New book tackles sex, God, conservatism

For God, for Country — and for Sex?

Nathan Harden ’09, a national blogger and self-proclaimed “Post-Bush conservative,” landed a deal to write his memoirs this month. The book’s working title, “Sex and God at Yale,” invokes iconic conservative William F. Buckley Jr., who famously critiqued Yale for its liberal ideology in a book about his undergraduate experience called “God and Man at Yale.” Buckley’s son, journalist Christopher Buckley ’75, will write the introduction to Harden’s memoirs. While both William F. Buckley Jr.’s book and Harden’s address liberalism at Yale, William F. Buckley Jr.’s focused on religion, while Harden’s looks at undergraduate sex and the decline of student morality.

Harden has been blogging about his experiences with sex and politics at Yale for the Huffington Post and the National Review — the conservative magazine founded by William F. Buckley — since his graduation. Because of his work with the National Review, Harden has worked with Christopher Buckley, and sent him a chapter from his book along with a request that Buckley write the introduction. The chapter, “The Incident,” is about a controversy several years ago in which the brothers of Delta Kappa Epsilon were accused of hate speech, Buckley said in an e-mail to the News.

“I liked it, and was naturally taken with the clever title,” Buckley said. “So, being a mensch, I agreed to write a short foreword.”

Harden has played off of William F. Buckley Jr.’s title before: In April this year, he wrote a similar piece called “Bawd and Man at Yale” for the National Review about Sex Week, which he called “the biennial pornification of Yale.” He referenced a statement William F. Buckley Jr. made 60 years ago, faulting Yale for its “extraordinarily irresponsible educational attitude” and argued that this attitude was far less pronounced 60 years ago than it is now.

Alvin Felzenberg, professor of the course “William F. Buckley and the Rise of the Conservative Movement,” read “Bawd and Man” and identified where Buckley’s conservative values and sexuality intersect.

“Having respect for men, women and privacy is a very conservative precept,” he said.

Bill Summers, professor of gender studies at Yale, said he was unsurprised that sex is the focal point of a book about Yale.

“Certainly people between ages 18 and 22 are sexual beings, and they are in close social contact all the time,” said Summers. “It’s not surprising that issues of sexuality are in everyone’s mind, or at least are a topic of conversation.”

Harden’s views on sex, though, are not necessarily representative of all conservatives on campus. Only 12 percent of Yalies identify themselves as conservatives, according to a study conducted by the News in January 2009, and many of them are not disturbed by the level of sexuality at Yale, Conservative Party member Nelson Madubuonwu ’13 said.

“I don’t know if people in the party would say that sexuality is too prominent on campus,” he said. “But certain events like Sex Week take it to the extremes.”

Willi Rechler ’12, blog editor of the Sex Week at Yale Magazine, said Sex Week is intended to be an educational experience rather than an extremist one. Although the events offend some students, they help at least as many understand their sexuality better, she said in an e-mail to the News.

Felzenberg said that although most students on Yale’s campus are not conservative, he has not noticed liberal students marginalizing the political views of their peers.

“Sex and God” is not the first book about the sex scene at Yale. Natalie Krinsky ’04 published a semiautobiographical novel called “Chloe Does Yale” about her sexual exploits in 2005. Summers said the shock value of including Yale in the title contributed to the book’s success, and that he expects the same will happen for “Sex and God at Yale.”

“You see this name [Yale], and you wonder if it’s the same Yale we’ve all heard about,” Summers said.

Although Harden declined to comment about the content of the book, he confirmed that the publisher Thomas Dunne Books picked it up, adding that the book should appear in bookstores in 2012.

Harden was in Berkeley College and is a native of Nashville, Tenn. In addition to his work as a blogger, he has released a CD, “Catskill,” which is available on iTunes.

Comments

  • The Anti-Yale

    *”. . . “Bawd and Man at Yale” for the National Review about Sex Week, which he called which he called “the biennial pornification of Yale.”*

    **As recently as 27 years ago [link text][1], in 1983, Yale was so CONSERVATIVE sexually that the President’s Office had to be forced to over-rule the Yale Health Service’s refusal to distribute a pamphlet to Yale students desribing detailed sexual acts which could transmit AIDS, and warning them that AIDS could be transmitted heterosexually, which the medical community refused to accept at the time. (See excerpt from previous YDN post below.)
    Now the pendulum has swung in the other direction and sex and its discussion is as prevalent as a handshake.
    Perhaps “Sex and God at Yale” may move the pendulum once again.**
    **Paul Keane
    M.Div.’80**

    **PS: Shall we guess the gender of Mr. Harden ’09’s deity now—-or later?**

    *[The Anti-Yale] remained at Yale for four years thereafter, dragging Yale onto 60 Minutes (Feb. 84) kicking and screaming over the Yale President’s refusal to expose the FIRST DOCUMENTED AMERICAN heterosexual connection to AIDS in the form of a Howe St. prostitute who had passed AIDS on to her infant in the womb and whose baby never left Yale -New Haven Hospital . . .
    [the] pamphlet A.I.D.S. (AIDS Information Dissemination Service) was . . . distributed to 5000 Yale students over the OBJECTION of the then ***prissily Puritanical Yale Health Service*** (because it DARED to described the sexual practices related to transmission of AIDS in detail and DARED TO POSIT HETEROSEXUAL TRANSMISSION of AIDS, then denied by most Americans).
    That distribution to Yale students occurred through the President’s Office’s intercession which over-ruled the Health Service when I threatened to reveal to the press Yale’s obstruction of timely health information to its own in loco parentis students in the face of the possible threat of heterosexual transmission two blocks from Yale.*

    [1]: http://aidsatyale.blogspot.com “Highly Sensitive Letter to Yale’s President”

  • Summer

    @PK:

    1983 is a while ago. Why don’t we talk about the here and now for a change? 27 years ago, Yale might have been stuck in a conservative rut (although this too is doubtful – much more likely is that they had a blind spot where AIDS was concerned). Today, with Yale inviting porn stars to speak on campus on a regular basis, it does not appear as though this is the case.

    Yale is debauched. We all know it.

  • The Anti-Yale

    Hello Summer,

    I hate to sound like Winter (especially after Mr. Mikitish’s column yesterday), but at my age one looks as much for PATTERNS in reality as much as one looks at the here and now.
    The only trouble is that 66 years — mostly in WASP New England — is a pretty narrow sample from which to deduce Ultimate Reality (just in case there is such a thing).

    Yale is no more debauched than *Entertainment Tonight*. Chicken or Egg?

    Thanks for the feedback. Sorry to disappoint.

    PK
    http://aidsatyale.blogspot.com/

  • Summer

    > but at my age one looks as much for PATTERNS in reality as much as one looks at the here and now.

    It is fair to look at patterns, but it is not a valid form of argument to say “in the past X, therefore in the present X, QED”

    Which is what you have been doing – you’re been arguing that because Yale was prude 30 years ago, it is prude now – or at least that the concerns to the contrary are invalid.

  • DebbieDowner

    Can Mr. Harden think about nothing but sex?

  • Goldie08

    Sex is definitely not a bad thing, but without something behind the act (Love, emotion, God, whatever it is for you) it can cause problems. Sex should follow naturally from one person geniunely caring deeply for another. I’m no prude, but I saw a lot of unsatisfied Elis of both sexes during my time at Yale, and I think the lack of meaningful sexual relationships had something to do with that. The current hookup culture is impersonal. Polyamory is not wrong, but the “amor” has to be there, at least in some form.

    I think Bill Summers had a good response, which I sum up as “they are young, fertile and biologically, sex is on everyone’s mind at Yale. It’s not going anywhere, so how can we make it good for everyone.” Respects to Summers for that paraphrase.

  • The Anti-Yale

    *Now the pendulum has swung in the other direction and sex and its discussion is as prevalent as a handshake. Perhaps “Sex and God at Yale” may move the pendulum once again.*

    **I THOUGHT this quote above from my post suggested that Yale was a prude THEN and may become so AGAIN. I definitely believe Yale is libertine now, but certainly not ***debauched***, which has been suggested.
    PK**

    *LIBERTINE
    1. usually disparaging : a freethinker especially in religious matters
    2: a person who is unrestrained by convention or morality; specifically : one leading a dissolute life
    — libertine adjective
    DEBAUCHED  
    1. displaying the effect of excessive indulgence in sensual pleasure: a flabby and debauched face.
    2. corrupted; debased: debauched morals.*

  • cappi

    I had to laugh when I read “Having respect for men, women and privacy is a very conservative precept,” he said (Alvin Felzenberg). As if Pres Bush’s warrantless wiretaps never happened.

  • The Anti-Yale

    And as if Rush Limbaugh DIDN’T use his maid as a go–between at an airport to pick-up his illegal precsriptions for oxymoron (oops) contin.

  • The Anti-Yale

    Did the wives of these Republicans feel RESPECTED:?

    – Rev. Ted Haggard
    – Gov. Mark Sanford
    – Sen. Larry Graig

  • The Anti-Yale

    And another well known REPUBLICAN shows RESPECT for men and women:

    *” You see these bums, you know, blowing up the campuses. Listen,
    the boys that are on the college campuses today are the luckiest
    people in the world, going to the greatest universities, and here they
    are burning up the books, I mean storming around about this
    issue — I mean you name it — get rid of the war; there will be
    another one.”*
    President Richard M. Nixon, May 1, 1970