Course Descriptions

Course descriptions for the PhD in Human Sexuality program

PhD in Human Sexuality—36 units

The curriculum for the PhD in Human Sexuality requires 36 semester units, 18 units or the equivalent each year for two years. The required units are spread across three types of courses: core required courses, concentration required courses, and electives.


  I.  Common Core (Required)

       HSX 7175       Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity: Research, Policy, Society, and Self-Awareness

                                (3 units)

       HSX 7179       Introduction to Human Sexuality: Theory, Research, and Knowledge (3 units)

       HSX 7180       Sexual Development Across the Life Course (3 units)

       HSX 7193       Caring for the Sexual Body: STIs—Research, Treatment, and Policy (2 units)

       HSX 7264       Mixed Methods in Sex Research (3 units)

       HSX 7263       Sexual, Gender, and Reproductive Rights (3 units)

       HSX 7278       Transgender Experiences, Identities, Policies, and Communities (3 units)


II.  Concentration Courses—Clinical Practice (Required)

       HSX 7830       Proseminar in Sexuality and Clinical Practice (sequence 1 internship) (3  


       HSX 7831       Proseminar in Sexuality and Clinical Practice (sequence 2 internship) (3


       HSX XXXX       Sex, Love, and Intimate Relationships (3 units)


III.  Concentration Courses—Sexual Policy Leadership (Required)

       HSX 7270       Research Methodology in Sexuality for LGBT and Reproductive Policy (3


       HSX 7272       Sexuality Policy, Leadership, Identities, and Community Formation

                                 (sequence 1 practicum) (3 units)

       HSX 7273       Sexuality Policy, Leadership, Identities, and Community Formation       

                                 (sequence 2 practicum) (3 units)


IV.  Comprehensive Exam (Required)

       HSX 9600       Mastery of the Field – General Comprehensive Exam (2 units)


  V. Electives

       HSX 6828       Sexuality, Spirituality, and Religion: Humanistic, Clinical, and Policy

                                 Implications (3 units)

       HSX 7268       Women’s Sexuality and Reproductive Health and Rights (1-3 units)

       HSX XXXX       Men’s Sexuality: Self and Intimate Relationships (1-3 units)

       HSX 7259       Diverse Sexuality Across Ethnicities and Cultures (1 units)


  ***Electives throughout other CIIS academic programs may be considered under faculty



VI. Dissertation (Required) 

       HSX 7900       Dissertation Proposal Completion  (0 Units)


Course Descriptions

HSX 6828: Sexuality, Spirituality, and Religion: Humanistic, Clinical, and Policy Implications (3 units)

This advanced foundational course analyzes the theories, methods, and discourses related to the intersection between the great worldly religions and human sexuality across history, culture, and personal experience. In particular, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, and Judaism will be compared and contrasted in historical and cultural context by virtue of their similarities and differences regarding sexual attitudes and practices. By focusing on the culture, context, policies, and reproduction of the influence of these institutions on sexual values and attitudes, insight is gained into the intersection between faith communities and sexual literacy globally and in the United States. The course also examines the historical role of spirituality in the formation of sexuality, and provides understanding of how sexuality and spirituality intersect in the life course and emotional life of individuals. Finally, the seminar provides critical perspective on how issues of faith, spirituality, and institutional religion have influenced cultural development, tolerance, social justice, and secular changes in societal policies.


HSX 6892: Research Colloquia 2 (1 unit)


HSX 6900: Dissertation Proposal Completion (0 units)

Provides support for dissertation proposal writing after all coursework and research colloquia are completed.

Prerequisites: HSX student, HSX 9600.


HSX 7179: Introduction to Human Sexuality: Theory, Research, and Knowledge (3 units)

This course offers an advanced introduction to the interdisciplinary field of human sexuality and sexual literacy. It reviews theoretical, methodological, epistemological, historical, clinical, policy, and public health areas of knowledge in understanding the spectrum of sexual meanings and practices across time and space. The course also examines social and cultural theories of sexuality in the context of historical, psychosocial, media, and public health social changes in Western society since the time of the American Revolution, with emphasis upon changes that have occurred since 1960. Additionally, major paradigmatic thinkers are contrasted in relation to sexual essentialism versus social constructionism. We will look at how changes in society, the self, the state, public health, the media, and science in the 19th and 20th centuries led to fixations and controversies surrounding medicalized sexuality and the disease model of sex, followed later by the social construction of sexuality. Course goals are: (1) mastering a body of scholarly knowledge, (2) becoming aware of the range or spectrum of sexuality across cultures and human development, (3) applying clinical and policy skills to understanding human sexual development, and (4) helping to support and transform the role of sexual literacy in society.


HSX 7175: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity: Research, Policy, Society, and Self-Awareness (3 units)

This course is a research-based state-of-the-art analysis of theoretical, methodological, clinical, policy, and sexual literacy aspects of sexual orientation and gender identity development and expression. Sexual orientation is the structure of a person’s sexual and/or romantic attractions to people of the same or opposite sex, or toward both sexes, while gender identity is a person’s basic sense of being a man or boy, a woman or girl, or another gender (e.g., transgender, bigender, or gender queer—a rejection of the traditional binary classification of gender). Researchers have found that there is a spectrum of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities in the United States and across cultures, including homosexual or lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning. Also considered is the cultural and historical range of sexual orientation and gender identity. Attention is devoted to the theories, causes, contexts, and expressions of diverse sexualities and sexual fluidity. Policy and clinical processes related to being open and out; forming a family or family of choice; and dealing with issues of discrimination, stigma, homophobia, sexual and gender conforming and nonconforming behaviors, across the life course, will also be examined as they affect society, the law, self-awareness, and interpersonal and social relations.

HSX 7180: Sexual Development Across the Life Course (3 units)

This is an advanced and comprehensive advanced exploration of sexuality across the life-course focusing on interdisciplinary research in social, cultural, and psychological context. The course is designed to provide knowledge and skills sets in the basic areas of theory, methodology, clinical practice and social policy as they pertain to sexuality in childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and later life. Integrative transformative experience builds upon infant and childhood sexuality; childhood sexuality, curiosity, masturbation, and play; childhood sexual abuse; adolescent sexual development; adult romantic and sexual relationships; adolescent sexual identity development, mainstream and LGBTQ; STIs and adolescent sexual risk; adult sexual development including couple and family formation, aging, sexual function and dysfunction, and optimal sexual well-being in later life.

HSX 7193: Caring for the Sexual Body: STIs—Research, Treatment, and Policy (2 units)

This course is an advanced evidence-based survey of sexually transmitted infections and diseases in human sexuality, culture, and societal policy. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are caused by bacteria, viruses, protozoa, fungi, and parasites. STIs are easy to acquire and relatively easy to prevent, manage, and treat. However, sexual literacy and structural factors including poverty, racism, and homophobia in young people, adults, and seniors continue to pose individual and structural challenges to effective education, treatment, prevention, and the role of STI stigma in the formation of global sexuality, public health, and human rights. The course is aimed to equip and prepare students to engage in clinical counseling, policy analysis, and policy formulation and to engage in creative inquiry into the global crisis of sexually transmitted diseases.


HSX 7259: Diverse Sexuality Across Ethnicities and Cultures (1 units)

This seminar examines contemporary research, methodology, and positionality of diverse ethnicities and sexual cultures in the United States. It analyzes the spectrum of sexual functioning and expression as distributed across major ethnic groups and as intersected by race, social class, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity expression. Theoretically, the seminar considers how cross-cultural, cross-societal, cross-ethnic group and related socioeconomic factors influence the form of sexual meanings, relationships, and community formation vis-à-vis group identity, history, and sexual expressions today. The course is taught from the synergistic theoretical perspectives of contemporary social, cultural, historical, psychological, and public health theory as they ground and pertain to human sexuality. The curriculum is rooted in historical and cultural accounts of diverse ethnicities, including African American, Hispanic, Mexican American, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Asian American, Native American, Pacific Island, and related constructs of sexual literacy and cultural life.


HSX 7263: Sexual, Gender, and Reproductive Rights (3 units)

This seminar is an evidence-based state-of-the-art theory and practice overview of sexual, gender, and reproductive rights in the context of the culture and history of rights- and identity-based movements in the United States, including the law and public policy, the media, and society. Knowledge and skills focus upon individual and group-level discourse, policies, and praxis in medicine and public health, the law, government, scientific research, and the media. The historical introduction of rights since the American Revolution also highlights the link between society, the law, and rights-based discourse as applied to human sexuality. Organizational and media case studies are analyzed in the United States and globally—for example, in the areas of same-sex marriage rights, HIV/AIDS, contraceptives, and sex education—in relation to the cultural reasoning that affirms or challenges rights, including through study of moral and sex panics.


HSX 7268: Women’s Sexuality and Reproductive Health and Rights (1-3 units)

Beginning with the founding of second-wave feminism in the 1960s and through Roe v. Wade, right up to the present day, this advanced seminar reviews the theories, methods, findings, policies, and controversies surrounding women’s sexuality and reproductive rights and health in the United States. Historical review of knowledge, laws, policies, and individual expressions in relation to contraceptive use in the United States from the Comstock Law (1873). Focusing on the current state of sexuality in adolescent, adult, and midlife, the course also considers developmental and societal consequences of cultural barriers to full acceptance of women’s sexuality in all cultural domains. Of particular concern are women’s individual and group rights as supported by current research knowledge and challenges to these in local, state, federal, and global policies. The seminar also reviews current theoretical understanding of how some of these issues are being played out in the Global South.

Men’s Sexuality: Self and Intimate Relationships (1-3 units)

Men and masculinity are changing both in perception in the popular culture, and in the individual and relational realities of intimacy. How are these changes affecting individual sexual functioning, interpersonal relationships, and societal policy? This advanced seminar explores these questions in the context of research, theory, methodology, and practice surrounding men’s sexual and gender beliefs, attitudes, practices, relationships, and health and well-being. The course thus builds skills which integrate transformative changes in the areas of sexual and gender fluidity, the men’s movement, aspects of spiritual and male/male attachments and relationships, and well as male/female holistic relationships are also  in contemporary research, media, and policy.  


HSX 7270: Research Methodology in Sexuality for LGBTQ and Reproductive Policy (3 units)

This is an advanced course in research methodologies related to policy study and formation, with respect to LGBTQ issues, such as same-sex marriage rights, and women’s sexual and reproductive health, such as contraceptive rights. Qualitative and quantitative methods are both studied. Case studies are utilized in understanding polling, attitude formation in the general population, policy and behavior change, and the roles of the media and best policy practices online and in actual societal institutions. Each student will conduct a detailed analysis of one policy area considered both in historical and cultural perspective and with attention to the impact on individuals, families, and communities.


HSX 7272: Sexuality Policy, Leadership, Identities, and Community Formation (Sequence 1) (3 units)

The seminar provides an advanced and mentored policy leadership immersion experience in a major policy, advocacy, right-based, legal and/or economic and social organization that focuses on LGBTQ, or women’s sexual and reproductive issues, identities, and communities. Students will engage in a nine-month traineeship contract with an appropriate community-based organization, nongovernmental organization, or government agency within the United States or globally. Students will create a case study that describes, analyzes, and explains how the clients, networks, policies, and institution relate to current theory, methodology, and culture formation. Students will be supervised on-site by an appropriate staff member of the host organization, as well as by a CIIS faculty member. Besides critical work experience and professional networks, students may focus on this material in their original doctoral dissertation.


HSX 7273: Sexuality Policy, Leadership, Identities, and Community Formation (Sequence 2) (3 units)

Continuation of HSX 013.

Prerequisites: Human Sexuality Program student; HSX 7272.


HSX 7278: Transgender Experiences, Identities, Policies, and Communities (3 units)

Transgender or gender queer identities, transformations, relationships, policies, communities, and well-being provide the basis for the advanced and comprehensive introduction to theories, methods, health-care standards, and community formation. A brief history of the transgender movement, from community formation to Internet-based rights developments and recent social and legal challenges, provides a foundation for individual student investigations of topical areas of interest. In addition, the history, culture, and online social movement correlates of the transgender experience are examined. W-PATH advanced standards of clinical and health care in societal context are fully integrated into the discussion of this emergent community. The instructors will review the legal, medical, social, psychological, policy, and spiritual aspects of contemporary transgender policies in the United States and globally.


Sex, Love and Intimate Relationships (3 units)

This is a systematic advanced introduction to the research, knowledge, clinical practice, resources, and policy issues related to holistic sexuality and intimate relationships. Theories of love and attachment are explored in depth, including the relevance to diverse sexual and gender orientations. Students thus learn to apply resourceful strategies in the areas of love and dating, couple formation, emotional literacy, the nature of sexual dysfunction and optimal functioning, as well as a variety of contemporary changes in couple formation, such as sexual fluidity, polyamory, and online dating.


HSX 7830: Proseminar in Sexuality and Clinical Practice (Sequence 1) (3 units)

This advanced clinical proseminar is designed to help licensed, experienced marriage and family therapists, counselors, psychologists, sexologists, and other professionals deepen their sexual literacy knowledge and skill sets in dealing with a large range of sexual, gender, relational, identity, mental health, family formation, and related challenges. The instructor, a widely respected and experienced therapist in long-time practice in the Bay Area, provides guidance, mentoring, and feedback, and helps facilitate the discussion of delivery of culturally competent best practices. In addition, theory and methodology are directed to understanding communication and self-awareness in the clinical encounter, including how to support emotional literacy in the client. Attention is also directed to treatment of sexual functioning and dysfunction. Topical themes vary by semester, but intimacy; relationship integrity; sexual expressions across the spectrum of human development; LGBTQ identities and expression among children, adolescents, and adults; and aspects of sexual coercion, abuse, and the paraphilias are all considered. Also considered in depth are issues of erotic and sexual transference and treatment.


HSX 7831: Proseminar in Sexuality and Clinical Practice (Sequence 2) (3 units)

Continuation of HSX 7830.

Prerequisites: Human Sexuality program student; HSX 7830.


HSX 7900: Dissertation Seminar (0 units)

The student’s research and writing of a dissertation progresses with the mentorship of, and in close consultation with, his or her dissertation chair and committee.

Prerequisite: HSX student; advancement to candidacy.


HSX 6900: Mastery of the Field – General Comprehensive Exam (2 units)

Comprehensive examinations are designed to gauge a broad and deep competency of theoretical and practical frameworks while explicitly preparing the student for formation of a dissertation proposal and subsequent successful completion of a dissertation, with special focus on the literature review and the methodology to be employed for the dissertation. The literature review must demonstrate a comprehensive knowledge of intended research. The methodology must explain why the particular methods were selected, where it is situated in the broad spectrum of available methodologies, and what its limitations are known to be or likely to be.

Prerequisite: HSX student.