Utah College Instructor Defends 'Porn Studies' Course

Utah College Instructor Defends 'Porn Studies' Course

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah college instructor at the center of a controversy stoked by conservative watchdog website Campus Reform spoke to local media, defending her elective film course on the phenomenon of pornography.

Westminster College’s Eileen Chanza Torres told the Salt Lake City ABC affiliate that her class was “not an attack on conservatism or religious practice.”

Torres said she understands the fear some may have about the film course, whose catalog description, now removed from some parts of the school’s website, reads: “Hardcore pornography is as American as apple pie and more popular than Sunday night football. Our approach to this billion-dollar industry is as both a cultural phenomenon that reflects and reinforces sexual inequalities (but holds the potential to challenge sexual and gender norms) and as an art form that requires serious contemplation. We will watch pornographic films together and discuss the sexualization of race, class, and gender and as an experimental, radical art form.”

Torres told ABC 4 her class would be “a fascinating study of people and gender performance,” and noted that the class is “designed to help students think critically about pornography’s impact on gender in the U.S.”

But Torres also told the news outlet that although she considers herself to be “sex positive and body-positive,” her class “is designed to be critical of pornography, using rigorous methodological frameworks” and is meant to create a “safe and moderated space for students curious about pornography’s impact on society.”

She added that she hopes that “everyone involved in the class can bring their own perspective and ideas to the conversation, and form their own critically informed perspectives on pornography.”

Torres also disclosed her own view that “the majority of porn is bad for women, although there is some variety in porn.”

Targeted by Self-Described Activist Against 'Liberal Abuse'

As XBIZ reported, earlier this month, Pennsylvania college student and Christian activist Ben Zeisloft — who serves as student editor for conservative academic watchdog Campus Report and describes his mission as “reporting on liberal bias and abuse” — published an article under the sensationalizing headline “Course at Utah College Lets Class ‘Watch Pornographic Films Together.’”

Zeisloft condemned the Salt Lake City private college for offering a class on pornography “in which students watch raunchy films as a group.”

“Campus Reform has reported on multiple instances of universities pushing sexuality upon their students — both inside and outside the classroom,” Zeisloft boasted.

The story was picked up and amplified by the Rupert Murdoch-owned Fox News ecosystem, forcing Westminster College to justify the two-credit elective.

A spokesperson explained that the school “occasionally offers elective courses like this as an opportunity to analyze social issues. As part of this analysis, Westminster College and universities across the county often examine potentially offensive topics like pornography to further understand their pervasiveness and impact.”

The spokesperson noted that, while descriptions of these courses may be alarming to some readers, they “help students decide if they wish to engage in serious investigation of controversial subjects.”

“This course will help students learn how to think critically about the influence of digital media culture,” the statement continued, stressing that “Westminster is a private liberal arts college dedicated to offering students life and career readiness education through programs that challenge, provide diverse perspectives, and develop critical thinking skills.”

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