23 August 2012
A new book called Sex and God at Yale (Thomas Dunne Books, 2012), by recent Yale graduate and conservative blogger Nathan Harden, understandably seeks, and is receiving, comparison with William F. Buckley’s classic God and Man at Yale, originally published in 1951.
However, the denigration of religious faith and the preaching of secularism in American academia described in both books are old news.
A more appropriate point of comparison is to the scandal last year involving Northwestern University psychology professor J. Michael Bailey, who treated his class to a live demonstration of a motorized sex toy.
That seems more relevant, because Mr. Harden’s book contains a detailed description of “Sex Week”—basically, a sales convention of pornography stars and sex toy manufacturers for the edification of Yale undergraduates.
I doubt that Buckley could have imagined any of this in his wildest dreams.
And yet the road from the secularization Buckley described in 1951 to Professor Bailey’s class and Yale’s Sex Week is a straight one—and downhill all the way. Though paved, I have no doubt, with the best intentions.
Actually, what Harden (right) is describing is old hat, too, in a way. This ground was very well trodden already by Tom Wolfe in his entertaining novel, I Am Charlotte Simmons (Farar, Straus and Giroux, 2004).
Fiction enables Wolfe to convey not only the grotesquerie of the world Charlotte inhabits, but also the spiritual toll it takes upon her, in a way that the essay form does not.
Which is not to say that Harden’s volume is not welcome. On the contrary! We cannot be reminded of the full catastrophe of our present moral situation often enough.
But what I find even more revealing of our predicament is the tone taken by the journalist who wrote a profile of Harden for the New York Times, snarkily entitled “An Innocent in the Ivy League“ (to be published in the Book Review on Sunday).
The author, Hanna Rosin, openly mocks Mr. Harden for his dismay over Sex Week:
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.
I submit it is rather Ms. Rosin who finds herself faced, by Harden’s book, with a moral viewpoint that in her politically correct life she has not imagined existed—or, at least, one that she has never been forced to confront and try to understand, as opposed to mocking in knee-jerk fashion.
Just the notion that human beings are more than animals, and accordingly everything we do—yes, even sex—is done by an animal equipped not just with a body, but with a spirit.
From this simple observation, a whole way of thinking about sex—involving such old-fashioned notions as love, marriage, and commitment—follows, which appears to be beyond the comprehension of Ms. Rosin, Professor Bailey, and the Yale administration.