A teenager gets space in the Washington Post to explain why he refused to read Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home because it has drawings of naked laydeez.
Brian Grasso is a freshman.
As a Christian, I knew that my beliefs and identity would be challenged at a progressive university like Duke.
My first challenge came well before I arrived on campus, when I learned that all first years were assigned “Fun Home,” a graphic novel by Alison Bechdel. The book includes cartoon drawings of a woman masturbating and multiple women engaging in oral sex.
After researching the book’s content and reading a portion of it, I chose to opt out of the assignment. My choice had nothing to do with the ideas presented. I’m not opposed to reading memoirs written by LGBTQ individuals or stories containing suicide. I’m not even opposed to reading Freud, Marx or Darwin. I know that I’ll have to grapple with ideas I don’t agree with, even ideas that I find immoral.
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.
So? It’s a sentence in a book. There are many sentences in many books. Just pointing to a sentence doesn’t tell us much. Maybe Jesus was wrong.
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. My beliefs extend to pop culture and even Renaissance art depicting sex.
He’s so proud of his dull little “beliefs.” They’ve been making people narrow and censorious for 20 centuries, but he’s bursting with pride in them. He’s eighteen and he doesn’t know much yet, but he has his important serious beliefs. And the Washington Post thinks it’s worth publishing them.
I decided to post about my decision on the Duke Class of 2019 Facebook page to comfort those with similar beliefs. I knew that my decision wouldn’t be well-received. How could it in a country where, according to one study, more than three-quarters of American men between 18 and 24 years old have viewed pornography within the past month.
But though many students denounced my decision publicly, almost 20 people privately messaged me, thanking me for my post. I received many messages from Christians, but a message from a Muslim man stood out. The man, currently a sophomore at Duke, wrote, “I’ve seen a lot of people who just throw away their identity in college in the name of secularism, open-mindedness, or liberalism.” Is this really what Duke wants?
Ah there it is again, the ever-present worship of “identity.” If your “identity” is being closed-minded and incurious and and narrow, then yes, that is what any good university wants – it wants you to expand and enrich that small pinched identity. It’s doing you a favor.
Granted, you can do that without watching people fuck in class, but you can’t very well do it while treating your “beliefs” as off-limits.