Voices

Let’s talk about sex (columns), baby

September 17, 2009


Am I really “insecure and therefore date a myriad of boys to fuel [my] self-esteem”? Am I engaging in “sloppy dance floor make-outs, desperate dating habits and countless relationships that all converge to a dismal, heartbreaking end” because I am “consumed” by “the quest for Prince Charming”?
I certainly hope not, but Colleen Leahey (COL ’11), The Hoya’s newest sex and dating columnist, insists that I—along with all of my female counterparts—really am.
Leahey has only written two columns, but they have both relied on outdated, belittling generalizations about the female psyche. Her offensively retro columns aren’t unprecedented, though. Before Leahey took up the mantle of campus sexpert, the title was held by Stephanie Hannah (MSB ’11), whose first column, about what to do when losing your virginity, was a reductive paean to antiquated gender roles.
Since when did running a sex and dating column become an excuse to print backwards, anti-feminist screeds?
Some would say it’s a failure of the form. Sex and dating columns were largely popularized by the HBO series Sex and the City. The show debuted in 1998 and, despite protagonist Carrie Bradshaw’s limp prose, ramped up public demand for more sex writing, especially on college campuses.
Is it wrong to expect a college student—who has at most a handful of years worth of experience with sex and dating—to bill herself as an expert on relationships? Perhaps, but a few manage to pull it off successfully.
The Cornell Daily Sun, for example, has run a couple exceptional sex and dating columns by Jenna Bromberg and Liana Mancini. Harvard student Lena Chen found significant online fame thanks to her well-written blog, “Sex and the Ivy: The Bleeding Heart Nympho’s Guide to Harvard Life.”
What makes for a good college sex and relationships columnist? The chief requirements are a genuine writing talent and a high level of comfort when publicly discussing sex. Unfortunately, Georgetown’s sex columns seem to be lacking both of those attributes.
Five columnists, all of whom wrote for The Hoya, have tried their hands at analyzing Georgetown’s sex and dating scene over the past seven years. The first was Julia Allison (née Baugher, COL ‘04), of Internet infamy, who started writing “Sex and the Hilltop” for The Hoya in October of 2002.
Racy column name aside, Allison’s articles were actually quite tame. Apart from a few forays into sex talk (“The Dos and Don’ts of Ex Sex,” for example), her columns were mostly chatty, informal reflections on typical collegiate dating dilemmas: is it possible for a guy and girl to be platonic friends, what is an acceptable age gap, what do male coeds really want? I wouldn’t call her progressive—she devoted her second-ever column to extolling the virtues of The Rules, the 1995 advice book for women that praised the virtues of playing hard to get—and she was known to include Carrie Bradshaw-isms like “that got me thinking” in her articles.
In one of her more meta columns, Allison published some of the feedback she was receiving about the column, and the biggest criticism was the chastity factor—Georgetown students wanted more sex.
“I was called the sex columnist, but I didn’t really discuss sex,” Allison said during an interview with the Voice this June. “Now, was that because I didn’t want to discuss sex, or I couldn’t discuss sex? I think that it was probably a combination of both.”
Tensions over how much sex to include in “sex” columns have continued for The Hoya. While the columns may boast cheeky names like “Between the Sheets,” “A Compromising Position,” and “Rounding the Bases,” you won’t find any frank discussions about sex in The Hoya’s pages.
When Hannah wrote an article about oral sex etiquette last year, for example, The Hoya refused to run it.
“[V]ulgarity is discouraged through all sections in The Hoya,” then Guide Editor and current Managing Editor of the Hoya and Marissa Amendolia (COL ’11) wrote in an e-mail. “[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.”
Thanks to a combination of Georgetown’s repressed Catholic identity and The Hoya’s stodginess, our “sex” columns lack frank discussions of sex. With sex off the table, the columnists—who have all been heterosexual women—confine themselves to making dated, distasteful generalizations about female failings.
Even if The Hoya wants its columnists to focus primarily on dispensing dating advice, it’s an unavoidable fact that sex is a central aspect of most college relationships. If The Hoya can’t reconcile itself to that fact, it should get out of the sex column game.



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Comments 5

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    why don’t people have sex be for there kids come back from school why not have sex now

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    It would be nice to be able to go back and read these past Hoya items, but it appears as though they purge their archives of such things. What a shame, coming from the “paper of record.”

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    go fuck yourself. when was the last time you got laid anyway?