2023-2024 Catalog

RELS 351 "Good" Sex: History of Sexual Ethics

Folks in the ancient Mediterranean world were deeply invested in forms of sexuality that served the interests of Empire, of elite households, and of men. In the first unit of the course, we will investigate how these specific forms of sexuality were prioritized, incentivized, and regulated in society--namely, how art, medicine, law, and religion worked together to make them appear natural and normal. But when Christians came on the scene, they advocated a significant deviation from the dominant sexual ethics of the time. In the second unit of the course, we will study early Christians' novel ascetic movement that understood sexless (even genderless) people to embody the ideal spiritual state, positioned at the pinnacle of humanity. In these next unit, students will be given the freedom to set the direction of the course. They will conduct a research project on a topic of ancient sexuality of their choice, presenting their findings to classmates. In the final unit, we will consider how sexual ethics of antiquity are still exerting influence on us, shaping contemporary sexual taboos, values, and regulative mechanisms. 


4 units

Core Requirements Met

  • Global Connections
  • Pre-1800