Corban Brantley - Documentaries such as the ones shown above are materials used by Colburn in this course

This Is Your Brain On Porn- New Class Explores The Psychological Effects Of Pornography

Story And Photo By Corbin Brantley

Corban Brantley - Documentaries such as the ones shown above are materials used by Colburn in this course

“Porn on the Brain: The Psychology of Pornography” is a new course offered this quarter at Whatcom Community College, where students arrange their desks in a circle to intimately discuss pornography and the psychological effects it has on its viewers.

Kevin Lie, an Indonesian exchange student who’s taking the class said that no pornography is shown in class, but students are assigned documentaries to watch outside of class that do contain clips from pornographic films.

Lie registered for the class because he wanted “to try to learn how pornography affects culture” and to “learn about facts, not just people’s religious and cultural views on the subject.”

Colette Colburn, a psychology professor that teaches human sexuality at Whatcom, said “the course is specifically about pornography.” As laid out in the syllabus, the course covers a range of issues related to pornography starting with its history and views about sex in different cultures. Since it is a psychology course, it focuses on the psychological effects of exposure to pornography and sex via the media and online videos.

The average class hour begins with Colburn briefly going over the assigned reading or video. She then asks the students about their thoughts on the subject and the discussion begins. This lasts the whole period and some students stay after class to keep discussing their ideas.

Colburn is the creator and instructor of the course. She has been researching the psychological aspect of pornography and human sexuality for 20 years.

Colburn said she decided to create the course about a year ago. “Over the last few years there has been a growing body of research demonstrating neurological changes that take place when people…view internet pornography.”

Colburn hopes that students gain “the ability to view pornography critically,” through taking her course. The purpose is for them “to see the neurological changes, psychological changes [and] social changes….and have the tools to make decisions about their own views and use of pornography,” Colburn said.

Shannon Anderson III, a student taking the course, said he was interested in the “psychological ramifications of watching porn…[and] the actual neurobiological effects.”

“It is more of a discussion class,” said Lie. He said that he liked how freely people talk about sex in the class. “In my country people don’t talk openly about pornography,” Lie said.

Anderson was “surprised to hear about the hyper sexualization of girls and how it is happening at a younger and younger age.” Colburn said that purity balls, dances attended by girls and their fathers at which the daughter takes a pledge to remain a virgin until marriage, are an act of sexualization because they introduce sex to the girls at a young age, before they naturally think about sex.

Colburn said that modern pornography can be harmful to our society. “It wasn’t damaging before. Now it is” through the multitude of porn available online that is easily accessible to children and adults alike. In the U.S., “the average age that a male sees internet pornography is 8 years old,” said Colburn.

“In the advent of abstinence only sex education in most of our public schools, internet pornography has become the default sex educator of our youth…That has both psychological effects and neurological effects,”
Colburn said, “Pornography itself, just within the last 10 years has become increasingly violent.” She added that this teaches children that violence in sex is wanted.

“The advent of the internet and [the use of] Viagra…has completely changed pornography and its consumption and has created unreal expectations,” Colburn said.

According to TheCollegeFix.com, a similar class being offered at Pasadena City College “has already prompted praise and concern…In just one year, it’s come under national scrutiny after its instructor…invited a porn star to speak to its students.” After reading this news, Colburn still decided to keep the class going after this quarter.


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