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Sexuality, culture and identity

Offer semester
1st semester

Lecture time
Thursday 4:30pm – 6:20pm

Lecture venue

Course description

What is human sexuality? How can we understand erotic desires? Why are some forms of sexualities being constructed as ‘normal’ while others are considered as ‘deviant’? This course introduces students to how human sexuality is formed by social, economic, political and cultural factors. Course readings will address different understandings of sexuality in various cultures with specific focus on Asian cultures. Classic theoretical texts on the sociology of sexuality will also be examined in this course.

We will study closely how new forms of intimacy question our common ways of understanding romantic relationships and erotic desires. We will also examine the intersectionality of social factors that affect how we have come to understand sexualities. These social factors include gender, class, race, ethnicity, and health status. Students will be introduced to readings that cover feminisms, gay and lesbian studies, queer theory, and contemporary sociological theories on the body.

Key topics include beauty myth and body politics, transgenderism and intersexuality, sexual morality and religion, homosexuality, sexual citizenship and sexual politics, sex work and pornography, urban space of desire, and sexuality education.

Course learning outcomes

By the end of this course, you will be able to:

  • To gain a basic understanding of gender and human sexuality.
  • To examine sexual identities and sexualities in different Asian cultures.
  • To understand the intersectionality of social factors embedded in human sexuality.
  • To develop critical thinking and apply theories on understanding sexuality.
  • To apply presentation skills and to develop writing competence for group projects and essays.


Tutorial Participation10%
Reflective Essay20%
Thematic Project (Group)30%

Required reading

Bartky, S.L. 1999. “Foucault, Femininity, and the Modernization of Patriarchal Power”. Pp. 103-118 in Feminist Philosophies, edited by Janet A. Kourany, James P. Sterba and Rosemarie Tong. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Bell, David, and Jon Binnie. 2004. “Authenticating Queer Space:

Citizenship, Urbanism and Governance.” Urban Studies 41(9):1807-20.

Butler, Judith. 1990. “Subject of Sex/Gender/Desire”. Pp. 3-44 in Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. London: Routledge.

Chiang, Howard. 2017. “Intimate Equality and Transparent Selves:

Legalizing Transgender Marriage in Hong Kong.” Culture, Theory and Critique 58(2): 166-181.

Dhamoon, Rita Kaur. 2013. “Feminisms”. Pp. 88-110 in The Oxford Handbook of Gender and Politics, edited by Karen Celis et.al. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Dines, Gail and Robert Jensen. 2004. “Pornography and Media”. Pp. 369-

381 in Sexualities: Identities, Behaviors, and Society, edited by Michael S. Kimmel and Rebecca F. Plante. New York: Oxford University Press.

Foucault, Michel. 1980. “Part One: We Other Victorian”. Pp. 3-13 in The

History of Sexuality Volume One: An Introduction, translated by Robert Hurley. New York: Vintage.

Hubbard, Phil. 2001. “Sex Zones: Intimacy, Citizenship and Public Space.”

Sexualities 4(1):51-71.

Jackson, Stevi. 2006. “Gender, Sexuality and Heterosexuality”. Feminist

Theory 7(1): 105-121.

Jackson, Stevi and Sue Scott. 1996. “Sexual Skirmishes and Feminist

Factions: Twenty Five Years of Debate on Women and Sexuality.” Pp. 1-34 in Feminism and Sexuality: A Reader, edited by Stevi Jackson and Sue Scott. New York: Columbia University Press.

Jenness, Valerie. 1990. “From Sex as Sin to Sex as Work: COYOTE and the Reorganization of Prostitution as a Social Problem”. Social Problems 37(3): 403-420.

Keyword Essays from the First Inaugural Issue of TSQ: Transgender

Studies Quarterly, Postposttranssexual: Key Concepts for a 21st Century Transgender Studies. 2014.

Kong, Travis S.K. 2016. “The Sexual in Chinese Sociology:

Homosexuality Studies in Contemporary China.” Sociological Review 64(3): 495-514.

Richardson, Diane. 2000. “Constructing Sexual Citizenship: Theorizing

Sexual Rights”. Critical Social Policy 20(1): 105-135.

Rubin, Gayle. 2007[1984]. “Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of

the Politics of Sexuality”. Pp. 150-187 in Culture, Society and Sexuality: A Reader, edited by Richard Parker and Peter Aggleton. Abingdon: Routledge.

Seidman, Steven. 2003. “Pornography”. Pp. 95-104 in The Social

Construction of Sexuality. New York: Norton.

Weeks, Jeffrey. 1986. “The Invention of Sexuality”. Pp. 11-40 in Sexuality.

New York: Tavistock Publications.

West, Candace and Don H. Zimmerman. 1987. “Doing Gender”. Gender & Society 1(2): 125-151.

Wong, Angela Wai-ching. 2013. “The Politics of Sexual Morality and Evangelical Activism in Hong Kong”. Inter-Asia Cultural Studies 14(3): 340-360.

Recommended reading

Andersen, Margaret L. 2011. “Women, Power, and Politics”, “Women and

Social Reform: Liberal Feminism”, and “Contemporary Frameworks in Feminist Theory”. Pp. 325-357, Pp. 358-384, and Pp. 385-416 in Thinking about Women: Sociological Perspectives on Sex and Gender. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Bauman, Zygmunt. 1998. “On Postmodern Uses of Sex.” Theory, Culture

& Society 15(3): 19-33.

Cheung, Eleanor Pui Kei. 2012. “Transgenders in Hong Kong: From

Shame to Pride”. Pp. 263-284 in Transgender China, edited by Howard Chiang. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.

Coole, Diana. 2013. “The Body and Politics”. Pp. 165-188 in The Oxford

Handbook of Gender and Politics, edited by Karen Celis et.al. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Kong, Travis S.K. 2006. “What It Feels Like for a Whore: The Body

Politics of Women Performing Erotic Labor in Hong Kong”. Gender, Work and Organization 13(5): 409-434.

Kong, Travis S.K. 2012. “A Fading Tongzhi Heterotopia: Hong Kong Older

Gay Men’s Use of Spaces.” Sexualities 15(8):896-916.

Kong, Travis S.K., Sky Hoi-leung Lau and Eva Cheuk-yin Li. 2015. “The

Fourth Wave? A Critical Reflection on Tongzhi Movement in Hong Kong”. Pp. 188-201 in The Routledge Handbook of Sexuality Studies in East Asia, edited by Mark McLelland and Vera Mackie. London: Routledge.

Weeks, Jeffrey. 1986. “The Invention of Sexuality”. Pp. 11-40 in Sexuality.

New York: Tavistock Publications.

Weeks, Jeffrey. 1999. “The Sexual Citizen”. Pp. 35-52 in Love and

Eroticism, edited by Mike Featherstone. London: Sage.

Wolf, Naomi. 1991. The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are used against Women (extracts from Pp. 131-150). New York: Anchor Books.

Course co-ordinator and teachers