SALT LAKE CITY (KTVX) – A course offered at Westminster College in Salt Lake City that centers on the study of pornography has caught people’s attention and drawn backlash.

The course is in the private school’s Gender department and will be offered in the summer term. Its title is straight to the point: “Porn.”

The description reads on the school’s website reads:

“Hard core pornography is as American as apple pie and more popular than Sunday night football. Our approach to this billion-dollar industry is as both a cultural phenomenon that reflects and reinforces sexual inequalities (but holds the potential to challenge sexual and gender norms) and as an art form that requires serious contemplation. We will watch pornographic films together and discuss the sexualization of race, class, and gender as an experimental, radical art form.”

Westminster told Nexstar’s KTVX that the summer term is designed to offer courses that are different from the usual offerings, this one included. It’s an optional elective; no student is required to take it.

Still, some people expressed outrage at the curriculum. An article in Campus Reform, a conservative website that describes its goal as “exposing liberal bias and abuse on the nation’s college campuses,” drew more attention to the class.

A Change.org petition to “appeal to Westminster” about the course has garnered more than 1,600 signatures.

KTVX reached out to Westminster College for an interview and was told the department in question was receiving a huge number of calls.

Sheila Rapazzo Yorkin, chief marketing officer of Westminster College, released a statement saying:

“Westminster College occasionally offers elective courses like this as an opportunity to analyze social issues. As part of this analysis, Westminster College and universities across the county often examine potentially offensive topics like pornography to further understand their pervasiveness and impact. Descriptions of these courses, while alarming to some readers, help students decide if they wish to engage in serious investigation of controversial subjects. This course will help students learn how to think critically about the influence of digital media culture. Westminster is a private liberal arts college dedicated to offering students life and career readiness education through programs that challenge, provide diverse perspectives, and develop critical thinking skills.”

The course is not a course about watching porn together in a group, a course on why pornography is good, or a course on how and why to make porn, according to Westminster. The college said it is designed to develop critical thinking skills about porn’s impact on society, culture, and inequality.

Eileen Chanza Torres, the course’s instructor, wants people to know that there are no children enrolled in the class. She added it is “not an attack on conservatism or religious practice.”

Chanza Torres also said she “gets the fear” about this course being offered. She comes from a Catholic family that inspired her to study exactly why “sex is considered scary.”

Chanza Torres grew up as an immigrant to the United States during the AIDS epidemic, which helped shape her academic interest in how sex and gender influence society, culture, and politics. Her research is centered on “thinking about how marginalized groups can be brought to the center,” and focuses on media and technology’s role in that process.

When asked why she is teaching a course on pornography, Chanza Torres called it “a fascinating study of people and gender performance.”

“The majority of porn is bad for women, although there is some variety in porn,” she said.

Chanza Torres’ class is designed to help students think critically about pornography’s impact on gender in the U.S. Her research looks at popular pornographic websites as problematic databases that obscure the legality of pornography and its ethics in general.

Chanza Torres maintains that while she is “sex positive and body-positive,” the course at Westminster is designed to be critical of pornography, using rigorous methodological frameworks. It’s not for her and students to “watch porn, giggle, and go home,” she said. She hopes her class can be a safe and moderated space for students curious about pornography’s impact on society.

“I’m not interested in making my students copies of myself,” said Chanza Torres. Instead, she hopes that everyone involved in the class can bring their own perspective and ideas to the conversation, and form their own critically informed perspectives on pornography.

This class at Westminster College is hardly the first attempt to study pornography. Gender Studies as a discipline has been taking a critical eye to porn for a long time. There is even a full academic editorial publication called “Porn Studies” that has been running since as early as 2017.