The intuitive and immediately reply would be yes. But that is only if you’re not reading the Huffington Post.
Some Freshmen at Duke have refused to read the recommended Alison Bechdel’s illustrated memoir Fun Home. They have given a quite thoughtful response to their decision not to read what they consider mere pornography, a sin for Christianity, not to mention Islam. Here is Brian Grasso’s explanation of his position.
But in the Bible, Jesus forbids his followers from exposing themselves to anything pornographic. “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart,” he says in Matthew 5:28-29. “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away.” This theme is reiterated by Paul who warns, “flee from sexual immorality.”
I think there is an important distinction between images and written words. If the book explored the same themes without sexual images or erotic language, I would have read it. But viewing pictures of sexual acts, regardless of the genders of the people involved, conflict with the inherent sacredness of sex.
I think that most people would consider that a reasonable position, though the majority wouldn’t spend a whole lot of time quibbling, particular underclassmen at Duke,
Compare this to the HuffPo piece by Eliel Cruz, “How a ‘Pornographic’ Lesbian Graphic Novel Ignited a Culture War at Duke.’
In an essay for Quartz, Amber Humphrey writes that these students are engaging in the “antithesis of education.” “Education–especially higher education–obliges us to read, hear, and see things that we might not otherwise encounter,” Humphrey writes. “Anyone committed to learning must therefore engage with people, perspectives, ideas, and experiences that may at first seem strange, confusing, or problematic. Learning means we attempt to understand–it doesn’t mean we have to like everything we’re exposed to.”
The logical fallacy is that to understand a position you have to read the most vulgar rendition of that position. This sounds like the same argument that to understand what ISIS is doing in the Middle East you have to look at a beheading video. It does not follow. The reality is that we can understand arguments without a pornographic statement of the argument. To understand twerking I do not have to look at the stomach churning images of Ciley Myrus performing it.
We all understand that sexual libertinism has become required reading and viewing in the academia. But that does not make it respectable or necessary to a stellar academic education.
What’s the real agenda?
As Slate’s Jacob Brogan points out, the people “refusing to read Fun Home are the ones who need it most,” and he’s right: Getting to know queer people–whether real or fictional–is important in humanizing LGBT people and doesn’t just help combat everyday homophobia. It’s crucial in lobbying for legal protections as well.
The point is not to know but to approve. And not only to approve but to applaud.
And even Freshmen know that something is wrong with that kind of thinking.