Liberal Studies Core Seminar I, Unit II, Fall 2007

The Commercialization of Sex in 20th-Century America

Instructor: Carrie Pitzulo

This course examines a history of American sexuality in the 20th century. Leading historians have argued that sexual meanings in the last century were heavily regulated by the mass media and capitalist marketplace. Throughout the course, we will consider some of the dominant ways in which sexuality has been commercialized, and otherwise promoted, constructed, constrained and repressed in modern capitalist America. We will look at the role of economics and popular media in defining what sex is, who is sexy, who is deviant, and the like. Throughout, we will consider the role that economics and culture have played in popularizing and privileging certain sexualities over others and the impact that larger historical trends have had on those portrayals, and visa versa.

Each meeting will include a lecture on content relevant to the readings and media. Much of our time will be focused on critical discussion of the readings. It is important that everyone keep up each week in order for the entire group to get the most out of the readings and discussions. In general, one or two students (based on enrollment) will be responsible for leading each discussion. This simply means that the leader(s) will prepare a list of analytical questions, comments or opinion to offer to the class as points of discussion to start things off and keep the conversation going. Everyone will be expected to contribute comments, questions, opinions, etc. to the discussion. Of course, I will be there to help the conversation along when needed. NOTE: Discussions will not only be about the content of texts (or what they are about), but will also consider the structure of texts from an academic perspective (for example, what is the author(s argument? Is he/she convincing? Does the organization of the text help or hurt the argument? etc.).

One three-five page paper will be required.

WEEK ONE Introduction: Did Sex Always Sell?
Gender, Identity, and Sexuality (1600-1975)

WEEK TWO The Rise of Romance, or the Wedding-Industrial Complex

Beth Bailey, From Front Porch to Back Seat: Courtship in Twentieth-Century America
Chrys Ingraham, "Romancing the Clone: The White Wedding"

WEEK THREE Bodies for Sale
excerpts from Gail Pheterson, A Vindication of the Rights of Whores: "Turning out the Charter," "World Charter," "Statement on Prostitution and Human Rights," "Feminism," "The Big Divide," "Statement on Prostitution and Feminism"
Guest speaker: Dacia Ray, sex worker rights advocate

Joanne Meyerowitz, "Women, Cheesecake and Borderline Material: Responses to Girlie Pictures in Mid-Twentieth Century U.S."
Document: "Playboy Magazine on the Subject of Gender and Sexual Activity"
Film: Hugh Hefner: American Playboy

WEEK FOUR Sex Goes Prime-Time
Anthony Cortese, Provocateur: Images of Women and Minorities in Advertising, (2nd edition)
Katherine Sender, "Sex Sells: Sex, Class and Taste in Commercial Gay and Lesbian Media"

Alana Levine, "Symbols of Sex: Television's Women and Sexual Difference"
David R. Shumway, "Watching Elvis: The Male Rock Star as Object of the Gaze"

WEEK FIVE How Much is Too Much?
Ariel Levy, "Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture

10/31 William A. Fisher and Azy Barak, "Internet Pornography: a Social Psychological Perspective on Internet Sexuality"
Gail Dines and Robert Jensen, "Pornography and Media: Toward a More Critical Analysis"
Frank Rich, "Finally, Porn Does Prime Time"

Nov 5
Cooper, et al., "Sexuality in Cyberspace: Update for the 21st Century

Critical Analysis Paper: You are required to write one 3-5 page paper on a topic of your choice, based on our weekly readings. Choose one topic as outlined in our reading list. Locate one primary source, from any period since the beginning of the 20th century, related to that topic ( a film, a magazine, a commercial, advertisement, song, cartoon, video, or any other document that demonstrates an example of commercial sex/sexuality. Critically analyze that document, and discuss it in relation to the course readings. Examples of questions you should consider: What images or ideas are portrayed/conveyed in this document (or What is the document(s message)? Who produced this document? What function is this document supposed to serve? Who is the intended audience? How is gender, race, class portrayed? Does this document affirm or contradict arguments made in the assigned readings or in class discussion? o This list of questions is not exhaustive, and your paper should not consist of a point-by-point answer to each of these questions. Rather it should consist of an introduction, body and conclusion that incorporates some or all of these questions and those that you feel are relevant to your analysis.

You must provide me with a copy of your document (or loan your copy to me. I will return it at our symposium).

I strongly suggest that you get your document approved by me. If you choose a document inappropriate to the assignment, your paper will suffer. Also, since I must be able to examine your document, if it is in a form that I cannot access (like a computer program or vinyl record, for example) then I cannot evaluate your paper.

You may turn in your paper at any point after I have approved your topic/document, but your last opportunity to turn it in will be at our last meeting, November 5.

Your paper must be typed, double-spaced, 12-pt. font, with 1-inch margins.

Reading packet containing all the articles and documents will available at Far Better Printing Center, 43 Hillel Pl.

Texts are available at the campus bookstore, and on reserve in the library. I encourage those of you who want to purchase the books to buy them used at or, they will be cheaper there. All are in paperback.

Note on email: I check my account regularly. However, occasionally an email gets sent to my junk box, or does not arrive at all. If I have not responded to you within 36-48 hours, please resend your message.