ISS 335 — National Diversity and Change — Sex Research and Social Science
This interactive online course will examine the historical development and contemporary state of social-scientific “sex research.” We will begin with the work of the nineteenth-century sexologists, including Richard von Krafft-Ebing, whose tome, Psychopathia Sexualis, is often seen as the foundation for our modern preoccupation with sexuality as the key to understanding human behavior. Students will read and analyze the work of experts, such Havelock Ellis, Sigmund Freud, Alfred Kinsey, and John Money, but the class will also study the reception of expert ideas among ordinary people around the world. We will see what happened as institutions from schools to prisons increasingly used social scientific definitions of “normal” sexuality in their efforts to police society. And we will look at the way popular culture has reflected and contested expert knowledge. The semester will conclude in the twenty-first century as we delve into the way activists draw on and debate sex research in the LGBTQ movement; investigate interactions between the doctors who claim to “diagnose and treat” intersexuality and the transgender individuals who often see their situations quite differently; and assess increasing tolerance for sexual diversity and the growing backlash against that liberalization. As students explore the history and politics of modern sexuality and identify the shifting ways that disciplines such psychology, sociology, and criminal justice have defined “normal” and “abnormal,” the class will also learn to evaluate and critique the changing methodologies and epistemologies that have informed social-scientific research over the past two centuries.