When the Committee on College Life (CCL) approved H Bomb last week, the proposed magazine made national headlines, and it wasn’t for the articles. The new student publication would address issues of sexuality on campus, but after the CCL signed on, the real attention-getter was the proposal to include nude photographs of undergraduates in its pages. Since then, the committee has announced that it will reconsider H Bomb’s status as an official campus publication, and, reversing its initial decision to let the magazine apply for grants, it has stated that the College will provide for the magazine. We are dismayed at the CCL’s waffling.
Despite concerns that H Bomb will be pornographic, the magazine that was pitched to the CCL will compliment other College publications nicely, providing undergraduates a forum to vent on issues of sex and sexuality on campus. The magazine’s editors, Camilla A. Hrdy ’04-’05 and Katharina Cieplak-Von Baldegg ’06, as well as its faculty advisor, Professor of Psychology Marc D. Hauser, further emphasized that although the magazine would contain some nudity, it would not be the focus of the magazine, and it would not be pornographic. Rather, H bomb would strive to open discussion about sexuality through student contributions of fiction, artwork, features, and photographs.
H Bomb’s editors also have a model in mind—Squirm, a Vassar College publication that features nude photographs and also addresses issues of student sexuality. Indeed, the CCL initially agreed to endorse the new magazine after examining a copy of Squirm, which convinced them that H Bomb would not just be porn.
H Bomb’s detractors, who have nevertheless insisted on labeling it as porn, argue that such a magazine is degrading to the student body and threatens to corrupt the students who read it. Yet there is nothing inherently harmful or degrading about sex or nudity, and as legal adults, most college students have the capacity to deal with these matters maturely. Ultimately, critics must not confuse issues of morality with those of sexuality, and they should realize that discussing sex is healthier than ignoring it.
From the valued tradition of Primal Scream to art classes and theatre productions that feature nudity, Harvard students already have a fair amount of experience with the human body, and it is unlikely that a publication containing a few nude photographs will have any catastrophic effects. Promoting comfort with sexuality in an open atmosphere, meanwhile, has long been a goal of Harvard administrators and student groups alike. Well-established campus organizations such as Contact and the Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgener and Supporters Alliance, for instance, actively encourage students to talk about their sexuality. Meetings during freshman orientation and the dissemination of contraception in student dorms also encourage students to think and talk about sex in a healthy way. A magazine like H Bomb will only help these efforts towards openness.
But for now, it seems as though H Bomb will go unrecognized and unfunded. And, though we cannot be sure that the CCL gave up on H Bomb because of national media attention, it is likely that such pressures played an important role in the committee’s decision to backpedal. The CCL should reconsider its decision without fear of embarrassing Harvard in the national press and judge the publication on the benefits it will have for undergraduate life at Harvard. We believe that if it does, the CCL will support H Bomb once again.