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While it could be argued that college students already spend more than enough of their time “studying” porn, recent years have seen college professors attempt to get their students to view porn through a different, somewhat less prurient lens. Professor of history and gender studies Hugo Schwyzer at Pasadena City College is one of those professors, and despite the expected alarms that such a course could cause, he hopes that his course will let students examine what pornography says about our society and ourselves.

The class, called “Navigating Pornography,” may sound like an excuse for college students to do what they arguably do best, but Schwyzer has created the course in order to get students to ask “why we love porn … why some people are deeply troubled by it … and how both to make decisions about porn in their own lives and how to have conversations about porn with others.”

“(The course) focuses on giving students tools to understand pornography as a historical and contemporary phenomenon,” said Schwyzer in an interview with the College Fix. “Students today live in a porn-saturated culture and very rarely get a chance to learn about it in a safe, non-judgmental, intellectually thoughtful way.”

Although students do watch pornography as homework, the class treats the content as any other topic of scholarly debate, and uses it as the basis for essays, reports, and in-class discussions.

Schwyzer’s class has already generated quite a stir since it began, enough to attract the attention of Buzzfeed, who produced a video highlighting the course’s mission statement and student responses. So far, the course has mostly elicited praise from its students, such as one student, Lauren D., who said that she was able to reassess her own views of pornography as a woman after taking the class.

“My view of ponography before taking this class was more of the traditional view, that it was not meant for me as a woman,” said Lauren D. “After, or in the midst of taking this class, I’ve become much more accepting of it, and understanding of it.”

As you could expect, the idea of a “porn class” has also run into a fair amount of opposition as well, with one of Schwyzer’s colleagues calling the class “absolutely appalling.” The class also recently made headlines when a lecture by male porn star and Pasadena City College alumni James Deen was cancelled.

“In its official statement, the college explained that the cancellation of the public event was due to a lack of proper paperwork,” said Schwyzer. “Yet I filed the same forms for Deen that I’ve filed for countless other speakers over the years, including female porn stars.”

Attributing the cancellation to the fact that Deen represented a paradigm shift for women embracing their sexuality and thus become more empowered, and that such a move was considered threatening. This in itself, says Schwyzer, is exactly why such a course is important.

“When men realize that women aren’t just sexy, but sexual in their own right, the fear of not being able to live up to female demands can become overwhelming,” said Schwyzer.