In search of carnal knowledge

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By Kevin Ritchie

Each year, the minds of young, nubile Ryerson students are thrust deep into studies of the course calendar. Some of the most coveted classes feature discussion of a sexual nature. The lucky few who successfully penetrate these courses scurry to class, stroking the delicate, fleshy paper of their timetables. Here’s what they’re learning.

FRE 902- French: Gender and Decadence 1850-1920 Sex-o-meter Rating; 4

Instead of imparfait, passe compose and le conditionel, the topics covered in this french course are androgyny, sadism and castration. But you must be able to speak and read fluently in french to take this class. Professor Michael Finn says the readings are fairly tame. The typical class discussion centres on whether men can be as beautiful as women and why a woman would want to hurt a man.

ENG 072-English: Popular Literature Sex-o-meter Rating: 4

This course looks at popular fiction from the 19th century to the present. And there’s a romance unit. The books covered vary in explicit content, but the messages about power and desire have stayed the same. In The Mysteries of Udolpho, the sex is implicit, as “girls are terrified of secret staircases that penetrate into their bed chambers,” professor Monique Tschofen says. The Flame and the Flower, on the other hand, opens with a rape scene. And then there’s King Solomon’s Mines, which Tschofen says is the protypical homerotic buddy adventure in which men describe how handsome they are without their pants on.

ENG 070-English: The Making of Modernity 1660-1832 Sex-o-meter Rating: 7

This course is about 18th-century culture and the makings of contemporary ideas. This year, students chose sexuality as a topic of exploration. Professors Karen Mulhallen believes loneliness and love are central preoccupations of the 18th century. Readings range from the gothic to the graphic, the graphic being John Cleland’s Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure. Issues raised include homosexuality, sexual morals, man as a sexual animal and sexuality transmitted diseases.

PHL 306—Philosophy: Contemporary Moral Issues Sex-o-meter Rating: 9

Ah, pornophraphy—could we ever live without it? That’s one of the questions students mull over in this course. Professor Jo Kornegay chose pornography as a moral issue for debate because it opens a door to a range of feminist views. So how explicit do the discussions get? “You have to describe some kinds of sexual behaviour to know what you’re talking about,” Kornegay says. In analyzing the depiction of oral sex, group sex and mutilation, students question what is degrading and the difference between porn and erotica.

PHL 606—Philosophy of Love and Sex Sex-o-meter Rating: 8

Professor Elizabeth Trott says students are in for a “hardcore theoretical experience. “It’s a way of teaching philosophy subject matter through a medium of ideas of love and sex.” The readings range from Plato to pedophilia, adultery to toe fetishes. Even though students love to talk about sex, they have to think more like Sartre than Sarah Jessica Parker.

PSY 304 Psychology of Gender Sex-o-metre Rating: 6

“How do boys and girls learn to be boys and girls,” is the central question asked by professor Lynne Jackson. While class discussion isn’t too intimate, topics in the sexuality unit include males’ and females’ sexual patterns, the physiology of the orgasm and biological and social theories ons exual orientation.

IST 906—Interdisciplinary Studies: Human Sexuality, Power, Pleasure and Diversity Sex-o-metre Rating: 8

Professor Karol Steinhouse says this course focuses on building students’ confidence in dealing with hot topics. Past discussions have included issues such as AIDS, infertility, transsecuality, masturbation and prostitution. Steinhouse looks at each topic from the male, female, gay and straight perspectives.

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