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.