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March 07, 2005



A course on the economics and sociology of the porn industry, and of commercial sex industry in general, past and present, would be very interesting. I am not sure that a huge amount of porn viewing would be needed.

I have in mind a book I recently read, and can recommend wholeheartedly. George Chauncey's Gay New York. Part-time and full-time male prostitutes got a mention in the book, and there was use of a body of 19th and early 20th century legal/court documents and records of various moral reform societies.


Nancy, if I ever do come to modifying the course, I'd probably approach it in that fashion. Still, I'm concerned about legitimizing the use of porn (even for research) for relatively young folks (18 year-olds). At the same time, I recognize that there is important sociological and historical work to be done on the sex industry (a topic I do touch on in gender studies classes). Ultimately, as usual, I'm conflicted.


How arousing can 19th century porn be to 21st century eyes? I would think that static engravings or paintings would be merely quaint to the video generation. I know I see images on Greek pots and my reaction is, hey, Greeks did other things than stand around in fora arguing law and philosophy.

Another book I recommend is Rachel Maines' book on the invention and propagation of the electrical vibrator in the 19th century.


I'll look into the Maines book.

I have, in my teaching, learned the hard way that assuming that something won't turn someone on is a very dangerous thing to do.


Personally, I have a lot of late 19th and early 20th century porn... Taschen puts out some very cool collections of it. So while I disagree with Hugo on the way to deal with pornography, I certainly agree that you'll never know what floats someone's boat.


Since you never answer any of my comments. I'm going to assume you won't answer this one.__You can call me anything you like...but I don't think this topic belongs in the classroom. I can't even believe anyone would think of teaching this!
Who cares about the social and economic implications of trash!!


Well, Marie, the whole point is that whether its trash or not, it does impact people's lives. The purpose of academe is not merely to study the good, the true, and the beautiful; it is also to study the evil, the perverse, and the hideous. If it is part of human behavior -- and it impacts human activity -- we must study it.

Speaking of trash, I have a friend who does research on Victorian garbage. You can tell a lot about a culture by what folks throw away.


Wow! I actually got a response from you!
....Sorry, I disagree with you on this. This industry impacts our society in a negative way, and young kids would only take the class for the wrong reasons. Young people are not going to take this class to learn about how porn affects society. Give me a break!! Let's get real here!


You know, I give up on academia...

La Lubu

Marie, don't give up yet! There are courses in criminology, but they hardly endorse crime! ;-)

Adegboyega Kehinde

I am not a teacher, but i do know what porn can do to anybody's life and i have been campaigning againt since i did my first academic project on its effects. if there is anyone who says porn should be freely taught in this age of perversion, i will not be sorry he has made the world a dangerous place for himself, his/her family and generation.
yours truely
Adegboyega Kehinde


Adegboyega Kehinde,

The comment, "i will not be sorry he has made the world a dangerous place for himself, his/her family and generation," doesn't seem like a very ethical one, or a very Christ-like one, to me.

But to stay with the topic, I believe Hugo is discussing teaching a class on the history of porn, including the effects it has on society. Or at least that is how I would teach it, if it were me doing the class.


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