Duke Freshman: Why I Won't Read That Book

It's about the images, not the ideas
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 26, 2015 8:38 AM CDT
Duke Freshman: Why I Won't Read That Book
In this 2014 photo provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, cartoonist and graphic memoirist Alison Bechdel poses in her studio in central Italy. She's the author of "Fun Home."   (AP Photo/Courtesy of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Riccardo De Luca)

Some Duke freshmen made headlines this week for refusing to read a graphic novel assigned to them. In the Washington Post yesterday, one of them provided a fuller explanation of the stance against Alison Bechdel's Fun Home. "The book includes cartoon drawings of a woman masturbating and multiple women engaging in oral sex," writes Brian Grasso, a Christian who considers the images pornographic. Grasso says he's not opposed to reading about ideas and beliefs opposed to his own—and fully expects to do so at Duke—but having to look at pictures is a whole different matter. "I think there is an important distinction between images and written words," he writes. "If the book explored the same themes without sexual images or erotic language, I would have read it."

In his view, the images violate the "sacredness of sex." Grasso writes that he knows his is a minority view, but "cultural pluralism will lose its value if students aren't allowed to follow their beliefs, even if they are conservative." At Quartz, however, SUNY Brockport instructor Amber Humphrey writes that education "obliges us to read, hear, and see things that we might not otherwise encounter." If these students aren't prepared to do that, maybe Duke should show them the door. "Let them reapply when they are ready to face the danger presented by a comic book." (Click to read her full column, or Grasso's full column.)

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