We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
College sex columns: So wrong, they’re . . . boring.
This week, the Nation’s Alex Dibranco declared that the college sex column represents “a radical progressive movement in the sense of pushing against traditional silence and the status quo.” That might have been true when sex columns first popped up on college campuses in 1996, but now, fucking and telling is a normal campus activity for radicals and right-wingers alike. At this point, simply rehashing your heterosexual, vanilla, and gender-role-informed Saturday night hook-up through the campus press does not a sexual revolution make—-even if you publish under the pseudonym “Buster Darkhole.” Sady of Tiger Beatdown and I talk about where the student sex column should go from here.
References: George Washington University’s sex column, penned by “Mr. Darcy” and “Layla” [Exhibits A & B]; Georgetown University’s sex column, penned by Colleen Leahey [Exhibits C & D]; American University’s sex column, penned by “Amber Sparkles,” “Maxwell Hillcrest,” and our pal Buster [Exhibits E & F].
SADY: ah, the kids today. what are they up to? other than pretending they know enough about sex to write about it, OBVS, since the kids of many various days seem to believe the same thing.
AMANDA: also, inventing hilarious pseudonyms for themselves, like Rex Butthole and V. Gina
SADY: i know, right? or BUSTER DARKHOLE, Legitimate Writer and Giver of Mature Sexual Counsel [Exhibit E]. somehow, i just hold out the hope that Buster Darkhole is his real name and this is the only career path open to him.
SADY: actually, as i read your summary, i was fondest of the work and pseudonym of MR. DARCY [Exhibit A]. i remember the third-act twist in Pride and Prejudice which mr. darcy exclaimed, “verily, miss bennet! our coffee date has involved a most unexpected oral manipulation of my genitals! yet i cannot refuse the fair lady Bingley, who is a superfreak in word and in deed!”
AMANDA: agreed, but at least mr. darcy is better than “layla” [Exhibit B], the name of the female columnist. though i knew a lot of kids in college into Clapton, so i guess it’s a cultural thing
SADY: haha. but, you know, reading these things and your summary of them, i was reminded of (CURSE ME FOR UTTERING THE FORBIDDEN NAME) T*cker M*x. [Exhibit douche]. Somehow, it’s just not scandalous any more to note that ladies like to have sex and are having casual sex. Unless you are the Pope, in which case all sex scandalizes you to some degree or another. The Kids These Days are pro-sex, including the lady ones. but they’re also pro-ridiculously-conservative-gender-norms. and i had somehow hoped that making the point that ladies and dudes can both enjoy sex would change things. IT HAS NOT.
AMANDA: one idea i’ve seen in a couple of these stories (and from adults talking down to college-age people, too) is: yes, women like to have sex just as much as men do, but they have to not do it in order to be happy [Exhibit E].
SADY: oh, yes. the HOOKUP CULTURE! which is DESTROYING LADIES’ CHANCES OF HAPPINESS!
AMANDA: because if they don’t not have sex they’ll never be in a relationship, which is what they REALLY want.
SADY: right. your vagina has to accumulate enough charge, through non-use, in order to work its Boyfriend-Entrapping powers on the dude of your choice.
AMANDA: i just read a chapter of a new book about young adult sexual experiences, ill remember the name later [Exhibit Laid: Young People’s Experiences with Sex in an Easy-Access Culture], and the introduction compared “hooking up” to a “microwave burrito” — you want it in the moment but eventually, you’re going to regret it. the book called casual sex “settling,” and insisted that good sex can only be had in committed relationships. personally, i really like being in a relationship, but part of the reason i like it is because i’m not only in the relationship so that i am ALLOWED TO HAVE SEX. i imagine this worldview just ends up with a lot of women settling into relationships with people they they don’t really like that also don’t provide great sex
SADY: yeah, and the mr. darcy column (i am sorry i keep returning to it! it fascinates me!) sets up the same good girl/bad girl paradigm. like, i COULD be with the girl who i might legitimately want a relationship with… or i could be with AWESOME SEXY TIMES lady. and, you know? it’s kind of sad to me that dudes still think this division exists. although hilarious that dude is puzzling out loud over how he wasn’t able to “settle down” as a damn college student.
AMANDA: i know. but then at the end, darcy is all, “you know what, maybe i can find a freaky girl that i love!” but you know he’s just gonna kinda keep fucking both of them. Whatever. that is the weirdest thing to me about the Concerns over the Hook-Up Culture. why should college students be encouraged to search out their Final Life-Long relationship among the first relationships they’ve ever had? that makes no sense, and neither does telling girls that hooking up will damage them. they can look for a boyfriend whenever they want to do that. or a girlfriend, which is one thing that none of these sex columns is really addressing.
SADY: YEAH. it’s all boys sexing the girls, and ridiculous gender stereotypes of boys sexing girls [Exhibit D], but these “sex” columns often seem more like the work of not terribly reflective or original straight college kids marveling over the fact that they can have sex and not worry about their moms overhearing them or showing up to offer suzy a ride home before it gets too late. but shouldn’t “sex” be a more, um, inclusive discussion than this thing about giggling over how you got SOOOO wasted and sexed up someone in your totes heterosexual manner last night?
AMANDA: of course, i would say yeah, but i can see why this happens. when you’re in college, those things are exciting to you, as a boring heterosexual person, even if its not terribly interesting to even, say, your classmates. it can be hard to look past your own experience when you’re first experiencing all these things. also, it can be hard to write when you’ve recently graduated from 5 paragraph essays.
SADY: oh, yeah. and, i mean, that’s cool and all. but it also – and i speak as someone who is ancient as the grave and yet remembers similar pressures from when i went to college – it creates this weird atmosphere on campus, where you ARE, to some degree, pressured to have enough casual sex to prove that you can do it and aren’t some clingy relationship-needing heterosexual female, yet you’re also a slut if you don’t eventually have a relationship, and you don’t exist, basically, if you’re queer.
SADY: like, it’s about “freedom,” and rebellion, but freedom can only ever take one pre-existing shape. by trying to make sex more public, you should be opening it up, but you end up writing a script for what sex should look like. which is not good for anyone, actually.
AMANDA: no, and it’s not particularly fun to read. which should be the main point. though i thought the American University anal sex column was getting there a little bit. at least Darkhole was all, “if you want her to put her finger in your butt, it’s cool, man.” [Exhibit F].
SADY: well, i mean, you have SEEN HIS NAME, right? he is buster darkhole! this is the column he was born to write!
AMANDA: yeah. I mean, it’s possible that Darkhole is a little too eager with the anal sex. i think i noted that the column didn’t mention the fact that like, it’s cool not to have anal sex, too, if you’re not into it.
SADY: maybe his full name is actually Buster Orhis Darkhole III.
AMANDA: i really want to score an interview with this person. but the AU column is an interesting approach because it is three people, two men and one lady, and i don’t know if there’s any gay or lesbian representation on that board, but that approach does open up the possibility of diversity, and not preaching one person’s crazy high school abstinence-only education lessons to an entire campus [Exhibit C]. although god knows how they actually get together and write that thing.
SADY: yeah, i mean, i’m fond of the collaborative approach to all this. maybe if there were like FIFTEEN college sex journalists per campus (and there are probably enough candidates!) you might get one of them that is confident enough not to just say whatever they think will make them look cool and sexually experienced, middle-school style. and hey, maybe one or two that aren’t straight people! that would be fun! i mean, i am skeptical of the entire “sex expert” position. i’m a grown lady who has been thinking about this stuff for the majority of my grown lady life, and i’m still not an expert on how my OWN sexual relationships should go.
AMANDA: it’s interesting, because the Nation‘s piece on student sex columns painted them as this really radical progressive movement. and i think there’s a confusion there, because people still think that “talking about sex” makes you a liberal and saying “people shouldn’t talk about sex” makes you conservative.
SADY: right! and i think it is an issue of the younger generation! battle lines have shifted a bit; now, EVERYBODY talks about sex, liberal and conservative and that’s kind of taken for granted. it’s what they say that is the issue. or, alternately, the fact that everybody who is given a platform to do so seems to say the same thing.
AMANDA: right. and i don’t know what Mr. Darcy or Ramm Bottomham’s political persuasion is, but I imagine there’s more political diversity in these columnists than there is actual sexual diversity. which is weird!
SADY: yeah. and, honestly, i think T. Otis Notavirgin or whatever are – MAYBE! JUST MAYBE! – feeling more pressure to seem in line with the most widely accepted version of College-Age Sexuality than to actually, seriously think about sex and maybe come up with some insights.
AMANDA: yeah, and seeing as whenever i happen to write about college students they all flood my comments with insights like, “gay,” or … “gay,” i can’t really blame them [Exhibit frat]. college students are really harshly scrutinized over their sex lives, and college sex columnists must experience the worst of it.
SADY: Honestly! Here is what I think: I think that Buster Darkhole and Layla and Mr. Darcy and whoever are all filing these pieces that are like, “so I got totally WASTED! and had SEX! like PEOPLE MY AGE TEND TO DO!” then they are going home to make microwave popcorn and watch a movie and call their moms. and maybe ask someone out to a movie. that is what i believe. or hope?
AMANDA: i think they’re probably also silently weeping over the comments and/or getting shit from their friends [Exhibit single tear].
SADY: oh, god yes. but, you know, if embarrassing college sex columns are what it takes to teach the young people about Dealing With The Terrible Mean Blog Comments That People Will Eventually Leave On Any Blog Ever, I think it’s a sacrifice worth making. sort of!
Photo by BodogGirl