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Christian Union: The Magazine
October 29, 2019

John Hay Library Puts Emphasis on “Gay Pulp Fiction”

By Catherine Elvy, Staff Writer

Christian alumni from Brown and other top-tier universities were disturbed, but not entirely surprised, at the news of the university’s plans to expand and catalog its massive collection of “gay pulp fiction.”


MagBrown19Brown University plans to catalog its massive collection of gay pulp fiction, and the John Hay Library’s curator of literary and popular culture collections would like to add “more books that cover the entire LGBTQ+ spectrum.”

Brown’s more than 4,600 (and growing) volumes of cheap, highly explicit paperbacks is one of the biggest collections – or possibly the largest – of any, according to WBUR.org. The radio station noted that most of the books are “straight up pornography,” but others are categorized as “sexual lifestyle guides.”

In July, Boston’s NPR news station reported on the university’s efforts to catalog its pulps. The majority of titles are geared to same-sex attracted men. Once finished, Heather Cole, the John Hay Library’s curator of literary and popular culture collections, says she is “interested in adding more books that cover the entire LGBTQ+ spectrum.”


After the internet increased access to porn, pulps largely dissipated. The Brown collection roughly runs from the 1950s to the 1990s.

As such, Christian alumni of near by Ivy League schools expressed concern over Brown’s plans for its trove of erotic paperbacks. One of them, George Taylor, a longtime minister in New England, noted that Brown was founded to provide a wholesome Christian education in the region.


Indeed, Baptist clergy sought the charter for Brown to provide training for men of faith. In 1765, Rev. James Manning ran the institution at his parsonage and church.

During Manning’s administration, which lasted until 1791, the college produced 165 graduates, including 43 clergymen. The university’s motto is In Deo Speramus (In God We Hope). Historical records document how the bulk of the university’s initial and subsequent libraries’ books were spiritual in nature, including sermon series and apologetics.

“It’s too bad that Brown has strayed so far from its roots,” said Taylor, Yale ’68, MDiv ’71. “It’s a shame to see any of the schools such as Yale and Harvard stray from their roots. They all started with Christian backgrounds and the Bible was integral to that.”

“It’s very concerning to me the way these schools are heading.”

In the 1990s, Brown started its archive of gay pulp fiction. The university grew its assortment of taboo titles after bequests from Scott O’Hara, a pornographic film actor and writer, and James Jackson, a collector. Succumbing to AIDS, O’Hara died at 36 in 1998. He left his lurid manuscripts and other papers to Brown’s gay and lesbian literary collection. O’Hara wrote four books, including Autopornography: A Memoir of Life in the Lust Lane.

For its part, Brown claims the archive preserves one of the ways people with same-sex attraction “explored their identities” before widespread cultural shifts, according to WBUR.

Still, public policy researcher James Agresti, Brown ’88, cautioned that studies point to a series of physical and psychological consequences associated with loose sexual behavior.

“The biblical commands regarding sexuality and all other moral issues were put there for our benefit,” said Agresti, president of Just Facts (justfacts.com), a non-profit research and educational institute. “God made us with an innate desire for sex, and he gave us rules to ensure our happiness through it.”

“God loves us and wants the best for us. Documented facts repeatedly show that good things happen when we obey the moral laws in the Bible, and bad things happen when we don’t.”

Among other alumni, Rob Green (Brown ’89), a national director with Trail Life USA, expressed concern about campus trends that shun virtues, encourage sexual experimentation, and redefine societal norms. Some students at Brown were “pushing that radical agenda before it was in vogue for the rest of the country,” said Green.

Alain Oliver, executive director of the Love and Fidelity Network in Princeton, New Jersey, said recent efforts to expand Brown’s collection of “gay pulp fiction” are distressing. 

“Our entire culture is becoming pornographized, and it is changing the way everyone interacts with each other,” he said.

“By investing in these paperback pulp books, Brown is just cataloging the growth and spread of porn, and I’m not sure how specific of a record we need on that.”