The New York Times, maybe not unsurprisingly, recruits subscribers through college emails with the offer of limited free access. Today’s offering, from the cover of Sunday’s Book Review brought the headline, Sex and God at Yale, by Nathan Harden, from a review titled, “An Innocent in the Ivy League” by Hannah Rosin. Of course, this is all old stuff for a NYT reviewer. Sex Week at Yale is so passe’ that Rosin needs to tell us that this has all been deplored before and that next year the whole thing will be toned to a simple sex ed. level, without the sexually hectic hijinks. Perhaps this is really because the “Can You Top This?” nature of the event has finally exhausted all fresh and unusual opportunities for debauchery.
Apparently Harden’s book tells all and if you don’t really want to know, there are much softer explanations of the book sans titillation or nausea, one in interview form in yesterday’s Inside Higher Education, elsewhere on First Things and this looks to be the book of the early fall season for either those inclined to be outraged or for those who like to mock them. The New York Times caters to the latter and showing its sophistication, Rosin really wants you to know, sort of rub your nose in things you don’t want to know, as if you ought to think of all of this as reality’s version of natural satire. Mostly, then she can be condescending about Nathan Harden,
Like many home-schoolers, Harden is a true American eccentric. He quit before he finished high school, got a G.E.D. and spent his interim years drifting: loading cow manure for the gardening department at Walmart, working as a baggage handler for United and as a lounge singer in Florida, and volunteering with a medical relief charity. Somewhere in there he found his true love and, almost on a whim, married. Harden’s accounts of his itinerant travels are in some ways the most entertaining parts of the book, although he takes pains to avoid seeming too world-weary so that when he arrives on campus he can be truly, deeply shocked.
Then what follows is truly deeply shocking and this is just the review with little quoted bits, not the book nor even Sex Week itself, which if you’ve read about it seems designed by the wise and wonderful at Yale to kill any innocence or moral inclination any arriving student might have. I suspect that what Harden was trying to show was that he was no home-schooled rube and than anyone not inured to what now passes for normal on college campuses is going to be truly, deeply shocked. What aroused me to write was this portion of the review,
In arguing against pornography and the loose sexual culture, Harden is generally protective and patriarchal but in an idiom that resembles Andrea Dworkin’s. The problem with the hookup culture is that it breeds sexual violence, he argues. “Rape is rape. It’s the hideous, hidden reality behind the hookup culture,” he writes. The only problem is, Sex Week has always had the sound approval of campus feminist groups, with an exception or two where a film has proved a shade too violent.
Andrea Dworkin? But Harden is not wrong. An increase in rape is the reality behind hook-up culture, whether the “legitimate” rape we’ve been hearing so much about this week or the cultural pressure to conform inherent in campus life that Tom Wolfe examined in I am Charlotte Simmons and which any parent with open eyes hopes his child will resist. Date-rape, facilitated by drugs or drinking or even humiliation, is surely just as damaging to the human soul as rape where a woman has the capacity to resist. What is the best response to that last line of Rosin’s, that campus feminist groups are in full approval of Sex Week? Why? What’s wrong with those women? Considered with this, abortion is a logical extension of the degradation of women; how they must hate themselves.
I can leave you with this, from The Daily Beast, in an article written by two female Yale students, and maybe it is the good news. Don’t get me wrong, they also have no use for innocence, but they also say, “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.”