Should College Students be Getting Their XXX Degrees?

Ashley Herzog

12/4/2012 11:54:00 AM - Ashley Herzog
That question was posed in response to a new report from WORLD on Campus about the pornification of American universities. According to WORLD, self-styled “porn scholars” in fields ranging from literature to law “believe in immersing their students in the porn culture. Last year, 50 schools offered courses that included in-depth pornography content.”

Students and their parents—many of whom take out massive loans or a second mortgage to cover outrageously inflated tuition—might “be surprised to learn they are paying…to watch, digest and learn to appreciate pornography in college.”

As someone three years out of college, the salacious details of the report didn’t shock me—although porn-y classes are even more extreme now than when I was on campus. Students in Wesleyan’s course “Pornography: The Writing of Prostitutes” are actually required to produce a piece of pornography in order to pass. Other courses require students to photograph their genitals or write out their sexual fantasies in explicit detail.

I also wasn’t surprised to see progressives defend the porno curriculum and lob accusations of “censorship” at critics.

“There's ‘no academic basis’ for studying pornography? That's total bull----,” feminist blog Jezebel declared. “Porn affects economics: it's a multi-billion dollar industry. Porn affects politics and the law: Los Angeles just voted to require actors to use condoms when filming sex scenes.”

I agree wholeheartedly that we should study the political and legal aspects of porn, as well as its effect on our relationships and sexualities. But is open-minded exploration of these issues really taking place in most classrooms? Nah. Instead, X-rated classes are often excuses for students to get their rocks off and get class credit for it, guided by pervy professors who have a prurient interest in their students’ sex lives. Defenders of the porn curriculum should check out “Sex and God at Yale” by alum Nathan Harden. Although limited to one campus, many pornified campuses are going the way of Yale.

America’s most prestigious university has become so awash in porn culture that the main event every year is Sex Week, which is actually “eleven continuous days of nonstop sex, sexuality, sexiness, and sexsationalism,” according to Harden. He says the goal of Sex Week “is not to educate, but to titillate”—and that’s putting it very mildly.

Highlights include sex toy demonstrations and giveaways, as well as a “porn star lookalike” contest judged by an adult film director. The organizers of Sex Week give platforms to head honchos of the porn industry, including Steven Hirsch, who has produced 1,200 adult films. Hirsch bragged to an admiring student audience about how many women he’s slept with (“thousands”) and downplayed the dark side of his industry. (When asked if he’d want his own daughter to appear in one of his films, Hirsch waffled.)

Sex Week doesn’t sound like academic inquiry. It sounds like an eleven-day infomercial for the adult industry, financed by tuition dollars.

While some students undoubtedly think this campus culture is a sweet deal, it creates a hostile, harassing atmosphere for others—especially women. An entire section of Harden’s book is titled “Yale’s war on women: How Yale sends the message to students that women should be valued for their bodies, rather than their minds.”

Yale attracts some of the brightest, most talented young women in the country. But when they arrive on campus, they are shown degrading hard-core porn in class and encouraged to participate in “porn star lookalike” contests. Older students rank incoming freshmen on physical attractiveness. Yale made headlines for a string of incidents involving fraternities, in which young men marched around campus chanting “No means yes, yes means anal” and carried signs declaring, “We love Yale sluts.”

Female students are valued for their willingness to “hook up” and have casual sex with their classmates—and this degradation is egged on by professors and administrators. Harden recounts how the Dean of Students sent out an e-mail on Halloween, ostensibly to address the issues of sexual assault and campus safety.

“He got awkwardly enthusiastic about students’ sexual prospects for the evening, writing wistfully about how ‘having the sex you want’ is something that ‘makes you smile the next day,’” Harden writes. Another administrator encouraged students to “find just the right words that…lead to glorious, consensual sex.”

This in-your-face, sex-obsessed atmosphere eventually led to complaints of discrimination against women. In the spring of 2011, Yale came under federal investigation for creating a “sexually hostile environment,” and for its “inadequate response to a long trend of sexual harassment.” Seventeen female students were named as complainants.

“I feel like because I have had to deal with certain sexual misconduct from my peers that I don't have equal access," Hannah Zeavin, a Yale student and complainant in the case, told ABC News. "I can't sleep well anymore and when I walk around Yale campus at night I'm scared." Some might be tempted to blame the students for the campus environment. Harden disagrees. He believes the tone is set by administrators and professors, most of whom are steeped in sexual liberationist ideology.

“Most universities today are run by leftist ideologues and free-love social revolutionaries left over from the sixties,” Harden told me in an interview. “The hyper-sexual culture they helped create has led to a me-first brand of sexuality, where the feelings, the well-being, and even the consent of others is disregarded in an all-out pursuit of getting ‘what I want, when I want it.’”

As a young person, I couldn’t agree more. Our students—and especially our young women—deserve better.