Course Syllabus


Psychology of Human Sexuality

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Semester & Location:

 Spring 2023 - DIS Copenhagen

Type & Credits:

Elective Course - 3 Credits  

Major Disciplines:

Gender Studies, Human Development, Psychology.


One psychology course at university level.

Faculty Members:

Debbie Quackenbush, Ph.D. 

Current Students: please contact your faculty using the canvas inbox function

Time & Place:

Mondays & Thursdays, 10:05-11.25

Classroom: V10-A33

Class Reps:

Patrick:   5029 7800  


Sariah:  5272 5777


Description of Course

This course is a study of human sexuality emphasizing psychological aspects. We will cover sexual development from childhood to adulthood, sexual orientation, sexual attitudes and behavior, gender, development of sexual relationships, love and communication in intimate relationships, and sexual function difficulties & therapy.  An outline of this course follows:

  • Part One: Providing a Frame

    • Includes some history about sexuality as well as learning important psychodynamic concepts with which to frame the sexual topics of this class

  • Part Two: Sexuality and Self

    • Includes sexual development, identity (i.e., asexuality, sexual orientation and gender orientation), and sexuality within a loving relationship

  • Part Three: Clinical Issues

    • Includes sexual dysfunction and therapy, paraphilias, victimization


Class Objectives

Students in this class will learn about sexual behaviors and attitudes (with specific focus on the U.S. and Europe) so that you can develop a greater awareness and acceptance of your own sexuality and the sexuality of others, as well as engage in thoughtful conversation about human sexuality.   Students will develop a nuanced, supported set of views regarding topics in sexuality.  There will be a special emphasis on the cultural and historical context for sexuality.  There will also be an emphasis on the ability to critically consume research in the field of Sexology.  

In this course, two models of psychology (Psychodynamic Theory and Cognitive Theory) will be presented.  Students will need to be able to clearly articulate these models, and to compare and contrast them.  Additionally, students will need to be able to speak about topics in Human Sexuality, from both of these perspectives.

At the end of this course, students will be able to demonstrate a broad knowledge about a range of topics under the rubric of “Human Sexuality”.  Students will be able to talk about and understand sexuality from a variety of perspectives including psychological, historical, religious and cultural perspectives.  Students will gain an appreciation for the multitude of ways that sexual issues can present themselves in a clinical context.  Students will be able to point out various components within research vignettes that they are given, and must be able to identify alternative hypotheses, for various research findings.   Students, at the end of this course, will be able to integrate more than one viewpoint about a variety of topics, to form opinions that are uniquely their own, and that have a basis in research findings.  Finally, students in this course will have been introduced to clinical work in a way that will make them appreciate techniques designed to make a client feel comfortable, and safe.



Debbie Quackenbush, Ph.D.

Debbie Quackenbush, Ph.D. is an American native who resides in Copenhagen.  She received her Doctoral Degree in Clinical Psychology from the University of Utah in 1996.  She is licensed to practice in Denmark.  She is also a certified group psychotherapist.  Research interests include cyber-relations and human sexuality.  She recently worked for the Menninger Clinic in Houston, Texas, where she specialized in psychotherapeutic testing and intervention for high achieving professionals with severe mental illness.  Currently, she is in private practice in Copenhagen.  You can find out more on her website:

How to schedule a meeting with the professor

Personal meetings are online in my zoom room.  Use this link to schedule something.



Required Textbook (to be checked out from Book Pickup during arrivals week):

Hyde, J. S., & DeLamater, J. D. (2019).  Understanding Human Sexuality  (14th ed.). New York, NY:  McGraw-Hill Publication.


Required Articles and Other Media on Canvas:

Beck, A. (1976).  Common sense and beyond.   In Cognitive therapy and emotional disorders.  New York:  Penguin.  Pp 1- 23.

DeLuzio Chasin, CJ (2011).  Theoretical Issues in the Study of Asexuality.  Archives of Sexual Behavior. 40. 713-723.

Gomez, L. (1997). An Introduction to Object Relations. London:Free Association Books.

Gottman, J. C. & Krokoff, L. J. (1989). Marital interaction and satisfaction: A longitudinal view. Journal of Counseling and Clinical Psychology. 57(1) pp. 47-52.

Mikulincer, M. & Shaver, P. R. (2007). A Behavioral Systems Perspective on the Psychodynamics of Attachment and Sexuality.  In Diamond, D., Blatt, S. J., & Lichtenberg, J. D. (Eds.) Attachment and Sexuality.  NY, NY:  Routledge.

O'Connor, M. (2019).  Polyamory- a romantic solution to wanderlust?  European Journal of Psychotherapy and Counselling.  21 (3-4).  pp. 217-230.

Reilly-Cooper, R. (2016, June 28).  Gender is not a Spectrum.  Retrieved December 11, 2019 from


Field Studies/Seminar Night

Since there are many different learning styles, field studies serve to provide students with a learning opportunity that is experiential in nature.  There will be one field study in this course. 

Sex Scavenger Hunt, Historic Copenhagen.

Nina Søndergaard is a self-proclaimed “historian, researcher, illustrator, guide, lecturer and nerd.” She owns and runs a tour company in Copenhagen where participants are able to tour Copenhagen with a focus on different educational and historical topics.  She will specifically address the history of sexuality in Denmark. Afterwards, students will depart in teams, to find historical sexual places in Copenhagen.

Sex with symbols: Fetish, BDSM, ritual sex with Steen Shapiro

Steen Shapiro is a Danish film director, editor and teacher. As a director, he has made internationally acclaimed documentaries on sexual subcultures, including BDSM, fetish and bodyplay. His newest film “Loops” (2012) is an experimental film, deconstructing porn.  As an editor he has worked on a number of feature and short films, but is best known as the main editor on “The Killing”/”Forbrydelsen”. As a teacher, he teaches art film, both theory and production on Kunsthøjskolen in Holbæk. Steen also teaches sexology, debates sexual politics and gives numerous interviews and lectures on sexual subcultures. 

We live in a time of great changes in the way we consider sexuality – even our own sexual identity. Our identities, as individuals these days often constructs several sexual identities; some virtual, some intimate, and delve into many kinds of sexual experiences. This lecture focuses on sex with symbols, meaning fetish play, BDSM exploration and the power of conscious erotic rituals (from going to a swingers event to playing with specific roles).  How do the kinky subcultures work, and what are the inherent strengths, dilemmas and psychological aspects in these activities? The talk will feature photos, films, book excerpts and more.


Guest Lecturers

Line Schnettler is a Certified MSc in Psychology, Specialist in psychotherapy.
She has worked in the Danish Prison and Probation Service, in Herstedvester Prison for 7 years, primarily in the special unit for sex offenders with short sentences (up to 5 yrs). She did my Master Thesis on Treatment in the Danish Prison and Probation Service. She took a leave of absence from her work in the prison in 2014, where she spent a year working in the field of clinical sexology at Rigshospitalet, where some of the sex offenders from the prison - among other patient groups - receive treatment. She has experience in psychiatry, working with both adults patients with personality disorders and also in child and adolescent psychiatry.


Julie Tchikai Iversen

Julie is a lecturer on polyamory and psychology, who also works as a high school teacher in psychology, rhetorics and music. She will give you an overview of relationship styles and noteworthy lines of thought in polyamory. Julie will also make space for follow up questions and discussion.


Approach to Teaching

For me, teaching and learning are complementary, and interactive, activities.  I strive to create an immersive and interactive learning environment and expect you to play an active role in this.  I welcome constructive and ongoing feedback for myself and for each other, assuming that it is delivered in a polite and respectful manner.  Open dialogue and debate are often necessary for learning and growth, and are therefore required.  

Treatment of sensitive topics

The US is currently a political hotbed of a debate that, in my opinion, has devolved into criticizing and demonizing people, rather than discussing topics. I think you will find Denmark is somewhat less so.  It is my sincere wish that our classroom is able to take a more Danish approach to sensitive issues.  Nevertheless, with the topic of sexuality, there are many sensitive topics about which you may have strong feelings.  I will do my best to:

  • Follow the data, regardless of whether I think you or I will like it
  • Keep the conversation civil and kind
  • Stay open to the fact that you all likely have things you can teach me from a US perspective.


Expectations of the Students: Students are expected to participate fully through class attendance and through their in-class and small group comments and questions.  I hope that, along with you and your classmates, we can create an environment that is conducive to everyone not being afraid to say what is on his or her mind, to challenge each other, and to be open to learning different perspectives.  An important component of this class is a willingness to critically explore your own attitudes and feelings about sexuality.  Each of us needs to be able to critically consume scientific information about sexuality, while keeping in mind our own opinions, biases and prejudices. 

To establish a positive learning environment it is important that everyone is present (in body and mind) and not distracted by technology or other disruptive behaviors. Please observe the following simple rules:

  1. Use of laptops or tablets in class is prohibited except when expressly stated by the instructor (for example, when we are writing in class). Research has demonstrated that students who browse the Internet, and students who sit by them, achieve lower grades.  Please silence your cell phones before class.  Use of your cell phone for talking or texting will negatively influence your participation grade.

  2. You are welcome to bring food and drinks to class. Please remember to clean up after yourself.

  3. Please stay in the classroom during class. You can take care of bathroom visits and such before class, so as not to disturb the learning environment.

Students are expected to:

  1. Complete all reading assignments prior to coming to class

  2. Participating in the critique of their classmates’ works

  3. Contribute to class/small group discussions and group activities

  4. Write down reflections when you are reading, and throughout the course

  5. Be punctual and attend all classes; missing classes without a legitimate excuse will result in a lower final grade

  6. Be responsible for checking emails generated from Canvas (even is this requires daily monitoring of Spam folders)

  7. Be responsible for daily checking and posting on a Canvas Discussion board with respect to issues related to the class

    Potentially upsetting content in this course:

    During the course, we will talk about sexuality extensively.   The very nature of a psychology of sexuality class is such that you may find some topics (i..e, victimization and BDSM) troubling and even triggering.  Though I will make attempts to alert you to these materials, I have found that it's difficult to completely ascertain when material will be troubling to someone in the class, given the wide variety of experiences people come in with.    You may feel free to get up and leave the classroom for a short break, if this is the case for you.   However, if you feel  you are unable to watch and discuss footage on disturbing issues,  you should consider whether another course might be better for you. 

Evaluation & Grading

Students will be evaluated based on rubrics created in advance, for every assignment.  All rubrics are available on Canvas.  Generally, students are graded for thoroughness (at the same level that was discussed in class), and ability to critically analyze class concepts and put them into their own words.

Methods of Evaluation

Percentage of grade

Class participation

As indicated by class attendance and speaking up/asking questions/giving feedback in class


Quizzes (Take home, four of them)


Discussion Board/Thoughtful Posting


Group presentation





Participation (5%): Attendance: As is stated in DIS policy, you are expected to attend all classes. If you must miss a class:

(a) Please contact me by email or phone as soon as possible (latest on the day of the absence) and

(b) Be sure to get the notes and any information from a classmate as soon as possible.

(c) Please contact your group as soon as possible so that they can plan for your absence.

In addition to attending class, active participation, questions and discussion are important and expected during class as well as during Field Studies and/or Evening events. Do the reading assignments prior to class, so that you may contribute to class discussions and be active in group work.   Completion of all homework (as outlined in the schedule) is part of your participation grade.  Finally, part of your participation will be subjective, as assessed by me, based on your activity in class.

 Discussion Board/Thoughtful Posting (25%):

Our class has a discussion board on Canvas where we can continue our classroom discussions, virtually.  Each week, you will be required to post about the assigned readings of the week, at my prompting.  I will start the thread with a few questions about the assigned reading OR about something in the news related to sexuality, and you are required to respond to me, or to your classmates’ responses..  These are short, quick 100 word responses (entered into Canvas) that are due at the start of class, as indicated in the course schedule.  There are about twenty in total, and you must do twelve, at your discretion.  The LAST discussion post is MANDATORY.  Your goal is to respond to the assigned readings as listed on the attached course schedule in preparation for discussion during the first hour of class. No journal entries will be accepted after the start of class, as one purpose is to enhance discussion preparation.

Examples of things that might be included in a post:

  1. A summary and synthesis of the main points of each of the readings

  2. Your thoughtful response to the ideas and research presented in the articles. For example, you might consider the following: What psychological issues have been raised in the reading that you would like to discuss? Are the points well substantiated? How does the reading relate to other psychological literature you have studied? How does it relate to your own experience?

  3. An analysis of the readings from a psychoanalytic or CBT perspective

  4. What comes to mind, for you, when you read the articles/readings?

  5. Two or three questions or issues you would genuinely like to discuss in class. In place of one of these questions you might include a quote that you think merits discussion. This can be a passage that you want to affirm, challenge, or explore in any way that would enhance understanding and discussion.

Posts will be reviewed during class time for discussion. A grading rubric will be provided, on Canvas, to assist you in your work.

Quizzes (60%): Quizzes will, for the most part be multiple choice, multiple answer, true/false and short answer.  They are brief and given four times throughout the course in order to best assess your overall knowledge.  They are take-home but not open book or notes.

Group Presentation (10%):  At the end of the course, groups will be formed where you will use class time to research a topic.  You all will give a brief presentation that you will be graded on.


Note:  To be eligible for a passing grade in this class you must complete all of the assigned work.

Academic Regulations  

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

Policy on late papers: Late discussion posts will not be accepted.  Late papers will be docked 1/3 of a grade for every day they are late.  For example, an A paper would become an A- the first day that it is late,  a B+ the second day that it is late, and so forth.

Computer and Cell phone use

Computers and cell phones are not allowed, unless we are doing a writing assignment in class.  You may bring them to class, but will be asked to close them or shut them down, while there is a lecture or group work.


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Course Summary:

Date Details Due