C/O Kevin Patrick Robbins

Students can learn more about how sexuality is defined by social constructs in a sociology course

Sexuality is often considered an uncomfortable topic, especially in the classroom; however, there are many courses at McMaster which cover topics related to sexuality.  

SOCIOL 3UO3, for example, is a course that explores issues related to sex and sexuality from a sociological standpoint. Tina Fetner, the Chair of the sociology department at McMaster, has been teaching this course even before she began teaching at McMaster. 

There are other courses offered at McMaster which discuss sexuality from other perspectives. PSYCH 3AC3, for example, discusses sexuality from an evolutionary and social psychology perspective, according to the course outline. LIFESCI 4XO3, another course offered at McMaster, discusses sexuality from a biopsychological perspective, according to its course outline.  

Fetner explained that teaching about sexuality often leads to students feeling discomfort, even when they do not expect to.  

“[Students are] super confident that they have found their way out of any kind of sexual taboos, that unlike previous generations, they are super confident about talking about sexuality, they feel very comfortable about it,” said Fetner. 

Fetner acknowledged that members of the younger generation are likely more comfortable talking about sexuality than their grandparents but added that they are often still less comfortable than they consider themselves to be.  

“As we actually start talking about it, we all start to giggle we all start to express our discomfort in socially appropriate ways,” explained Fetner. 

Fetner explained the importance of teaching about sexuality in an academic context, despite social taboos.  

“In order for us to understand ourselves and our social world, sexuality has to be one of the things that we’re willing to talk about and treat not as some kind of special weird taboo subject, but as a regular topic of sociological analysis, where we can collect evidence, analyze it, and understand the social patterns, because otherwise we’re missing an important part of the social world,” explained Fetner.  

According to Fetner, is important that we understand and discuss sexuality because it plays a major role in influencing our interactions with one another and with the world.  

“It is possible to see sexuality itself as a social force and [to see] the way that sexuality has been harnessed by even larger social historical forces, like colonialism, and like racism, and obviously sexism and gender inequality, and how either surveillance of or restrictions upon (or even criminal penalties for) certain kinds of sexuality have been used to create social divisions between groups,” explained Fetner. 

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