:  A History of Sexuality in America, Second Edition (Electronic Reserve and Blackboard)

March 24Activism, cont.

MediaBefore Stonewall, After Stonewall

Week 11

March 29Activism, cont.

Guest Speaker:  Louis Hughes, Jr.

March 31HIV/AIDS
1)      “Sexuality, Culture, and Power in HIV/AIDS Research” –Richard Parker in Kimmel & Plante, Chapter 10.4 (pgs. 467-478)
2)      The Case of Washington, DC:  In-class lecture

-          Written response #2 due in class today. 

Week 12

April 5Sexuality at Work
1)      “Doing Undoing, or Redoing Gender?:  Learning from the Workplace Experiences of Transpeople” – Catherine Connell (Electronic Reserve and Blackboard)
2)      “Sexual Harassment as a Gendered Expression of Power” – Christopher Uggen and Amy Blackstone  (pgs. 64-92) (Electronic Reserve and Blackboard)

April 7Catch-Up Day  

In the event of class cancellations/university closure due to inclement weather earlier in the semester, we will use this day to catch up on course materials assigned in our syllabus.  If we are all caught up on April 7th, we will still make good use of this day—most likely with a movie that is relevant to the course (the movie will be referenced on the final exam).  No new readings for this class period.

Week 13

April 12Campus Culture
1)      “The Gender of Desire:  The Sexual Fantasies of College Women and Men” – Michael S. Kimmel and Rebecca F. Plante in Kimmel & Plante, Chapter 4.1 (pgs. 123-136)
2)      “College Women’s Fears and Precautionary Behaviors Relating to Acquaintance Rape and Stranger Rape” – Susan E. Hickman and Charlene L. Muehlenhard in Kimmel & Plante, Chapter 9.1 (pgs. 394-409)

April 14Campus Culture, cont.
1)      “Sexuality and Subversion:  University Peer Sexuality Educators and the Possibilities for Change” – Rebecca F. Plante in Kimmel & Plante, Chapter 10.3 (pgs. 460-466)

-          Written response #3 due in class today. 

Week 14

April 19Sexuality and the Media
1)      “Bunnies, Bytes, and Beaches:  Representations of Sex” ” – Plante:  Section III, Chapter 8 (pgs. 241-265)
2)      “Sexuality in Cyberspace:  Update for the 21st Century” – Al Cooper, Irene P. McLoughlin, Kevin M. Campbell in Kimmel & Plante, Chapter 6.4 (pgs. 285-299)

April 21Easter Holiday (No Class)

Week 15

April 26Sexuality and the Media, cont.
1)      “Sexual Violence in Three Pornographic Media:  Towards a Sociological Explanation” – Martin Barron and Michael S. Kimmel in Kimmel & Plante, Chapter 8.1 (pgs. 343-354)
2)      “Pornography and Media:  Toward a More Critical Analysis” – Gail Dines and Robert Jensen in Kimmel & Plante, Chapter 8.3 (pgs. 369-380)

April 28Sexuality and Global Politics
1)      “Fantasy Islands:  Exploring the Demand for Sex Tourism” – Julia O’Connell Davidson and Jacqueline Sanchez Taylor in Kimmel & Plante, Chapter 7.4 (pgs. 331-341)
2)      “The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR):  A Social Work Ethical Analysis and Recommendations” – Robert J. Barney, Stephan L. Buckingham, Judith M. Friedrich, Lisa M. Johnson, Michael A. Robinson, Bibhuti K. Sar (pgs. 9-22) (Electronic Reserve and Blackboard)

Week 16

May 3Review for Final Exam

May 6:  Final Exam is scheduled for 9:00am-12:00pm in our classroom.

Other Pertinent Course Information

Course Grading Scale

A         100-94%                      C         76-74%
A-        93-90%                        C-        73-70%
B+       89-87%                        D+       69-67%
B         86-84%                        D         66-64%
B-        83-80%                        F          63% and below
C+       79-77%

Attached to each assignment’s set of directions will be my grading rubrics for that assignment. 

Note:  I will not grade on a curve for any assignment in this course. 

Written Responses:  30% of your final grade
2 pages; double-spaced; 11-12-pt font; Margins:  1” (top & bottom); 1.25” (left & right)

There are three written responses for this course.  Each of these assignments will be described in detail on a handout that will be posted on Blackboard and given out in class two weeks before the assignment is due.  In these written responses, you must reference relevant course material in relation to the topic at hand.  Use your sociological perspective to analyze and critically discuss the topic of the writing assignment.

  1. Written Response #1: Due February 15th.  Written response about your sexual identity as it relates to other social aspects of your life.
  2. Written Response #2: Due March 31st.  Written response to guest speaker Louis Hughes, Jr. 
  3. Written Response #3: Due April 14th.  Written response to section on Campus Culture.

Midterm Paper:  30% of your final grade
5-7 pages; double-spaced; 11-12-pt font; Margins:  1” (top & bottom); 1.25” (left & right)

Clear directions for this assignment will be handed out and posted on Blackboard one month before it is due (I will also include my basic grading rubrics for this assignment in the directions).  In this paper, you will be required to reference relevant course material in relation to the topic at hand.  Use your sociological perspective to analyze and critically discuss the topic of the writing assignment.

  1. Midterm Paper:  Due March 3rd.  For the midterm paper, you will critically analyze U.S. popular culture’s treatment of sexuality.  Plan to analyze 1) two movies, or 2) four episodes from one television show, or 3) four songs by either one artist or multiple artists in one musical genre, or 4) two individual pop culture personas.  If you choose to analyze individual pop culture personas, you can reference these individuals’ repertoire of movies, songs, etc. in your analysis.  Decide what you will specifically analyze by February 22nd and talk with me on this date at the end of class.  I’ll give you quick approval to move forward with the assignment or encourage you to change your plan a little (if your plan for the paper is missing the assignment’s mark).  The following topics will be of particular relevance to this assignment:  Sociological Perspectives on Sex and Gender, Theorizing Sexuality, Historical Perspectives on Sexuality, Sexuality as Identity, but you may also cite these topics if additionally relevant:  Children/Adolescents, Sex Education, Dating and Casual Relationships

Note:  On February 3rd, we will discuss my expectations for this assignment and what it means to write a sociological paper.  If you would like additional guidance for this assignment, do not hesitate to talk with me during office hours or after class.  You can also reach out to The Writing Center on campus:

Final Exam:  30% of your final grade (May 6th)
Hand-written, in class

The final exam will be comprehensive, requiring you to reference material from the duration of the course.  The exam will consist of fill-in-the blank, short answer, and short essay questions.  You will be given a study guide two weeks before the exam.  I will include my basic grading rubrics for the final exam in the study guide.

Attendance Policy:  Attendance and participation = 10% of your final grade

Barring emergencies, debilitating illnesses, and participation in University activities at the request of university authorities, I expect you to attend this course on the days that it is scheduled.  I take attendance seriously, so you will be earning “Participation and Attendance” points throughout the semester. 

If you miss class, I will not email you the notes or post my lectures on Blackboard.  It is your responsibility to contact one of your peers for the notes and check Blackboard for any missed assignments.  On the first day of class, I will ask each of you to exchange email addresses with two of your peers (if you are comfortable with this) so that you can have contact persons throughout the duration of the course. 

If you find yourself in extenuating circumstances (health-related, etc.) that prevent you from attending class on a regular basis, please do not hesitate to talk with me about this.

Late Assignments:

I will accept late assignments, but you will receive a deduction in points for each passing day.
Disabilities Statement

Students with disability needs can contact Loyola’s Disability Support Services at:

Marcia Wiedefeld, Director of Disabilities Support Services
(410) 617-2062
Newman Towers, West 107

If you have a disability that requires attention in class, during a writing assignment, or during an in-class exam, please do not hesitate to be in touch with me so that we can set up appropriate arrangements.

“It is the policy and practice of Loyola College to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and state and local requirements regarding students with disabilities. Loyola College is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, color, religion, age, national or ethnic origin, veteran status, disability, or any other occupationally irrelevant criteria.  The College promotes affirmative action for minorities, women, individuals with disabilities, and veterans.”

Honor Code

Loyola University Maryland Honor Code Statement:
“The Honor Code states that all students of the Loyola community have been equally entrusted by their peers to conduct themselves honestly on all academic assignments. Our goal is to foster a trusting atmosphere that is ideal for learning. In order to achieve this goal, every student must be actively committed to this pursuit and its responsibilities, and is therefore called to be active in the governing of the community’s standards. Thus, all students have the right, as well as the duty, to expect honest work from their colleagues.  From this, we students will benefit and learn from the caring relationships that our community trustfully embodies. 

The students of this University understand that having collective and individual responsibility for the ethical welfare of their peers exemplifies a commitment to the community. Students who submit materials that are the products of their own mind demonstrate respect for themselves and the community in which they study. These students possess a strong sense of honor, reverence for truth, and a commitment to Jesuit education.  Accordingly, students found violating the Honor Code will be reprimanded appropriately in the belief that they will, with the support of their peers, learn from the mistake. This Code not only requires students to understand the ideals of Truth and Personal Care as the two strongest educational factors expressed in cura personalis, but also calls them to demonstrate a general concern for the welfare of their colleagues and the University.”

Please see the Community Standards Handbook for more information and clarification of honor code standards, types of violations, adjudication process, and sanctions: