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I honestly would like to write positive reviews but doing so is difficult these days. The quality of books which have lately landed on my table has been low. The good thing about this is that bad books are easy o review. Porn University: What College Students Are Really Saying About Sex On Campus by Michael Leahy is a book which was very easy to review. It has two major flaws and no real merits to balance them. The first problem is that, if you happen to be an atheist, the book leaves you cold. Second problem is that Leahy's book does not really provide what it promises. It does not tell what college students are really saying about sex. This is unfortunate; I for one would have been interested to hear what they have to say.
Michael Leahy is a recovering sex addict and his book is an attempt to convince people how dangerous and harmful pornography is. No doubt porn can be degrading and it draws a very one-sided picture of human sexuality. A young person bombarded with porn will perhaps develop a distorted view of sexual relations. I am, however, somewhat wary when it comes to listening the advices of old addicts. From the fact that porn became a serious problem for Leahy it obviously does not follow that most male students consuming porn will share his fate. Michael Leahy's sex addiction broke his marriage, made him to lose his job and eventually led to suicidal thoughts. Without denigrating the experiences of the author I assume that these kinds of consequences of porn are rare. Pornographic images are not crack cocaine; it is possible to watch porn and remain normal. Leahy seems to doubt this. His years as a sex addict have apparently convinced him that porn is a serious danger for the youth of today and Leahy seems to think that signs of this are already visible. Porn University is meant to be a study showing that the University campuses of the United States are threatened by the epidemic of hypersexuality.
Again, I shall not challenge Leahy's views about the horrors of porn. On the one hand, I am sure he has enough personal reasons to fear the possible consequences of pornography. I do not want to downgrade the importance of these experiences. On the other hand, an important influence during Leahy's post-porn years has been Jesus Christ and it is here where reasonable argumentation ends and faith begins. As noted already, if you are a non-believer, you are not moved by Leahy's main "argument" against porn. In order to demonstrate where the writer of Porn University stands let it only be noted that, according to Leahy: "…the time is right for today's college student to rise up and start…a sexual revolution…based on respect…for God's design for sex, love and relationships…the leaders of this…revolution will consist mainly of a large, emerging global contingent I refer to as the 'new evangelists.'" Enough said.
Michael Leahy thus has an agenda which is guided by his own experiences. It is unfortunate that it clearly influences the "study" of what college students are saying about sex on campus. The book is advertised as a MASSIVE study of the sexuality of today's college students. 26000 students from hundreds of campuses have spoken. Unfortunately the results cannot be taken seriously. The survey was done online, and the campuses chosen for the survey were the ones to which Leahy went to speak. Afterwards, through "word of mouth" "or "internet social networking sites" students from other campuses heard about the survey and took it online. This explains why the survey contains, for example, 2133 answers from University of Wisconsin-Madison and 3 answers from Eckerd College. It is obvious that the sampling is not in any way comprehensive (it does not include all campuses in the USA) and it may be heavily biased. It cannot be taken seriously. Students from "hundreds of colleges" took the survey yet the majority of responses came from a handful of colleges. For these reasons the results can be basically ignored but I cannot resist making the following observation. Leahy is worried that the hypersexual campus environment will ruin student's lives. But let us look at the results: "Students have spoken and the reality is sobering", as it is being claimed in the back cover of the book. What do the results say? As an example, let us note three results of the survey. According to the massive study: 1) Four percent of females think that their sexual activity has interfered with their family lives. 2) Eighty-two percent of females spend less than zero hours online for internet sex per week. 3) Nine percent of males have sought help for sexual behavior they did not like. Are these numbers alarming? You decide.
Thinking more thoroughly about Porn University led me to conclude that the book actually has one merit. Although 166 pages long, given the layout and small dimensions, it can be read in approximately two hours. Still, I advise the potential reader to save the two hours and the $14.99.
© 2010 Antti Kuusela
Antti Kuusela, MA, is finishing his PhD thesis in the philosophy of mind. He is also studying behavioral sciences and psychology in order to get the competence to work as a teacher of philosophy in high school. He lives in Helsinki, Finland. You can contact him through firstname.lastname@example.org