This is a doctoral program in the interdisciplinary field of critical sexuality studies. The program draws master’s-level professionals from many disciplines interested in studying varying aspects of the holistic field of sexuality studies from the lenses of desire, intimacy, identity, gender, intersectionality, cultural influences, power and stigma, sexual response and practices, and reproduction. The program offers a rigorous scholarly environment to further the dialogue in support of expanded freedom, rights, and expression in human sexuality.

The program mission is to create thought leaders in critical sexuality studies who draw upon an ethical praxis and a critical framework. The scholar-practitioner model is used to challenge students to create new knowledge while engaging real-world solutions on sexuality and gender issues.

The Human Sexuality PhD program (HSX) consists of four semesters of coursework, two comprehensive exams, and a research-based dissertation that contributes new knowledge to the field. The curriculum itself is designed to offer critical content knowledge on sexuality, research and analysis skills, theoretical and philosophical background, and professional skills. The goal of the program is to create and foster individual, group, and cultural change within the realm of human sexuality.

Time to completion is five to six years on average, estimated. During coursework, students will attend three mandatory academic residencies (long weekends) per semester on the CIIS campus with online coursework in between residencies. Select courses integrate several core knowledge areas of the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT; see to assist students seeking AASECT certification. The PhD in Human Sexuality by itself does not lead to AASECT certification. This program accepts students for the Fall semester of each year and expects students to continue coursework with their cohort. After coursework is completed, students take comprehensive examinations leading to the dissertation proposal. After the completion of dissertation research, a public dissertation defense is held.

 Fundamental to the vision of this program is an intersectional and critical view of sexuality that includes attention to salient power differentials, such as ethnicity, race, gender, class, age, ability, national origin, and religion. Foundational courses address foundational concepts, theory, methodology, and applied skills appropriate for use in various research, educational, health, and policy settings on issues of sexuality.

Program Learning Outcomes

  1. Mastery of Knowledge

1.1 Understand and evaluate major theories and texts central to critical sexuality studies across various disciplines and fields.

1.2 Identify operant epistemologies, axiologies, and ontologies associated with critical sexuality studies.

1.3 Identify major differences and problems in the various theories, ideologies, and concepts used to account for gender and sexuality across time and place critically by applying various analytic techniques such as intersectionality and queer theory.

1.4 Synthesize applicable theoretical and methodological approaches used to produce knowledge about a sexuality and gender area of inquiry by critically evaluating the differences between these, including their strengths, limitations, and areas not yet articulated.

  1. Analysis of Power

2.1 Gain awareness of and appreciation for differences in the social and cultural organization of established and emergent sexual and gender identities, expressions, practices, and behaviors across cultures, geographies, and time periods.

2.2 Explore how meanings imparted to sexuality and gender may differ across epistemes and doxa via salient axes of power such as class, race and ethnicity, age, ability, and religion.

2.3 Formulate and express connections between sociocultural and economic power structures as these impact sexual- and gender-based prejudice, stigma, inequality, and violence against people in various geographies and contexts with express attention paid to social justice goals and ecological concerns.

2.4 Differentiate as objects of study sexuality and gender as individually important aspects of contemporary subjectivities constituted in relation to others and to society vis-à-vis macro-level institutions and processes such as economies, politics, medicine, law, social movements/activism, and technology, among others.

  1. Advancing the Field of Sexuality Studies

3.1 Express proficiency in critical thinking and analytic thinking by demonstrating advanced writing and oral communication skills.

3.2 Understand what constitutes supporting evidence in favor of knowledge claims, and learn how to acknowledge and appropriately qualify one’s claims in light of potential counterfactuals.

3.3 Identify which methodological approach(es) are best suited to answer one’s research questions with appropriate acknowledgment of what cannot be claimed based on anticipated data.

3.4 Design and execute an original evidence-based dissertation that makes an original contribution to the field of critical sexuality studies.

  1. Critical Sexuality Scholar-Practitioner

4.1 Translate insights from scholarship in critical sexuality studies to practice-based work in fields such as clinical work, sex education, policy, and/or activism to contribute positively to the advancement of sexual and gender groups who are discriminated against, attacked, underrepresented, or otherwise stigmatized.

4.2 Identify one’s own values, attitudes, beliefs, biases, and assumptions to improve leadership and analytic and professional skills, and ensure ethical scholarly practice to foster impactful work, especially when engaging with controversial debates.

4.3 Participate in the exchange of controversial ideas and positions while maintaining respect for the inherent worth of every person, even with those with whom one adamantly disagrees.

4.4 Translate academic, scientific, and medical information in timely and accurate communications on sexuality, gender, and reproduction to a broad range of professional and layperson audiences across various mass communication and internet-based modalities.

Questions about Admissions or the Human Sexuality program?

Admissions Counselor: Skylar Hall
(415) 575-6155 |

Program Coordinator: Michelle Marzullo
(415)575-3406 |

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