Sunday, April 28, 2013
Hmmm...That Does Sound a Bit Like a Buckley Book
Review of Nathan Harden’s “Sex and God at Yale”
In the conclusion of Nathan Harden’s “Sex and God at Yale”, he warns that the things that happen at Yale will echo in schools throughout the country. I’m afraid the warning comes a bit late. Yale had its first “Sex Week” in 2002. I went to San Diego State University in the early 1980’s. At that time, pornographic films such as “Deep Throat” were screened on campus. We had a Playboy centerfold autographing magazines in the campus bookstore. (SDSU was ranked at that time by Playboy in their list of top ten party schools.)
SDSU may not have the academic legacy of Yale (when I was there, if you were in class at high tide, you were a scholar.) We may not have had any United States Presidents as alumni as Yale does (though we do have as alums the actors who played Apollo Creed, Myra Breckinridge and Mrs. C on “Happy Days”.) But we were arguably a head of the Ivy League in the crass exploitation of sexuality.
Still, Harden’s descriptions of Yale’s Sex Week are disturbing. Because Yale has professed in century’s past a higher standard, and continues to be the training ground for many of the nation’s leaders. The concerns Harden raises in the book about moral relativity, academic standards and the shabby treatment of women at this august institution have serious implications.
But the book probably must first be appreciated as a memoir. Harden’s dream of going to Yale began when he was 11 years old. His homeschool background made his acceptance unlikely and he was turned down two times before he was finally accepted. His love for the history of the school and its unique academic advantages shine through. His admiration for the tradition of “For God, For Country, and For Yale” is what makes his disgust for the school’s denigration more all the more heartbreaking.
Two of Harden’s powerful arguments against the culture that lead to ‘Sex Week’ are appeals against commercialism and sexism on campus.
Many of the events during Sex Week at sponsored by pornographers and other parts of the sex industry. Pornographers that portray the worst kinds of verbal and physical violence toward women play a large part in the events of the 11 day week. Harden argues that the university would never allow say, McDonald’s, to be the sponsors of Nutrition Week at Yale, but what takes place is much worse.
Harden also argues that though the school administration and culture would claim to value women’s rights, the values promulgated during Sex Week are quite the opposite. Harden argues that the fear of being considered judgmental in the area of sexuality has serious consequences. He writes “you can’t believe in moral relativism and the equality of women. You have to choose one or the other.”
Harden notes that there are some positive events at Sex Week, such as a seminar on the destructive nature of sex trafficking. But such events are much more poorly attended than lectures by porn stars and pick-up artists.
Harden also argues that the elitism on campus extends to the belief that such “smart people should be immune to moral accountability.”
Yale was originally founded to train Christian preachers and missionaries (‘For God’.) It went on train many of the world’s academic, commercial and governmental leaders (‘For Country’.) But now the school’s primary concern seems t be self-preservation. It would be a shame if the vast financial, historical and academic resources were wasted on teaching students to, say, touch themselves (a skill that Harden notes most people, if ultra-sound pictures are to be believed, learn in the womb.)
Yale is free to follow the course it chooses. But it might be wise to follow the wisdom of the Scripture it once cherished but now spurns, the apostle Paul wrote in I Corinthians 1023, "’I have the right to do anything’, you say--but not everything is beneficial. I have the right to do anything’--but not everything is constructive.” Surely, the resources of Yale could be spent things much more beneficial and constructive than Sex Week.