The Catholic Thing
Universitas Orgiensis Print E-mail
By Brad Miner   
Monday, 27 August 2012

When William F. Buckley Jr. published God and Man at Yale in 1951, the Yale brand stood for something: a first-rate education. Today, Yale is among America’s most competitive schools, meaning it’s hard to get into. But you can probably learn as much at Albertus Magnus College or UCONN. Maybe a Yale degree makes some employers go gaga, but according to recent Yale grad Nathan Harden, author of Sex and God at Yale: Porn, Political Correctness, and a Good Education Gone Bad, a diploma from the once-great school is a sure entrée into the porn biz.

At Yale these days, there is an annual Sex Week, during which events may range 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.”

Mr. Harden sat in on one presentation by Patty Brisben, a financial backer of Sex Week who sells sex toys (“relationship enhancement products”), and who handled her session with the skill of a TV pitchwoman. She calls for volunteers from the audience, some of them teenagers, and pretends to perform a certain sexual act with one male student. Mr. Harden comments:

I doubt that a male of her age [fiftyish] could get away with working such hands-on demonstrations on a young female. The next day a picture of this very incident appeared in the national news. Not the most tasteful image for a school like Yale to project.

But Ms. Brisben assures a reporter: “If you’ve taught your children what you believe to be the right morals in life, I don’t think that just having a Sex Week is going to corrupt them.” That’s revealing. Sex Week alone won’t corrupt; presumably it will in league with other episodes of deviance.  

Sex Week is everything you fear it would be, only worse. But is it an indictment of Yale? Of course, although the critiques Mr. Harden offers are sometimes opaque. For instance, he wonders why Yale for so long banned military recruitment and ROTC (ostensibly because of don’t-ask-don’t-tell) yet welcomes to campus the likes of Patty Brisben. But where’s the contradiction? If the chic academic view is that everything is about sex, then sex belongs at the heart of pedagogy.

Mr. Harden glimpses a connection: “Yale was once animated by a sense of service to the nation. Now it is plagued by a void of moral purpose.” But Yale (to the extent that sexual excess is official policy) simply has moral purposes different from Harden’s.

We’re not talking about Anarchy Week, in which the very idea of moral order would be negated. Sex Week serves higher, more progressive ethical notions. That its philosophy opposes political conservatism and orthodox religion is, according to “liberals” at Yale, a core value: emancipation over mystification. The concrete self-sacrifice of military service is replaced by the blithe self-satisfaction of political correctness. But it’s not a void.

Expelled! (Expulsion from Paradise by Ottavio Vannini, c. 1620)

Of course Mr. Harden is not wrong to object to the degradation on display at his alma mater. But his book will have no more effect on the cultural decline there than did God and Man at Yale these six decades past.

Yale is probably a lost cause. But there are lots of colleges and universities where this sort of silliness doesn’t fly, because a different worldview informs their curricula and students’ behavior. Harden writes: “there is an overwhelming consensus at Yale that porn is completely healthy and harmless.” If true, this is a reason not to go to college there. He knows this:

I have to keep reminding myself: I am at Yale. I am at Yale. But, actually, I think I have died and been reborn into some freakish new world where this kind of banality passes for Yale-worthy education.

Of the ugliness Mr. Harden witnessed as an undergraduate (and it is ugly indeed), few Americans are unaware. To objections raised (and to horror stories enumerated), proponents of Sex Week offer a simple, symbolic panacea: condoms. I’m not being glib when I say that this is a sheer cover-up.

Mr. Harden relates a politically correct bit of nomenclature I had not heard before, that condoms protect students from STIs: sexually transmitted infections. The word disease (as in STD) has been stricken from all the obelisks of the kingdom, although exactly why infection is preferable is unclear.

What is clear is that sex is mashed up with academics and not just in Sex Week. There’s the story of a female student who serially used the “products” of induced miscarriage as “art.” Mr. Harden quotes her: “It is the intention of . . .  [my art] to destabilize the locus of . . . [God’s] authorial act, and in doing so, reclaim it from the heteronormative structures that seek to naturalize it.” Now that’s the language of the lost.

Warning: unlike Bill Buckley’s book, Harden’s Sex and God at Yale doesn’t so much engage the mind as turn the stomach. It’s mostly a catalog of obscenities, although not itself obscene.

Buckley wasn’t preaching to the choir, and his book led to National Review; Mr. Harden’s overlong tome, properly edited, might qualify as an article in that magazine. But no editor there would leave in such archaisms as: “Political correctness and multiculturalism have come to dominate modern academic life, particularly in the humanities and social sciences,” nor would most book editors have signed off on the autobiographical chapter that appears to no purpose halfway through Mr. Harden’s book.

Harden’s is certainly a sad tale, all about young people being told – with authority – that what’s wrong is actually right; that sex is not just permitted but encouraged, as long as it’s “safe, sane, and consensual.”

If there are emptier words in our culture, I don’t know what they are.

Brad Miner, a graduate of Ohio University, is senior editor of The Catholic Thing, senior fellow of the Faith & Reason Institute, and a board member of Aid to the Church In Need USA. He is the author of six books and is a former Literary Editor of National Review. The Compleat Gentleman, read by Christopher Lane, is available on audio.
The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

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Comments (12)Add Comment
written by Jack,CT, August 27, 2012
I blushed reading it, but very informative, thanks!
written by Carol O., August 27, 2012
Sick. Shocking, really-- but even more shocking is the fact that we can still be shocked by ANY sector of America's falling like lightning, after a few years of Caligula's own proclamations on ethics expediting such evils. Glad you said something -- it'll help some parents of college-bound kids to not be so enamored of Yale (et al)--and that seems the one place left to us to efficaciously counter-smite a willfully filthy beast: the wallet.
written by WSquared, August 27, 2012
“safe, sane, and consensual.”

How the hell (and I don't use that word lightly here...) is anything that Mr. Harden described in this article safe and sane, whether or not it is "consensual"?

Perhaps some folks think that "one out of three ain't bad"?
written by Jacob R, August 27, 2012
So Buckely, despite whatever virtues he had, supported baby murder. But he was smart and you guys would have loved to bull*#%$ with him so that makes what he said better?
All along I thought we were here to discuss the quest for Christ and his perfect morality, but sometimes it can seem more like a quest for the perfect intellect, as defined by WFB and his RINO disciples. Also can someone explain to me how NR being for segregation fits in to all this?

I'm not sure how it's ok to end up in hell if you got there by a more distinguished road. Of course we have hope that Christ will save even Mr. Buckley for his horrific sins, not just Mr. Harden.
written by Grump, August 27, 2012
It's sad to witness the steep decline of Yale, founded in 1701 with the motto Lux et Veritas (Light and Truth) and whose distinguished alumni include five Presidents. (Unfortunately Clinton was one of them and probably would love Sex Week). It's not the only Ivy League school, however, that's seen better days. Harvard and Princeton are no longer what they used to be. Likewise, many Catholic universities, particularly Notre Dame and Georgetown, have become bastions of liberalism, their reputations badly tarnished by bowing to modernity.

written by Robert Royal, August 27, 2012
Jacob, you've made this claim about Buckley before. It's a serious charge against a man no longer around to defend himself. What's the evidence for this - which seems quite improbable to me.
written by Brad Miner, August 27, 2012
@Jacob: If I'm correctly reading what you've written, I don't think we ever had a less Christian comment at TCT. Did you just suggest that my dear friend Bill Buckley is in hell? If so, I'd sure like to know how you divined such information. The entrails of a pigeon perhaps?
written by Grump, August 27, 2012
Brad, Buckley had class and the good manners to respond to every letter I wrote him back in the day. I'll never forget his putdown of Gore Vidal, threatening on TV to punch him in the face for calling him a neo-Nazi. Bill's Firing Line programs were always interesting, especially his wonderful discussions with Malcolm Muggeridge.
written by Gregory, August 27, 2012
Jacob, the topic is the decline of Yale. However you decide to make an attempt to steer the conversation to Mr. Buckley. Please tell us where detraction and calumny fit into the "quest for Christ and his perfect morality" as you framed it?
To the point, Yale and all the colleges that present this base non-sense as higher education are betraying the trust and good sense of parents which choose to entrust their teenage children to. We want our impressionable youth to be formed to make the world a better place. Not some captive audience so that a "relationship enhancement device" executive can sell their wares. This and their other failures need to be exposed.
written by Thomas C. Coleman, Jr., August 27, 2012
We can all see the disease with all of its horrific symptoms. But what of the cause of the, uh, infection? It was not just someting in the air. TCT last year ran an indespensable article on Antonio Gramsci, whom we might well call Patient Zero. We have the testimonies of Douglas Hyde, Luis Budenz, Dood and others. This sexual nihilsim and erotomania are tactics being employed to destroy Christendom. We are defenseless if we refuse to name the enemy. Political Correctness is not merely a play on the expression Social Correctness; It is a euphemism for Party Discipline. I am talking about the party of Senor Gramschi, of course.
written by Brad (not Miner), August 27, 2012
Fallen angels, so numerous that Padre St. Pio said that "if we could see them they would blot out the sun", have a lurid and obsessive fascination with the flesh of humans and how we luxuriate in that flesh. From their perspective this flesh is the innocent flesh of Adam's design, as lovingly envisioned in the mind of the Father, as well as the stupendous flesh of the Man-God: the flesh He deigned to take on and then glorified, praise Him. It is a mode of being entirely beyond them and forever denied them, the ultimate exotica in the universe. Imagine, a spirit enfleshed! Thus, these demons take prime and special aim at helping us degrade ourselves via our flesh. Most sin comes from fleshly sins. Some sin, among humans, comes from the spirit, e.g. pride, as it did with lucifer and his followers. But we humans are foolishly simple and the majority of our sins have to do with our flesh. Thus when evil men encourage their fellow men to wallow in fleshly sin, those evil men are simply mimicking the encouragement that demons give to mankind: "Sin with your flesh, o soul! Go back to Egypt and your flesh-pots: it is too hard to walk the way of the cross out here in the desert of the spirit."

Thus this Yale thing is very serious, much more serious than this article presents. This article shies away from the level of demonic activity -- nay, control -- present in the culture at large and in certain epicenters of the culture: education. The same evil that is inflicted upon these co-eds is inflicted upon 11 year olds. But the millstone, no one remembers? Or the millstone, no one now knows about at all, in our post-Christian society?

St. Michael the archangel, defend us in battle.

The real enemy are the demons pulling the strings of the marionettes, the Mz. Brisbens of the world. May God bless her and save her, as us all.
written by Magister Christianus, August 28, 2012
Brad, you write, "Of course Mr. Harden is not wrong to object to the degradation on display at his alma mater. But his book will have no more effect on the cultural decline there than did God and Man at Yale these six decades past.

Yale is probably a lost cause. But there are lots of colleges and universities where this sort of silliness doesn’t fly, because a different worldview informs their curricula and students’ behavior."

My question with so many of the issues facing us is whether to continue the fight or whether to start something new. You are probably right that this book will make no difference at a place like Yale, and it is good to know that there are other, usually smaller, institutions where a student can still pursue the study of truth, goodness, and beauty in a full and robust way.

Yet Jesus sent His followers out into the world, telling them to be as innocent as doves and as shrewd as serpents. Take American public education, K-12, for example. I have been a teacher for more than twenty years in just about every scenario you can imagine. From where I sit, nothing can save it. The whole enterprise, in various ways, is akin to that at Yale. Do we say, "Oh, but it is not as bad as all that," and stay in the fight to change public education? Do we say, "Yes, it is as bad as all that," and throw our energies into alternative, again likely smaller, Christian schools? Whether to continue the fight on the current field of battle or to move to a different front, that is the question.

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