Of the many things college kids need to learn—pretending to understand what "reification" is, for example—pornography might not seem to be the most urgent subject. Yet Shira Tarrant, associate professor of gender studies at California State University, Long Beach, thinks differently. She argues that accompanying the explosion of porn in modern life is a need for frank conversation about its impact, for good or ill. She explains:

How Porn Shapes Minds

Pornography both shapes and reflects assumptions about straight masculinity, female sexuality, expectations of beauty, and how women are treated -- particularly women of color. Porn has the potential to affect the sexual pleasure and safety of all.

Why 'Media Literacy' Is Essential
We must put media literacy at the top of our cultural to-do list because this provides the critical skills that enable adults (young, or otherwise) to identify sexism, misogyny and racism in all forms of pop culture, including porn. ...
Better information about the politics of media creates in young people -- and all of us -- stronger abilities to distinguish between fantasy and reality, yes and no, coercion and consent -- lines that can be fuzzy in porn. The more we understand how to "decode" porn media, the better situated we are to know the difference.

How University Courses Could Help
When I speak at universities across the country, students enthusiastically contribute their questions and concerns. They want to talk about the impact of porn on our most intimate lives...

Open conversation about the personal politics of porn happens best when the room is judgment-free. Based on what young adults share about their pleasures and their fears, I know there is a real need for porn education and for providing new language to articulate our preferences and our non-negotiables.