Blog

Some Universities Now Offer “Porn Studies” Classes, and Here’s What They’ll Teach

By September 23, 2019 October 9th, 2019 No Comments
porn-studies-classes-university-class-college-university-woman-teacher-students

The back-to-school season can bring up some mixed feelings. On one hand, it’s sad to say goodbye to summer and its freedom. On the other hand, a new school year brings a spirit of learning and academic possibility.

Especially at the university level, students around the world have the option of studying any subject imaginable. As our world grows, we can see these changes trickle down into the world of academia where they can be critiqued and considered.

So it is logical and relevant that the emerging field of “porn studies” is gaining ground. A topic as influential as porn in our world today deserves examination, right? After all, if you can study puppetry on the university level, you should be able to study a global industry as pervasive as porn.

But where did this all begin?

Podcast - Listen

The academic pursuit of porn

Scholar Linda Williams put the field on the map in 1989 with her book Hard Core. Considered the mother of the field, Williams continued to make strides in examining porn critically.

As Duke University Press writes of Linda Williams’ 2004 book Porn Studies:

“[She] resists the tendency to situate pornography as the outer limit of what can be studied and discussed. With revenues totaling between ten and fourteen billion dollars annually—more than the combined revenues of professional football, basketball, and baseball—visual, hard-core pornography is a central feature of American popular culture. It is time, Williams contends, for scholars to recognize this and give pornography a serious and extended analysis.”

The subject has now developed beyond Williams’ critiques and is beginning to show up in more venues and academic settings. In 2014, the subject even got its own academic journal by the same name.

Individual classes address the subject as well. Madita Oeming, a “public porn scholar” and professor at Freie Universität in Berlin, has recently announced her “Porn in the USA” class this fall semester.

Professor Oeming’s announcement has provoked commentary from everywhere on the support spectrum, as you can probably imagine. But amidst the whirlwind of emotional responses, we think it is important to think calmly and holistically about how this field could best move forward into the future.

A one-sided approach to the topic

The class description and Professor Oeming’s tweet calling it “the wondrous world of porn” both suggest a bias toward pornography and a motive to support it as an industry.

It can’t be understated how crucial it is to look at all of the scientific research about porn—including research about its harms. If classes meant to examine porn are selecting material, speakers, and research out of a pro-porn bias, then so much of the bigger picture will be left out. Ultimately, that does not serve students or academia well.

Related: UK Schools Might Start Teaching About The Harms Of Porn & Sexting

Sure, there are groups who put forward certain studies to deny porn’s harm, and Professor Oeming and others should engage those critiques and points of view. But unless the much more research-backed harms of porn are also being discussed seriously, it cannot be a truly educational class—only an intellectually dishonest one.

At the heart of it, there is a much more significant amount of research suggesting that porn can have negative emotional, psychological, and societal effects.

Brain Heart World

The syllabus of this Porn Studies class highlights “censorship movements” and “moral panics” as making up “[America’s] troubled history with porn” but does not include ties with sex trafficking, researched links to mental health issues and violence and abuse, or the thriving black market of child exploitation on the list.

Professor Oeming’s tweet calls it the “wondrous world of porn.” But what about when porn is not wondrous? Will she consider the times it is oppressive or dehumanizing?

Related: Report Shows 60% Of Students Turn To Porn To Learn About Sex

Consider the multiple current, established studies clearly indicating how porn can be harmful. This 2018 study found that porn consumption is associated with “greater acceptance of the objectification of women,” which in turn is associated with “greater rape myth acceptance and more frequent acts of sexual deception.” Or this study from 2018, which found that porn consumption leads to poorer executive functioning and greater impulsivity in brain processes.

Studies like these are red flags when considering porn’s role in our modern life. And there are many more.

A starting trend

It does seem problematic that Professor Oeming’s class announcement proclaims from the onset that students will dive into the “wondrous world of porn” but gives no qualifiers that the industry itself deserves challenge or pushback. She critiques the often political or moral responses to porn—which, for the record, do not come from FTND, as we are a non-religious and non-legislative organization—but, according to the syllabus, she doesn’t critique porn itself, or those who have created and shaped it as an industry. This does a disservice to the class.

Professor Oeming’s course is not alone in this bias. This fall, San Diego State University is also hosting a series of talks on porn.

Nina Hartley and Shine Louise Houston are the highlighted speakers, yet both of them are active porn supporters who also perform. For a university to harbor thorough and honest academic discussions, we’d love to see an anti-porn representative speak on campus too, presenting the proven harms of porn. (Hint: FTND has a live presentation program and we present at college campuses around the globe.)

Live Presentations

Who does it benefit to ignore the facts?

In an ideal world, academic spaces consider issues from every side. Of course, it makes sense to study porn’s impact in scholarly settings because the adult entertainment industry is a significant player in our world. But it doesn’t truly benefit scholarship, students, or the future of academic programs to consider the issue of porn without also discussing the many proven harmful effects according to decades of research from major institutions.

Related: Is Watching Porn Part Of A Healthy Self-Care Routine?

We hope that professors and institutions who approach the issue of porn from an academic perspective will also consider all of the evidence, including and especially when it points to porn’s harmful effects. This is too important of an issue to study with only one eye open.

Harness

Send this to a friend

Like all websites, we use cookies. By continuing on this site, you agree to our use of cookies. More

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close