Like many home-schoolers, Harden is a true American eccentric. He quit before he finished high school, got a G.E.D. and spent his interim years drifting: loading cow manure for the gardening department at Walmart, working as a baggage handler for United and as a lounge singer in Florida, and volunteering with a medical relief charity. Somewhere in there he found his true love and, almost on a whim, married. Harden’s accounts of his itinerant travels are in some ways the most entertaining parts of the book, although he takes pains to avoid seeming too world-weary so that when he arrives on campus he can be truly, deeply shocked.
Harden had been twice rejected by Yale before being accepted, and he had the misfortune of coming to New Haven during the decade when students were cementing a new tradition known as Sex Week. For days leading up to this biennial extravaganza Harden receives e-mails advertising seminars like “The Female Orgasm” and “Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know About Sex (and Sex Toys!).” When the big week arrives, he, along with hundreds of fellow students, attends lectures by porn stars and porn moguls and peddlers of every sex toy on the market (all eco-friendly, of course). Most of what he describes seems like fodder for satire, but Harden approaches it all with great seriousness, pausing often for helpful definitions: ” ‘double anal penetrations’ — a dangerous and frequently harmful act during which two males penetrate the anus of the female simultaneously.”