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Constance Penley is professor of film and media studies and codirector of the Carsey-Wolf Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her major areas of research interest are film and media history and theory, feminist theory, cultural studies, contemporary art, and science and technology studies. She is a founding editor of Camera Obscura: Feminism, Culture, and Media Studies and editor or co-editor of the influential collections Feminism and Film Theory, Male Trouble, Technoculture, and The Visible Woman: Imaging Technologies, Science and Gender. She is the author of The Future of an Illusion: Film, Feminism, and Psychoanalysis, NASA/TREK: Popular Science and Sex in America, and the forthcoming Teaching Pornography. Her collaborative art projects include“MELROSE SPACE: Primetime Art by the GALA Committee”and“Biospheria: An Environmental Opera,”on which she was co-librettist. Penley is a 2009 winner of the MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Award. A feminist teaching pornography? That’s like Scopes teaching evolution !” What could the Reverend Pat Robertson have possibly meant when he chose those words to denounce the course on pornographic film that I have been teaching at the University of California, Santa Barbara, since 1993? In a 1994 special of The 700 Club on “godlessness in public schools,” he made this remarkable statement, right after declaring my course, “a new low in humanist excess” (which I proudly plan to use as a blurb on my forthcoming book, Teaching Pornography). He compared a feminist teaching pornography in the early 1990s to science teacher John Scopes teaching evolution in the mid-1920s, in defiance of a Tennessee law that forbade teaching “any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals.” Similarly agog over the idea of a feminist teaching pornography, was the head of Santa Barbara County Citizens Against Pornography (SBC- “A Feminist Teaching Pornography? That’s Like Scopes Teaching Evolution!” Constance Penley CAP), which operates out of local churches. He first called the UC Santa Barbara chancellor’s office, and was then successively passed down to the vice chancellor, the provost, the dean, and, finally, my department chair, demanding that I be fired and my course canceled immediately. He was astonished when this did not happen, but even more so when he discovered that I held a joint appointment in women’s studies as well as film studies. How can a feminist be teaching pornography? Journalists, too, did not get it. “What do feminists think of your course?” was invariably the first question in any interview. I carefully explained to them that I was a film studies professor but also a women’s studies professor, and a founding editor of Camera Obscura, the longestrunning feminist media journal in English. The reporters would then say, “Okay, well, what did other feminists think about your course?” Even after I told them I had received nothing but interest and support from feminists on my campus and around the country, they would go off and write that my course had been massively protested by feminists. I regret that I did not have the chance to similarly confound the US Department of Justice (DOJ) with that seeming paradox of a feminist teaching pornography when I was proffered in 2010 as an expert witness in United States v. John Stagliano, a federal obscenity trial in Washington , DC. The DOJ had to subpoena the syllabi for my pornographic film course when I would not turn them over upon request. Not only did I not like the idea of having my classroom materials scrutinized by the government, I also did not want the prosecution to see how I go about teaching pornography as a genre and an industry, as film and popular culture. If they were to read my syllabus closely (or any of my research on women, pornography, art, and popular culture), they might be able to ascertain before the trial how I would testify. They would have understood how this feminist teacher of pornography could easily and with much authority defend the films on trial—Belladonna’s Fetish Fanatic 5, Joey Silvera’s Storm Squirters 2: Target Practice, and Jay Sin’s Milk Nymphos —for possessing (or not lacking) serious artistic and political (feminist ) value, not to mention scientific value for having been shown and studied in a level one research university classroom. (Teams of my students helpfully transcribed the indicted videos, briefly turning my...


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