Human Sexuality

The details
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 6
Thursday 08 October 2020
Friday 18 December 2020
03 June 2020


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

Sexuality is a fundamental function of human nature. This course will focus on the science of sex and highlight several important areas. We will examine how our sexuality is shaped by nature and nurture. We will investigate why and how men and women differ in their sexuality. We will discuss how homosexuality can exist and we will explore less understood sexual desires. We will discuss the mechanisms behind sexual arousal and sexual dysfunctions. We will examine the causes and consequences of both sexual assault and harassment. Finally, we will discuss the prevalence and consequences of sexually transmitted diseases.

Module aims

This module aims to give an in-depth overview of the science of human sexuality. The emphasis is to explain and interpret systematic research and thereby touch on findings that might be different from the views that people have about their sexual desires in their everyday lives. Thus, the goal of this module is to enhance critical thinking about a crucial feature of human life, and to give students the opportunity to express their own insights into this topic.

Module learning outcomes

At the end of the module students should be able to:

1. Have a solid understanding of prominent psychosexual theories

2. Critically evaluate the several features that build our sexuality, and reflect on the possible causes and consequences of human sexuality

3. Effectively employ their methodological and statistical skills, gained in this module, to scrutinise evidence-based research on sexuality

4. Communicate their scientific knowledge and critical thinking during a written exam

Module information

It is possible that some of you will be uncomfortable with certain topics (for example sexual assault or harassment). In general, however, the possibility that you will be uncomfortable is low. Students who participate in surveys on trauma and sexuality do not find their involvement in these surveys more distressing than regular life events, and can find it emotionally rewarding to take part in these surveys (Yeater et al., 2012). This module will not go as far as asking you about your traumatic experiences, but rather inform you about findings related to this topic. From my experiences with hundreds of students in the past it is unlikely that students will be uncomfortable with being part of this module and consider it beneficial. However, in order to avoid discomfort I suggest the following:

Read the below Syllabus very carefully. If there is a topic that you consider too uncomfortable to hear about, I encourage you to NOT take the module .

Weekly lectures will consist of an introduction to each topic of the module. A central part of each lecture is to present and discuss data that support or dismiss different theories or viewpoints regarding sexuality. Lectures will be interspersed with brief videos highlighting specific topics discussed in class.

Week 1 - The Evolution of Sex. I will explain why two sexes have evolved in most species and why, from an evolutionary point of view, this has been more successful than one sex as it leads to recombination and variation of genetic material. I will also discuss which strategies are, evolutionary, the best for mating and reproduction.

Week 2 - Sex Differences. Most males and females clearly differ in their gender identity, gender behaviours and sexual attractions. I will outline how biological factors, in particular androgens, affect these differences and whether influences of nature are more important than influences of nurture.

Week 3 - Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. We will discuss how homosexuality is expressed, how early signs of homosexuality may develop, and what the possible biological correlates, if not causes, are. We will further discuss how the desire to transition one's biological sex to the other gender relates to sexual orientation.

Week 4 - Atypical Sexuality. Some people have less commonly understood preferences, for example fetishes, masochism, sadism, paedophilia, and the self. We will discuss whether such preferences are comparable with a sexual orientation towards adults, and to what degree they are indeed motivated by sexual desires.

Week 5 - Sexual Harassment. Amongst the most problematic sexual behaviours are sexual assault and harassment. We will discuss their prevalence, who is most likely a victim or perpetrator, to what degree social attitudes influence the perception of these behaviours, and how they affect the psychological well-being of the people involved.

Week 6 - Sex and Culture. Cultures can differ in the ways that they express their sexuality. We will discuss to what degree these differences suggest that any sexual behaviours found in our society are socially induced or whether these cultural differences are indicators of different evolutionary adaptations.

Week 7 - Attraction and Attractiveness. To be a successful sex partner, you must, in most instances, attract a person. This lecture will explore the different biological, physical, and psychological ingredients that make us, and our potential partners, more or less attractive, and point to where societies differ in these preferences.

Week 8 - Sexual Arousal and Dysfunctions. Our sex drive and sexual orientation have, on a physiological level, the purpose to enhance sexual arousal and prepare for reproduction. We will discuss the ultimate functions of sexual arousal, particular body regions important for arousal, and the many ways in which arousal can be interrupted or enhanced.

Week 9 - Sexually Transmitted Diseases. When humans seek physical contact for sex, other organisms exploit the opportunity to spread their own genetic make-up. We will discuss several sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, and point to their prevalence and mechanisms for preventions and cures.

Week 10 - Conclusion & Discussion - This lecture will be used to give an overview of what has been taught and to informally wrap up, either by showing a documentary on a topic discussed in class on by bringing in a guest speaker (e.g. a transgender man or woman) who will share his or her sexual experiences and desires with the class.

Learning and teaching methods

The module will consist of 10 lectures of 2 hours each. Weekly lectures will consist of an introduction to each topic of the module. A central part of each lecture is to present and discuss data that support or dismiss different theories or viewpoints regarding sexuality. Lectures will be interspersed with brief videos highlighting specific topics discussed in class. For all lectures, there will be audio recordings available on Listen Again, but due to copy right concerns there will be not visual recordings of presentations with photographs and videos. Handouts of powerpoint presentations will be on Moodle.


This module does not appear to have a published bibliography.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
30% 70%


Coursework Exam
30% 70%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Gerulf Rieger, email:
Dr Gerulf Rieger



External examiner

No external examiner information available for this module.
Available via Moodle
No lecture recording information available for this module.


Further information

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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