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The University of Southampton

PHIL3034 Philosophy of Sex

Module Overview

In this module you will explore some major philosophical questions related to sex. We will begin by considering the nature of sex, discussing a range of theories of sex including the traditional view of sex as essentially connected to reproduction and “plain sex” theories that emphasise sexual pleasure. In the second section of the module, we will connect theories of sex to concrete issues in the ethics of sexual behaviour, discussing issues such as rape, monogamy and prostitution.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • how to relate these issues to issues in other areas of philosophy that you have studied, such as Ethics or Feminism.
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 in writing, in an open minded and rigorous way.
  • present views and arguments in a clear and engaging fashion.
  • examine critically and dispassionately views which can appear provocative and contentious.
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 .
  • work effectively to deadlines.
  • take notes from talks and written materials.
  • think independently and support your views with arguments.


The syllabus may vary from year to year. Topics might include: - Theories of the nature of sex: Can we pick out necessary and sufficient conditions for an act to count as sexual? What are the ethical implications of different ways of understanding sex? - The ethics of sexual behaviour We often choose a small selection of concrete issues or situations which raise issues of sexual ethics. Topics covered in the past have included: monogamy and polyamory, the ethics of prostitution and pornography and sexual objectification.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include - Lectures - In-class discussion - One-on-one consultation with module co-ordinator Learning activities include - Attending classes - Contribution to class discussion - Doing independent research for and writing assessed work

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

Resources & Reading list

Alan Soble. The Philosophy of Sex: Contemporary Readings. 

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

Igor Primoratz (1999). Ethics and Sex. 



Draft piece


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay 85%
Exercise 15%


MethodPercentage contribution
Resubmit assessments 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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