Fall 2022 - GSWS 316 B100

Disciplining Sex: Feminist Science Studies and Sociobiology (4)

Class Number: 3417

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Th 4:30 PM – 6:20 PM
    BLU 10021, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    30 units.



Conceptualizations of sex have played a fundamental part in the development of evolutionary theories in biology and psychology. At the same time, feminist critiques of these conceptualizations have been a major factor in the development of Feminist Science Studies. The interactions amongst these three approaches are examined, including methodologies, communities of practice and societal implications. Breadth-Hum/Social Sci/Science.


How many sexes are there? Are sex differences determined by the brain, by hormones, by genes, by genitals, by social environment, by some combination of these factors, or by something else entirely?  Is sexuality a product of nature, nurture, or both?  Is biological sex fixed or can it change over time? What are the values, assumptions, and beliefs that shape these questions and what is at stake in the answers we provide?

This third-year course critically examines the social, material, political, and technological intersections of science and sex. It asks: What do we know about sex and sexuality, what don’t we know, and how do we come to know (or not know) it? Drawing together readings and media from biology, anthropology, philosophy, history, feminist and indigenous science studies, queer theory, critical race theory, and the literary and performing arts, we will explore a range of questions, including (but not limited to): What is the biology – as a scientific matter and as bodily matter – of sex and gender? What can (or can’t) animals such as promiscuous primates or monogamous voles tell us about human sex, gender, and sexuality? How are scientific values such as objectivity, discovery, or universality engaged in producing and naturalizing gendered, classed, or racialized differences? What other approaches to thinking and doing sex exist within and beyond the sciences, and how might they alter, challenge, or subvert dominant regimes of knowledge production about sexual difference? How do the social contexts and meanings of categories such as monogamy, masculinity, or asexuality shape scientific research questions and practices? In turn, how does scientific research influence our understandings and experiences of these categories and the people (or animals or plants or bacteria) who fall into with them?  What role do technologies such as hormones, PET scans, or vibrators play in shaping our definitions and experiences of our bodies’ sex?


For more detailed information please see the GSWS website: http://www.sfu.ca/gsws/undergraduate/courses/Educational_Goals.html


  • Ten Sex/Gender Questions Exercise: (10% interview transcripts, 15% analysis) 25%
  • Lab Notebook: (5 entries @ 6 points each) 30%
  • Implosion Project: (15% maps, 30% prepared presentation recording, prezi, video, or powerpoint – in-class live presentation not required) 45%



No Required Texts – All readings will be available on Canvas and through the library

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating. Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the university community. Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the university. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the university. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html