Columns / September 20, 2017

Experiences From Abroad: Studying sexuality and gender in Europe

Young adults walk through the bustling streets of Copenhagen, Denmark waving the Danish flag, Dannebrog, with pride. Shouts echo through the narrow streets as the group makes its way to Københavns Universitet. To me and everyone else it’s a normal day, but for these students it’s the start of classes and they are thrilled.

Choosing to study abroad my sophomore year of college has been one of the best decisions I have made. Starting week five in Copenhagen, I can now comfortably navigate through the narrow passages that I find myself wandering every day. I have tried so many new foods! Some of my favorites include: Flødebollers (chocolate-coated marshmallow sweet), Smørrebrød (an open-faced sandwich using rugbrød—rye bread), and Pålægschokolade (thin slices of chocolate that you put on top of buttered bread.)

In the DIS study abroad program, I’m taking five classes this semester: “Prostitution and the Sex Trade in Europe,” “Danish Language and Culture,” “Gender Perspectives on Human Rights,” “Gender and Sexuality in Scandinavia,” and “Pornography in Scandinavia.” I love every single one of my classes, and a few I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to take while at Knox. Taking advantage of these class options has helped me to open my mind to new theories and interesting discourses regarding sex and gender.

An activity that started one of these discussions was a scavenger hunt with my “Pornography in Scandinavia” class. Students were placed in groups of four and each group was given money to buy porn, not in one of the four sex stores that we were required to visit, but in a 7-11 or “corner store.” We had to ask the cashiers how many times a week someone bought porn from their stores and what were the usual behaviors: embarrassed or indifferent? When the scavenger hunt ended, we all met as a class and talked about what we had discovered. We discovered that the majority of us had to go into the far back of the corner store to find porn, a place that was barely accessible.

This past week I went on a study tour with my main course, “Prostitution and the Sex Trade in Europe,” to Malmö, Sweden and Gothenburg, Sweden. During that week we met with sex workers, social workers and speakers from Amnesty International. We’ve been focusing on the Swedish Model, which works to decriminalize people who choose to sell sex and helps those who want to leave the sex industry. The Swedish Model also makes it illegal to buy sex in Sweden, this means that they arrest the buyers but leave the sex workers alone. One of the Danish sex workers who spoke with us reported that for this reason many of the customers who show up to brothels in Denmark are Swedish.

On the last day of the study tour my class was led through the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, in Humlebæk . Our primary focus was the work of Marina Abramović, a woman who used her body as the main subject of her artwork. The main piece that took everyone by surprise was a doorway that had two people, a man and woman, stark naked, staring into each other’s eyes. To get to the rest of the exhibit every single person had to walk between these people. I found it interesting that because it’s labeled art, it became accepted as normal.

I’ve been in Denmark for five weeks and have already gained so much knowledge from my professors and classmates. I have a group of friends and we are all planning to travel together. I’m making travel plans of my own as well. Studying abroad is important because it broadens your educational experience by allowing you to learn how to balance unique classes, unfamiliar places and new friendships. If you are interested in studying abroad I urge you to go talk to Bren Tooley in the Stellyes Center for Global Studies and attend the study abroad fair that is happening on Tuesday, October 3rd from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Seymour Union Gallery Hall.

Kira Carney

Tags:  education liberal arts study abroad

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1 Comment

Sep 21, 2017

Kira, when i read about your experiences abroad I feel like I am reading a great book. You are a superb writer. I love you Nonna.

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