Taught on Tuesdays during the Fall semester
*Contact the GCWS for details on the location and time of the class meeting.*
The topic of pornography is deeply charged. Both feminists and non-feminists from a range of disciplines, and outside the academy, have taken up the topic of pornography (or better said, pornographies), producing dynamic debate but little consensus. Some have attended to the links between pornography and key concepts of personal autonomy, bodily integrity, and civil society. Others have set out to describe and analyze what pornography is and has been – its formal elements, proximity to other genres and media forms, and development over time. Still others have fought vociferously over it – some claiming that it degrades and distorts minds and societies, others seeing within it opportunities for subversion and resistance. Thus scholars work to investigate, describe, contextualize, analyze and regulate pornography. Battles rage; the object of study continues to be both provocative and protean, and there are adherents and detractors of all political, ideological, and academic persuasions.
This course asks how and why feminist scholars in multiple disciplines have set out to study pornography, and why their findings frequently diverge. We will explore criticisms of pornography and celebrations of it, as well as more ecumenical efforts to study and understand what pornography is and has been. As a class, we will work to understand how pornography has been defined by various cultures and across time periods throughout history, how it is produced and consumed and by whom, the impacts of pornography consumption on individuals, families, communities, and societal norms, and—importantly—how pornography interacts with the intersectionality of multiple forms of oppression and expression (e.g., race and class, gender and sexual identities).
Sarah L. Leonard is Associate Professor of History at Simmons College. She is the author of several articles situating pornography in historical context. Her book, Fragile Minds and Vulnerable Souls: Books, Obscenity, and the Problem of Inner Life in Nineteenth-Century Germany, will be published by University of Pennsylvania Press.
Emily F. Rothman, ScD is an Associate Professor at the Boston University School of Public Health and Boston University School of Medicine. She is also a visiting scientist at the Harvard Injury Control Research Center. Her primary area of research is violence prevention, including dating violence, adult partner violence, and sexual violence. She began studying the impact of pornography on youth in 2012. She is a former battered women’s shelter advocate and batterer intervention counselor.
Maria San Filippo has taught media studies and gender and sexuality studies at Harvard, MIT, UCLA, and Wellesley College, where she was the 2008-2010 Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Cinema and Media Studies. She is the author of The B Word: Bisexuality in Contemporary Film and Television (Indiana UP, 2013).