The University of Southampton

PHIL3034 Philosophy of Sex

Module Overview

The aims of this module are to introduce you to a range of philosophical issues concerning sex and human sexuality and to help you to develop your own capacity to think philosophically about sex and relate your own views to the academic literature. By the end of the module, you should be able to describe key positions in the philosophy of sex. You will be able to explore the core arguments for the views and the main objections which have been raised against them. You should be able to assess the different positions, taking possible objections into account and supporting your view with cogent argument.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • describing and assessing the key features of the theories of the nature of human sexuality covered by the module, the core arguments for each view and the key objections.
  • discussing the topics in the ethics of sexual behaviour covered by the module (such as monogamy, homosexuality and paedophilia). You will be able to describe and assess the possible positions that might be taken on each issue, the core arguments for each view and the key objections.
  • relate these issues to issues in other areas of philosophy that you have studied, such as Ethics or Feminism.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • undertake, with adequate supervision, independent work, including identifying and using appropriate resources.
  • convey ideas concisely and clearly in a variety of media.
  • work effectively to deadlines.
  • take notes from talks and written materials.
  • think independently and support your views with arguments.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • interpret, synthesise and criticise complex texts and positions.
  • express and debate ideas, both orally and in writing, in an open minded and rigorous way.
  • present views and arguments visually in a clear and engaging fashion.
  • examine critically and dispassionately views which can appear provocative and contentious.


We will begin by considering the nature of sex, discussing a range of theories of sex. These may include the traditional view of sex as essentially connected to reproduction; views of sex as a language or expression of love and “plain sex” theories that emphasise sexual pleasure. In the second half of the module, we will consider the ethics of sexual behaviour, discussing issues such as monogamy, prostitution and paedophilia.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Weekly lectures - In-class discussion - Independent study

Completion of assessment task29
Preparation for scheduled sessions29
Wider reading or practice30
Follow-up work29
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Alan Soble. The Philosophy of Sex: Contemporary Readings. 

Igor Primoratz (1999). Ethics and Sex. 

Robert B. Baker, Kathleen Wininger and Frederick A. Elliston. Philosophy and Sex. 





MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2100 words) 55%
Portfolio 45%


MethodPercentage contribution
Examination  (180 minutes) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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