Westminster porn class still scheduled despite social media onslaught

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Despite considerable pushback on social media, Westminster College is maintaining plans to offer an elective course on pornography in its upcoming May term.

Each spring, Westminster College offers students short-term, credit-generating experiences, which can include study abroad opportunities or intensive study in subjects often unrelated to their majors.

“We have no intention of giving up on offering this class. Overall, the campus community supports this academic freedom and Westminster’s commitment to talking about difficult topics,” Westminster College’s director of marketing, Sheila Yorkin, said Thursday.

Westminster is a private, nonprofit, accredited, comprehensive liberal arts university in Salt Lake City.

The college has seen an onslaught of social media attention, phone calls and even doxxing from some staff members since conservative influencer, talk show host, political commentator and activist Candace Owens tweeted about class earlier this week.

“I thought it was a joke – it’s not. This is a porn class you can enroll in at Westminster College in Salt Lake City. The class description says porn is as American as apple pie and college students will watch porn together and discuss sex as an art form,” she tweeted to her 3 million Twitter followers.

Yorkin said the two-credit elective course will be taught by a “well trained and published Ph.D. who has taught courses like this and similar to this and topics along these lines. She has many measures in place if students feel uncomfortable or otherwise leaving the room and there is no academic sanction for this. So she’s really aware of the sensitive nature of the thing and she’s a professional.

Currently, 14 students over the age of 18 have signed up for the course, which will include watching a movie, reading, analyzing, talking and “watching it from all perspectives,” Yorkin said.

Associate Professor Eileen Chanza Torres, who will teach the class, said she was completing her ninth year at Westminster University and had taught similar courses in the past.

“Since I started, I’ve been teaching classes that deal with sexual studies. It’s really interesting how it got ‘leaked’ because it was never private,” Torres said.

The Pornography Studies course will meet twice a week for three hours during the four-week term and students will “think hard about this medium”, she said.

“The course isn’t really a course about sitting down and watching porn and then coming home, is it? That’s never what we do. There’s active conversations and so we’re looking at the history of the representation of pornography in cinema. As soon as the human animal creates a new technology, sex is put into it. … And so that’s pretty much the goal thinking about how pornography has developed alongside technology,” she explained.

Some have expressed concern that children are being exposed to pornography or that Westminster students are being forced to attend classes. Neither is true, she says.

“You could graduate from Westminster College and never see me and we are a very small campus. No one is forced to take a course with me,” she said.

Obviously, the class is not for everyone and the content is heavy as the class explores topics such as rape fantasies and violent pornography, she said.

One of Torres’ goals is to create a safe space for students to study pornography in groups and have class discussions.

“I tell students, ‘If it’s too much, you can kick it. You can leave. You don’t have to tell me anything about it, it’s perfectly OK. You know, in the past, I’ve never seen a student walk out of one of these chats,” she said.

Torres said the Westminster College community includes students and faculty from diverse backgrounds and viewpoints. Torres grew up in the Catholic Church and comes from a conservative family, and she respects a wide range of perspectives, she said.

“We have a lot of conservative students and to imagine that everyone teaches our students about porn or sex is actually not true. We teach a lot of courses that include gender, sex and sexuality studies, but for sure we have conservative people on this campus who are not happy with the course,” she said.

But academics from many disciplines have been studying pornography “for a long, long time in different ways,” Torres said. That the class struck a chord at this point was somewhat surprising, but “it’s a strange time to teach sex studies, critical race theory. It’s never been a good time, but it’s definitely a bit more volatile than in the recent past. »

The course description for FILM-3000 Porn from the college’s online catalog reads as follows:

“Hardcore pornography is as American as apple pie and more popular than Sunday night football. Our approach to this billion dollar industry is both a cultural phenomenon that reflects and reinforces sexual inequality (but has the potential to challenge sexual and gender norms) and an art form that requires serious thought. We will watch pornographic films together and discuss the sexualization of race, class and gender and as an experimental and radical art form.

The college provided this statement regarding the class:

“Westminster College occasionally offers optional courses like this as an opportunity to analyze social issues. As part of this analysis, Westminster College and county universities often examine potentially offensive topics like pornography to better understand their pervasiveness and impact. Descriptions of these courses, while alarming to some readers, help students decide whether they wish to engage in serious investigation of controversial topics.

Torres said the controversy will likely be short-lived.

“I’m sure it will fade soon and by the time class starts people will have forgotten about it.” Well, that’s the hope,” she said.

The content isn’t new, nor is the teaching of porn on college campuses, Torres said.

“I mean, there’s an academic journal called Porn Studies. This is old news,” she said.

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