Gender, Sexuality, and Society

Course Info

Course Number/Code: 21A.231J (Spring 2006)
Course Title: Gender, Sexuality, and Society
Course Level: Undergraduate
Offered By: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Department: Anthropology
Course Instructor(s): Dr. Heather Paxson
Course Introduction:

Classes will integrate lecture and discussion. Occasionally we will break into small groups for more concentrated discussion. Some lectures will directly engage our readings while others will integrate background historical and theoretical information.

Course RequirementsParticipation

You must attend class and participate in discussions; this part of the course, including Reader Responses (see below), will account for 25% of the final grade. Writing Reader Responses will help you feel prepared to speak up in class; if a student does not volunteer, she or he may be called upon to speak. You are expected to keep up with all assigned readings. Students who miss more than 3 classes will lose credit.

Reading Responses

Reading responses consist of a couple paragraphs describing your reaction to one or more of the readings for that session. Do not summarize, but rather give us your response to the reading. These should take no more than 30 minutes to write. While reader responses are not individually graded, they will be factored into the overall evaluation of your performance. You will write five over the course of the term. You will be encouraged to post these on the online class forum prior to the class for which they are due to share your thoughts with your classmates.

Argumentative Essays

You will write 3 papers, each counting for 25% of your final grade. The first paper will address the relationship between gender/sexuality and political economy. The second paper will discuss a socially/politically controversial topic concerning gender/sexuality. The third paper may examine the role of gender and sexuality in the construction of personal identity, and can include personal reflection. There is no final examination.

GradesCourse grading.ACTIVITIESPERCENTAGESParticipation and Reader Responses25%First Paper25%Second Paper25%Third Paper25%Communication Intensive

This is a Communication Intensive (CI) subject. Your three papers will be 7-8 pages (roughly 2000 words) each. You will rewrite the first two papers in light of the comments received on them. The revised draft is the version that will be graded. Rewriting the third paper is optional. Because this is a CI subject, you will automatically pass Phase 1 of the Writing Requirement if you receive a grade of B or better.

Writing Tutor

We are fortunate to have a writing tutor for this course. You are required to make an appointment with her to discuss the progress of your first paper. You will be expected to meet with the writing tutor before submitting each draft and revised paper to the instructor.


Students will give a 5-10 minute presentation of the third paper, time limit to be determined on the basis of enrollment. Presentations are factored into the participation grade. Rehearsing is advisable.

Due Dates

The first two papers are due in Lec #9 and Lec #17. You will get the papers back no later than one week after they have been handed in, and must submit your rewrite one week later (Lec #12 and Lec #20, respectively). If you plan on revising the third paper, the first version must be handed in by Lec #23. The third paper is due in Lec #25.

CalendarCourse calender.Lec #TopicsKey Dates1Introduction to the Study of Gender and Sexuality: The Sex/Gender SystemPart I: Concepts and Themes2Is Sex to Gender as Nature is to Culture?Reading response due in class3Cultural Acquisition of Gender as Learned BehaviorPart II: Gender as a Social Institution4Arranged Marriage and Inheritance in Agricultural and Pastoral Societies5Science, Republicanism and The Woman QuestionHandout paper topicsMake appointment to meet with writing tutor in the next couple of weeks6Social Reproduction: Reproducing Formal and Informal Class RelationsReading response due in class7Women in the Global Economy (No Lecture)8Gender, Work and Professionalization9Gender and AgencyFirst paper due10Appetite, Image, ControlPart III: Gender and Sexuality as Identity11The Invention of Sexuality-based Identities12Coming Out and Leaving the Closet BehindFirst paper rewrite due13Other Genders/Sexualities14Transvestite Lives and Sex WorkReading response due in class15Transgender and Transexualism in the U.S.16Intersexuality17Do Western Sexual Identities Travel?Second paper due18Sexism, Racism and ViolencePart IV: Reproductive Politics and Gendered Citizenship19De-essentializing Sex/Gender/KinshipReading response due in class20Fetal Images and Abortion DebatesSecond paper rewrite due21Nationalism, Reproductive Politics and Gender22Making Modern MothersReading response due in class (can include questions for the author!)Proposal for third paper due23Making Modern Mothers (cont.)24Student Presentations25Student Presentations (cont.)Third paper due