Christopher X J. Jensen
Associate Professor, Pratt Institute

The Evolution of Sex

Offered at: Pratt Logo

Course Description:
This course explores the evolution of sexual reproduction as an alternative to nature’s original means of propagating genes (asexual cloning). We’ll explore why sex evolved, weighing the benefits and liabilities associated with sexual reproduction. We will also look at the diversity of sexual strategies employed across all kingdoms of life and consider the conflict and cooperation inherent in the reproductive process. The course will conclude by looking at the sexual behavior of humans and our closest primate relatives.

Who Might Be Interested In This Course?
Are you curious about the range of sexual behaviors found in the living world? Do you wonder what can be learned about human sexual behavior from the perspective of evolutionary biology? Are you looking to complement the perspective of other courses you may have taken that investigate the nature of human sexual behavior (such as Psychology of Gender/Sex Roles, or Introduction to Feminism)? If so, you will likely enjoy the diverse reproductive journey provided by this class. This class is more academically demanding than my introductory course in Evolution (MSCI-260), and asks that students do slightly more independent thought and work. The majority of your grade will be based on a midterm research paper (which challenges you to investigate a scientific question related to the evolution of sex) and a final project (which challenges you to incorporate ideas and concepts from the course into a creative work). I also ask that students engage in regular discussions, often in small groups, so you should be prepared to be actively involved during class sessions. The Evolution of Sex requires a significant amount of reading (see the syllabus below for details), so you should be prepared to allocate at least three hours a week to reading for this course.

What Background Should I Have Before I Take This Course?
This course assumes that you have a basic understanding of evolutionary biology and strong understanding of high school-level biology. It is advised (though not required) that you take MSCI-260 (Evolution) before taking this course.

Important Course Materials:

MSCI-362 (The Evolution of Sex) Course Syllabus
MSCI-362 (The Evolution of Sex) Midterm Paper Guidelines
MSCI-362 (The Evolution of Sex) Final Project Guidelines

You can check out exemplary Midterm Papers and Final Projects on the Evolution of Sex student work page.

You can read blog posts related to The Evolution of Sex here.


This course maintains an Open Information Environment.