Program Requirements

CIIS’ primarily online Human Sexuality Ph.D. starts with four semesters, 44 units of online coursework, including readings, and discussion boards which are taught asynchronously. Students then complete two comprehensive exams and a dissertation that contributes to the field of critical sexuality studies. After the completion of the dissertation research and manuscript, a public dissertation defense is held.

The program also includes academic residency weekends that engage students in-person or via Zoom where necessary. The academic residencies consist of three weekends per semester, spaced at the start of the semester, the middle and near the end.

Academic residencies are incredibly important for our program, as this is where we meet to inspire and support each other on the journey towards tomorrow’s critical sexuality studies.

Our semesters are held over fall (Aug-Dec) and spring (Jan-May). The average time to complete the program is five to six years for full-time students.

This program accepts students for the fall semester of each year and expects full-time students (meaning three courses per semester for four semesters) to continue coursework with their cohort. A part-time study (meaning two courses per semester for six semesters) is also available.

Course of Study

First Year Coursework
In the first year, we build the cohort experience, and lay down an intersectional foundation of knowledge including concepts, theory, and methodology.

Semester 1 | Fall
HSX 7170 Introduction to Human Sexuality (3 units)
HSX 7173 Sexual Theory and Intersectionality (3 units)
HSX 7229 Sexual Function and Practices (3 units)

Semester 2 | Spring
HSX 7175 Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (3 units)
HSX 7232 Problems and Professional Issues in Sexuality (3 units)
HSX 7885 Understanding Research (3 units)

Second Year Coursework
In the second year, students continue to refine their research questions and learn more about methodology, content, and theory.

Semester 3 | Fall
HSX 7263 Sexual, Gender, and Reproductive Rights (3 units)
HSX 7228 Global Sexualities (3 units)
HSX 7237 Methodology I (3 units)

Semester 4 | Spring
HSX 7274 Gender and Queer Theory (3 units)
HSX 7238 Methodology II (3 units)
HSX 7236 Sex Education and Learning Theory (4 units)*
HSX 7234 Sex Therapy Professional Skills (4 units)*

*Elective course – students take one elective (of at least 3 units) in year two and may choose from the two listed above or any others offered online at CIIS.

Third Year and Beyond
Starting in the third year, students take comprehensive examinations, also known as qualifying examinations. Students get two tries on each exam and must pass these examinations to move to the dissertation phase of the program. Dissertation proposal generation takes one to three semesters maximum, with an average duration of two semesters. Once a proposal has been accepted by the student’s dissertation committee and approved by the department Chair and Provost, the student becomes a doctoral candidate and then may enroll in a dissertation seminar. Students are allowed a maximum of four years to complete and defend their dissertation once they become doctoral candidates.

Comprehensive Examinations
HSX 7883 Core Concept Comprehensive Examination (3 units)
HSX 7884 Literature Review Comprehensive Examination (3 units)

HSX 9800 Dissertation Proposal (0.1 unit)
HSX 9900 Dissertation Seminar (0.1 unit)

Total: 42.2 - 43.2 units

Curriculum Highlights

The Human Sexuality Ph.D. curriculum offers critical content knowledge on sexuality and its theoretical and historical backgrounds, while also promoting research skills, analysis skills, and professional skills. 

HSX 7173 Sexual Theory and Intersectionality (3 units)
This foundational course surveys various theories through a lens of critical sexuality studies using a triadic framework: (1) concepts, (2) abjection, and (3) normativities. It is a primer for orienting the vast works that inform the field using critical sexuality studies as a central way of understanding and synthesizing these. The theories examined in this course are not exhaustive, but many have been applied to provide fruitful insights into various questions regarding sexuality. Further, this course supports the idea that experiences of sexuality and gender are collocated within power structures articulated as intersectional positionalities, such as race, ethnicity, class, nation, geographic location, age, religion, sexed body, dis/ability, and various other salient social and cultural locations, identities, and ascriptions—neither sexuality nor gender may be accurately understood without such contextual specificity. The emergent field of critical sexuality studies aims to agree not on content but on a basic orientation for thinking about the phenomena of sexuality and related praxis in research and applied work.

HSX 7228 Global Sexualities (3 units)
This course considers sex- and gender-related practices, desires, and identities around the world with an emphasis on non-Western contexts. In the first part of the course, students will become familiar with some of the problematic assumptions that have imbued theorizing gender and sexuality from within Western frameworks. Additionally, it will examine alternatives to approaching knowledge production about other peoples and practices that decenter a Western gaze. After becoming acquainted with this general approach, the course continues with a survey of contemporary issues and debates centering on different ways of knowing that inform sexual cultures. Special topics of focus may include sexual migration, globalization, and its impacts on Indigenous sexual/gender identities; transnational comparisons of sex work; virtual intimacies; body modification and desire; and the global HIV/AIDS epidemic, among others.

HSX 7232 Problems and Professional Issues in Sexuality (3 units) 
The focus of this course is to address issues of ethics, axiology, exploitation, abuse, harassment, assault, trauma, rape, rape culture, sex trafficking, problematic sex (e.g., compulsions, dysfunction, sexuality and substances, and disease), and other issues that can be thought of as problematic. While not necessarily subscribing to a pathologizing or criminalizing view, these important issues will be thoughtfully considered in a historical, contextual, reflexive, and critical manner. Attention will be paid to the history of the field, current controversies with internet sexuality, ethics, philosophical issues, and professional communication skills. These content areas are aligned with AASECT’s course knowledge areas and are part of the required content for sex therapy and sex educator certification.

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