Course Syllabus


Welcome to our class

DIS Logo


Semester & Location:

Spring 2023

Type & Credits:

3-credits Core class

Study Tours:

Short tour: Malmø, February 6-8

Long tour: Amsterdam, April 16-21

Major Disciplines:

Gender Studies, Public Policy, Sociology

Faculty Members:

Teresa Imaya Bengtsson and and Helle Rytkønen,

Time & Place:
Mondays and Thursdays 10.05-11.25 Classroom: N7-C25

Class Reps: Becca, Abby, Alexa

Course Description

This course is about prostitution as it relates to gender, sexuality, policy, gender norms and migration. We study the sex trade with a special focus on Denmark, Sweden, and the Netherlands as sex work is legal in all three countries but each country's approach is quite different.

We will explore questions such as: What are the causes and consequences of prostitution and sex work more broadly? Is prostitution work or exploitation and violence? Why is it a state matter to determine how consenting adults use their bodies? Who are the customers paying for sex? How is global inequality affecting the sex trade? How does sex work relate to gender norms? Should prostitution be legal, illegal or decriminalized? Why? What are the consequences - financially, emotionally, and socially - of sex work? We will also consider questions like: What is sex work? Is sugar dating, OnlyFan or camming a type of prostitution? Does (some types of) marriage contain elements of an exchange for sex - and is that a form of sex work? 

The aim of the course is to approach prostitution from various points of view and gain insights into the lives of sex workers and the professionals working with them. You will meet activists, NGOs and sex workers in order to broaden our perception and understanding of the complexity of prostitution and you will be introduced to aspects of sex work - porn production, visit to a brothel, etc. - that link our readings to the lived world.

Important concepts we will discuss: consent, agency, erotic capital, stigma and the "whorearchy".

Learning Objectives

  • To get an understanding of prostitution and sex work as complex sociological and legal phenomenons and how they are related to more "mainstream" relations (like love relations or more casual relations), norms and values.
  • To understand how discourse, norms and values shape our perception of prostitution and sex workers by exploring different conceptualizations of sex work (a social problem, a gender issue, a solution, etc.).
  • The course does not seek to promote certain views on sex work or sex workers, but the ambition is to make you understand what your personal opinions are shaped by.
  • To learn more specifically about prostitution in Denmark and the Netherlands and how the industry is affected by globalization and migration.

Approach to Teaching

This course is our course which means you have a chance to help shape our time together. We provide the framework and have selected texts, guests, visits, etc. to inspire and challenge our understanding of prostitution and the sex trade but this class only really flies if you take some ownership and participate - by listening to your classmates and by voicing your opinion or exploring a different view point.

The class consists of a combination of a short lectures and more interactive activities such as class discussions, field studies and meetings with guests whose work are directly linked to prostitution (both pro and con-side) as well as anti-trafficking work.

A safe and brave space

The class is discussion based and we encourage you to be open, curious and respectful during your own and your classmates' learning experiences. Remember to challenge ideas - not people. 

Accessibility and Accommodations

Your learning experience in this class is important to us If you have an approved academic accommodation with DIS, please make sure we receive your accommodations letter within two weeks of the start of the semester. If you can think of other ways, we can support your learning, please don't hesitate to talk to either one of us. If you have any further questions about your accommodations, please contact Academic Support at

Academic Honesty:

You are a part of an intellectual community and we expect that you abide by the highest standards of intellectual honesty in your academic work. This means that you do your own work and credit all work or thought taken from others.

See the Academic Handbook for more information, or ask us if you have questions.


A word about grades: We realize that grades are important to you, but try not to let your anxiety about grades deter you from taking intellectual risks and learning just for the joy of learning. Also, we do not grade to punish or reward you just as our grade is not an indication of our evaluation of you as a person. We grade you to give you my honest assessment of your academic performance at this point in time.

Attendance:  You are expected to attend all classes, guest lectures, workshops, field studies and study tour. If you must miss a class for religious holidays, medical reasons, or other valid reasons, let us know before the absence and obtain information from us or your fellow students about the work you must do to keep up in class. 

The semester goes by super quickly so it is crucial for your learning that you stay on task, set aside time for readings and hand in assignments on or before the due date. All work– including in-class projects – have to be completed in order to pass the class. Late assignments will be marked down with 1/3 of a grade for each day it is late.

Questions or just want to talk?
Feel free to email or schedule an appointment, we would love to talk to you.

*We reserve the right to make changes to the syllabus throughout the semester 

Academic Regulations 

Please make sure to read the Academic Regulations on the DIS website. There you will find regulations on:




Active participation in class activities, including study tours, field studies, scavenger hunt, etc. Due: Ongoing


PST Portfolio Assignments


Podcast assignment, including academic reflection.


The Future of Sex Work SImulation Game


PST Portfolio Assignments 

You will choose to complete 3 out of 6 portfolio assignment options individually. 

Podcast assignment

In groups of 2-3, you will create a podcast where you explore a theme related to our study tour. You will also write an individual reflection. You will be graded individually on the group work and your individual reflection. 

The Future of Sex Work 

Through the case of sex dolls for hire we will further investigate themes of stigma, motivations for buying sex, representation, customization, ethics, and objectification and consider what the pressing discussions are or should be when thinking about the future of sex work.


Teresa Imaya Bengtsson (she/her) is cand.mag (M.A.) in Advanced Migration Studies from Copenhagen University and has a Bachelor's degree in Global Humanities from Roskilde University. Teresa is Danish-American and was born and raised in San Francisco, California. Teresa studied abroad at the University of Amsterdam and specialized in transnational relationships and sugar dating and tinder usage within study abroad. She also studied at the University of California, Santa Barbara with the Chicano/a/x department and has done research on transnational marriages. Teresa has volunteered and worked with numerous non-profit organizations that support migrants and minorities in creative and innovative ways. With DIS since 2014.

Helle Rytkønen (pronouns: she/her) holds a Ph.D. from Stanford University and a M.S. and B.S. from the University of Copenhagen. She is also the Academic Director at DIS and has taught DIS classes in gender studies, cross-cultural communication and humor, race, class and gender. Before coming to DIS, Helle taught classes at Stanford University, University of San Francisco and Hope House, a rehabilitation center in California for female substance abusers and criminals. 


Mandatory readings are listed in the calendar below. Please come to class having read the texts - it makes for much better and more informed discussions. Other texts, videos, etc. might be added but always with advance notice.  Every effort has been made to distribute the reading load reasonably equally throughout the semester.

  • Almodovar, Norma Jean (2010) Working it AND Monét, Veronica (2010) Sedition in Nagel, Jill (Ed.) Whores and other feminists, pp: 210-222
  • American Jewish World Service (2013) 3. Who are Sex Workers? AND 4. Why do people do sex work? in Sex worker rights; (Almost) everything you wanted to ask but were afraid to ask, pp: 3-4
  • Bacchi, Carol (2007) What’s the problem represented to be? An Introduction, pp.1-4
  • Bernstein, Elizabeth (2007) Chapter 5: Desire, Demand and the Commerce of Sex, in Temporarily yours - Intimacy, Authenticity and the Commerce of Sex, pp: 113-141
  • Bromberg, Sarah (1997) Chart: The Feminist Position on Prostitution, Feminist Issues in Prostitution (
  • Dank, Meredith & Johnson, Matthew (2014), The Hustle - Economics of the Underground Commercial Sex Industry, Urban Institute
  • Davis, Kingsley (1937) The Sociology of Prostitution, The Sociological Review, vol. 2, 5, pp. 744-755
  • Executive Summary in Stolen smiles: a summary report on the physical and psychological health consequences of women and adolescents trafficked in Europe, pp: 1-4
  • Farley, Melissa, Bindel, Julie & Golding, Jacqueline M. (2009) Men who buy sex, who they are and what they know, Eaves, London
  • Gubrium, J.F & Järvinen, M. (2013) Troubles, Problems and Clientization, In: J.F. Gubrium, J.F & Järvinen, M. (ed.) Turning Troubles into Problems, London: Routledge, pp: 1-15
  • Helth, Hanne (2009) Take a Stand, Man!, in Korsvik, Trine & Stø, Ane, The Nordic Model, 103-124
  • Jamrozik, Adam & Nocella, Luisa (1998), Introduction: Theoretical Perspectives on Social Problems, in The Sociology of Social Problems, Cambridge University Press, pp. 1-11
  • Levy, David (2007) Part two: Sex with Robots, in: Love and Sex with Robots, Duckworth Overlook, London, pp: 177-219
  • Levy, David (2011) 14 - Ethics of Robot Prostitutes, in: Lin, Patrick et. al. (ed.) Robot Ethics: The Ethical and Social Implications of Robots, MIT Press, pp: 223-231
  • Månsson, Sven, Men’s practices in prostitution and their implications for social work
  • March 8 Initiative (2012), The Effects of the Swedish Ban on the Purchase of Sexual Services,
  • Mission of Norway to the EU (2014) Evaluation of the Norwegian legislation criminalizing the buying of sexual services (summary),
  • Polly Trope, The night I became a prostitute (from Cured Meat)
  • Rachel Moran, The prostitution experience
  • Sex Workers in Europe Manifesto (2005)
  • Smaadahl, Tove (2009) Radical Feminists and the Dispute About How to Understand Prostitution, in Korsvik, Trine & Stø, Ane, The Nordic Model, pp: 63-76.
  • The Declaration of Rights of Sexworkers in Europe (2005)
  • Walkowitz, Judith (1980) 10 - The Making of an Outcast Group: Prostitutes and Working Women in Plymouth and Southampton, in Prostitution and Victorian Society, Cambridge University Press, pp: 192-213


Course Summary:

Date Details Due