Course Syllabus

Sex Education and Sexual Reform in Europe 

Semester & Location:

Summer 19 - CPH

Type & Credits:

Core/Elective Course - 3 credits

Major Disciplines:

Gender Studies, Youth Studies, History and Sociology

Faculty Members:

Sara Gjermandsen, 

Program Director:

Iben de Neergaard, 

Time & Place: V10-A22
Study Tour:



Course description: This course will give you an insight to the ways in which sexual reform and sex education has shaped not only the history of sexuality in Europe, but also the very core of the various national identities. We will look into the different movements, campaigns, policies, and public debates regarding sexuality. We will discover the ways in which sex and sexuality are conveyed in sexual education aimed at children and youth by reading and watching examples of sex educational material.

What sexual behaviors are deemed socially acceptable or normal, and why? We will discuss the framing of a nation’s collective sexual identity through state intervention and sexual reform and the implications for its citizens.

 Our theoretical approach will largely be norm critical and you will learn how to apply theoretical perspectives by Foucault, Federicci, Ponzetti, and others. By doing so we will critically reflect on the history of sexual categorization of human beings, as well as understand sexual norms as dynamic and closely tied to other historical movements and events.

We will ask norm critical questions, such as “is sex political?” and “are sexual practices and preferences innate?” What socializing role could and should sexual education have? At the end of the course, you will make group presentations in which you present your own version of “the perfect sexual education”.


Required texts:

-Herzog, Dagmar. Sexuality in Europe: A Twentieth-century History. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP, 2011.

- Strömquist, Liv. The Fruit of Knowledge: The Vulva Vs. The Patriarchy,  2018

-Additional texts will be available digitally through Canvas.


Course Faculty: Sara Gjermandsen has an M.A. in English and Gender Studies and a B.A. in English and Minority Studies (University of Copenhagen 2014 and 2010). She previously worked as a research Assistant at the Co-ordination for Gender Research at The University of Copenhagen and as an editorial secretary at the scholarly journal Women, Gender & Research. With DIS since 2015. Currently working as the assistant program director of Gender & Sexuality studies.


Learning objectives of the course:

Upon completing the course, you will be able to…

  1. Demonstrate the different ways in which sexual reform and sex education have been central to the positions of human rights and sexual health in various European nations.
  2. Determine the unique position of sexual reform in Scandinavia and Europe.
  3. Historicize current activist movements (e.g. for LGBT rights, reproductive rights, sexual liberation).
  4. Critically reflect upon the relationship between historical context and the formation of cultural norms and concepts (related to sexuality) in relation to present-day reformed sexual education.
  5. Critically explore your own sexual norms and behaviors and understand how they are shaped by history.


Approach to Teaching:

This course relies heavily on in-class participation. Class time will be largely discussion-based, with some lecture and interactive activities. You should read all material prior to class and will be expected to actively participate in both all class discussions and group work. 

Some assignments will require independent fieldwork.

Late work will be deducted by one letter grade per day it is late.


Expectations of the students:

In order to pass the class, you must:

  1. Read all material before the class.
  2. Actively participate in discussions of your readings.
  3. Be active participants in group work.

Computers and phones are not allowed in class unless specifically agreed with Sara.You are therefore not allowed to keep your phone on the table throughout class. You are expected to take notes throughout the semester in a notebook, which you yourself are responsible of getting before the course begins. Please be aware that failure to comply with these rules will negatively affect your participation grade.





 Percentage of final grade


Final group presentation:

The Perfect Sex Ed. curiculum

 30 %


June 29



Berlin reflection journal, including interview exercise


10 %


 June 24


Participation in class discussion






handing in six  200-250

word academic reflections on Canvas






Schedule of classes:

Schedule is subject to change if necessary with as much notice as possible. Do all readings BEFORE CLASS unless the readings are in (parentheses).


Class 1: June 12: Welcome, presentations and introduction to the syllabus


A: Your syllabus


Class 2: June 13:  Collective conceiving the concepts of sexuality and gender


A: The Fruit of Knowledge, Liv Stömquist

B: An introduction to Queer


Class 3: June 14: State interventions and the early history of sexual reform in Europe + preparation for study tour


A: Weimar Sexual Reform and the Institute for Sexual Science, 160-164 + 168-172 + 179-186

B:  Herzog pp. 45-61, 75-82, and 117-131



Study tour to Berlin


Class Meeting 4: June 24: Interventions and reform during WW II and the subsequent return to domesticity


A: Herzog pp. 61-75, 96-99, 102, 105-106

B: Gender and Sexuality in Nazi Germany



Class Meeting 5: June 25: De- and re-criminalizing sexuality: the 1970s sexual liberation movement and 1980s Aids crisis


A: Herzog pp. 117-126, 133-173

B: When Denmark stopped hating gay men..


+ hand in reflection journal.

June 25:  Field study: Guided tour of the Dea Trier Mørch exhibition at Louisiana art Museum.




Class Meeting 6: June 26:  

Children and sexual education – when, where and what?


A: Ponzetti, Early Childhood Sexuality education, 201-218

B: The case for starting sex ed. In kindergarten

C: How a German Elementary School Taught Sex Ed

+ visit by Normstormerne

Experience Norm Critical Sex Education for 7th-10th graders from the student perspective.


Class Meeting 7: June 27:

Sex education in Europe – comparing national models


A: Policies for Sexuality Education in the European Union 7-11 + 16 (Denmark) + 18 (Finland and France) + 20 (Germany) + 24 (Netherlands) + 29 (Spain) + 30 (Sweden) and 31 (UK).

B: Sex your way, RFSU.

C: “Swedish sex education has time for games and mature debate”’


Class Meeting 8: June 28: June 27: Workshop: Creating the perfect sex ed. syllabus



Class Meeting 9: July 1:   Exam: In-class presentations of the perfect sex education. curiculum, wrapping up + Concluding Lunch


Course Summary:

Date Details