The Sexual Revolution and the Public Sphere
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Division: The New School for Public Engagement
School: School of Undergraduate Studies
Course Number: NHUM 3070
Course Format: Lecture
Location: NYC campus
Permission Required: No
- Gender and Sexuality Studies
- Cultural Studies
Why did public sexuality, sexual subcultures, and previously unconventional sexual arrangements flourish in the United States after World War II? What did it mean to move sexual expression into the public sphere? How did Americans come to act on their desires for sexual autonomy, and what implications did that have for religion, politics, and domestic life? Did a "sexual revolution" liberate all Americans equally, regardless of class, race, or gender? After a brief survey of the emergence of modern sexuality, this class focuses on ideological shifts in North American sexualities that changed not just habits and taboos but laws. We examine the emergence of expert knowledge about sex and of media that popularized scientific theories and look at the ways other human rights movements (feminism, civil rights, gay liberation) put pressure on the state and on religious institutions that sought to uphold heteronormative citizenship and control unruly bodies. We also look at the ways Americans drew on, fantasized about, colonized, and sought to emulate global sexual cultures. Each class session is organized around a set of primary sources, films, and images and secondary texts that help students understand the contests over sexuality that have articulated, defined, and sometimes constrained notions of sexual freedom. This course is taught in a lecture format that includes time for discussion during class and in Web-based class exercises. Students must have access to the Internet.