Gender, Power and Sexuality

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Module code


Module Details

This module aims to introduce students to a rapidly expanding area of the social sciences - critical studies on gender and sexuality.  Inspired by important recent and contemporary research in feminist studies, critical theories of masculinity, gender relations, lesbian and gay studies, and sexual politics, the module treats gender and sexuality as social constructions which need to be explored, analysed and understood in a critical way.

The module draws upon a multi-disciplinary literature and spans debates within, and issues of relevance to, political science, sociology, history and cultural studies. The primary focus is on British society with some comparative reference to other societies.

The module covers the following broad areas:

  • Gender, sexuality and history - theoretical foundations: `nature' versus `nurture', the history of sexualities, Foucault and feminism.
  • Modern sexualities and their meanings - hetero-, homo-, bi-, and lesbian sexualities in historical context. Sexuality and religion, class and race. Changes in medical and legal discourses.
  • Gender ideologies and gender regulation. Gender and power relations. The gendered division of labour. Gender and emotion-work. The policing of gender boundaries.
  • Sexual politics - contemporary debates. Feminism and post-feminism. LGB politics and queer politics.
  • Selling sex - the commercialisation of sex and gender. Prostitution. Pornography. Popular culture and advertising.
  • Regulating sex and sexuality - the public policy agenda. Family policy. State responses to rape and sexual violence. Homosexual rights and the state.


There will be eleven seminars, each of two hours duration.

In addition, personal assistance is available to students with the preparation of their seminar presentations. And all essays will be returned to students on a personal basis, with a one-to-one short tutorial.


This module is assessed as follows:

  • One essay (40%)
  • One seminar paper (20%)
  • Unseen two-hour examination (40%)

Intended Learning Outcomes

  • To get students thinking about the concepts of gender and sexuality in a critical, self-reflective way and thereby to increase their awareness of the relevance of gender and sexuality to a fuller understanding of the issues raised within political science and related disciplines
  • To demonstrate this through a exploration of how gender and sexuality condition ways in which people experience their presence in society, focusing on questions of power and knowledge
  • To broaden students' understanding of politics by analysing the extent to which public policy in key selected areas has been underpinned by assumptions about gender and sexuality

Recommended Text for purchase - advice from Richard Dunphy

Richard Dunphy, Sexual Politics: an Introduction (Edinburgh University Press, 2000).  Students are recommended to purchase their own copy.  Copies will be stocked by John Smith and Son.

Another very good book for this module is Jeffrey Weeks, Janet Holland and Matthew Waites (eds), Sexualities and Society: a Reader (Polity, 2003). This is the best 'alternative' purchase if you don’t wish to buy my book!

Also very good to purchase, but not quite making it into the category of 'module text' because of its very broad range of topics is Richard Parker & Peter Aggleton (eds), Culture, Society and Sexuality: a Reader, second edition (Routledge 2007). This is a personal favourite of mine.

Three of the best recent books I have read personally are:

  • Cordelia Fine., Delusions of Gender: the Real Science Behind Sex Differences (Icon Books, 2010)
  • Momin Rahman, & Stevi Jackson., Gender and Sexuality: Sociological Approaches (Polity Press, 2010)
  • Sylvia Walby., The Future of Feminism (Polity Press, 2011)

Further extensive reading lists are available on MyDundee.


30 credits