Sex(uality) ED at UVic


Four courses UVic offers on the topic of sexuality

Photo of Clearihue Building by Boston Laferté.

When you think of courses on the topic of sexuality, the Gender Studies department probably comes to mind first. However, it’s not the only faculty that offers classes on the subject. 

Many departments at UVic offer courses that allow students to learn about and explore the topic of sexuality, including some that you might not expect. 

University provides an opportunity for students to learn about themselves, and for many, this includes their sexuality. According to Professor Leah Tidey of the School of Public Health and Social Policy, providing opportunities for students to do this in an academic setting is essential. 

“Sexuality needs to be discussed more in university classrooms. One of the primary reasons people go to university is to build social connections, and if we aren’t having honest discussions about consent, pleasure, contraception, diverse sexual and gender identities, and how to set healthy boundaries, we are setting our students up to fail,” said Tidey. 

Dr. Georgia Sitara, a gender studies and history professor who specializes in the topic of sexuality, echoes this.

“It’s just an opportunity to reflect on the society around us and to understand ourselves better. And maybe, that can help to kind of liberate us to be true to our emotions and to our desires, because there is a lot of stigma in our society around sexuality,” Sitara said.

For those interested in learning about sexuality, here are a few courses that UVic currently offers on the topic.

HSTR 385C History of Sexuality 

History of Sexuality, taught by Sitara, will be offered this May. The course covers the 19th and 20th century origins of a variety of categories, terms, and practices related to sexuality.

“It looks at the construction of all the current categories that we use. Heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality,” said Sitara. “It looks at the way that we organize our intimate and erotic lives, courtship, dating, marriage, free love or polyamory … [and] practices like masturbation and pornography.”

The course also explores the ways that societal ideas about sex have shifted over time. According to Sitara, one way these shifting ideals can be tracked is through laws surrounding the topics of sex and consent. The course also discusses sexuality in pop culture by incorporating music and documentaries into the lectures. 

Sitara also notes that studying sexuality through a historical lens is particularly important. “We are making history, every one of us, in the here and now. And the course is an opportunity to actually pay attention to that and recognize our own power as historical subjects,” said Sitara. “If we know that things have changed, we know we can change them again.” 

HLTH 251 Healthy Sexuality 

Healthy Sexuality is a course currently offered by the School of Public Health and Social Policy. The class covers the topic of sexuality from a variety of contexts and perspectives. Ultimately, it explores the impact that sexuality has on our experiences and the ways that healthy sexuality can be achieved. Anyone can take this course, as it has no prerequisites. 

HLTH 352 Promoting Healthy Sexualities 

For those who have already taken Healthy Sexuality, the School of Public Health and Social Policy also offers a more advanced course called Promoting Healthy Sexualities. This course, taught by Tidey, covers three main topics: the social construction of sexuality, diverse sexualities, and the promotion and support of healthy sexualities. 

Students can expect a variety of assignments in the course, including a social media post, a book review, and a group project on Canadian sexual health initiatives.

“I believe this class is important because discussions about sexuality are too often mired in shame, taboo, or stigma. Yet, we are bombarded with images of sexuality daily,” said Tidey. “This course offers an opportunity for students to both reflect on their own positionality in the world, think critically about what healthy sexualities mean to them, and practice sharing research-informed information about what diverse, healthy sexualities can look like.” 

Promoting Healthy Sexualities is currently in its first semester but has had a lot of student interest. As a result, Tidey is confident it will be offered again in future. 

ENGL 230 Literature and Culture I

Literature and Culture I is a variable content course, meaning depending on when you register, it will cover different topics. The section being taught this term, Sexting Through the Ages: 2500 Years of Erotic Writing, covers the history and evolution of erotica. It also has no prerequisites and can be taken by anyone. 

Whether you’re interested specifically in the topic of sexuality or struggling to find an elective, these courses are just a few of the options at UVic. Each one offers a unique opportunity to learn about sexuality as a whole, and maybe even your own.