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Sexuality, Culture and Power

Professor Alicia Suarez

          What does sociology have to do with sexuality?  Sexuality is generally conceived of as an intensely personal and private issue.  Sexuality is seen as simply being a part of “human nature.”  In this course, we will question these taken-for-granted assumptions concerning sexuality.  We will investigate the social complexity of sexuality as the meanings and embodiments of sex are constantly under negotiation both publicly and privately. In order to achieve this goal, we will look at cultural and historical understandings of sexuality, in addition to assessing current beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors in the United States. We will see how our sexuality is affected by larger social structures and power differentials such as our gender, race/ethnicity, social class, age, religion, ability and location. The course begins by addressing methodological issues with studying sexuality in the social sciences.  Next, we look at various agents of sexual socialization.  We then explore how people embrace various sexual practices and identities.  The effects of technology are examined along with the impact of diseases.  Finally, we discuss various kinds of commercial sex with special attention to the feminist debates regarding sex work.