Several prominent UCSB scholars gathered yesterday to discuss one of America’s favorite pastimes – watching movies of complete strangers fucking.
The lecture centered on the importance of analyzing pornography in the realm of academia and was led by Constance Penley, a professor of Film & Media Studies. Penley argued that pornography is severely under-researched.
Penley said she first became interested in pornography as a subject of intellectual study during her exposure to “slash fiction” – a large Internet subculture of women writing explicit homoerotic fiction featuring characters from Star Trek such as Spock and Kirk.
“I was so impressed that these women, who were librarians, nannies, cops, minister’s wives, were so dedicated to writing pornography,” Penley said. “Also… it was hot.”
Penley described pornography as the most timeless and profitable genre of film.
“[Pornography is not only] the most enduring and prolific of all film genres,” Penley said, “It is also a multi-billion dollar industry. It’s a major cultural and economic engine of the state of California.”
Penley has been teaching an undergraduate Film Studies course on pornography since the early nineties, earning the condemnation of Reverend Pat Robertson, the Christian talk show personality from “The 700 Club.”
“Pat Robertson [talked about me] on a special called ‘Godlessness in Public Schools,’ where he called my class a ‘new low in humanist excess,'” Penley said. “Which, of course, I am using as a blurb in my new book.”
Penley was also featured by Rolling Stone Magazine on their list of the eight most dangerous professors in America in 1998.
Lauren Wilson, a second-year film & media graduate student, said she was enticed by the reading material assigned in Penley’s graduate seminar.
“I bought my first Hustler yesterday for her class,” Wilson said. “It was awesome.”
The event also featured UCSB’s New Sexualities – an official research group on campus that investigates the relevance of sexuality in the modern life.
Mireille Miller-Young, assistant professor in the Dept. of Feminist Studies, described the new sexualities as a scholarly collective of faculty and graduate students who consider political, economic, social and cultural issues related to sexuality.
Event organizer Professor Celine Shimizu said it was important for society to study pornography despite social reservations.
“We need to be more literate about what is considered taboo in our culture… so that it will no longer be considered dangerous, [so that] we no longer panic,” Shimizu said.
Miller-Young said UCSB is exceptional in allotting considerable academic attention to pornography.
“Professors Penley and Shimizu [and I] are three scholars at UCSB whose research and teaching on pornography make this campus unique,” Miller-Young said. “Not many other universities can boast having three faculty members working in this field.”