News

The Latest H-Bomb:

The Committee on College Life (CCL) at Harvard University has voted to approve the H-Bomb, a magazine that will be run by students and which will feature fiction, sex advice, art and also, nude photographs of Harvard undergraduate students. Fourteen members of the CCL approved the H-Bomb as an official Harvard publication. Two members abstained.

The CCL took this decision after inspecting a similar magazine, Squirm, which the H-Bomb is going to be modeled after. Squirm is a student-run erotic magazine at Vassar College and is described on Vassar’s official Web site as “an intelligent and provocative exploration of sex and sexual pleasure.”

Katharina C. Baldegg ’06 and Camilla A. Hrdy ’05, the two Harvard University students who proposed the magazine, selected “H-Bomb” as the title because the term has a special meaning for the students at Harvard University. The rest of the world may think that the term “H-Bomb” refers to the Hydrogen Bomb but the average John studying at Harvard knows that it actually describes the positive effect that his Harvard credentials tend to have on people, especially those of the opposite sex.

According to the Crimson, Harvard University’s 121 year old newspaper, Professor of Psychology Marc D. Hauser, who teaches Science B-29, “Evolution of Human Nature,” nicknamed “Sex” by students, will serve as the Faculty adviser for the H-Bomb.

The decision by the CCL is, to say the least, controversial. The issue at hand is whether the approval of this magazine is a triumph for free speech or is it a disturbing and increasing trend towards accepting porn in everyday life. The Harbus presents the matter in the words of the protagonists themselves and also details some of the diverse reactions:

Associate Dean Judith H. Kidd, a CCL member:

As quoted in cnn.com: “We are aware of the fact that some segments of the population would find the contents distasteful. However, the committee considered this to be an issue of freedom of speech.”

As quoted in the Crimson: “There will be people who will value the free speech […] and people whose sensibilities are offended. [CCL] also very strongly felt we ought to be able to approve these organizations.”

Assistant Dean Paul J. McLoughlin, a CCL member:

As quoted in the Crimson: “Committee members really sort of look at it as, ‘Is it something if the student body would want? Is it feasible?’ Not ‘Would I join?'”

Katharina C. Baldegg ’06 and Camilla A. Hrdy ’05, Publishers, H-Bomb:

As quoted in abcnews.com: “(It is) a magazine that deals with sex and the issues surrounding sex for men and women of all sexual orientations….It will provide comfortable, relaxed discussion that doesn’t hold back and puts a lighter spin on something that shouldn’t be a restricted or delicate topic at Harvard.”

As quoted in sify.com: “Just the fact that there’s no publication that allows an outlet for what everyone’s talking about seems kind of ridiculous….What we are proposing is an outlet for literary and artistic expression that is both desired and needed, not a pornographic magazine.”

Lecturer on the Study of Religion, Brian C. W. Palmer:

In an email to the Crimson: “Much depends on the values of the editors. Quite possibly the magazine will sell, as so much else sells, by commodifying women’s bodies and including an occasional half-nude man as an alibi.”

Edmund Sullivan of Columbia University’s Scholastic Press Association:

As quoted in sify.com: “(I do) not believe these activities signal a serious
or disturbing trend in campus publications….But I have noticed an increase in sex-advice columns. Really, though, these columns are just the ‘Dear Abby’ of the 21st century. They just contain more free expression.”

The debate has just begun and seems set to follow the magazine as it goes from being an idea to being reality. The next issue seems to be that of funding. Being approved by the CCL merely gives the publishers of the H-Bomb the right to apply for a grant, and they will have to go through the grant application process like any of the other Harvard publications.

The publishers, Katharina C. Baldegg and Camilla A. Hrdy, on their part seem to have wisely embraced this controversy as free publicity for their magazine and seem to be doing their best to increase it. They have plans to distribute the first issue just in time for Harvard’s commencement ceremonies in May. So don’t be surprised if you are attending the commencement ceremony and the photographer asks you to say “cheesecake” instad of “cheese”

February 17, 2004