"Hooking Up" crossed the line

Zain Khalid

Nearly two weeks ago, freshmen received an email from the Freshman Dean’s Office (FDO) advertising an event entitled “Hooking Up: Hot Hints For Making Your Harvard (Or Future) Sex Life Great.”

“Join us for a scintillating and sexy talk with Amber Madison, author of…‘Hooking Up: An All-Out Guide to Sex and Sexuality,’” the invitation coaxed, promising “sexxxxxy suggestions.”

The next night throngs of freshmen congregated to get sexed up with It-Girl Amber. Upon being introduced, Madison pushed her mike aside. “Can y’all hear me okay? If I start talking about something like blowjobs, I don’t want to have something like that in my face,” she grinned. “A lot of people ask me how I got interested in sexuality…Well, they ask me why I’m such a slut.”

Madison explained that she became interested in sex when she realized how much it affected her life. She did not, incidentally, detail why she is “such a slut,” instead sharing a string of tips and embarrassing stories— for instance, the tale of her first yeast infection. Of course, she also delivered the usual clichés: “Good sex begins with good decision-making.” No kidding.

Later, Madison troubleshot sex hang-ups. For example, if you and your sexual partner have trouble agreeing on anal sex, maybe you just haven’t found the right position.

Yet the offensiveness of the event was not its content. It’s fine by me if Harvard students are aching for mediocre sex tips. Nor do I have major objections to Madison’s lifestyle.

But the college’s sponsorship changes the animal. The obvious argument in defense of such programming—that offended students don’t have to show up—misses the point. By organizing and sponsoring the talk, the FDO implicitly strays from its proper role of institutional tolerance for all lifestyles, endorsing choices that—though acceptable for many—may alienate large groups of students who don’t ascribe to such a lifestyle.

That night, Madison dribbled on about boundaries. Perhaps the FDO should take a lesson. In their sponsorship of “Hooking Up,” they’ve crossed them.

Lucy M. Caldwell ’09, a Crimson editorial editor, is a history and literature concentrator in Adams House.