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The Misguided Effort to Tame Pornography

Earlier this year, a prestigious Manhattan prep school fired its longtime director of health and wellness, Justine Fonte for teaching at another institution. It wasn’t that she taught somewhere else. It’s what she taught: “porn literacy” — to high schoolers. 

Even more revealing than the course itself has been the ensuing debate about how best to help teenagers navigate the adult content found everywhere in online life. In a sympathetic writeup, the New York Times defended Fonte’s class for “teach(ing) students how to critically assess what they see on the screen…how to recognize what is realistic and what is not, how to deconstruct implicit gender roles, and how to identify what types of behavior could be a health or safety risk.”

In other words, Fonte’s class could help students consume online pornography ethically. As strange as that may sound, it’s an approach more common than you might think. Three years ago, Nadia Bolz-Weber, a popular progressive writer, endorsed the idea.  

Still, as Samuel James put it in his article at First Things, “It is rather surprising that anyone who knows the name Harvey Weinstein could believe that progressive gender politics can infuse pornography with virtue.” This is especially true for the New York Times. After all, their own Nicholas Kristof, just last year, broke the story that one of the Internet’s largest porn sites featured videos depicting the exploitation of minors, sex trafficking, and even rape. 

On that particular streaming platform, which received 115 million views per day in 2019, a significant portion of visitors consumed footage of ...