Sex and society– soan / gsfs 402

Download 48.35 Kb.
Date conversion17.05.2016
Size48.35 Kb.

Marlene Dumas

sex and society -- soan / gsfs 402 Middlebury College

Professor Jamie McCallum

Professor Jamie K. McCallum W 1:30-4:15

Middlebury College ATA A100

Spring 2015 Office hours: Munroe 110 T/TH 10:00 – 11:30
Sex and Society

Course Description

This seminar explores the sociological literature on the pleasures, power, and problems of sex. It is impossible to understand sexuality as separate from other dimensions of the human condition—economics, politics, work, family, race and gender issues. Therefore, we will place sexuality in dynamic interaction with larger social issues. In particular, it examines questions related to the science of sex, morality, sexual partnership and monogamy, sex work, desire and fantasy, and sexual politics. Class materials include sociological, scientific, and philosophical texts, a novel, and films. Overall, students should leave the course with an appreciation for sexuality as a social, not just personal, phenomenon.

Class Participation

You are expected to come to every class and out-of-class event. Come prepared to discuss readings and join group discussions. Because this is a seminar, it emphasizes our time in class to hash it out. Set yourself goals to participate in ways that challenge your habits and usual modus operandi. You are encouraged to have an opinion, be audacious, and risk your pride. Class participation means you regularly attend class and take part in meaningful ways. Since critical dialogue is probably where most learning happens anyway, this should be in our mutual interests. Learning is a conspiracy, a group activity where we work, play, plot, and debate together. Students should be prepared to take notes without laptops. Cell phones, laptops, and all other non-airplane-approved devices must be switched off.


You will write two short papers (5-7 pages) and complete a larger final project. Your final project can be a written paper, or you can choose to explore an idea or theme through an alternate method—short film, podcast, zine, collaborative project, a series of vignettes, etc. Whatever form you take, the heart and soul of it should be a sociological examination of sexuality. I will give you more specific information on the details of each of these assignments when the time comes, and we will have ample time to discuss them in class. Also, once during the semester you will co-lead the beginning of class with another student. We will discuss this in class, but at the end of this syllabus I have offered some advice about how to be an in-class leader when it is your turn to present.


Your grades come from the assignments stated above, plus class participation. Class participation is derived from a combination of attendance, frequency and quality of participation in class discussions, the competency of your short introduction, and observed struggle to engage the material. Late work is lowered half a grade for the first week late, and is not accepted thereafter. The grade breakdown is as follows:

Short papers 35%

Final Project 50%

Class participation 15%
Most students can expect to receive a grade in the B range, as A’s at Middlebury are generally reserved for outstanding work above and beyond what is average and expected. At the end of this syllabus is an addendum that describes my grading strategy. If you object to a grade you receive, email me a detailed explanation as to why you think the grade should be changed. In that email, also include a few times when you can meet me as soon as possible to discuss the matter further.
Honor Code and Academic Integrity

The Middlebury Honor Code forbids cheating and plagiarism. For details on what constitutes these breaches of conduct, please see Middlebury policy here:

Failure to abide such regulations will result in my notifying the proper college authorities. The academy is not known for its sense of humor, but plagiarism is truly no joke. For information on how to avoid plagiarizing, see Earl Babbie’s article:

Professor Jamie K. McCallum W 1:30-4:15

Middlebury College ATA A100

Spring 2015 Office hours: Munroe 110 T/TH 10:00 – 11:30
Sex and Society
Note: The course schedule that follows may be revised as the course progresses
Required Texts: Michel Foucault. The History of Sexuality: An Introduction (Vol 1)

Michel Houellebecq. Platform

Dagmar Herzog. Sex in Crisis: The New Sexual Revolution and the Future of American Politics

Melissa Gira Grant. Playing the Whore: The Work of Sex Work

Alain de Botton. How to Think More About Sex

Books are available in the College bookstore. Because the employment practices at are so questionable, I suggest you look for other retailers if you choose to buy online.

Other texts available through the course website:

Week 1: 2/11 Sex, Lies, and Sociology
Beth Schwartzapfel. “Born This Way?” The American Prospect.

M. Rochlin.The Heterosexual Questionnaire.” In Sexualities: Identities,

Behaviors and Society. In Sexualities: Identities, Behaviors and Society. Eds Kimmel and Plante (2004)
Sigmund Freud. On the Universal Tendency to Debasement in the Sphere of Love (Contributions to the Psychology of Love II)

Week 2: 2/18 Science, Gender, and Sex Difference
Thomas Laqueur. Making Sex: Body and Gender from Greeks to Freud.

Section 2, and Section 6 (only pgs 227-243)

John Gagnon and William Simon. The Social Origins of Sexual Development. In Sexualities: Identities, Behaviors and Society. Eds Kimmel and Plante (2004)
Jon D’Emilio. “Capitalism & Gay Identity,” from Culture Society & Sexuality: A Reader, 2nd ed. Routledge
Lisa Wade. “The New Science of Sex Difference.” Sociology Compass 7/4 pgs 278-293

Week 3: 2/25 The History of Sexuality
Michel Foucault. 1978 [1990]. The History of Sexuality: An Introduction (Vol 1).

Parts 1&2. Vintage Reissue Edition
Eva Illousz. Hard-Core Romance: Fifty Shades of Grey, Best-Sellers, and Society. Ch 2 and Epilogue
Week 4: 3/4 Sex in the Ancient World

Paper #1 Due March 6 5pm via email
Guest Lecture by Professor Penny Evans, University of Vermont / Middlebury College
Penny Evans—Reading Instructions (read this first)
John Winkler—Artemidoros of Daldis
John Winkler—Laying Down the Law: Oversight of Men’s Sexual Behavior in Classical Athens
John Winkler—Unnatural Acts
Roman Sexualities—Teratogenic Grid
Joanne Shelton. “As the Romans Did: A Sourcebook in Roman Social History”

Week 5: 3/11 Feminist Debates
Gayle Rubin. “Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality” (only 165-171)
Ellen Willis. “Toward a Feminist Sexual Revolution” in No More Nice Girls
Nancy Chodorow. "Heterosexuality as a Compromise Formation." (only 36-46)
Catharine Mackinnon—Sexuality, Pornography, and Method: “Pleasure under Patriarchy”
Nancy Fraser. “Feminism, Capitalism, and the Cunning of History”
Week 6: 3/18 — Sexual Citizenship
Brenda Cossman. “Sexing Citizenship, Privatizing Sex.” Citizenship Studies, Vol 6:4 (2002)
Gayle Rubin. “Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality” (beginning-165)
Jasbir Puar. "Re-Thinking Homonationalism" summary of Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times
Lauren Berlant and Michael Warner, “Sex in Public,” Critical Inquiry 24 (1998): 547-66
Ryan Conrad--Against Equality (excerpts)

Week 7: 3/25 Spring Recess / No Class
Week 8: 4/1 Polyamory / Nonmonogamy
3/30Film Screening: Three of Hearts LIB 201 7PM
Guest Lecture by Professor Antonia Levy, CUNY
Melita Noel. 2006. “Progressive Polyamory: Considering Issues of Diversity.” Sexualities. Vol 9(5): 602–620
Christian Kleese. “Polyamory and its “Others”: Contesting the Terms of Non-Monogamy.” Sexualities. Vol 9(5): 565–583

Dean Spade. For Lovers and Fighters:

Mimi Schippers. What if Katniss didn’t have to choose between Peeta and Gale?

Week 9: 4/8 Sex Work

Melissa Gira Grant. 2014. Playing the Whore: The Work of Sex Work. Verso

Week 10: 4/15 — A New Sexual Revolution?

Paper #2 Due 4/17 at 11:59PM

Dagmar Herzog. 2005. Sex in Crisis: The New Sexual Revolution and the Future of American Politics. Basic Books (A-L read ch 1-3. M-Z read ch 3-6)
Week 11: 4/22 Fiction, Fantasy, Culture Wars
Michel Houellebecq. 2004. Platform. Vintage

Week 12: 4/29 What do we think about when we think about sex?
4/28— Film Screening: Shortbus WNS HEM 7pm
Alain de Botton. 2012. How to Think More About Sex. Picador
Week 13: 5/6 Consent? Fantasy? Love?
Yes Means Yes?Against Love: A Polemic

Stacy Fowles. Why the Female Sexual Submissive Scares Us (and Why She Shouldn’t)'non-consent'%3A_why_the_female_sexual_submissive_scares_us_(and_why_she_shouldn't)

Megan Murphy. The Tyranny of Consent:

Course Evaluations

Once this semester you will co-present the assigned reading material to the class. Work in pairs to prepare your presentation. The point of these presentations is so that you can lead us toward a good discussion. Leading is a science and an art. It does not mean telling us everything. Leadership means taking responsibility for empowering others to achieve purpose under conditions of uncertainty. In other words, leaders answer the questions: how can we begin and what should we do? Here are some tips to help make you successful. If it would help to meet with me beforehand, please stop by my office hours.

  1. Briefly summarize. Assume that your classmates have completed the reading and that they don’t need you to tell them what it’s about. However, it is important to be able to, in one or two sentences begin by stating the general topics. For example, “Today we will be discussing four competing perspectives on sexual citizenship, two explicitly feminist critiques and two that focus on race issues.”

  1. Be sociological. There are many interesting things to say about the issues we are discussing, but you should hone in on what a sociological perspective offers to those issues. In other words, think about the benefits (and the limitations) a specifically sociological lens offers the problem.

  1. Give examples. When you are trying to describe something in more general terms, it helps to offer concrete examples. Try choosing some quotes from the reading and some examples from the “real world.” It may help to frame your discussion in terms of a current event.

  1. Free to disagree. Productive disagreement with theory is useful by expanding its scope. Nonproductive disagreement is a conversation-stopper. For example, “Marx didn’t say anything about gender” versus, “Though Marx was not really concerned with gender, we can apply his concept of alienation to marriage and dating.”

  1. Be humble. Surely, there are things you did not understand. Now is the time to say them. Try to frame what you did not know as a puzzle. For example, “I understand the bulk of the argument, but I’m not sure why this particular case they use is relevant”…or “I need someone to help me understand why this “matters” outside of academia.” Showing what you don’t know or fully understand invites others into a conversation, often because they themselves don’t understand it either.

  1. Questions. Try to focus on the main questions the reading is asking, not just the answer. For example, “Weber is trying to understand how capitalism seems to be so resistant to critique and crisis—‘how is that possible, especially in light of Marx’s predictions?’” he asks. Also, the idea is that you are analyzing the readings to help us get to a place where we can have a better discussion by getting to the right questions. Try to end by posing a few questions you think would stimulate discussion in class.

  1. Connect the dots. Why are we reading this in this class? How does it fit in with the overall mission of the class? What do the readings have in common and where do they disagree? Are they featuring a similar debate? What larger lessons can we draw from these specific readings?

Letter grades in this class have the following meaning:
A Outstanding performance. You have demonstrated very thorough knowledge and

understanding of all the material, truly superior critical thinking, and expressed

insightful and original thoughts clearly. You have completed all required assignments and they have been among the best in the class. The writing is of publishable quality.
B Good performance. You have demonstrated solid knowledge and understanding of the material and good critical thinking. You have also shown the ability to express your ideas clearly. You have completed all required assignments and they have been of good quality.
C Satisfactory performance. You have demonstrated basic knowledge and understanding of the major concepts taught in the class and some critical thinking. You have completed all or most of the required assignments and they have routinely been free of significant problems.
D Deficient performance. You have only acquired a limited understanding of the class material. You have failed to complete all the required assignments and they have routinely had serious problems.
F Failure. You have failed to learn a sufficient proportion of the basic concepts and ideas taught in the class and you have failed to complete one or more of the assignments. Or maybe you just plagiarized.

This class depends on us having open, honest, and critical conversations about sex. How can we do that? I’d like to suggest you consider a few tips that I think will improve our chances. Think about what makes you feel safe to join a conversation with a group of people you don’t know. Assuming that some of those things might be true for other people, try to behave in ways in class that expand them. Here are a few ways I hope will enhance our conversations. Feel free to add to this list.

  1. Learn people’s names and use them. When you speak in class, especially the for the few weeks, say your name so that others can remember it. When you refer to someone’s point, either to agree or disagree, use their name. “As Janice said a minute ago…”

  1. Look at each other. Since this is a conversation among all of us, it makes sense to look at more than just the front of the room. Eye contact can help bring people into a conversation.

  1. Be critical and respectful. “Calling people out,” denouncing them, is a quick way to shut down a conversation. It generally leads to one person feeling cut off without understanding why, and others feeling less confident to speak up. There is no reason to sugar coat your critiques if you have them, but please try to do so in a way that makes room for more discussion, not shut people down.

  1. Affirm others. Say “thank you” when people clarify your question and speak up when others share your question or concern to support them asserting something they don’t know.

  1. Step up, step back. If you find yourself talking a lot, try to be quiet for a bit and focus on listening. If you find yourself not speaking up, challenge yourself to weigh in.

  1. Ground rules. Together we will set ground rules for our discussions, but my suggestion is that we err on the side of openness. A safe space—one in which all points of view are welcome and open to critical evaluation by all others—should be a goal. A space in which some people aren’t offended by some points of view is unlikely and, probably, undesirable in a classroom environment.

1 These standards are fairly common at top colleges and universities. However, I have amended this from a syllabus by Professor Lisa Wade at Occidental. Lisa, if you’re reading this, thank you.

The database is protected by copyright © 2016
send message

    Main page