CCHU9007 Humanities
Sexuality and Gender: Diversity and Society

[This course is under the thematic cluster of ‘Sustaining Cities, Cultures, and the Earth’.]


Non-Permissible Combination:
CCHU9015 Sex and Intimacy in Modern Times /
CCHU9039 Sexuality and Culture

Course Description

What is sexual and gender diversity? How does the experience of our own genderedness and sexuality define members of sexual and gender minorities as people, and shape our opinions about those people who do not share our experiences or who do not express their sexuality in the same ways as we do? In this course, which has the potential to be life-changing, we will look at these sorts of questions and we will do so while learning about (and in many cases meeting and talking with) people whose gender or sexuality places them on the fringes of mainstream society. People who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or asexual; transgender people and individuals who cross dress, or play with bondage, domination, use pornography, and/or are involved in commercial sex activities. In lectures and tutorials we will examine questions such as: To what extent are sexual and gender diversity biologically “hard-wired” rather than learnt? What is “normal” in human sexuality and gender? How, when thinking about sexual and gender diversity, do we distinguish normal from abnormal, different from deviant, and healthy from sick? How, in an increasingly interconnected world, are our ideas about sexual and gender diversity changing? What are the intersectionality that we can discover in the whole course of learning and how do we use these learnings to help make a better world? We expect students will come out of the course with an informed, open-minded and critical understanding of the issues covered, and be better able to join contemporary debates on sexual and gender diversity, debates that so often stir deep emotions and challenge fundamental beliefs.

Course Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, students will be able to:

  1. Critically evaluate concepts central to the study of sexual and gender diversity and appraise the role that society and culture play (a) in the construction of these concepts and the links and distinctions that are drawn between them, and (b) in framing actual development of individuals from sexual and gender minorities.
  2. Demonstrate understanding of historical changes (and cultural differences) in the ways in which sexual and gender diversity has been (and is) viewed.
  3. Critically appraise the ways that ideas about sexual and gender diversity are created and transmitted (and adherence to norms is regulated) within any culture or society, and reflect upon how these ideas (including norms) frame our responses (individual and collective) to sexual and gender diversity and to the behaviour of persons belonging to sexual and gender minority groups.
  4. Analyze critically the impact of increasing global interconnectedness in framing ideas about sexual and gender diversity, norms for sexual and gendered behaviour, and individual and collective responses to individuals from sexual and gender minorities.
  5. Reflect on ways in which, globally, and in regard to sexual and gender diversity, humanity can reconcile a heightened awareness of cultural differences with a respect for individual differences and preferences, uphold human rights, justice and equality, and improve the well-being of humankind.
  6. Reflect and debate on issues of human sexual and gender diversity in an informed and rational way, incorporating an awareness of others’ experiences and perspectives and a commitment to fundamental democratic values such as freedom of speech (including expression of ideas), human rights, justice and equality.

Offer Semester and Day of Teaching

First semester (Wed)


Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Lectures 24
Tutorials 12
Reading / Self-study 48
Assessment: Reflective journal 27
Assessment: Web presentation 27
Total: 138

Assessment: 100% coursework

Assessment Tasks Weighting
Reflective journal 50
Web presentation 50

Required Reading

  • Hock, R. (2014). Human sexuality (3rd ed.). Harlow, Essex: Pearson.
  • International Commission of Jurists (ICJ). (2007, March). The Yogyakarta Principles – Principles on the Application of International Human Rights Law in relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. From http://www.refworld.org/

Check the course website for additional or updated required reading.

Recommended Reading

  • Bolin, A., & Whelehan, P. (2009). Human sexuality: Biological, psychological, and cultural perspectives. New York: Routledge Taylor & Francis.
  • Butler, J. (1990). Gender trouble (1st ed.). Routledge.
  • Foucault, M. (1976). The history of sexuality, Vol. 1: An introduction. (R. Hurley, Trans.). Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.
  • Herdt, G. H., & Howe, C. (2007). 21st century sexualities: Contemporary issues in health, education, and rights. Milton Park, Abingdon, UK; New York: Routledge.
  • McMillan, J. (2006). Sex, science and morality in China. London; New York: Routledge.
  • Rathus, S., Nevid, J., & Fichner-Rathus, L. (2013). Human sexuality in a world of diversity (9th ed.). Boston: Pearson.
  • Suthrell, C. A. (2004). Unzipping gender: Sex, cross-dressing and culture. Oxford; New York: Berg.

Check the course website for additional or updated recommended reading.

Recommended Websites

Check the course website for additional and updates on the recommended websites.


Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

Course Co-ordinator Contact
Professor T.E. O’Leary
School of Humanities (Philosophy), Faculty of Arts
Tel: 3917 2796
Email: teoleary@hku.hk
Teacher(s) Contact
Professor T.E. O’Leary
School of Humanities (Philosophy), Faculty of Arts
Tel: 3917 2796
Email: teoleary@hku.hk
Dr B.B.R. Alegre
School of Humanities (Philosophy), Faculty of Arts
Tel: 5527 1154
Email: brendara@hku.hk