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Study information

Gender, Sexuality and Law

Module titleGender, Sexuality and Law
Module codeLAW3011
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Faye Bird (Lecturer)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

In this module you will engage with issues that are at the forefront of campaigns to advance gender equality and end female oppression, such as domestic and sexual violence, consent to harm and the ‘rough sex’ defence, female genital mutilation (FGM), pornography, and intimate image abuse. Throughout the module you will critically engage with questions around why the law excludes the perspectives and experiences of women and marginalised groups – whose interests are protected and how does this impact upon the ability of the law to protect members of these groups from violence and discrimination?

 You will be supported to build on your existing knowledge and skills and to engage with relevant legal and non-legal sources to deepen your knowledge and understanding. The module is therefore open to both law and non-law students and will be of particular interest to those who wish to develop a theoretical and interdisciplinary approach to their studies. To do well in this module you need to enjoy reading, be self-motivated, and be willing to participate in discussions on sensitive and sometimes emotionally charged issues.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to provide the opportunity to question the legal system and written law as it relates specifically to women and other marginalised groups. Teaching and learning activities will foster your critical thinking skills and encourage you to challenge traditional legal reasoning. The discussion of key topics will be informed by a range of theoretical perspectives, interdisciplinary debates, and key themes, enabling you to draw links and parallels between different areas of law and practice. As a research-led module, you will have a unique opportunity to learn and discuss key issues in this area with the guidance of an expert in feminist theory and gender-based violence. You will be supported to develop skills in independent research, critical thinking and analysis, and the construction of well-supported arguments. These skills and capacities will also be useful in many other modules as well as in your future career.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. demonstrate thorough and critical knowledge and understanding of key theoretical perspectives including feminist legal theory using a wide range of appropriate concepts, interpretative techniques and terminology.
  • 2. deal with complex issues and problems arising in law and legal theory, reach appropriate and reasoned conclusions, and offer analysis/criticism of theoretical arguments in these areas.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. integrate and assess information from theoretical and legal sources using appropriate techniques;
  • 4. define complex legal problems, identify their relative significance, and select appropriate methods for investigating and critically evaluating them;
  • 5. select, integrate and present coherently and reflectively relevant legal and theoretical arguments.

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. work independently, with access to external sources, and manage time efficiently in preparing for scheduled learning activities and assessments;
  • 7. manage relevant learning resources/ information/ learning strategies and develop your own arguments and opinions with minimum guidance;
  • 8. communicate and engage in debate effectively and accurately, in a manner appropriate to the discipline/ different contexts.

Syllabus plan

Whilst the precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover all or some of the following topics:


-          The masculine bias of the law

-          The public/private divide

-          Heteronormativity

-          Autonomy and choice


These thematic headings will be used throughout the module to broaden and deepen your understanding of the different topics covered. A variety of theoretical perspectives will also be introduced including feminism, masculinity studies, intersectional feminist theory, critical race theory, and queer theory. These theoretical perspectives will be used alongside the key themes to facilitate critical engagement with the law in relation to each of the topics covered.


Topics are expected to include some or all of the following:



-          Law and motherhood

-          The masculine bias of the legal profession

-          Domestic violence and abuse

-          Sexual violence

-          Consent to harm: sadomasochism and the ‘rough sex defence’

-          Pornography and intimate image abuse (‘revenge porn’)

-          Consent to harm: sadomasochism and the ‘rough sex defence’

-          Pornography

-          Intimate image abuse (‘revenge porn’)

-          Female genital mutilation

-          Intersex

-          Same-sex marriage and same-sex parenting

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning & Teaching Activities2020 x 1 hour lectures
Scheduled Learning & Teaching Activities4.53 x 1.5 hour workshops
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities44 x 1 hour drop-in clinics to discuss summative assessment
Guided independent study55Individual reading and lecture preparation
Guided independent study20Workshop preparation
Guided independent study 40Assessment preparation
Guided independent study 6.5Formative assessment

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay750 words1-8Individual written feedback. Whole cohort oral and written feedback highlighting common errors.

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay and reflective commentary1003,000 words (2,500-word essay and 500-word reflective commentary)1-8Individual written feedback. Whole cohort feedback highlighting common errors.

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay and reflective commentaryEssay and written reflective commentary (3,000 words; same as above)1-8August/September re-assessment period.

Re-assessment notes

Students resubmitting their essays will have to choose a different topic and/or title to the essay that they submitted originally.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading for the indicative topics is expected to be:


  • R. Hunter (2011) ‘(De-)sexing the woman lawyer’ in J. Jones, A. Grear. R. Fenton and K. Stevenson (eds.) Gender, Sexualities and Law, Routledge, London
  • Jackson, E and Lacey, N. Introducing Feminist Legal Theory in Introduction to Jurisprudence and Legal Theory: Commentary and Materials.
  • Finley, L.  Reshaping Women’s Silence in Law: The Dilemma of the Gendered Nature of Legal Reasoning. 1989. Notre Dame L. Rev. Vol. 64, No.5, pp. 886-891
  • Fineman, M. The Autonomy Myth, 2005.
  • L Kelly and N Westmarland, ‘Naming and Defining ‘Domestic Violence’: Lessons from Research with Violent Men’ (2016) 112 Feminist Review 113-127.
  • Kimberlé Crenshaw, “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color” (1991) Stanford Law Review 43 (6) 1241-1299
  • Angela Harris, “Race and Essentialism in Feminist Legal Theory” (1990) Stanford Law Review 42 (3) 581.
  • E. Finch and V. Munro (2007) ‘The demon drink and the demonized woman: socio-sexual stereotypes and responsibility attribution in rape trials involving intoxicants’ in Social & Legal Studies, 16 (4) 591.
  • N. Gooch (2005) “The Feminisation of the Male Rape Victim”, UCL Jurisprudence Review 12 pp. 196-213.
  • M. Weait (2007). ‘Sadmomasochism and the Law’ in: Langdridge, Darren and Barker, Meg (eds.) Safe, Sane and Consensual: Contemporary Perspectives on Sadomasochism. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 63–82. S Edwards, Consent and the ‘Rough Sex’ Defence in Rape, Murder, Manslaughter and Gross Negligence (2020) Journal of Criminal Law  84(4), 293-31
  • C McGlynn and E Rackley, ‘Image-Based Sexual Abuse’ (2017) Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 37 (3) pp. 534–561
  • C. McGlynn and E. Rackley (2009) ‘Criminalising Extreme Pornography: A Lost Opportunity’, Criminal Law Review 4 pp. 245-259
  • C. Stychin, ‘Not (quite) a horse and carriage: The Civil Partnership Act 2004’ (2006) Feminist Legal Studies 14 pp. 79-86.
  • J Hopkins and others, ‘Same-sex couples, families, and marriage: embracing and resisting heteronormativity’ (2013) Sociology Compass 7(2) pp. 97-110
  • L. Bibbings (1995) 'Female Circumcision: Mutilation or Modification?' in J. Bridgeman and S. Millns (eds) Law and Body Politics. Aldershot: Dartmouth, 151-170 (pdf on ELE).M. Fox and M. Thompson (2009) ‘Foreskin is a Feminist Issue’ Australian Feminist Studies 24(6) pp. 195-210.F. Garland and M. Travis (2018) “Legislating intersex equality: building the resilience of intersex people through law”, Legal Studies, Vol. 38, pp. 587-606.
  • C. Bishop, ‘The Limitations of a Legal Response’ in Hilder and Bettinson, Domestic Violence: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Protection, Prevention and Intervention (2016)
  • C. Bishop (2021) “Prevention and Protection: will the Domestic Abuse Act transform the response to domestic abuse in England and Wales?” Child and Family Law Quarterly 163-183.



Key words search

Gender, Sexuality, Law, Violence, Heteronormativity, Consent, Feminism.

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


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