Sexuality Studies – Initial Explorations
This module has had three goals:
- To demonstrate that something as mundane and naturalized as “sex” is in fact difficult to define, and that how it gets defined is political.
- To provide an overview of the emergence of the field of sexuality studies in the 19th and 20th centuries.
- To introduce some of the ways in which feminists have theorized and been politically engaged around issues of sex, thereby exploring concepts such as the sex/gender distinction, sexual objectification, and the polarized debates between so-called “sex negative” and sex positive or sex radical feminisms.
As we complete this module, take some time to reflect on how you might have defined sex before beginning this class and whether anything you have learned so far might have challenged that definition. Also take a moment to reflect on the assigned readings for this module and the “sex negative” versus “sex positive” distinction in feminist thought, as well as the spectrum of possible positions in between. Where would you situate yourself on this spectrum and why?
If one of these questions is of particular interest to you, you may take it up in one of the Challenges for this module. Think carefully though about if you want to complete your Challenge this early in the semester as you can only do one!
Students in this class are provided with a “Knowledge Check” (formerly called “Test Yourself”) quiz in the Summary page of each module. These quizzes are not graded and are simply a quick way for you to make sure that you are understanding the materials.
CHALLENGE ONE: For this Challenge, write a short reflection (500 – 750 words) on how you understand sex before beginning this class, even if this was just an implicit understanding. Why do you think you would have understood it this way? Are the reasons political? Has your understanding of sex changed? If so, how? Do you want to take on the challenge of coming up with a new definition of sex and running it by your classmates for comments, or do you think that it is better to leave sex undefined? Share your reflection in the Challenge Sharing Forum by Friday at noon.
CHALLENGE TWO: For this Challenge, write a short reflection (500 – 750 words) on how you position yourself in terms of the “sex negative” versus “sex positive” distinction in feminist thought. In your feminist thinking about sex up to this point, have you primarily focused on the ways in which women and girls (or other groups) are subjected to sexual harm, danger, and violence, or have you primarily focused on sex as a source of pleasure and the ways in which access to this pleasure is political? Have the readings in this module challenged your thought on these topics in any way? If so, how? Share your Challenge in the Challenge Sharing Forum by Friday at noon.
Remember to check into eClass to check for any updates or changes, participate in the discussion board, and communicate with your instructor.