Sexuality and Power

The Institute of Art and Ideas


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What is normal sex? Who decides? Why has power dominated pleasure in the history of sexuality? From the pederasty of the ancient Greeks to the political lesbians of the 20th century, sex has always been a reflection of the struggle for power in society. In this course, Professor Véronique Mottier unveils the truth of what goes on behind closed doors.

By the end of the course, you will have learned:

why today’s taboos were commonplace in antiquity
how pleasure and sex became associated
why the Greeks did not classify sexual relations by gender
why sex was once considered the enemy of God
how the enlightenment freed sexuality from church dogma
the challenges to biological models of sex
the sexual contracts of marriage
how sex is moving beyond science.

As part of the course there are in-video quiz questions to consolidate your learning, suggested further readings to explore topics further, discussion boards to have your say and an end of course assessment set by Professor Mottier.

IAI Academy courses are designed to be challenging but accessible to the interested student. No specialist knowledge is required.

The end-of-course assessment is available for authentication by our online proctoring partners Software Secure. Lean how you can earn a verified certificate.

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Where and when

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What you'll learn on the course

Antient Greeks
Church Dogma
Models of Sex
Contracts of Marriage

Course programme

Course Syllabus
  • Part One: The Ancient WorldWhat did sex look like in ancient Greece, where the majority of the population had no rights?
  • Part Two: Christianity and SexualityHow did Christianity’s rise radically transform sexual norms, and what does this mean for us?
  • Part Three: Science and SexualityHow have scientists and activists engaged in a power struggle to classify modern sexuality?

Suggested Further Readings

A selection of further readings has been suggested by Professor Mottier as part of this course. 

Explore Further

Our editors have brought together a range of content from across which explore the ideas in this course.

About the Instructor
  • Véronique Mottier

    Professor of Sociology at the University of Lausanne, and fellow of Jesus College Cambridge, Véronique Mottier is the author of Sexuality: A Very Short Introduction.