Graduate Liberal Studies Program

Course Descriptions

GLS 510: Religion and Sex

Instructor: Herbert Berg

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Two of the most intimate aspects of a person's life are her or his religious and sexual beliefs, practices, and experiences. Each shapes our personalities, identities, behaviors and our relationships with acquaintances, friends, family, partners, community, and society. Although rarely discussed in connection with each other, religions have much to say about sex. In fact, the reticence about sex and sexuality in many cultures is often the product of the teachings of their dominant religions. More generally, a culture's views on sex, sexual practices, and so forth are often determined or supported by its religion. Through an examination of the world's major religions' views on sex as expressed in their scriptures, exegesis, and practice, this course examines the close connections between various conceptions of the sacred and their impact on this powerful biological activity. Topics open for discussion include (in no particular order): procreation, marriage, orientation, abstinence, celibacy, masturbation, female/male, masculine/feminine, hypersexuality, transvestism, transgender, homosexuality, lesbianism, heterosexuality, bisexuality, pornography, eunuchs, dirt and pollution, bodies, mouths and sex organs, hair (both hairiness and hairlessness), androgynes, hermaphrodites, incest, bestiality, and so forth. This examination will (hopefully) lead us into discussions in which we try to figure why religions advocate or prohibit certain practices. Ultimately, these discussions will bring us to question why religions always have something to say about sex (though not often the same thing).

Last Update: January 11, 2012