Sexuality in Scandinavia

When choosing which course to take for Session 1, Psychology of Human Sexuality seemed like a no-brainer for me. It combined my two areas of interest (Gender Studies and Science) and I figured that taking a normally taboo class with some uncomfortable topics with a bunch of strangers would be much more appealing than taking it with my friends at home.

First Impressions

Coming into this course, I knew it would challenge some of my ideas about sexuality more generally. While I consider myself to be fairly sex-positive and open to new ideas about sexuality, I also recognize that I had some preconceived ideas about a few of the course topics that were more nuanced than I had originally thought. I think this could be attributed to my upbringing in a conservative area of the US but also more generally America’s heteronormative and taboo tendencies surrounding sexuality, sexual orientation, and even some sexual disorders. After attending the first class, it became fairly clear that this course would challenge my previous ways of thinking and my definition of the “norm”.

The Instructor

The instructor of Psychology of Human Sexuality, Debbie Quackenbush Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist with a practice in Copenhagen. She is an American native and has experience with psychology in both the U.S and Denmark. Learning from Debbie is not only interesting because of her real-life experience in the field, but also her unique perspective on cultural differences in both Psychology and Sexuality. It’s super easy to become set in the “American” way of thinking about things, and Debbie’s unique perspective challenges us to recognize the benefits of the more progressive Danish perspective on sexuality.

Class Activities

Despite starting out as a group of strangers, my classmates and I quickly became very comfortable with discussing course topics like BDSM, orgasms, and sexual orientation with one another. With a group of non-judgmental individuals focused on learning and curiosity in the same way you are, it’s easy to open up and challenge your own belief system regarding sexuality. Debbie often begins class by reading and answering two anonymously submitted “sex questions” submitted by members of the class. These questions range from sex tips to more general, philosophical questions about the psychology of sexuality. I personally really like starting off class like this, it really established a safe space for the rest of the day. On top of lecture and group discussions, we also had some guest lecturers from the Copenhagen area speak about topics like polyamory and BDSM, which were very interesting. We also got to take a walking sex tour of Copenhagen to see areas of the city pertinent to the course material. Personally, it was very interesting to see where the first legal gay marriage (registered partnerships at the time) in the world took place.

my class on our walking sex tour
where the first registered homosexual union in the world took place, 1989


I can confidently say that I have gained a new perspective and curiosity about the topics introduced in this course. It’s interesting to me that in such a small three-week time span, I could be fully immersed in a new way of thinking about something rarely taught in the U.S. Not only will I leave this course with a new understanding of my own sexuality, but also with friendships and bonds I’ve made with my classmates here.

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