A city college professor whose class devoted entirely to pornography made national headlines recently defended his course as worthy and important, adding that President George W. Bush and his abstinence-only sex education policies are partly to blame for why there’s such a need for a pornography class.
“Most of my students were born in the early-to-mid-1990s; they hit puberty under the influence of two conflicting social realities: the widespread availability of broadband and the Bush-era abstinence-only sex education policies,” says Professor Hugo Schwyzer. “The latter deprived far too many of them of accurate, comprehensive, pleasure-based information about sex; increasing access to the former meant that Internet pornography became the primary and ubiquitous source of information about the birds and the bees.”
With that, argued Schwyzer in his May 9 The Atlantic piece, “what was designed to arouse and entertain now is expected to educate as well.”
Schwyzer, who teaches “Navigating Pornography” at Pasadena City College, also defended his class as commonplace.
“Today, dozens of courses on pornography are offered on college campuses across the country, taught by instructors from a wide variety of disciplines including film, women’s studies, art, sociology, psychology, English, and history,” he wrote.
In his piece, however, he names only one: “University of California, Santa Barbara Professor Constance Penley has taught “Topics in Film Genre: Pornographic Film’ since 1993.”
Although he does point out how professors often slip in pornography screenings into classes, and how academics undertake journals, books and studies about pornography, including a new peer-reviewed publication launching next year.
He also aimed to offer proof his course is quite an academic one – students study the origins of modern pornography, with special attention paid to the Marquis de Sade; its modern day business aspects; and the landmark 1973 obscenity case Miller v. California. Critics of porn’s misogynistic tendencies are also broached in the classroom, he argued.
He rounds out the piece by pointing out his personal reasons for offering the course.
“Even more than history lessons and an introduction to feminist debates, my students need and deserve the tools to combat sexual shame,” Schwyzer wrote. “Students need more than history and theory. They need safe spaces to think through—and in some instances, talk through—their fears, desires, and uncertainties. When it comes to a subject like porn, a safe space means a place where they won’t be judged, mocked, or sexualized regardless of what they reveal.”
And there it is. Porn continues to be justified as a viable part of mainstream higher education curriculums.