That stash of Hustler magazines? Powerful visual narratives. The femdom compilation video? A bold statement on power relations. This may soon be taught at one UK university, which will let students study pornography.
Starting in 2020, students of Art History and Visual Culture at the University of Exeter will be able to take a module entitled ‘Pornography: Bodies, Sex and representation', where they will learn all about the main theories and debates surrounding the making, spreading and consumption of - porn.
The module will delve into a range of erotic material, including historically-censored films, gay and feminist porn, and amateur pornography.
Though a university module, students won't be analyzing the fluid dynamics of a perfect ‘money shot,' or crunching the numbers to find out the business secrets of the most successful smut vendors. Instead, they'll be examining the subject through the lens of the social sciences.
"Students will, I hope, leave the module better equipped to think critically about issues of power, censorship, obscenity, sex, sexualities, subjectivities, desires and pleasures as they intersect and are co-shaped by modern and contemporary pornography,"said lecturer Dr João Florêncio.
Dr. Florêncio, who describes himself as a scholar of "queer visual cultures" and "posthumanities," will guide students through a history of the medium - from ancient erotica, through the hairy-chested 1970s "Golden Age of Porn," to modern "feminist and queer ‘post-porn.'" All with the aim of developing their "porn literacy."
Students won't be asked to bring tissues to the lecture hall, as the module will be a heavy affair, "guided by the highest standards of academic integrity and rigour," according to the university's website. Nevertheless, the university warned that materials of a "graphic, controversial and/or explicit nature will be used" which some students may find offensive.
Porn appears to be something of a burgeoning academic field, as UC Berkeley in the US and the University of New South Wales in Australia already offer modules on the topic.
Outside academia, the notion that youngsters need to improve their "porn literacy" is one being taken seriously in public health circles. For example, high schools in Boston, Massachusetts are rolling out porn literacy programs to combat negative perceptions about sex that can arise when kids learn about intimacy from PornHub.
Even in formerly conservative Ireland, government and media are currently debating including porn literacy in the country's sex education curriculum.