29 Aug 2012

Establishment Media Responds to “Sex and God at Yale”

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If Nathan Harden is not working as a symbolist poet, he really needs a haircut.

My wife Karen was wondering what kind of critical reception Nathan Harden’s Sex and God at Yale was receiving.

Well, Gawker responded first, unleashing its most fearsome attack-pansy Hamilton Nolan to sneer and condescend all over it.

If you don’t have a book contract right this minute, you should very ashamed. Consider: Nathan Harden…, a 2009 graduate of Yale, not only got a book contract, but has already written and published his book, and that book is about how bad it is that kids are into sex things at Yale—a topic that a professional book publishing house presumably considered sufficiently interesting to pay Nathan Harden U.S. currency, to write it. …

Yale has a Sex Week where they have panels that discuss SEX and SEX THINGS with COLLEGE STUDENTS. And… seems like a good topic for an outraged book by a young man, right? Sure, sure. But wait—there’s more:

    Harden’s other examples of an institution run amok (an acting class run by a yoga fascist, a Spanish language class in which the professor shows a film with a lesbian sex scene) are revealing but not revealing enough to make one feel that an obsession with sex has turned Yale into a “great institution in decline – an institution of tremendous power and influence that is no longer aware of why it exists or for what purpose,” as Harden claims.

Not just sex discussion panels, but yoga and even very mildly racy films? Thank God someone has published this, in a book. The above paragraph is from a NYT book review, btw. Was your book reviewed in the NYT? No? Hmm.


The New York Times Hanna Rosin pegs Hardin as a rube and a naif, while simultaneously indicating that his book-length indignation is really just a cynical careerist pose.

The conservative movement loves an innocent. Better yet if he has attended an Ivy League college and witnessed the debauchery of the elites firsthand. For this particular position, Nathan Harden, the author of “Sex and God at Yale,” possesses impeccable credentials. He was home-schooled, was already married when he got to college and had worshiped the institution so blindly that he was bound to be disappointed. …

Harden finds himself much in the same situation as Brad Majors at Dr. Frank N. Furter’s convention in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”; that is, a choirboy type faced with a cast of characters he had not at this point in his squeaky-clean life imagined existed. He sits in on a lecture called “Babeland’s Lip Tricks,” given by a burlesque performer named Darlinda, who leads the students in chanting unprintable words, and then demonstrates with great care and enthusiasm her whole foreplay array of lip, tongue and hand techniques. The fact that Yale lends its name and its classrooms to such a display is too much for Harden to stomach. He sits in the back where a couple of pervy professors are lurking, and watches his dreams die. …

Drinking the Ivy League poison is, of course, a great conservative tradition, a way for Young Turks to show they could be accepted into the elite even as they choose to set themselves apart.


Newsweek’s Daily Beast (a sort of anti-conservative punditocratic gay bar and home of Andrew Sullivan and David Frum) rustled up a couple of recent grad sophisters to pooh-pooh the significance of Sex Week at Yale (Harden’s central theme).

It doesn’t matter, you see, that the Yale Administration throws open its major lecture halls to sex toy demonstrations, bondage displays, and career talks by pornographers and porn stars. No undergraduates are actually in attendance. Everyone is at class.

Yale students go to class.

You wouldn’t get that impression reading the article by our classmate Nathan Harden. His is a Yale of “sex-toy pageants, porn-star lectures, sadomasochism seminars, and fellatio demonstrations.” Those things did happen, during Sex Week at Yale: a 10-day event held biennially that most students don’t really attend because they have other stuff to do. Like go to class.

And, besides, if anyone were actually there and attending these particular events, it would be an educational exercise in deconstructing their significance. Porn is a major part of every Yale student’s life, and like everything else in the universe, porn must be talked about and studied.

In 2012, however, most Yale students have watched approximately a billion hours of porn by the time they matriculate, from hentai (anime porn) to scat (poopy porn) to crying (porn where people cry). And because porn, we agree with Harden, “isn’t just fantasy, it’s a powerful force shaping our culture,” it needs to be unpacked, just like King Lear, the Illiad (sic), and Moby-Dick.

Sex (in every shape and form) is dignified and legitimated as a topic of interest and study on the basis of its political relevance to the struggle of a major victim group for liberation.

For feminists in particular, sex can’t be a private affair. And indeed, for women throughout history, sex never has been (see Anne Boleyn and her inability to give Henry VIII a son).

That’s because sex is the site of most of the struggles that women face as women: rape, sexual harassment, reproductive rights, the pressure to be impossibly skinny (so people will have sex with you), the pressure not to be too aggressive or loud or ambitious (so people will have sex with you), the pressure not to have too much sex so you’re not a slut, the fact that so many women never have good sex at all (college women have orgasms half as often as men on repeat hookups). …

Public discussions of sexual culture don’t turn people sexist. They make them less sexist. And Yale gives lots of controversial issues a public airing, and controversial people a podium. …

This year, a group of Yale students organized a “True Love Week” to run alongside “Sex Week,” with events like “The Person as Gift,” “Chastity and Human Goods,” and a traditional date night. …

A “Sex Week” and a “True Love Week” vying for classroom space, and students talking and writing and caring about it—that’s a perfect expression of what Yale’s mission is today.

7 Feedbacks on "Establishment Media Responds to “Sex and God at Yale”"


Great Googly Moogly. What a bunch of silly, empty, vapid hedonists. If this is the best the Ivy League can do do challenge and direct and shape the best and brightest of our young, we are lost–and we deserve to be. If this is what “higher education” is today, the sooner it is destroyed the better.


Jeeze … did you expect something …. intelligent?


“Porn is a major part of every Yale student’s life”???
I must not have been very observant during my four years. And in any case, is it really Yale’s mission to promote that? According to Yale, misogyny and homosexual prejudice are such a part of everyone’s life that they are obliged to go to great lengths to try to stamp it out of you.
Yale’s values here are quite clear and Mr. Harden is simply opining that he thinks they are misplaced. Seems to me he’s part of a very long tradition in that regard.

Carrie M

From porn/prostitutes in the lecture halls, to turning out the same in politics/business – it all fits.

Steve Bodio

Yale’s mission is to teach porn? People must STUDY it?? Who knew?

I am a most worldly and Bohemian Tory, and I applaud Mr Harden for exposing this vapidity and utter irrelevance.

And of COURSE they can no longer spell Iliad.

D– curious what KM thinks!

Nathan Harden

I enjoyed this. Nice round-up of the “critical” commentary on the book. It’s remarkable to observe the lengths to which some will go to defend the educational value of violent porn and sex toy marketing junkets. The ultimate point of the book is to demonstrate that Yale really doesn’t understand why it exists or what it ought to be doing in its classrooms. It has been so compromised by its blind commitment to political correctness and moral relativism. All of these left-wing reviews you’re reading here are attempts to put a lofty spin on things that are, on one hand, base–and, on the other hand, irrelevant to Yale’s mission as a training ground for America’s cultural and political leaders. It’s a terrible waste. – NH


I would be royally PO’d if I was paying $58,000 a year to send my son/daughter there for that. Is this a joke?


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