Module Catalogue 2023/24

MCH2071 : Sex, Sexuality and Desire

  • Offered for Year: 2023/24
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Chris Haywood
  • Owning School: Arts & Cultures
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
Pre Requisites
Pre Requisite Comment


Co Requisites
Co Requisite Comment



This module aims to develop students’ knowledge and interest in a wide range of issues and topics that surround sex, sexuality and desire. Fundamentally, the module aims to encourage students to apply a critical literacy to explore the knowledge, meanings and understandings in this area. Alongside this, it explores this field in a learning context that cultivates personal and academic development by offering intellectually exciting and challenging experiences. Furthermore, it aims to equip students with a knowledge and understanding of sex, sexuality and desire across, local and global situations and historical and contemporary contexts.

As in the 19th and 20th centuries, ‘the sexual’ in the 21st century continues to fascinate, abhor, excite and astonish. For many societies in the northern hemisphere, sexuality has developed as a private and public erotic template that enables us to make sense of our own and others emotions, intimacies and passions. It is a form of eroticism that has, as Foucault (1980) suggests, come to designate the ‘truth of ourselves’; a conduit through which flows the essence of our human nature. On this module we argue that we are in a contemporary cultural context where finding out about sex, sexuality and desire is not simply about solving population problems, cures for sexual infections or improving our sex lives but has become a key part of our sexual selves.

Therefore, this module reflects upon how sex, sexuality and desire are becoming central to the society we live in, the culture we consume and the self we identify with. For example, there is a burgeoning selection of self-help guides that offer to reveal our secret sexual natures. There is also an increase in popular scientific explanations that suggest that evolution, genetics and DNA are the basis for our sexual behaviours. At the same time, popular television programmes provide ‘sex tips’ to a national audience, whilst email spam interrupts daily routines with revelations of how to optimize our sexual performances. Popular culture commends that we should all become experts in sexual knowledge and fluent in sex talk. It is in this context that the module locates itself.

This module draws upon a wide range of perspectives and disciplines to offer students the opportunity to explore the impact of cultural contexts on some of the more intimate and private aspects of our lives. Thus, students from disciplines other than media, communication and cultural studies, will have the opportunity to draw upon their own disciplinary knowledge and understandings as well as that of existing social and cultural studies to reflect on sex, sexuality and desire.

Outline Of Syllabus

The module is likely to include a number of themes but is not limited to: erotic retail, BDSM, advertising, sex tourism, sex addiction, sex and technology, sex crime, recreational sex, fetishes, history of sex, the psychology of sex. Students will collectively decide to focus on an area of sex, sexuality and desire that they would like to learn more about.

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

Students successfully completing the module will know and understand:
1. The ways in which sex, sexuality and desire is made sense of and understood in contemporary society and culture.
2. The diversity of sexual worlds in a range of different social, cultural and economic settings.
3. The complex emotional and physical experiences that underpin sexual selves and identities.
4. The connections between what we understood as ‘the sexual’ and gender relations.
5. The theoretical and conceptual tools that are available to make sense of this field of study.
6. Issues concerning the normalization, discrimination and regulation of sex, sexuality and desire.
7. The ethical issues involved when conducting theoretical and practical inquiry in this area.

Intended Skill Outcomes

Students successfully completing the module will:
I. Engage critically with major thinkers, researchers, debates and issues within the area of sex, sexuality and desire.
II. Identify how forms of sex, sexuality and desire have developed historically, appreciating the processes through which they have come into being with reference to social, cultural and technological change.
III. Develop substantive and detailed knowledge and understanding in one or more designated areas of the field.
IV. The ability to carry out various forms of research for essays involving sustained independent enquiry into the area of sex, sexuality and desire.
V. Draw out the strengths of, and understand the limits of, quantitative and /or qualitative research methods used in researching the field.
VI. Recognition of the ethical issues involved in sex research.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials51:005:00Non-synchronous online lecture materials
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion177:0077:00Preparation time for the Portfolio and Essay
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture112:0022:00On-campus lectures. Can be delivered online if necessary.
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading127:0027:00Reading associated with the weekly themes
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching91:009:00On-campus seminars. Can be delivered online if necessary.
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities61:006:00Specific documentaries to watch in preparation for the on-campus seminars.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery21:002:00Online synchronous support for the assessment
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study152:0052:00Reading and note-taking
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The module involves different styles of teaching and learning in order to deliver the learning outcomes. The delivery of the module is based on the delivery of two-hour lectures. Supporting materials in the shape of the non-synchronous learning Sways will be provided to students fortnightly. These learning Sways may be supported by a number of different present-in-person activities that could include exploring reactions to videos, worksheet learning, unstructured drop-ins, creative practice and designing research projects. Not only are these designed to enhance student learning and reinforcement of the key ideas, themes and issues, the present-in-person activity designed to support students with the development of their portfolio assessment. The module will also offer focused support by offering an online drop-in session that will be scheduled at the end of the module. Finally, the first three weeks provide the scaffolding for further, in-depth, discussion of sex, sexuality and desire. The module then requires students to watch a number of documentaries. These documentaries are required viewing in advance of the on-campus seminars. These documentaries will enable students to develop confidence and background understanding of a number of the themes being discussed on the module.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1A60Essay, 2000 words
Portfolio1M40A collation of four components: Research Plan; Interview schedule; Advert design; Newspaper analysis
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The essay will allow students to research and write about a specific area of sex, sexuality and desire. It is anticipated that this work will offer a detailed analysis and understanding of a variety of approaches in this area. Students will be expected to choose an essay title that corresponds to items of the syllabus.

The portfolio will enable students to build up a body of work that will enable the module leader to evaluate student learning and strategically intervene to provide feedback on students' developing knowledge and understanding.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


Disclaimer: The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2023/24 academic year. In accordance with University Terms and Conditions, the University makes all reasonable efforts to deliver the modules as described. Modules may be amended on an annual basis to take account of changing staff expertise, developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Module information for the 2024/25 entry will be published here in early-April 2024. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.