The International Politics of Sex

Course content

This course explores how sex is implicated in international politics. It is centred on showing how sex, gender, and sexuality structure understandings and practices of foreign policy, statehood, conflict, political violence, social movements, and the like. To do this we will trace how debates over ‘normal’ and ‘traditional’ sexual orientation and gender expression have come into international politics and how the current ‘culture war’ around queer rights and protections has come to play a significant role in (re)negotiating international order. Throughout the course we will ask how gender and sexuality, both of which are racialised and classed, are used to construct and maintain power; how in some cases sexuality and gender are mobilised to legitimize certain foreign and domestic policies.


Unpacking the many ways that socially constructed norms around sexual orientation and gender identity – which are infused with asymmetric power in favour of masculinized bodies and those who read as ‘normal’ – structure international politics is important work that will leave students critical of gendered, sexualized, classed, racialized power structures. One question is central to the course: how is differing constituted as danger?


As set out below, the course divides into two parts. The first half of the course focuses on theoretical and conceptual debates about sex(uality) both within and outwith Political Science. The second half of the course focuses on mobilising this theoretical and conceptual work to study queer issues in world politics.


Part I: queer theory, politics, and approaches

  1. Gender, sexuality, and the state
  2. Queer politics, sexual moralism, and the trouble with normal
  3. Anti-normativity, anti-sociality, and queer ethics
  4. Politicized homophobia
  5. Straight propaganda: the (everyday) violence of cis-heteronormativity
  6. Imperial politics, sex, and the making of liberal international order
  7. Decolonizing sexualities
  8. Assignment 1 Workshop


Part II: queer issues in world politics

  1. Global health, death, and queer bodies
  2. Conflict, mass atrocity, and queer vulnerabilities
  3. LGBT+ and international organisations: from the EU as queer haven to rethinking Women, Peace and Security at the UN
  4. Anti-woke, anti-gender, pro-family, pro-tradition: an emerging illiberal international order
  5. What does 21st century liberation look like?
  6. Assignment 2 Workshop

Full-degree students enrolled at the Department of Political Science, UCPH

MSc in Political Science

MSc in Social Science

MSc in Security Risk Management

Bachelor in Political Science


Full-degree students enrolled at the Faculty of Social Science, UCPH 

Bachelor and Master Programmes in Psychology

Bachelor and Master Programmes in Anthropology

Master Programme in Global Development

MSc in Social Data Science


The course is open to:

  • Exchange and Guest students from abroad
Learning outcome


Students will be able to…

  • Describe and discuss key debates and topics related to Queer IR and queer political thought
  • Provide an overview of queer approaches to the study of Politics and International Relations
  • Identify how systems of heteronormativity (as well as cisnormativity and homonormativity) structure domestic and foreign policy agendas
  • Recognize that gender and sexuality intersect, often detrimentally, with other identifiers, including race, religion, and geopolitical location/origin
  • Articulate how sexuality inflects international relations, in theory and practice, as it pertains to credibility, legitimacy, agency, and security as a political subject
  • Link debates on sexuality to key questions and debates in political science



Students will be able to…

  • Analyse and critically approach popular culture, print and digital media, and government policy documents
  • Apply queer approaches, concepts, and theories to key debates in Political Science and International Relations
  • Critically examine and identify sexualised and gendered constructs,
  • Provide solutions to security issues pertaining to sexual orientation and gender identity and associated power structures (class, ethnicity, race, disability, and the like)
  • Apply knowledge and understanding of gender and sexuality gained from the course to examine the way gender and sexuality operate as tools for the maintenance of power
  • Situate knowledge contextually and locally (i.e., realise that power structures do not operate universally but must be locally interpreted)
  • Communicate with local government, non-governmental organisations, and/or international organisations regarding their sexual orientation and gender policies



Students will be able to…


  • Collaborate with those working on sexual orientation and gender identity issues from different disciplines including, but not limited to, sociology, philosophy, history, and media studies
  • Work effectively in groups
  • Prepare and receive peer-to-peer feedback
  • Take responsibility for their own preparation, planning, and time-management skills
  • Transfer their knowledge of gender and sexuality to ‘real life’ working environments, including those in an international environment like aid work or in international non-/governmental organisations

Teaching will include lectures and group discussions, as well as more innovative approaches that include, for instance, ‘mapping’ exercises, social media campaign creation, policy brief preparation, and ‘photographing’ the everyday politics of sex.

The mandatory texts are aimed at providing a broad overview of the topic for the week, with various optional readings providing more in-depth, specific contributions. Each student will be able to participate in/contribute towards an optional class reading journal. This journal will take form as a Google Doc where students, if they wish to participate, will be allocated one of the mandatory readings from any week and asked to upload their notes for this text. The purpose of this is to provide a pooled learning resource that all participating students can access and take away at the end of the course.

The general format of the combined document will be to include: 1) key concepts, debates and ideas covered in the text; 2) the student’s response to the text (i.e. do they agree or disagree with its core argument?; 3) identify the text’s strengths and weaknesses; and 4) to pose questions to the text and clarify (in collaboration with teacher and fellow students) problems with understanding the text. By having a variety of reading and understandings of texts in the class, students will be able to share ideas and engage in critical discussions with one another, enabling co-learning and ownership of their own education.

In order to supplement in-class learning, I will provide ‘digital content’ for most weeks that enables students to engage with a variety of content including: UN debates, recorded lectures, podcasts, pop culture artefacts, and news stories.

A version of the syllabus will also be uploaded as an interactive Google Doc that students can comment on and ask questions to.

1: Gender, sexuality and the state

Peterson, V. Spike. 2014. ‘Sex Matters: A Queer History of Hierarchies’. International Feminist Journal of Politics 16 (3): 389–409. [20 pages]


Delatolla, A. (2020). Sexuality as a standard of civilization: Historicizing (homo)colonial intersections of race, gender, and class. International Studies Quarterly64, 148–158. [10 pages]


McIntosh, Mary. 1968. "The Homosexual Role." Social Problems 16 (2): 182-192. [10 pages]


McCann, Hannah, and Whitney Monaghan. 2020. Queer theory now: from foundations to futures. London: Bloomsbury. [20 pages]


2: Queer politics, sexual moralism, and the trouble with normal


Warner, Michael. 2000. The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and the Ethics of Queer Life. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. [43 pages]


Berlant, Lauren, and Michael Warner. 1998. "Sex in Public." Critical Inquiry 24 (2): 547-566. [19 pages]


Rubin, Gayle. 2011. "Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality." In Deviations: A Gayle Rubin Reader, 137-181. London: Duke University Press. Original edition, 1984. [44 pages]


3: Anti-normativity, anti-sociality, and queer ethics

Wiegman, R., and E. A. Wilson. 2015. "Introduction: Antinormativity's Queer Conventions." differences 26 (1): 1-25. [25 pages]


Bersani, Leo. 1987. "Is the Rectum a Grave?" October 43 (Winter): 197-222. [25 pages]


Cohen, Cathy. 1997. "Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens: The Radical Potential of Queer Politics." GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 3: 437-465. [28 pages]


Chapter 1 in McCann, Hannah, and Whitney Monaghan. 2020. Queer theory now: from foundations to futures. London: Bloomsbury. [18 pages]


4. Politicized Homophobia

Pages 1-39 in Currier, Ashley. 2019. Politicizing Sex in Contemporary Africa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. [39 pages]


Bosia, M.J., and M.L. Weiss. 2013. "Political Homophobia in Comparative Perspective." In Global Homophobia: States, Movements, and the Politics of Oppression, edited by M.L. Weiss and M.J. Bosia, 1-29. Chicago: University of Illinois Press. [29 pages]


Wilkinson, C. 2018. "Mother Russia in Queer Peril." In Revisiting Gendered States: Feminist Imaginings of the State in International Relations, edited by Swati Parashar, Ann Tickner and Jacqui True, 105-120. Oxford: Oxford University Press. [15 pages]


Adam, Barry. 1998. "Theorizing Homophobia." Sexualities 1 (4): 387-404. [17 pages]


5. Straight propaganda: the (everyday) violence of cis-heteronormativity

Faye, Shon. 2021. The transgender issue: An argument for justice. Penguin. [first chapters: 30 pages]


Rich, Adrienne. "Compulsory heterosexuality and lesbian existence." In Culture, Society and Sexuality, pp. 199-225. Routledge, 2002 [26 pages]


Lazarus, Latoya. 2011. "Heteronationalism, Human Rights, and the Nation-State." Canadian Journal of Latin American and Carribean Studies 36 (71): 71-108. [37 pages]

Carpenter, Morgan. 2016. "The human rights of intersex people: addressing harmful practices and rhetoric of change." Reproductive Health Matters 24 (47): 74-84. [10 pages]


6. Imperial politics[DC1] , sex, and the making of liberal international order

 [DC1]Russian imperialism, penal codes, and current expansionist project make an important link to this week and current international affairs

Smith, Andrea. 2010. "Queer Theory and Native Studies: The Heteronormativity of Settler Colonialism." GLQ: a Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 16 (1-2): 41-68. [27 pages]


Rao, Rahul. 2014. "The Locations of Homophobia." London Review of International Law 2 (2): 169-199.


Han, E., and J. O'Mahoney. 2014. "British colonialism and the criminalization of homosexuality." Cambridge Review of International Affairs 27 (2): 268-288. [20 pages]


Hoad, Neville. 2000. "Arrested development or the queerness of savages: Resisting evolutionary narratives of difference." Postcolonial Studies 3 (2): 133-158. [25 pages]


7. Decolonizing sexualities

Bakshi, Sandeep, Suhraiya Jivraj, and Silvia Posocco. 2016. Decolonizing sexualities. edited by Sandeep Bakshi, Suhraiya Jivraj and Silvia Posocco. Oxford: Counterpress.


Tschantret, Joshua. 2018. "Cleansing the caliphate: Insurgent violence against sexual minorities." International Studies Quarterly 62 (2): 260-273. [13 pages]


Cottet, Caroline, and Manuela Picq, eds. 2019. Sexuality and Translation in World Politics. Bristol: E-IR Publishing. [introduction, chapter 1, and chapter 4: 42 pages]


9. Global health, death, and queer bodies

Crimp, Douglas, ed. 1987. AIDS: Cultural Analysis/Cultural Activism: Special issue, October, 42, Winter. [Introduction: 16 pages]


Gould, Deborah. 2009. Moving Politics: Emotion and ACT UP’s Fight Against AIDS. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. [pages 55-120: 65 pages]


Wenham, C., and M. Eccleston-Turner. 2022. "Monkeypox as a PHEIC: implications for global health governance." Lancet 400 (10369): 2169-2171. [2 pages]


Wenham, Clare, and Science Oxford Scholarship Online Political. 2021. Feminist global health security. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. [chapter 2: 21 pages]

10 Conflict, mass atrocity, and queer vulnerabilities

Gifkins, Jess, and Dean Cooper-Cunningham. 2023. "Queering the Responsibility to Protect." International Affairs. [22 pages]


Waites, Matthew. 2018. "Genocide and global queer politics." Journal of Genocide Research 20 (1): 44-67. [23 pages]


Nellans, Lily. 2020. "A Queer(er) Genocide Studies." Genocide Studies and Prevention 14 (3): 48-68. [20 pages]


Ayazi, Mena, Rashad Nimr, José Alvarado, Lamea Tanjin Tanha, and Alex Alvarez. 2022. Celebration, Pride, and Violence: Queer Experiences in Youth, Peace & Security. Search for Common Ground, Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation, and TransEnd. [16 pages]


11. LGBT+ and international organisations: from the EU as queer haven to rethinking Women, Peace and Security at the UN

Slootmaeckers, Koen. 2020. "Constructing European Union Identity through LGBT Equality Promotion: Crises and Shifting Othering Processes in the European Union Enlargement." Political Studies Review 18 (3): 346-361. [15 pages]


Ammaturo, FR. 2015. "The ‘Pink Agenda’: Questioning and Challenging European Homonationalist Sexual Citizenship." Sociology 49 (6): 1151-1166. [15 pages]


Szulc, L. 2022. "Uncanny Europe and Protective Europeanness: When European Identity Becomes a Queerly Viable Option." Sociology-the Journal of the British Sociological Association 56 (2): 386-403. [17 pages]


International Alert. 2022. Breaking the binary: LGBT+ inclusive approach to the women, peace and security agenda in Nepal and Myanmar. [30 pages]


Hagen, Jamie. 2016. "Queering women, peace and security." International Affairs 92 (2): 313-332. [19 pages]


12. Anti-woke, anti-gender, pro-family, pro-tradition: an emerging illiberal international order

Abrahamsen, Rita. 2020. "The Right Family: The Personal is Geopolitical." Centre for International Policy Studies. 14 Dec 2020. [4 pages]


Holm, Minda, and Vibeke Schou Tjalve. 2018. Visions of an Illiberal World Order? NUPI. [17 pages]


Butler, Judith. 2021. "Why is the idea of ‘gender’ provoking backlash the world over?" The Guardian, 23 Oct 2021, 2021. [4 pages]


Agius, Christine, Annika Bergman Rosamond, and Catarina Kinnvall. "Populism, ontological insecurity and gendered nationalism: Masculinity, climate denial and Covid-19." Politics, Religion & Ideology 21, no. 4 (2020): 432-450. [18 pages]


Paternotte, David, and Roman Kuhar. "Disentangling and locating the “global right”: Anti-gender campaigns in Europe." Politics and Governance 6, no. 3 (2018): 6-19. [13 pages]


13. What does 21st century liberation look like?

MacKenzie, Megan H., and Nicole Wegner. 2021. Feminist solutions for ending war. London: Pluto Press. [Intro and chapter 6: 31 pages]


Warner, Michael. 1999. "Normal and Normaller: Beyond Gay Marriage." GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 5 (2): 119-159. [40 pages]


Amin, Kadji. 2022. "We Are All Nonbinary: A Brief History of Accidents." Representations 158 (1): 106-19. [13 pages]


Cooper-Cunningham, Dean and Jamie J. Hagen. 2023. Queer peace and security: a vision for queer liberation. [10 pages]

Participants are expected to have a general understanding of theories of international relations equivalent to the department’s course in ‘International Relations’ at the BA. Knowledge of a particular policy area (i.e. climate, migration, pandemics or war) is useful as is as an openness to sociology of science, philosophy of science and theories of language.

Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Type of assessment details
✓ Portfolio exam, (2 assignments during semester)

The examination will be a portfolio, which involves students producing two pieces of work that map onto the two-part structure of the course:

- First, they will produce an academic essay based on the theoretical and conceptual parts of the course covered in Part I of the course (i.e., weeks 1-7).
- Second, they will produce either a policy report or a manifesto bridging the theoretical and conceptual content from Part I with the more empirical, issue-/case-based material covered in Part II of the course (i.e., weeks 9-13).
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship

- In the semester where the course takes place: Free written assignment

- In subsequent semesters: Free written assignment

Criteria for exam assessment

Criteria for exam assessment:

Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings

Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings

Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • English
  • 28


Course number
7,5 ECTS
Programme level
Full Degree Master

1 semester


Department of Political Science, Study Council
Contracting department
  • Department of Political Science
  • Department of Anthropology
  • Department of Psychology
  • Social Data Science
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Social Sciences
Course Coordinator
  • Dean Cooper-Cunningham   (3-696868456e6b7833707a336970)
Saved on the 16-11-2023

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