New Sexuality Studies minor available to students, focuses on variety of issues

Reporter and Reporter

Students with a strong interest in sexuality studies now have the option to declare the topic as their minor.

The minor was first made available for fall 2011, according to Sarah Rainey, undergraduate studies coordinator for the Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies (formerly Women’s Studies).

Five students declared the minor that first semester and more are joining the ranks as word about the option spreads.

The idea for the minor, Rainey said, was a collaborative concept that came from a variety of faculty members within the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies department who had seen a growing interest from students for a minor in sexuality studies. For inspiration, the department started looking at similar programs around the country as models for shaping the minor at the University.

In the end, the minor was designed as a 21-credit-hour program focusing on a variety of issues within the concept of sexuality studies, from sex education to marriage and family issues, and students enrolled in the minor have a lot of liberty to shape the focus as they wish.

The only course required for the minor is Introduction to LGBT Studies.

“We wanted to make sure students wouldn’t avoid focusing on marginalized communities,” Rainey said. “We didn’t want them to just look at heterosexual sexualities, but also consider more marginal sexualities as well.”

Though the name of the Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies can be misleading to some, she said the area of women’s studies should not be limited to female students alone, but because males benefit from the study as well. While portions of the women’s studies program do focus exclusively on women’s lives, there is a whole other part of the program that looks at men’s lives and how gender and sexuality affects everyone, she said.

“We’ve had a lot of men that are minors under women’s gender and sexuality studies,” Rainey said. “I think a lot of them recognize that women’s studies is not just about women, it’s about analyzing and thinking about how gender affects all of us on things such as masculinity or femininity.”

Kyle Shupe, a sophomore sociology major, declared sexuality studies as his minor as soon as it became available this past fall. He intends to focus his sociological studies on areas related to sexuality and said the minor will offer the “qualitative information” while his major focuses on the “quantitative.”

“The need right now for studies in sexuality is pretty necessary for sociology,” he said. “The most recent research on it was done nationally in 1994 and based on what I’ve seen of it, it’s not a very good study for what people should be looking for.”

“I think there’s a certain stigma that’s attached to sexuality, and it’s very normalized as either you’re straight or you’re not,” Shupe said. “Learning about various forms of sexuality increases awareness of non-heterosexual and less understood forms of sexual variance.”

Junior journalism major Christine Talbert declared sexuality studies as her minor a few months ago. She became interested in sexuality studies through a combination of sitting through gender communication classes her mother teaches at Oakland University and a sexuality-related course at the University.

“I thought it was really interesting how the opposite sex communicates with one another,” she said. “Definitely the concept of gender roles is interesting and also learning more about homosexuals and the gay community … I think that’s something that’s becoming more understood in the U.S., but I think it’s something that’s still misunderstood by a lot of people.”

Talbert plans to attend grad school and wants to eventually work in a university student affairs department. An understanding of sexuality issues will help her do her job more effectively, she said.

“I think understanding how different people work, in that aspect, would be something that would be beneficial while working on a college campus,” she said.