Over the past decade, Sexuality Studies has become increasingly influential in our critical understanding of social formations, political institutions, scientific knowledge, and cultural expressions. Previous formulations of sexuality couch it as either something deeply private and personal or, in the case of sexual minorities such as lesbians and gay men, as a benign aberration of normal physical or psychological development. In doing so, and even with the best of intentions, these paradigms treat sexuality as that which defines who we are as individuals at our very essence or core. Much of the work in the new field Sexuality Studies, by contrast, interrogates contemporary systems of sexual classification, such as 'heterosexuality' and 'homosexuality,' and questions their taken-for-granted or purely biological nature.

As a field, Sexuality Studies seeks to contextualize the concept of sexuality by tracing its changing histories, meanings, and effects across different political, scientific, geographic, temporal, and cultural landscapes. The field also examines the ways sexual minorities have produced vibrant cultures, communities and histories that contest their supposed pathology and marginality. At UC Davis, researchers, scholars, and teachers in Sexuality Studies pay particular attention to how related social and historical formations such as gender, race, class, nation, empire and globalization have constituted popular understandings of sexuality.

At UC Davis, Sexuality Studies brings together a variety of perspectives from the humanities and social sciences on the study of sexuality, including literature, history, religion, anthropology, law, sociology, and psychology. As such, this field and the way we approach it here link sexuality to other social and historical formations, insisting on their simultaneity and interdependence.