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Introduction to Sexuality Studies - Women's Studies

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Western University
Women's Studies
Women's Studies 1021F/G
Chris Roulston

Lec 1 - Introduction to Sexuality Studies  Seeks to understand and draw attention to how we construct our sexuality through social phenomenon Are sex and sexuality the same thing?  Sex is the physical act, anchored in the response of the body, and what gender you are biologically o Key element of how we identify people o Linked to gender, indication of a persons gender o In our culture we operate in a sex system (male/female)  Sexuality is the social manifestation of sex (for humans sex is always more than a bodily response) o Explores and examines how sex is just more than an act  Sex is filtered through layers of meaning, through taboos, laws, prohibitions, gender construction, models of masculinity/femininity, etc. o Taboo ex: incest o Social prohibitions: there are some things we can't do in public  Sex becomes sexuality as soon as it enters the cultural realm  Sex cannot be "thought" outside its encounter with the social  "We never encounter the body unmediated by the meanings that culture gives to it." (Rubin)  Sex cannot be separated from gender  Sex cannot take place in a vacuum; is always more than the sum of its parts  Sexuality shows that sex has a history and a geography; sex will signify differently in different historical periods and in different cultures o Not as fixed and stable, differs across the globe  David M. Halperin : Is There a History of Sexuality o "Sex has no history. It is a natural fact, grounded in the functioning of the body, and as such, it lies outside of history and culture. Sexuality, by contrast, does not properly refer to some aspect or attributes of bodies. Unlike sex, sexuality is a cultural production: it represents the appropriation of the human body and of its physiological capacities by an ideological discourse. Sexuality is not a somatic fact; it is a cultural effect."  Sexuality is the affect of culture, language, institutions  Sexuality is the relationship btw public and private o Public sex is not condoned by our culture o Sexuality brings the private domain of sex into the public domain of politics o Sex has always been part f public and institutional discourses in one way or another  Gayle Rubin: o Sexuality is the product of human activity, we interpret it  What institution has had the most important role in controlling sex? MARRIAGE! o Relatively universal, not a prohibition but a permission o In most cultures, marriage is the legitimation of sex Marriage  The meaning has changed over time and place  Both allows sex and controls and monitors it (both permission and prohibition) Marriage and the Law  In the 17th cent europe, parents controlled and decided who their children would marry o This was for economic reasons, family alliances, inheritance, progeny  In the 19th cent and early 20th cent Unit
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