Undergraduate Module Descriptor

POC3097: The Politics of Gender, Sex and Sexuality

This module descriptor refers to the 2023/4 academic year.

Please note that this module is only delivered on the Penryn Campus.


NQF Level 6
Credits 15 ECTS Value 7.5
Term(s) and duration

This module will run during term 1 (12 weeks)

Academic staff

Dr Karen Scott (Convenor)





Available via distance learning


This module will discuss a broad range of ideas related to gender, sex and sexuality. It will provide you with a thorough grounding in, and critical appreciation of, feminist theory and it will introduce you to queer theory. It will cover western thought in these areas but will not be limited to this, and will include critiques of this. Whilst the module is focussed on gender, sex and sexuality, it will also include recent academic discussions highlighting the need to consider intersectionality, that is how various forms of discrimination (gender, sexuality, race, disability, religion and so on) combine and create particular, and unrecognised, forms of disadvantage. The focus in this module is on gender rather than women (although we will discuss women rights predominantly), and we will also consider the role of masculinity and men’s movements.

The module will allow you to investigate issues such as cultural relativity and universalism – how should we think about these things in terms of cultural rights and human rights? For example, is it OK for some cultures to promote gendered practices or should there be a universal code which overrides this? Is it OK for Ireland to have a referendum on gay marriage, or should certain rights not be subject to a popular vote? How far should we as a society prescribe people’s sexual expression and activity?

The theoretical material will be applied to analyses of national and international political controversies, decisions and policies regarding gender, sex and sexuality. It will ground theoretical debates in practice by exploring for example:  pro-choice and pro-life debates; gay marriage; transgender policies; gender balance in governments; the treatment of LGBTQ politicians in the media; political ‘sex scandals’ and how this affects political campaigns; legislation on sex work and pornography. This module gives students scope to create their own essay question on a subject they are most interested in. 

NB This is a reading-heavy module, the seminars will provide some basic introduction but the module is based around discussion of readings in class. Therefore active participation (listening, thinking, discussing) is required.

There are no pre-requisite or co-requisite modules required in order to take this module. 

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