Opinion

Is Harvard’s student nudie mag a porn?

The hallowed halls of higher education could not get any more ivy-covered than Cambridge, Massachusetts’ Harvard University. Established in 1636 by a Protestant minister, John Harvard, the school was founded to teach Caucasian men in the ways of puritanical, religious thought. Many of history’s most intriguing minds have stepped through Harvard Yard yearning for knowledge and left through the Crimson gates with a world class diploma, including Theodore Roosevelt, T.S. Eliot and Stockard Channing. Even our darling Dubya received his MBA at Harvard’s elite Business School.

But the times are a changing over at Harvard Yard, and no more does the Puritan way of life interest undergraduate students in the Square as it once did.

Meet the newest barrage of millennial creative expression. H Bomb is intended to be “a literary arts magazine about sex and sexual issues at Harvard,” say creators Katharina Cieplak-Von Baldegg and Camillia A. Hrdy, both members of Harvard’s talented undergraduate pool. The initial reaction is that this is not a problem. We decipher sexual metaphors in literature classes all the time and are taught that still nudes are actually legitimate forms of art. I’m not naming any names here, but some of us even commit to smarmy romance novels every evening before we hit the lights, all manifestations of sexual expression or repression, depending on your point of view.

Here’s the clincher, though: “Both male and female students will appear nude in photography portions of the magazine,” say Von Baldegg and Hrdy, “but that is not the main focus of the magazine.” Yeah, and in more recent news, I’m the Queen of England.

The issue at hand? Free speech, obviously. Harvard’s Commission on Student Life almost unanimously approved H Bomb, with the exception of two abstentions – lest they be accused of denying their students First Amendment rights. However, where do we draw the line between a pornographic publication and a sex-themed literary magazine that happens to feature a few nude photographs? Should we deem Playboy and Penthouse literary magazines, too? They both contain articles.

Does a world-renowned institute of higher education have any place in the sex arena? Hopefully, the H Bomb won’t taint America’s educational pride and joy in a seedy veneer of porn star-prepping undergraduates. John Harvard is surely turning in his grave.

Harvard is not the first institute of higher education to publish a porn mag – I mean, a literary magazine concerning sexual expression. Both Vassar and Swarthmore, highly regarded as pseudo-Ivy League colleges, issue sex-themed magazines, Squirm and Unmentionables, respectively.

Perhaps our peers to the north are just trying to compete with our undressed way of South Florida life; bikinis and board shorts are the mandatory uniform at UM. We are so jaded that the beach peep show doesn’t even provoke a glimpse at offenders. I guess it’s about time to get with the times and regard my striped Old Navy bikini as beautiful sexual commentary. Likewise, the H Bomb’s inaugural May edition will be a sight to behold.

Vanessa Cutler can be contacted at v.cutler@umiami.edu.

February 20, 2004

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The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami


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The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.