BASS Social Anthropology and Criminology

Year of entry: 2022

Course unit details:
Gender, Sexuality and Culture

Unit code SOCY20892
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Sociology
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course examines concepts relating to gender and sexuality, and we discuss gender and sexuality in a historical, social, and cultural context. Topics for discussion also include: the sex/gender system; feminisms, femininity and masculinity, gender and sexuality in relation to identity, trans and intersex. Questions include: to what extent are the characteristics of masculinity and femininity born with us, or to what extent do the making of gender and sexuality vary over time and between societies? Is sexuality innate or socially constructed, or a combination of the two?


The course explores gender, sex and sexuality in society, and how they can be theorised.

The course begins by looking at basic concepts of gender, and if it can be considered an ‘essential’ and inherent category within a person. We discuss what terms like ‘essentialism’, ‘determinism’ and ‘social constructionism’ means in terms of gender (lecture 1). These are discussions that appear throughout the module and that are relevant for understanding and theorising both gender and sexuality.

In weeks 2-5 of the module we focus on gender in particular and in weeks 6-9 we focus more specifically on sexuality, although the overlaps between the two will be highlighted throughout. In week 2, we explore relations of sex and gender in society and the development of feminism and feminist theory. We thereafter go on to explore how sex and gender relations also need to be understood as shaped through race and class divisions (lecture 3). Next we will look at gendered ‘regimes’ in society and how masculinities and femininities operate and are socially constructed in everyday life (week 4). In week five we go on to looking specifically at how gender relations operate in media and in culture more broadly.

Constructions of gender are intimately interlinked with constructions of sexualities, and in week 6, we shall begin to explore the historical development of expert knowledge about sex, gender and sexuality or ‘sex science’ (known as ‘sexology’), and also consider some psychoanalytic theories about the development of gendered and sexual identities. After this, the work of Michel Foucault on the ‘historical’ construction of sexuality, and how experts have played a part in constructing such knowledge (week 7). We will then examine theories of gender/sexuality that have roots in 1960/70s ‘liberation’ politics, especially the lesbian/gay movement (week 8). In the same week we go on to critically explore forms of politics based on identities such as ‘woman’ or ‘gay’. We assess the implications of Foucauldian and feminist understandings of ‘difference’ and focus in particular on queer theory, and the critique thereof. In week 9 we focus on experiences that cross gendered and sexual boundaries, in particular trans and intersex. The final session (lecture 10) and final tutorial are crucial because they recap key theories and concepts in a way that is designed to maximise your success in the end of course examination.

Learning outcomes




Teaching and learning methods

Lecture-style material will be delivered weekly through a mix of up to one hour pre-recorded (i.e. asynchronous) content and one hour live (i.e. synchronous) lecturer-led classes. Additionally, weekly one hour small-group tutorials will be delivered on-campus as long as government guidelines allow, otherwise they will be delivered online.

Lectures will focus on exploring and critiquing gender and sexuallity through different structural framings. Classic texts in the field will be drawn upon, alongside contemporary debates in books, journal articles and the media enabling students to consider the key theoretical arguments in relation to empirical case studies.

In tutorials and through presentations, students will be encouraged to explore empirical examples, applying theoretical knowledge from the course to critique and debate them.

Video materials will be suggested as recommended viewing in advance of particular workshops and shorter video or audio materials used within lectures.

The course will utilise Blackboard and other software to deliver the module’s course content, core readings, lecture slides, any supplementary materials such as video materials, and communication.

Knowledge and understanding

On completion of this unit successful students will be able to:

  • Apply their knowledge of sociological theory of gender and sexuality, including for example feminist theory and queer theory, to enable them to recognise the nature of sociological questions in this field
  • Appreciate, understand and interpret the complexity of the role of gender and sexuality in society, including conducting sociological analysis of diverse aspects of these categories, for example, how they interact with class and race, and shape media and culture
  • Reason critically about the development of gender and sexuality and analyse how they shape social relations. This for example through the critical study of identity politics, and issues related to transgender and intersex
  • Develop a coherent analysis of a substantive topic, e.g. the intersections of gender and class, or the construction and history of sexuality

Intellectual skills

On completion of this unit successful students will be able to:

  • Evaluate competing analytical perspectives
  • Assess the strengths and weaknesses of theory, and empirical evidence
  • Employ material available from academic, media and policy sources to make effective arguments
  • Develop a critical approach to academic, media and policy texts

Practical skills

On completion of this unit successful students will be able to:

  • Use library and electronic sources and resources
  • Undertake and present independent research
  • Develop oral presentations and presentation aids
  • Improve their ability to communicate their ideas clearly and to an audience

Transferable skills and personal qualities

On completion of this unit successful students will be able to:

  • Present ideas and ask questions in group discussion
  • Work with others to develop ideas and think critically
  • Work independently to deadlines as well as working as part of a group
  • Develop skills in communication
  • Summaries, evaluate and present data and ideas 
  • Interpret and critically evaluate evidence using a variety of sources

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 50%
Written assignment (inc essay) 35%
Oral assessment/presentation 15%

Feedback methods

All sociology courses include both formative feedback - which lets you know how you’re getting on and what you could do to improve - and summative feedback - which gives you a mark for your assessed work.


  • Informal feedback through lecture or tutorial activities (online or face to face). Preparing adequately and participating fully in discussion will make this feedback as useful as possible. Take advantage of Q and A sessions in the lectures and office hours for asking questions when you need it.
  • You will be given formative feedback on your presentation as well as on your essay.
  • You will be given summative feedback (a mark) on your presentation, essay and exam.
  • You may submit an essay plan for your tutors to have a look at (voluntary).
  • Your peers will provide feedback through discussions held in lectures and tutorials; come prepared with your notes and ready to test out your ideas.
  • Formal written feedback will be available for coursework essays and should help you plan both for your exams and for future coursework essays in other subjects.
  • Feedback Half Day will be provided to allow in-depth one-to-one discussion of feedback on your coursework assessments. Details will be announced by email.

Recommended reading

See the online catalogue

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Lectures 20
Tutorials 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 168

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Petra Nordqvist Unit coordinator

Additional notes


•             One assessed presentation (5 minute talk plus visual aids to be handed in) worth 15% of the mark

•             Coursework essay 1500 words worth 35% of the mark

•             One two-hour unseen examination (or online equivalent) to be taken at the end of the course worth 50% of the total mark

•             Evidence of tutorial preparation (up to 500 words) for every tutorial week 2 –week 9 inclusive (failure to do so will result in a penalty deduction of 1% from your overall course mark per week, up to a maximum of 5%). Formative feedback will be provided on one set of tutorial preparation notes, as selected by the student.

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