top of page
Introduction to
Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

WGS 200: Introduction to Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies


This course introduces students to thinking critically and analytically about the various ways that sexuality and gender are constructed locally, nationally, and globally. We will focus on how race, class, gender, sexuality, ability, religion, ethnicity, and geopolitical location structure the lived, cultural, and political experiences that LGBTQ people face across the globe. Furthermore, we will delve into the ways in which these constructions and intersections shape lives. Another key area of this course's exploration will be gender inequality. In so doing, we will also investigate the history, current state, and future of feminism.


As an interdisciplinary introduction to women's, gender, and sexuality studies, students will read/view a variety of texts including but not limited to: personal narratives, feminist theory, public policies, NGO reports, analytic essays, films, fictional stories, and digital and social media. These texts will assist in acquiring a comprehensive understanding of gender and sexuality as historical and socio-cultural constructions and in introducing students to concepts and issues emerging in the field of women's, gender, and sexuality studies and contemporary debates taking place in feminist and queer theories and scholarship.


This course is an introduction to the theories, themes and questions in the interdisciplinary field of women's, gender, and sexuality studies. The course is required for all majors and minors.


Course Learning Objectives:

  1. Develop an understanding of gender and sexuality informed by historical, transnational, and interdisciplinary perspectives

  2. Understand how and why gender and sexuality shape theories, methodologies, and modes of inquiry

  3. Become versed in critical theory

  4. Ascertain the critical exploration skills to apply relevant theories to more than one discipline

  5. Develop strong critical thinking and writing skills

  6. Produce and present a piece of original research

  7. To ascertain the critical exploration skills to uncover how gender and sexuality shape and organize values, institutions, and cultural production.


Course Materials:

  • Lancaster, Roger N. and Micaela de Leonardo, ed.  The Gender/ Sexuality Reader: Culture, History, Political Economy. New York: Routledge, 1997.

ISBN: 0415910056


(Other readings as assigned will be available via Canvas/ Course Website/ or hyperlinked).


Course Components and Grading:

Discussion Leading:  15%

Essay:                         25%

Midterm Exam:           20%

Final Exam:                 25%

Participation:              15%


Grading Policy:

“A” work must be excellent in all areas; “B” work must be good in all areas; “C” work must be at least competent in all areas; “D” work is marginally below college standards in at least one of the areas; and “F” work is clearly below minimum college standards in one of the areas. Work that does not follow the assignment (though otherwise acceptable) will also receive an “F.”  Work that is not done or not turned in is recorded as a zero.  All major papers will be graded and returned before the next major assignment is due.  Sophomore-level proficiency in writing is required for a passing grade (see ABC-No Credit policy below).

Papers are graded A through F with pluses and minuses as necessary.

Paper grades can be converted to percentages like this:

A+=98, A=95, A-=92, B+=88, B=85, B-=82, C+=78, C=75, C-=72, D+=68, D=65, D-=62, F=50.

Final numeric grades will be converted to letter grades like this:

100-98=A+; 97-93=A; 92-90=A-; 89-88=B+; 87-83=B; 82-80=B-; 79-78=C+; 77-73=C; 72-70=C-; 69 and below=D and F



On days we have quizzes, they will be given at the beginning of class over the most recent reading due on the syllabus and will usually consist of 3-5 questions. Quizzes will mainly be short-answer and will cover major occurrences and/or themes in that reading. Quizzes must be taken in class and cannot be made up for any reason. I will drop your lowest quiz grade.



Quizzes will be graded as follows: an exemplary and in-depth consideration of the reading will earn a check-plus (100%), a response that shows a thorough attempt at engaging with the reading will earn a check (80%), a response that is lacking in depth or care will receive a check-minus (60%), and an unsatisfactory response or a response that only summarizes will receive no credit.


Essay: You will turn in a 5–6 page essay at the end of Week 13. This will be a critical analysis that will choose as its starting point one specific element in one of our assigned readings. Your essay will consider this element thoroughly and outline its various meanings for the text, both in its relation to the cultural atmosphere in which the text was written and in the impact it has on the larger text. You will consult and use at least three outside sources, which will be academic articles that you have found through the library database. You will choose those sources before our individual conferences on Week 10, and you will bring to your conference a short paragraph for each describing how you will use them. We will discuss the specific element you choose for your paper, your ideas, and any questions you may have during your conference.


Manuscript Preparation:

Out-of-class writing assignments such as the essay and discussion responses must be typed and must follow MLA guidelines.



Your midterm and final exams will be a mix of multiple choice, short answer, and brief essay questions. They will each cover roughly one half of the course material, so the final will not be comprehensive.



Much of this class will be discussion-based, and you are expected to contribute regularly by asking questions, offering answers to others’ questions, pointing out specific areas of interest within the readings, and sharing your understanding of the texts. You must earn your discussion points; this is not a free portion of your final grade.  The participation grade is determined by attendance, as well as by active and constructive participation in class meetings. Students will receive participation points for reading aloud, participating in class discussion (in a constructive and appropriate manner), and by participating in class activities.  I expect you to come to class ready to engage with the material – even if you do not completely understand what you have read, I hope you will have questions about it. For accommodations with participation, please meet with the professor early in the semester.


Course Policies:


  1. LATE WORK AND REVISION: All late work must be pre-approved by the instructor except in extenuating circumstances, i.e. a medical emergency.  Extensions will not be granted the day an assignment is due.  All late work is due the next class meeting after the original date posted in the syllabus unless otherwise stipulated by the instructor.  Late work will be deducted a letter grade for every day it is late unless otherwise specified by the instructor.  Unapproved late work will not be accepted.  However, during the semester, you are allowed to revise one assignment, with no guarantee for a higher grade, per the instructor’s approval. The lectures, class discussions, group work, or other daily class work or homework exercises cannot be reconstructed for a student who has been absent; therefore, daily work missed due to tardiness or absence (for any reason) cannot be made up.  Students may arrange to turn in major-grade work in advance or online only if allowed by your instructor.

  2. RESPECT: All students are expected to be respectful of others and their opinions and to act with decorum.  

  3. ATTENDANCE: Students are expected to attend class with thoughtful classroom participation. Please schedule appointments with the instructor(s) if you are concerned about your participation role.

  4. TARDINESS: Students are expected to come to class prepared with tasks completed, texts, homework, and pen in hand, ready to go on time and awake. If you arrive to class after roll has been taken (and I strongly advise you do not), it is your responsibility to approach the instructor and make your presence known.  Otherwise, you may automatically be counted absent.  If your presence is noted after arriving late, points will be deducted from your class participation grade. Such late arrivals disrupt class and prevent both the late student and his/her classmates from benefiting from the entire lecture/discussion.

  5. LATE INSTRUCTOR: If for some reason I am late, and there is no notice on the door, please wait for a minimum of 15 minutes.

  6. ELECTRONIC DEVICES: I strongly discourage the use of cellphones, even for texting, during class time. If you are experiencing a special circumstance that requires that you leave your phone on during class, please inform me before class begins.


Policy on Academic Misconduct

Emory University and the English Department take plagiarism cases and all academic misconduct very seriously.  The full Emory College Honor Code statement can be read here:



Writing Center

The Emory Writing Center is located in Callaway Center North 212.  The Writing Center provides a broad range of services related to writing, including thinking through writing assignments during the planning phase and advising regarding many aspects of writing, including brainstorming, organization, thesis, style, wording and revision.  The Center can also help you in your digital and multimodal texts.  The Writing Center is a wonderful resource for students, and I encourage you to take advantage of it.


Office of Disability Services

Emory University complies with the regulations of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and offers accommodations to students with disabilities. If you are in need of a classroom accommodation, please make an appointment with me to discuss this as soon as possible. All information will be held in the strictest confidence.  Appropriate documentation from the Office of Disability Services is necessary for all accommodations.  You may contact ODS via telephone at (404-727-6016).


Emory Counseling Center

Free and confidential counseling services are available at the Emory Counseling Center.

(404) 727-7450,


Reading Schedule:

(A general draft guide, not all readings will be included)

The following course schedule should be kept in a convenient place and must be brought to class each day. Texts must be read on the day they appear. Changes may be made with advance notice. 


*Syllabus subject to change*


Texts should be read BEFORE the day on which they are scheduled for discussion.  In most cases below, I have provided page numbers from the Reader (TGSR); at other times, I indicate that the reading can be found on our Canvas.  If you have any questions, please ask.


Week 1                     

Introduction: Why Sexuality Studies?

  • Micaela di Leonardo and Roger N. Lancaster, “Introduction: Embodied Meanings, Carnal Practices” in The Gender/ Sexuality Reader (TGSR), 1-10.

  • Steven Siedman and Nancy Fisher, ed. “Theoretical Perspectives” and “The Social Construction of Sexuality (Interview with Jeffrey Weeks),” in Introducing the New Sexuality Studies: 2nd Edition. (New York: Routledge, 2011): 3-20.


Week 2                      

Histories of Sexualities

  • Michel Foucault, “Scientia Sexualis,” The History of Sexuality, Vol 1: An Introduction. (New York: Vintage Books, 1990), 51-73.

  • David Halperin, “Is There a History of Sexuality?” History and Theory, Vol. 28, No. 3  (Oct., 1989), pp. 257-274

  • Thomas Laqueur, “Destiny is Anatomy,” Making Sex: Body and Gender From the Greeks to Freud. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992), 21-62.

  • George Chauncey, “Trade, Wolves, and the Boundaries of Normal Manhood,” Queer Cultures, Deborah Carlin and Jennifer DiGrazia, ed. (New Jersey: Pearson, 2004), 622-660.


Suggested Reading

  • Christopher Nealon, Foundlings: Lesbian and Gay Historical Emotion Before Stonewall. (Durham: Duke University Press, 2001)


Week 3          

Acting Up: Sexual History, Sexual Activism

  • John D’Emilio, “After Stonewall,” Queer Cultures, Deborah Carlin and Jennifer DiGrazia, ed. (New Jersey: Pearson, 2004), 3-38.

  • Anonymous Queers, “Queers Read This: I Hate Straights,” Queer Cultures, Deborah Carlin and Jennifer DiGrazia, ed. (New Jersey: Pearson, 2004), 138-149

  • Gore Vidal, “Sex is Politics,” Gore Vidal: Sexually Speaking Collected Sex Writings, Donald Weise, ed. (San Fransisco: Cleis Press, 1999): 97-114.

  • Interview with Maxine Wolf by Laraine Sommella, “This is about People Dying: The Tactics of Early ACT UP and Lesbian Avengers in New York City,” Queer Cultures, Deborah Carlin and Jennifer DiGrazia, ed. (New Jersey: Pearson, 2004), 149-177.


            Essay Introduced


Week 4                      

Thinking Sex: Theorizing Sexuality

  • Gayle Rubin, “Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality,” Deviations: A Gayle Rubin Reader. (Durham: Duke University Press, 2011): 137-180.

  • Adrienne Rich, “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence.” Signs, Vol. 5, No. 4 (Summer, 1980), 631-660.

  • Ellen Ross and Rayna Rapp, “Sex and Society: A Research Note from Social History and Anthropology,” TGSR, 153-169.


Suggested Reading

  • Bersani, Leo.  Is the Rectum a Grave? And Other Essays. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010.

  • Lee Edelman.  No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive. Durham: Duke University Press, 2004.


Week 5          

Setting the Stage: Sex, Gender, and Performance

  • Judith Butler, “Imitation and Gender Insubordination,” Queer Cultures, Deborah Carlin and Jennifer DiGrazia, ed. (New Jersey: Pearson, 2004), 354-371.

  • Kate Bornstein, “Naming All the Parts,” “Which Outlaws, Or Who Was That Masked Man,” and “The Other Questions,” Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us. (New York: Routledge, 1994): 20-40, 54- 69, 112-140.

  • Susan Bordo, “Material Girl: The Effacements of Postmodern Culture,” TGSR, 335-358.


Suggested Reading:

  • Shildrick, Margrit. “Fabrica(tions): On the Construction of the Human Body.” Leaky Bodies and Boundaries: Feminism, Postmodernism, and (Bio)ethics. New York: Routledge, 1997. 13-61.

  • Judith Halberstam. Female Masculinity.  Durham: Duke University Press, 1998.



Week 6          

This Thing Called “Queer”: Introduction to Queer Theory

  • Jennifer DiGrazia, “What is Queer Theory?” Queer Cultures, Deborah Carlin and Jennifer DiGrazia, ed. (New Jersey: Pearson, 2004), 1-2.

  • Lisa Duggan, “Making It Perfectly Queer,” Queer Cultures, Deborah Carlin and Jennifer DiGrazia, ed. (New Jersey: Pearson, 2004), 51-66.

  • Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, “Axiomatic,” Queer Cultures, Deborah Carlin and Jennifer DiGrazia, ed. (New Jersey: Pearson, 2004), 67-83.


Week 7          

Race and Sexuality

  • Samuel Delaney, “Some Queer Notions About Race,” Queer Cultures, Deborah Carlin and Jennifer DiGrazia, ed. (New Jersey: Pearson, 2004), 199-224.

  • Somerville, Siobhan. "Scientific Racism and the Emergence of the Homosexual Body." Journal of the History of Sexuality, Vol. 5, Issue 2 (1994): 243-266.

  • Geraldine Heng and Janadas Devan, “State Fatherhood: The Politics of Nationalism, Sexuality, and Race in Singapore,” TGSR, 107-121.

  • Patricia Zavella, “Playing with Fire: The Gendered Construction of Chicana/ Mexicana Sexuality,” TGSR, 392-408.


Week 8          

Sex and Violence

  • Scissor Sisters, “Sex and Violence,” Night Work, Universal Records, 2010. (Lyrics available on Canvas)

  • Darlene Clark Hine, “Rape and the Inner Lives of Black Women in the Middle West: Preliminary Thoughts on the Culture of Dissemblance,” TGSR, 343-439.

  • Lori L. Heise, “Violence, Sexuality, and Women’s Lives,” TGSR, 411-433.

  • Teresa de Lauretis, “The Violence of Rhetoric,” TGSR, 265-278.

  • Micaela di Leonardo, “White Lies, Black Myths: Rape, Race, and the Black ‘Underclass,’” TGSR, 53-68.



Week 9          

Paying for It: Sex Work

  • Jeffrey Escoffier. "Gay-for-Pay: Straight Men and the Making of Gay Pornography." Qualitative Sociology Vol. 26, No. 4 (Winter 2003): 531-555.

  • Carole S. Vance, “Negotiating Sex and Gender in the Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography,” TGSR, 440-452. 


Student Essay Conferences


Week 10        

Gender, Sex, Medicine, and Policy

  • Elizabeth A. Sheehan, “ Victorian Clitoridectomy: Isaac Baker Brown and His Harmless Operative Procedure,” TGSR, 325-334.

  • Paula A Treichler, “AIDS, Homophobia, and Biomedical Discourse: An Epidemic of Signification,” Queer Cultures, Deborah Carlin and Jennifer DiGrazia, ed. (New Jersey: Pearson, 2004), 101-137.

  • Cindy Patton, “From Nation to Family: Containing African AIDS,” TGSR, 279-290.

  • Thomas Laqueur, “Orgasm, Generation, and the Politics of Reproductive Biology,” TGSR, 219-243.


Week 11        

Cultural Wars: “Normalcy” and Its Discontents

  • Judith Stacey, “The Neo-Family-Values Campaign,” TGSR, 453-470.

  • Ruth Goldman, “Who IS That Queer Queer? Exploring Norms around Sexuality, Race, and Class in Queer Theory,” Queer Cultures, Deborah Carlin and Jennifer DiGrazia, ed. (New Jersey: Pearson, 2004), 83-98.

  • Andrew Sullivan, “A Politics of Homosexuality,” Virtually Normal. (New York: Vintage Books, 1996), 169-188.

  • Michael Warner, “What’s Wrong with Normal?” The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and the Ethics of Queer Life. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000).


Suggested Reading:

  • Janet Jakobsen and Ann Pellegrini.  “What’s Wrong with Tolerance,” Love the Sin: Sexual Regulation and the Limits of Religious Tolerance. (New York: New York University Press, 2003), 45-75.


Week 12        

Marking Bodies: The Politics of Representation                 

  • Anne Fausto-Sterling, “How to Build a Man,” TGSR, 244-248.

  • Catherine A Lutz and Jane L. Collins, “The Color of Sex: Postwar Photographic Histories of Race and Gender in National Geographic Magazine,” TGSR, 291-306

  • Rosalind Pollack Petchesky, “Fetal Images: The Power of Visual Culture in the Politics of Reproduction,” TGSR, 134-150

  • Abby Wilkerson, “Disability, Sex Radicalism, and Political Agency,” Feminist Disability Studies, Ed. Kim Q. Hall. (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2011), 193-217.

Week 13        

Doing Unto Others: Sex, Pleasure, and Technology

  • Rachel P. Maines, “The Job Nobody Wanted” and “My God, What Does She Want,” The Technology of Orgasm: “Hysteria,” the Vibrator, and Women’s Sexual Satisfaction. (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999), 1-20 and 48-66.

  • Tim Dean, “Cruising as a Way of Life,” Unlimited Intimacy: Reflections on the Subculture of Barebacking, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009), 176-212.

  • Gayle S. Rubin.  “The Catacombs: A Temple of the Butthole.” Deviations: A Gayle Rubin Reader, (Durham: Duke UP, 2011), 224-240.


Week 14        

Sex Down South: Regional Identity and Sexual Expression

  • Sherrie A. Inness, “Lost in Space: Queer Geography and the Politics of Location,” Queer Cultures, Deborah Carlin and Jennifer DiGrazia, ed. (New Jersey: Pearson, 2004), 254-279.

  • E. Patrick Johnson, “Do You Get Down? Homosex in the South,” Sweet Tea: Gay Black Men of the South.(University of North Carolina Press, 2008), 256-337.

  • John Howard, “Sites,” Men Like That: Southern Queer History. (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1999), 34-78.

  • Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Vintage,” “The Yellow Wallpaper” and Selected Stories, (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1994).


             ESSAY DUE on Canvas– Friday by 5pm


Week 15        

After Sex: Where Do We Go from Here?

  • Michael Cobb.  “Lonely.” South Atlantic Quarterly. 106:3 (2007): 445-457.

  • Kate Thomas, “Post Sex: On Being Too Slow, Too Stupid, Too Soon,” After Sex? On Writing Since Queer Theory. Janet Halley and Andrew Parker, Editors. (Durham: Duke University Press, 2011), 55-65.

  • Heather Love, “Queers ____ This,” After Sex? On Writing Since Queer Theory. Janet Halley and Andrew Parker, Editors. (Durham: Duke University Press, 2011), 180-191.


Course Reflections/ Conclusion

bottom of page