Josephson Syllabus Fall 2011

WS 325:01 The Politics of Sexuality, T & Th 11:30 to 12:50, Hill Hall 105

Instructors:  Jyl Josephson and Erin English

Jyl Josephson’s Office: 716 Hill Hall

Phone: (973) 353-5125

Office hours: T Th 1 to 2 p.m., T 4 to 5 p.m., and by appointment



Erin English

Office Hours T 1- 2:30 PM and by appointment


Course description: This course is an introduction to political issues, movements, and controversies related to sex and sexuality, and to the academic study of sexuality and gender.  The course will examine several public policy arenas and locate them within their historical context and with reference to theories about gender and sexuality.  The importance of intersecting identity categories such as race, class, sex, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity will be explored as they impact political decision-making, political mobilization, and public policy outcomes.


Specific Learning Outcomes

  • Students will understand some of the theoretical claims regarding sexuality from the perspective of feminism, queer theory, and women’s studies.
  •  Students will examine specific political claims regarding several public policy controversies, in the U.S. and internationally, related to sex and sexuality, and the use by activists of different strategies such as appeal to courts, legislatures, executive agencies, international law, and public opinion in making these claims.
  • Students will examine the normative and empirical claims and conflicts that are central to controversies related to sexuality.
  • Students will utilize readings as well as discussion board postings and written assignments to analyze the topics covered in the course.
  • Students will complete three short and one longer paper to complete the writing intensive requirement of the course



This syllabus may be subject to change.  Changes to the syllabus will be announced and a new version of the syllabus will be posted on Blackboard.


Required Texts

Jessica Fields, Risky Lessons: Sex Education and Social Inequality (Rutgers)

Janie Leatherman, Sexual Violence and Armed Conflict  (Palgrave)

Course Readings as posted on Blackboard


Required Assignments and Grading

  • Questions                                                   16%
  • Class Attendance and Participation                        10%
  • Tests                                  (18% each)      54%
  • Final Exam                                                            20%


QUESTIONS:  Students are required to submit, at the beginning of each THURSDAY class (with the exception of the classes where an examination is scheduled), a set of 4 to 5 questions on the class readings for that week.  Questions should show evidence that you have done the reading, and may be of two general types:  questions for discussion based on the substance of the readings, and questions of clarification regarding aspects of the reading that you did not understand or about which you would like more information.  Questions will be graded as credit/partial credit/no credit, and may be used in class discussions.  There are a total of 9 classes for which you may submit questions (these dates are indicated in bold in the syllabus schedule e.g. September 15); you are require to submit questions for at least 6 classes to have the potential of receiving full credit for this assignment.


TESTS:  There will be three tests during the course of the semester.  Each test will cover material that is part of that unit, from readings as well as lectures/discussion.  They may consist of multiple choice, true/false, or short answer questions as well as longer essay questions.


FINAL EXAM: The final exam will be comprehensive.  The format will be similar to the tests.  We will review material for the exam on the last day of class.


Course Policies

Please do not hesitate to talk with the instructor and the teaching assistant about the course materials.  If you do not understand something, please ask.  You are welcome to come see the instructors during office hours or to call at the office or contact the instructors via email.  If you cannot make office hours, please email to schedule an appointment. 


This is what is expected of you:

  • Respect opposing views.  The classroom is a place for open, vigorous, and civil discussion.  Some of the topics we will cover are controversial, and you are certain to have a variety of opinions about them.  We will all learn from each other by discussing our views respectfully, particularly when we disagree.
  • Keep an open mind.  Some of the material in the class will be familiar to some of you; for others much of the material will present new ideas.  Be prepared to think about ideas that are different from your own, regardless of your eventual conclusions about these ideas.
  • Complete the assigned reading before class.
  • Take notes on the main points of the assigned readings.
  • Arrive to class on time every day.
  • Actively participate in the class discussion.
  • Ask questions about the material.
  • Take thorough notes in class.
  • Review the readings after class if necessary.
  • Turn in assignments on time.
  • Abide by standards of academic integrity.
  • Call, email, or stop by our office hours if you have any questions or concerns.


Attendance and Class Discussion:

Attendance is strongly encouraged, and attendance will be taken.  Participation in class discussion is essential for better understanding of course materials.  The class discussion component of your grade will be based on both the quantity and the quality of your participation.  Absences beyond a total of three over the course of the semester will be excused only with advanced notice and for a legitimate reason that can be documented.


Use of Electronic Devices:

The use of electronic devices in the classroom is prohibited. Mechanical interruptions (cell phones, pagers, electronic toys, music players, text messaging, etc.) are prohibited and such disruptions will result in a warning at the first incident.  If there is a second incident you will be asked to leave the classroom for the remainder of that class period.  This is a small class, and we can actually see you when you have your cell phone out.


Course Outline:

September 1: Introduction to Class

September 6: Read: Forum on “Thinking Sex/Thinking Gender”, essays by Arlene Stein (254-257) and David Valentine (215-220) (Blackboard)

            NOTE:  We have posted the entire forum on Blackboard but the reading assignment is for the essays/pages noted.

September 8:  NO CLASS (this is a Monday in the Rutgers schedule)

September 13:  Read: Fields, Risky Lessons, Chs. 1 and 2

September 15: Read: Fields, Risky Lessons, Ch. 3

September 20: Read: Fields, Ch. 4

September 22:  Read: Fields, Ch. 5

September 27: Read: Fields, Ch. 6

September 29: TEST #1

October 4: Read: Michel Foucault, “The Perverse Implantation,” from The History of Sexuality: An Introduction, Volume 1  (Blackboard)

October 6: Read: Don Kulick, “Four Hundred Thousand Swedish Perverts,” GLQ

October 11: Read: Cathy Cohen, “Punk, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens” (Blackboard)

October 13: Read Laura Briggs “La Vida, Moynihan, and Other Libels” (Blackboard) 

October 18: Read: Anna Marie Smith, “The Politicization of Marriage in Contemporary American Public Policy:  The Defense of Marriage Act and the Personal Responsibility Act” Citizenship Studies, 5:3 (Blackboard)

October 20: Readings on PRWORA (To Be Announced)

October 25: Readings on DOMA (TBA)

October 27: Read: Read: Jens Rydström, “Legalizing Love in a Cold Climate: The History, Consequences and Recent Developments of Registered Partnership in Scandinavia,” Sexualities

November 1: Read: Read:  Edward Ashbee “The Same-Sex Marriage Debate in the U.S. and Representations of Scandinavia,” Journal of Transatlantic Studies

November 3: TEST #2

November 8: Read:  Leatherman Ch. 1

November 10: Read:  Leatherman Ch. 2

November 15: Read: Leatherman Ch. 3

November 17: Read: Leatherman Ch. 4

November 22: Read: Leatherman Ch. 5


November 29: Read: Leatherman Ch. 6

December 1: TEST #3

December 6:  Reading TBA

December 8:  Reading TBA

December 13: Last day of class/ Review for Final Exam

Final Exam Date: