When it comes to sex on America’s college campuses, you don’t get a lot of good news. Looming in the background of the exhaustively debated “hookup culture” is a campus sexual-assault crisis. Any attempt to mix sex and pedagogy — Northwestern’s live sex-toy demonstration; Hugo Schwyzer’s porn-star lectures — seems doomed to wind up local-news scandal fodder. But elsewhere, humanities professors continue to quietly work sex and gender into their syllabi to create the kind of stimulating class debates your 19-year-old self would not have accidentally slept through. The Cut browsed a couple dozen course catalogues to give you fall 2013’s sexiest offerings.
Studies of Women, Gender and Sexuality 1258: “Friends With Benefits?”
Harvard students can prepare to write a magazine trend piece and/or zeitgeist-y rom com with the help of professor Afsaneh Najmabadi’s inquiry into the meaning of “friendship and sex, and their inter-relationship, in a contemporary American culture.” If Friends, Sex and the City, New Girl, and The Inbetweeners don’t have the answers, perhaps “Winthrop, Plato, Cicero, Biblical sources, St. Augustine, St. Aquinas, Montaigne, Bray, Marcus, Sedgwick, and Foucault” will. Later, students will look inward, “asking what gay marriage, Facebook, and changing conceptions of masculinity/femininity are doing to/for friendship.”
Best for meeting closet 50 Shades readers
French 6780: “Libertinage and Perversion”
French-speaking Cornell undergrads may elevate their kinky persuasions by asking what E.L. James’s libertine predecessors Sade, Casanova, Lautréamont, and Bataille can tell us about “the nature of the human subject and its relationship to the law or to the universal.” And the related inquiry: Why does everything feel more tasteful in French?
Anthropology 21A: “Images of Asian Women: Dragon Ladies and Lotus Blossoms”
Through debates about Orientalism, gender, and power, MIT students will work out the “circumstances that create and perpetuate” the stereotypes of Asian women: “dragon ladies, lotus blossoms, despotic tyrants, desexualized servants, and docile subordinates.” Also: probably meet a lot Asian women.
Trench Coat Required
Film and Media 108: “Screening Sex”
“What is movie sex?” pornography and film scholar Linda Williams asks U.C. Berkeley students. To find out, students can engage with dirty movie genres — “hard-core pornography, Blaxploitation, ‘foreign’ art films and the avant-garde” — guilt-free, as long as they read their Foucault and Freud. And as long as they don’t watch in the library, presumably.
Easiest Reading List
English 236: “Queer About Comics: Sexuality and Graphic Fiction”
University of Wisconsin — Madison English majors get to swap words for drawings because, according to Ramzi Fawaz, contemporary comic books are a hotbed for “non-traditional or queer sexuality.” “In the 1930s and 1940s Wonder Woman visually celebrated S/M practices and same-sex bonding between women; in the 1950s MAD Magazine elicited pleasure in the satiric critique of the nuclear family; in the 1960s and 1970s superhero comics borrowed from the visual culture of gay and women’s liberation; and in the 1980s, LGBT culture took up comics as sites of sexual pleasure and sex education.” So, yes, Allison Bechdel’s The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For is on the syllabus
Will Come in Handy for Study Abroad
Spanish 399: “Pursuit Love: Plato to iPhone”
You will know these Cornell students when they touch down in Barcelona and Buenos Aires: They will be the ones quoting the romantic lines of thinkers “from Plato to Erich Fromm to Ortega y Gasset to Zygmunt Bauman” to their Spanish-speaking lovers. Plus they’ll have the vocab for the relevant stuff, like, “How is technology — smart phones, the Internet, Facebook — affecting the way people experience love in the 21st Century?”
Best Five-Year-Reunion Material
First Year Intensive Writing Seminar 145: “Sex at Rice: The Good, the Bad and the Awkward”
Emphasis on the awkward. This course will ask Rice freshmen to “think critically about how they have conceptualized sexuality and the ethical norms governing their sexual practices.” Issues covered: The Rice Purity Test, NOD, theme parties, hooking up, pornography, objectification, gender, and same-sex relationships. We imagine there are only two grades: a high-five emoji or “It gets better.”
Free Dirty-Talk Practice
Linguistics 52N: “Spoken Sexuality: Language and the Social Construction of Sexuality”
Professor Robert Podesva’s class examines the way language is used to perform a sexual identity, convey desire, and “encode dominant ideologies about sexuality, evident in labels for sexual minorities as well as terminology for sex acts.” In other words, a class for any Stanford students who still don’t even know what snowblowing is.
Ripped From the Headlines
History 187: “Pornography and Prostitution in History”
At Vanderbilt, something for the history majors: “Commercialization of the sex trade, Renaissance to the present. Political scandal, capitalism, and globalization; effects of technological change, from the printing press to the Internet.” Thanks, Spitzer. Thanks, Weiner.
Professor–Cum–Online Dating Guru
Sociology 122: “Social Networks”
A class in which U.C. San Diego students are presumably encouraged to spend the whole lecture checking Facebook on their laptops, “This course takes a social network approach to the study of society, examining the complex web of relationships — platonic, familial, professional, romantic — in which individual behavior is embedded,” including online dating sites. If Professor Kevin Lewis, who is known for his research into millions of OkCupid users’ data, can’t decode our incoming messages, no one can.
Most Viewed Stories
Josh Kushner, Ivanka Trump’s Brother-in-Law, Was Spotted at the Women’s March
Bernie Sanders Wore the Only Appropriate Outfit to Trump’s Inauguration
A Scene from the D.C. Women’s March
Kellyanne Conway Goes With a Subtle Look for the Inauguration
Here’s the Official List of Speakers for the Women’s March on Washington
15 Protest Sign Ideas for the Women’s March on Washington
Tiffany & Co. Unveils New Collaboration With NYPD: Branded Barricades by Trump Tower
Over 1 Million New York Women Will Have Access to Free Contraception and Abortions
The Complicated, Controversial, Historic, Inspiring Women’s March
The Women’s March Drew a Much Larger Crowd Than Trump’s Inauguration
From Our Partners
powered by PubExchange
The Cut’s Latest Love and War FeaturesA Holiday Season Weekend Through London
A good guide for avid The Crown fans.It’s About Time You Learned Tove Lo’s Name
The singer has crafted pop hits you’ve heard a thousand times by now.Marina Abramovic Has Outlasted Her Lovers and, She Hopes, Her Critics
The world's most famous performance artist at 70.The Wing: Do Women Still Need a Space of Their Own?
This exclusive social club for women, is part sorority, part start-up.In Virtual Reality, Women Run the World
A new generation of female artists is making VR the most diverse corner of the male-dominated tech space.The Novelist Disguised As a Housewife
Shirley Jackson wrote 17 books while raising four children — and she couldn't have had a successful career without them.Ava DuVernay on Hollywood Racism, Modern-Day Slavery, and Why She’s Still an Optimist
The director, whose new documentary The 13th chronicles America’s history of racial subjugation, talks to Rebecca Traister about Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, and the modern criminal-justice system.What No One Tells Couples Trying to Conceive
It helps to be rich.The Hidden Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race
A segregated unit of mathematicians born of desperation during World War II became the secret to NASA’s success.Slut-Shaming Squids Are Everywhere
The “Bermuda Square” comic strip is back.
The collaboration that dreams are made of.Good Morning America Host Amy Robach Apologizes for Saying ‘Colored People’ on Air
She quickly apologized.Unknown NFL Player Tries to Get Attention by Asking Aly Raisman Out in Video
That’s one way to do it.Don’t Mess This Up, Mischa Barton
Marissa Cooper is poised for a comeback ... maybe.California Votes to Remove Time Limit on Prosecuting Rape Cases
In light of the Bill Cosby case.Beyoncé’s Behind-the-Scenes Lemonade Photos Belong in a Museum
She had the "Boycott Beyoncé" sign already in formation on set.The Rise of the Male Celebrity Full-Frontal
An ex-publicist explains.Gabby Douglas Will Be a Miss America Judge
The gold-medal gymnast will help choose the 2017 pageant winner.Camille Becerra’s Photo Diary of Rockaway Beach
An ideal trip to add and cross off your summer bucket list.Sorry Nerds, Ian McKellen Won’t Officiate Your Expensive Lord of the Rings–Themed Wedding
Not even for $1.5 million.