Throughout history, we Americans have been deeply divided over many public issues but none has aroused more passionate debate and more heated controversy than intimate issues around sexuality. The particular manner in which sexual matters have been addressed; opens a window on a rare view of the inner workings of our society. These discussions reveal much about our sense of self-worth and our liberties to pursue our happiness. They also tell us about our conceptions of what is good, just and desirable in our relationships with others.
The purpose of this course is to share with you some of the major theoretical frameworks for understanding sexuality in our society. We will examine the many ways in which our sexual conversations, sexual relations, and sexual identities are in large part shaped by the history of our society, the structure of its social institutions and the efforts of the State to regulate talk about sex in the public arena by 'sexualizing' and 'genderizing' the legitimate demands of subordinated groups in society.
We begin the course by reviewing the history of sexuality in eighteenth and nineteenth century America so as to examine the historical roots of contemporary discussions on a number of salient issues that we will examine and discuss in the second part of the course. These will include: sex, desire and body images; gender and sexual orientation; sexual violence and rape; sexual representations and pornography; commercialization of sex and prostitution; and solitary sex.
In the last part of the course, we will explore emerging views on sexuality, gender and the body that could take us beyond the social boundaries of sexuality. This can provide us with an opportunity to construct new visions of ourselves, new relations based on the end of prejudice and sexual subordination, and to regain control of our bodies so as to develop our full erotic potentialities.
My hope is that the manner in which we study and discuss these topics will not only enhance our understanding of sex and society in America but also enrich our own experience of sexuality as well as value and respect the sexual choices of others.