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 Yaleâ€”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 waitâ€”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 â€œSex and God at Yale,â€ 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. Furterâ€™s convention in â€œThe Rocky Horror Picture Showâ€; 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 â€œBabelandâ€™s Lip Tricks,â€ 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 wouldnâ€™t get that impression reading the article by our classmate Nathan Harden. His is a Yale of â€œsex-toy pageants, porn-star lectures, sadomasochism seminars, and fellatio demonstrations.â€ Those things did happen, during Sex Week at Yale: a 10-day event held biennially that most students donâ€™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, â€œisnâ€™t just fantasy, itâ€™s a powerful force shaping our culture,â€ 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 canâ€™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).
Thatâ€™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 youâ€™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 donâ€™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 â€œTrue Love Weekâ€ to run alongside â€œSex Week,â€ with events like â€œThe Person as Gift,â€ â€œChastity and Human Goods,â€ and a traditional date night. …
A â€œSex Weekâ€ and a â€œTrue Love Weekâ€ vying for classroom space, and students talking and writing and caring about itâ€”thatâ€™s a perfect expression of what Yaleâ€™s mission is today.