The Sexist

University Sex Columns, Reviewed

This week, the Nation's Alex Dibranco provided a brief history of the "Student Sex Column Movement." The college sex column, Dibranco argues, is "a radical progressive movement in the sense of pushing against traditional silence and the status quo," she writes. "Challenges to the columns stem from a conservative mindset . . . Given that the Republican Party has become increasingly dominated by the religious right and the issues of the conservative culture wars, with sex smack at the forefront, these columns become politicized in a way the columnists themselves don't necessarily intend. . . . the statement that 'sex is OK' becomes even more politically charged when the sex in question is generally unmarried and occasionally queer."

Criticisms of D.C.-area student sex columns, however, rarely take the form of the right-wing, anti-sex diatribe. At local colleges and universities, sex columnists are more likely to catch heat for furthering sex-negative sentiments, antiquated gender roles, or sloppy writing.

Last month, the American University Eagle's anonymous sex column was criticized for trivializing rape, ignoring LGBT students, and discouraging women from pursuing sex. Also this month, Georgetown University student journalist Juliana Brint accused her campus' sex columns of being "backwards, anti-feminist screeds" based on "outdated, belittling generalizations about the female psyche." How progressive are our local student sex writers?

Student Paper: The G.W. Hatchet

Columnists: Mr. Darcy, an anonymous heterosexual male; Layla, an anonymous heterosexual female.

Areas of Coverage: In Darcy's inaugural column, the male sex columnist posed an Austenian dilemma: Shall he choose the nice girl who gives a satisfying blow job, or the freaky one into semi-public window sex? Answer: Looks like he's sleeping (with both of them) on it for a little while longer. In Layla's latest go-around, she describes her unorthodox relationship with a "best friend" from out-of-town: They do it all the time, but they're not dating or anything, and it's awesome!

Progressive Score: 6. Both Darcy and Layla describe their personal experiences with casual sex with multiple partners—and they do so with respect for themselves and for everyone else involved. In college, that can be difficult—it's hardly edgy, but I'll take it. The problem with first-person sex columns from two heteros, though, is that the LGBT experience is completely shut out of the paper.

Student paper: The American University Eagle.

Sex columnists: Three anonymous writers—one female, two male, sexual orientation undisclosed. Their porny bylines: Amber Sparkles, Buster Darkhole, and Maxwell Hillcrest.

Areas of Coverage: The trio got off to a controversial start last month when they posited this hypothetic sexual experience—"It’s three in the morning. You have it inside you right now. It kind of hurts. You’ve had one too many cups of jungle juice"—as a normal AU hookup. In their follow-up column, Sparkles, Darkhole, and Hillcrest winked at the controversy as they moved on to another taboo campus topic. "It’s 3 a.m. and he has it in you right now. It hurts," the column read. "You are two sober, consenting adults who have just embarked on the journey of anal sex."

Progressive Score: 7. While the first column from the threesome was extremely ill-advised, this servicey anal sex primer—don't use silicone lube with silicone toys!—imparted some helpful and open-minded advice for dorm-dwellers embarking on an anal excursion for the first time. It also made a stab at inclusiveness: "Gay, straight, bisexual—it doesn’t matter," the column reads. "Anyone can enjoy the feeling that comes from anal stimulation, no matter their gender or sexual orientation."

But while the column worked to dispel the "taboo" against straight men enjoying ass play, it failed to tackle the pressure many straight women feel to do anal. It also only addressed the anal pleasure derived from massaging the prostate. Not everybody has a prostate!

On the other hand, the threesome managed to stir up some conservative ire for the column—always a good sign. "I am appalled at the content of the Eagle’s new column," wrote one commenter. "I find this particular article vulgar."

Student Paper: The Georgetown University Hoya.

Sex Columnists: Colleen Leahey

Areas of Coverage: According to Brint, who writes for the Georgetown Voice, Leahey's "backwards, anti-feminist screeds" come from a long line of conservative Georgetown sex columnists (Julia Allison was the first). In Leheay's first column, she declared that "The quest for 'Prince Charming' consumes the lives of most 20-something females." The odd advice in her second column wasn't so much gender-specific as it was stalker-specific: "After shouting their name, you wait for them to come running into your arms. Instead they ask, 'Why are you following me?'"

Progressive Score: 4. Leahey may very well have her hands tied at this particularly conservative student rag, which is lucky to have a sex column at all. "“[V]ulgarity is discouraged through all sections in The Hoya,” Hoya Managing Editor Marissa Amendolia explained in an e-mail to Brint. “[W]hen it comes to editing for style, vulgarity—and, depending on the situation, this may include sexual explicitness—is subject to editing as long as the editor maintains the author’s viewpoint.” That being said, Leahey doesn't have to get vulgar to become a bit more open-minded. It would behoove her to direct her columns to all members of the campus community, not just heterosexual females she deems "desperate."

Nevertheless, I give Leahey and the Hoya major points for refusing to hide their sex coverage under a pseudonym (even a pseudonym as inspired as "Buster Darkhole"). The Hoya's sex talk may be low on the sex, but at least they own it. If there's nothing wrong with talking about casual sex and anal experimentation, why keep your identity under the covers?

Note: I couldn't find any current sex columns at the UMD Diamondback, the Howard University Hilltop, or, uh, Catholic University. If you know of any other local student sex writers, let me know!

  • saxa

    A fair point about Leahey not using a pseudonym, but do you really want to own up to a column that expresses views like, "Guys seem to be puzzled by the complex and utterly confusing mind games of women; females can’t seem to cope with the simplistic, one-track male thought-process." ? (See: http://guide.thehoya.com/node/119)

  • umd
  • tribe

    A bit further South, William & Mary's Flat Hat has a great sex column, "Behind Closed Doors." I'm always impressed by how they avoid using heteronormative language in their columns and have never gotten the creepy, rape-y vibe that those AU excerpts had.

  • jules

    Its the same issue all of these "sex columns" have...when you're in college you ARE SO NOT A SEX EXPERT. YOU ARE NOT A RELATIONSHIP EXPERT. IN FACT YOU KNOW ALMOST NOTHING ABOUT LIFE. STOP BEING AN AUTHORITY.

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  • @jules

    Indeed. All college papers should stop writing any sort of art criticism too because their writers aren't experts on that either. Or really their reporters aren't professionals so no news, please.
    It's nice to know we have real experts like Amanda to provide that authority in our sex lives.

  • jules

    Students should definitely write about sex! They should! BUT, they shouldn't hand down stupid advice (like the lady from Georgetown who says we're all on our quest for "Prince Charming". Puh-leaze, bitch don't know me.)

    I have an example!

    Jenna B from Cornell's Daily Sun, had a fantastic column called "Bedroom Eyes."

    Read it!

    http://blogs.kitschmag.com/watch/2008/09/09/jenna-b-still-lives-and-fellates-fabulously-after-cornell/

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