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2024/25 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

PHIL3310 Philosophy of Sex and Relationships

20 creditsClass Size: 80

Module manager: Luke Brunning

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2024/25

Pre-requisite qualifications

40 credits of L2 Philosophy

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

Intimate relationships bring joy, but they also provoke challenging feelings like jealousy. Socially, norms of intimacy are also being questioned. Philosophy helps us navigate these challenges. Whether exploring the nature of commitment, asking what good sex involves, asking whether jealousy has value, or exploring relationship anarchy, this module introduces you to recent scholarship and provides you with the opportunity to challenge received wisdom about intimacy and the place of sex and relationships in a good life.


On successful completion of the module students will have demonstrated the following skills learning outcomes:

1. Communicate ideas and understanding clearly and concisely, using appropriate academic language (Academic and Work Ready skill)

2. Critically analyse source material and demonstrate independence of thought (Academic and Work Ready skill)

3. Search for appropriate material to support knowledge and analysis of topics (Academic, Work Ready, Digital and Sustainability skill)

4. Conform to standards of academic integrity including when and how to appropriately acknowledge someone else’s work (Academic and Work Ready skill)

Skills Learning Outcomes
On successful completion of the module, students will be able to:

5. Accurately describe important concepts and outline arguments relating to the philosophy of sex and relationships.

6. Relate specific claims about sex or relationships to wider ethical frameworks and to other areas of philosophy where appropriate.

7. Express your own arguments cogently, clearly and in detail in writing.

Learning outcomes
* To gain an understanding of some of the philosophical and ethical issues and arguments relating to sex and relationships and the implications they have for people’s personal lives, but also for society more generally.
* To develop critical awareness of the norms governing sex relationships and to consider if, and how, they should be changed.
* To understand some of the connections between ethical theory and sex and relationships.

The objectives will be fulfilled through:
1. Interactive lectures and seminars where students are introduced to core concepts, readings, and arguments, and encouraged to critically reflect on and develop their own arguments about them.

2. Seminar preparation where students read texts critically and analyse the arguments.


The syllabus may vary from year to year, but some of the questions which might be covered include, for example: are we responsible for whom we are attracted to? Does valid consent always make sex permissible? What else is required to make sex good? What is the connection between sexual jealousy and attitudes of entitlement or possessiveness? Is it permissible to have ‘rules’ in your relationships? How should we treat our partners when we break up with them? And how should we respond to technological developments which are influencing the way that we date, have sex, and relate to one another?

Because this module explores the nature of sex and relationships, we will cover issues throughout which are sensitive and could be potentially re-traumatising for some students. Examples of such topics are: sexual consent; sexual objectification and relationship break-ups. If you are unsure whether this module is suitable for you, please contact the module leader for more details before choosing this module.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours179.00
Total Contact hours21.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Formative assessment in this module is designed to facilitate (i) differentiated instruction, (ii) active student reflection on skills development, and (iii) student choice. In addition to the formative feedback available to students in office hours and seminar-based activities, each student is invited to complete one piece of formative work which will receive written feedback.

In this module, the student is given three options: essay plan; exposition of a philosophical argument; objection and reply.

By giving students a choice, this formative assessment takes account of variations in prior knowledge and skill development, and it enables the instructor to respond to students’ individual needs. However, it also builds students’ academic self-conception and encourages them to take ownership over their intellectual development. To do this, and to ensure that students get the formative feedback that they need, each student is required to select an option after writing a critical reflection on the skills that they judge they most need to work on. They are asked to read and reflect on (i) the feedback they received in L2 summative assessments, (ii) the PRHS marking criteria and (iii) the specific guidance provided on the summative assessment in this module. They then submit their chosen formative work accompanied by a 100-300 word reflective log explaining the choice they have made. This exercise builds critical reflection into the module. It requires that the students critically engage with previous feedback, current expectations, and it asks them to play an active role in honing their knowledge and skill development.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay3000-word coursework essay100.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Resit will be ‘as original’ i.e. by 3000 word essay but students will have to choose a question different to the one they chose for their original essay.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 09/05/2024


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