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Sex and God at Yale: Porn, Political Correctness, and a Good Education Gone Bad [Hardcover]

Nathan Harden , Christopher Buckley
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Referencing young William F. Buckley’s career-launching critique of liberalism, God and Man at Yale (1951), and even employing Buckley’s son, Christopher, for the introduction (Buckley fils does seem to be squirming here), young Harden (Yale, 2009) is shocked—shocked!—that a paragon among American higher-education institutions is so distracted by the notion of sex. His focus is on Yale’s biennial Sex Week, which, funded largely by such corporate interests as sex-toy maker Pure Romance, appears to hold students (and administrators?) in absolute thrall. Harden makes some important points here—the (further) corporatization of American universities and the objectification of women being two examples— but he delivers them with so little grace or wit that readers might be tempted to just stop caring. Still, interest in Yale and in sex might bring an audience. Look for Harden to show up as a conservative commentator on cable news, further advancing his brand, but it might not be pretty. --Alan Moores

Review

A New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice Pick!

"A fierce expose of the sexual culture of one of America’s great universities."

—David Frum, contributor for CNN, Newsweek, and The Daily Beast; author of The Right Man and The End to Evil

“The ideology of sexual liberation that is the lasting legacy of ‘Me generation’ liberalism and its imbecilic doctrine of ‘if it feels good do it,’ has hardened into an orthodoxy on college campuses around the country. Not only is it uncritically embraced by many students, it is supported by a great many faculty members and abetted and even promoted in a variety of ways by academic administrators. In the spirit of the late William F. Buckley, Nathan Harden takes a hard, critical look at the prevalent sexual liberationist dogmas at Yale, exploring their damaging effects on the educational enterprise and their often tragic consequences in the lives of students.”
—Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University

"This startling dispatch from a talented young writer will shame Yale, if the Yale he describes is even capable of feeling shame. Nathan Harden's memoir is a 21st-century sequel to Bill Buckley's God and Man at Yale and its lesson is simple: Don't send your daughters to New Haven."
—John J. Miller, National Review national correspondent, Wall Street Journal contributor, author of The Big Scrum and Our Oldest Enemy

"Only a college administrator could love the sexual playgrounds doubling as America's elite colleges. And only Nathan Harden can give our priapic ivory tower the softoff it deserves. His insight is penetrating; his wit hits the spot; he lands a thousand blows. Most erotic commentators are lucky to make it to third base. With Sex and God at Yale, Harden scores a walk-off grand slam."
—James Poulos, Daily Caller columnist and Forbes contributor

"Hats off to Nathan Harden for exposing the shameful truth about how some of our nation's finest universities have allowed themselves to become cesspools of perversion. Instead of teaching young people moral values and principles, "progressive" faculty and administrators actively promote moral degeneracy and perversion among the leaders of tomorrow."
—Carol Swain, PhD, Professor of Political Science & Professor of Law at Vanderbilt University

“The press has always primly averted its eyes from Sex Week at Yale, reporting only the barest of details from this trashy parade of porn stars and sex toy peddlers, lest it be deemed disapproving or prudish.  For its part, the Yale administration has hidden behind the claim that it had no responsibility for the student-organized event (a claim that was always patently false), and that it was obligated to allow the conference to proceed on free speech grounds. 

Now Nathan Harden reveals that Sex Week is far more grotesque than anyone outside a university could have imagined.  Worse, Yale’s eagerness to promote “glorious sex” among its students, as one bureaucrat put it, goes far beyond the sanctioning of Sex Week.    Sex and God at Yale is a jaw-dropping account of one university’s loss of moral compass.  Yale has forgotten its mission: to expose students to the most beautiful and challenging creations of human thought, and to confer on them knowledge.  Facility in the use of a cock ring is not the type of knowledge which universities are uniquely capable of providing.  Unfortunately, Yale’s abdication of adult authority is thoroughly typical of college administrations today.  If there are any parents out there who still care about what their children are actually learning in college, this book will alert them to the travesties of higher learning likely occurring at their own child’s school.”
—Heather Mac Donald, a John M. Olin Fellow at the Manhattan Institute

About the Author

NATHAN HARDEN is editor of The College Fix and is a columnist for the International Business Times. He is a regular contributor to National Review Online and has written for numerous publications, including The Weekly Standard, The American Spectator, The Huffington Post, the New York Post, and The Washington Times. Harden resides in Nashville, Tennessee.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

1
 
SEX WEEK
 
No matter how far I have traveled, something from Yale has always followed with me.
—Gerald Ford, L.L.B., class of 1941
 
 
My very first class as a Yale student told me much more, in hindsight, about the education I was about to receive than all the glossy brochures and guided tours I had been given before I arrived. It was a literature class called Heroes and the Mock-Heroic, taught by an eminent professor of English, Dr. Claude Rawson. Fresh from summer break, half a dozen students and I, along with Dr. Rawson, were seated around a seminar table in a small classroom. Rawson was dressed rather sloppily in an oversized, untucked polo shirt. He wore white socks and flip-flops with the thong wedged between his toes. He lacked couture, perhaps, but he had an impressive British accent to make up for it.
The room was only about half full, and there were plenty of empty seats left around the table. I glanced around at the other students, and waited silently for class to begin. It was all still very new to me, and I was simply trying to soak in the experience. Out the window I could see the stately stone-clad buildings of Yale’s Old Campus, the earliest of which dates back more than 250 years. I felt an incredible sense of belonging. I was at Yale! That’s all I could think about in that moment.
The reading that day was from Homer’s Iliad. It was the famous climactic scene in which Achilles chases Hector around the city of Troy, catches him, and savagely cuts him down. We read a brief passage aloud in which Hector pleads for an honorable burial and begs Achilles not to feed him to the dogs. The professor then paused and asked the class to analyze the passage.
A few of us offered interpretations, none of which seemed to be what the professor was looking for. Then a girl seated directly across the table from me spoke up. She had dark hair with severe, short-cropped bangs. She half smiled while she talked, as if she were pleased with the insight she was about to impart to the rest of us. She began to describe—with plenty of impressive theoretical language—how all of the bloody battle imagery of the Iliad’s climactic scene was really an elaborate metaphor for sex.
That girl turned out to be Aliza Shvarts, an art major who would, later that school year, initiate a media firestorm and provoke national outrage over her senior art project, which she claimed consisted of blood and tissue from numerous self-induced abortions. (More on that later.)
For my part, I was unimpressed by Aliza’s interpretation of the Iliad, and my furrowed brow must have shown it. I couldn’t see what the battle of Achilles and Hector had to do with sex. But, as a new Yale student, I guess I had a lot to learn. Dr. Rawson, while still appearing not to find the exact answer he was looking for, seemed to acquiesce: “Well yes, of course,” he said, glancing down at the text, “everything is sexual.”
*   *   *
A few years before my arrival, Yale University had begun hosting a veritable marathon of sex-related seminars and special events every other year, known collectively as “Sex Week at Yale.” At no other time do those words of my professor, “everything is sexual,” appear more probably correct. It happens during the spring semester. The campus is flooded with banners and posters announcing, Sex Week! Sex Week! Sex Week! Students are barraged with e-mails announcing each day’s proceedings, and encouraged to attend the week’s “educational” programs. Sex Week is everywhere you turn.
No fewer than seventeen official events were held during Sex Week 2008—ranging from a porn-star look-alike contest (judged by a real-life porn film director), to safe-sex workshops, to lectures on the female orgasm. The event was so chock-full of goodies that organizers were forced to stretch Sex “Week” into eleven continuous days of nonstop sex, sexuality, sexiness, and sexsationalism.
Somehow during those eleven days, amid all the sex, students are supposed to go to class. No one is forced to attend Sex Week events, of course, but you cannot escape the storm of sex-related activity. National media descend upon the campus to chronicle the strange mix of lewdness and Ivy League snob appeal. There are news vans in the quad with big satellite dishes bolted on top. And reporters with press badges roam the hallways, trailed by camera crews. The university’s student-run paper, the Yale Daily News, recounts each day’s highlights to the entire student body. As one of my classmates put it: You can hardly understand what it is like to walk into the dining hall, grab some eggs and coffee and the morning paper, then try to maintain your appetite after glimpsing a front page full-color photo of a smiling freshman clutching a pair of anal beads.1
In February of my junior year, Sex Week was due to be held at Yale for the fourth time. I received an e-mail detailing the schedule of events. The first few items on the list seemed relatively harmless:
TONIGHT!! FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 8
Speed Dating—Give Some, Get Some! SM Dining Hall: Doors Open 9:15 p.m.
 
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 10
Stevie Jay
8 p.m., SSS 114
Life, Love, Sex, Death, and Other Works in Progress … a Multi-Chakra Extravaganza
 
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 11
Pepper Schwartz, Ph.D.
4:30 p.m., LC 101
Myths & Misconceptions About Sex and Relationships
 
Dr. Ruth Westheimer
7:30 p.m., Slifka Center
Sexually Speaking
 
By Tuesday, however, things started to look dicey:
 
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 12
Logan Levkoff
4 p.m., LC 102
The Female Orgasm
 
Patty Brisben
7:30 p.m., Davies Auditorium
Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know About Sex (and Sex Toys!)
Pure Romance Product Giveaways!
 
Girls’ Night Out
9–11 p.m., Center St. Lounge
OPEN BAR w/ Patty Brisben. First 100 Women Get a Free Pure Romance Gift Bag. $5 Cover at the Door.
I suppose Tuesday was intended mainly for the ladies, since the focus seemed to be on their own particular … uh, physiology. I was fairly shocked by the items on the schedule. So I decided to go and see for myself what was about to be peddled within the hallowed halls of Yale University.
One day that week, after class, I attended Ms. Levkoff’s homily on la petite mort. I found Logan Levkoff to be an attractive woman, with long, flowing blond locks. When I arrived, she was dressed in a climate-clashing style, wearing shorts and, below them, Eskimo boots. She introduced herself as a certified sex educator, the author of a dating guide, and, last but not least, an official spokesperson for Trojan® brand condoms.
The chief point of her lecture was that our sexual culture is overly focused on the desires of men, rather than women. She complained, in particular, that when it comes to oral sex, “women are doing most of the servicing.” As a result of the focus on men, she said, women aren’t comfortable enough with their own sexuality and, consequently, often have difficulty achieving orgasm. Ms. Levkoff apparently had less trouble than most. She informed us that she had her first orgasm at the age of seven while watching the Playboy Channel on her parents’ television. It was a touching personal story. But I lost track of her point when she started tossing Trojan® condoms into the audience and one almost hit me in the head. I ducked out and headed to the next event on the schedule.
Snow was falling steadily as I made my way across campus. Steam drifted up from the pavement and I heard church bells calling people in for the evening mass. But I wasn’t on my way to church. I was on my way to see Patty Brisben, the founder and CEO of a company called Pure Romance. Brisben is the world’s leading entrepreneurial purveyor of female sex toys. Her presentation packs a lot of heat. And contrary to what her company name suggests, neither purity nor romance seems to be her primary concern. She brings out all the stuff they never told you about in high school sex-ed class.
The auditorium sits on the lower floor of a building that houses the Engineering Department—not altogether inappropriate considering all the robotic contraptions Brisben brought along to promote. It is a great gray rectangular auditorium with windowless concrete walls, like a bomb shelter with theater-style seating for seven hundred. It feels vaguely Orwellian. I suppose the university administration was glad to have this particular presentation confined to a windowless room, much better to keep it out of public view.
As I entered, there was a long line leading up the front of the room. In front of the chalkboards the Pure Romance people had set up a series of long tables loaded down with the company’s products. There were dildos and vibrators, various lotions, oils and scented candles. They managed to include a couple of euphemistically titled how-to books including Tickle Your Fancy and another, Tickle His Pickle. Brisben once stated in a media interview that Yale students seemed more reserved and less clued-in about sex than students she had encountered elsewhere.2 All those sex toys were, I suppose, her way of trying to loosen us up.
Once we all found seats, they passed out sales catalogs to everyone in the auditorium. The Pure Romance catalog looks much different than you would imagine, considering what’s inside. It features lots of smiling, mostly middle-aged women who seem to be sharing innocent secrets and good laughs with friends. The color palette is not lipstick red, but rather soft pink and pastel blue. It looks more like Better Homes and Gardens than Playgirl. It manages to present a lot of very kinky materials in a format that feels tame, sociable, and normal. It really is an ingenious bit of marketing.
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