CCHU9039 Humanities

Sexuality and Culture

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

Non-Permissible Combination:
CCHU9007 Sexuality and Gender: Diversity and Society /
CCHU9015 Sex and Intimacy in Modern Times

Course Description

This course looks at relationships between sexuality and various forms of culture, bringing in speakers from the Faculties of Medicine, Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, and drawing upon a range of scholars on sexuality, upon real events and their coverage in the media, and upon creative works from the world of fine art, literature, music and film.

First of all we examine sexuality (that range of experiences and expressions of ourselves as sexual beings) as an aspect of our humanity. We look at the part that sexuality plays in the human condition, paying attention to the ways in which sexuality can intersect with other aspects of what we believe it is to be “human” in society, e.g. in medicine and sexuality. We then look at the ways in which, historically, different cultures have reflected and shaped not only the ways people have thought and talked about sexuality, but also how they have experienced and expressed sexuality.

We will look, for example, at how sexuality has been described and portrayed in creative arts and popular culture. We examine how, in our own increasingly complex, technological and globalized world, culture both reflects and shapes contemporary ideas, experiences and expressions of sexuality. We also ask how the study of the relationships between sexuality and culture at other times and in other places can inform our contemporary thinking about sexuality.

Course Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, students will be able to:

  1. Describe and explain the ways in which human sexuality (the ways we think and talk about it, as well as the way we experience and express it) contributes to our sense of self, and intersects with other facets of self.
  2. Describe, compare and contrast the ways in which broader culture has in different times and places shaped sexual discourse, experience and expression (and related facets of self), as well as in turn being shaped by changing discourses, and ways of experiencing and expressing sexuality.
  3. Identify the facets of broad contemporary culture which reflect and/or shape our modern discourse, experience and expression of, sexuality, and which may (for better or worse) reflect and shape our sexualities in the short-to-mid term future.
  4. Evaluate the extent to which there is a homogenization of human sexuality in our modern world, and analyze the effects of any such homogenization.

Offer Semester and Day of Teaching

Course will be offered twice:
Section 1 – First semester (Wed), Section 2 – Second semester (Wed)

Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Lectures 24
Tutorials 12
Reading / Self-study 60
Studying movies, audiofiles etc 4
Assessment: Presentation (incl preparation) 22
Assessment: Reflective journal 18
Assessment: NOTE: Participation slips will be completed in lecture, and will therefore not imply additional workload hours 0
Total: 140

Assessment: 100% coursework

Assessment Tasks Weighting
Reflective journal 30
Contribution in tutorials 20
Group project presentation 50

Required Reading

  • Jackson, S., & Scott, S. (1996). Feminism and sexuality: A reader. [The Social Construction of Female Sexuality, pp. 62-73; ‘Don’t Die of Ignorance. I Nearly Died of Embarrassment’: Condoms in Context, pp. 117-129; The Politics of Prostitution, pp. 288-296; Pornography, pp. 297-299]
  • Parker, R. & Aggleton, P. (2007). Culture, society and sexuality: A reader (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge. [Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality (by Gayle Rubin), pp. 150-187; Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence (by Adrienne Rich), pp. 209-236; Masculinity and Urban Men (by David Wyatt Seal and Anke A. Ehrhardt), pp. 375-396]

Recommended Reading

  • Attwood, F. (2009). Mainstreaming sex: The sexualization of Western culture. London: I. B. Tauris.
  • Butler, J. (1990/1999). Gender trouble: Feminism and the subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge. [Chaps. 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 3.4]
  • Crenshaw, K. (1993). Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women of color. The Stanford Law Review, 43, 1241-1299. Available from
  • Dikotter, F. (1995). Sex, culture and modernity in China: Medical science and the construction of social identities in the early Republican period. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. [Chaps 2, 3, 5]
  • Foucault, M. (1990). The history of sexuality. New York: Vintage Books.
  • Gauntlett, D. (2008). Media, gender, and identity (2nd ed.). London: Routledge.
  • Goehr, L., & Herwitz, D. A. (Eds.). (2006). The Don Giovanni moment: Essays on the legacy of an opera. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Hutcheon, L., & Hutcheon, M. (1996). Opera: Desire, disease, death. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.
  • Kimmel, M. S., & Plante, R. F. (Eds.). (2004). Sexualities: Identities, behaviors, and society. New York: Oxford University Press. [Especially those chapters concerned with sexual practices, and an article by Fausto-Sterling suggesting five sexes]
  • Leick, G. (1994). Sex and eroticism in Mesopotamian literature. London: Routledge.
  • Lucie-Smith, E. (1991). Sexuality in Western art. New York: Thames and Hudson.
  • McClary, S. (1991). Feminine endings: Music, gender, and sexuality. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Nussbaum, M. (2010). From disgust to humanity: Sexual orientation and constitutional law (Inalienable rights). New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Williams, L. (2008). Screening sex. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
  • Zilner, L. (2009). Sexuality, sexual deviance, and sexual offending. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger. [Chaps. 1, 5-7]

Recommended Website

Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

Course Co-ordinator Contact
Dr W.C.W. Wong
Department of Family Medicine and Primary Care, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine
Tel: 2518 5650
Teacher(s) Contact
Dr W.C.W. Wong
Department of Family Medicine and Primary Care, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine
Tel: 2518 5650
Professor G. Marchetti
School of Humanities (Comparative Literature), Faculty of Arts
Tel: 3917 8900