The Social Construction of Sex


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Discourse shapes how we think about the social world. It exercises power over our imaginations and allows us to recognize the world in distinct ways. As such, it can serve as a lens to reveal assumptions about what we consider normal and what is deviant. This activity utilizes students’ terminology to demonstrate how power operates through shared discourse and shapes taken for granted understandings of the social world. Students have the opportunity to provide and analyze terms and expressions they know for having sex. Through these, students are able to see broadly shared ideas that influence them and their peers.


Resource Type(s):
Class Activity 
Deeb Paul Kitchen
Amber Nelson 
Date Published:
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Usage Notes:

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45-60 minutes This exercise is useful in introductory courses that acquaint students with the discipline of sociology as well as advanced classes such as those on sex, gender, and sexualities, sociological theory, qualitative research methods, or for any discussion on normalization and discursive construction. It focuses on the discursive construction of...

Learning Goals and Assessments:

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Goal 1:
1. Identify assumptions about sex embedded in their terminology.
Assessment 1:
1: Assess students’ ability to identify assumptions contained within terminology through their written analysis of the terms collected and through discussion with the class as a whole.
Goal 2:
2. Identify particular sexual behaviors normalized in our use of language.
Assessment 2:
2: Assess students’ ability to see taken for granted sexual behaviors through their written analysis of the terms, small group, and classroom discussions.
Goal 3:
3.Articulate alternative discourses on sex.
Assessment 3:
3: Assess students’ ability to imagine alternative ways to think about and understand sex through the discussion.

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Social Construction of Sex_2_9.10.19.docx