Alex Halavais on the Woes of Teaching Porn Studies

Alex Halavais is teaching Com 497, “Cyber Porn and Society,” in the Communications department at the University of Buffalo. He's done a number of energetic and innovative things, such as offering each of the (400?!?) students a chance to have a blog of their own.

Nevertheless, Teaching Porn seems to be proving to be a mixed experience:

  • I have to check the spam folder almost as often as the inbox, since student emails seem to get dropped there easily. Likewise, when I get an email reading “Here as promised the log-in to that amazing adult site,” I have to do due diligence to make sure the author isn’t really one of my students or correspondents.
  • I keep the door to my office closed when writing lectures and when someone knocks, I have to make sure the screen is clear of anything offensive, despite the fact that I will be talking about this in front of a class of 400.
  • It’s not hard to make some ASL translators blush.
  • It’s amazing, in a class of 400, what people can take to be a double entendre.

Aside from the little things, there are ongoing challenges. Some segment of the students apparently signed up because they wanted to see porn. This is a bizarre idea to me. I do show porn in the class: either when there is no other way to illustrate something, or when the presentation is (IMHO) very tame, or when it is just too inconvenient to expurgate from, for example, a video clip. (I’ve been using some clips from documentaries that air on HBO that seem to include gratuitous pornography interspersed with some really interesting interviews.) But taking a course has to be the most difficult possible way to obtain pornography. At this stage, it appears clear that a not insubstantial number of the students are going to fail the course, despite some generous curves on the exams. I don’t know that some brief titillation is worth having to admit to failing your porn course.

And then there's the homophobia…

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One Response to Alex Halavais on the Woes of Teaching Porn Studies

  1. Anonymous Coward says:

    “some generous curves on the exams”

    : )

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