'Generation sex' speaks out

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Courtesy of Amazon.com
Is a sex column appropriate reading in college newspapers? Daniel Reimold, a journalism professor at the University of Tampa, believes it is.

Reimold believes that students are dealing with issues of sex on every college campus and that students should be able to have open discussions on the topic.

But is it appropriate to discuss these issues in the public of a school newspaper? One opinion in the controversy says that so many people who are reading these papers, don't pick up the paper for a sex column. Professors, alumni, parents, and people who donate money receive the paper for news, not for advice on sex.

 "The censorship comes into play 99% of the time when a single outside reader, an alumni or parent or administrator, sees the word "sex" and simply reacts," Reimold said.

He believes that many people would simply pass over the article and if they didn't, they'd likely agree with the columnist's opinion or assessment.

This generation, Reimold said, has redefined the gender roles and "there's no blueprint for how students are supposed to act with each other" anymore. Sexuality is expressed more openly now than ever before, which has earned this generation of youths the name "generation sex".

Mary Beth Marklein, a staff writer for USA TODAY, wrote about the great controversy of these columns saying, "Vibrators, cross-dressing, oral sex, multiple orgasms, masturbation, bondage — no topic is too hot to handle. And while some say the columns are supposed to educate, others say they're raunchy and irrelevant."

Many colleges across the U.S. have found that students are more likely to pick up a newspaper if they know there will be a sex column. Sex sells, of course, but there are other risks associated with printing such columns.

Oppressive stereotypes are likely to be perpetuated in the articles. Instead of educating students about sexual equality, they're likely to be printing material that "size matters" or that a man's conquest for females will gain him popularity and respect.

Are these columns meant to entertain or to educate? I think the distinction should be made completely clear to readers to avoid foreseeable trouble. Additionally, I believe the staff writers should have prior background in feminist philosophies and ethics in order to dispel stereotypes instead of perpetuating them.

This could potentially be a beneficial idea as long as there are strict boundaries and a clear sense of ethics in the matter at hand. Something as touchy and controversial as this issue should be approached carefully as it could quickly and easily spiral out of control.

4 comments:

Alejandro Caballero November 7, 2010 at 9:38 PM  

As a regular student, I really don't see the point of a sex column in college newspapers.
Students can easily get the same information from the Internet and novelty magazines (even better, from an expert).
As you mentioned, college publications are read by other individuals and it's important to keep those outside readers in mind.

As a journalist, I think the whole purpose of college newspapers is to train students to become responsible journalists. Thus, for that to happen, students need the experience of learning what is and what isn't appropriate. For that reason only, I believe sex columns are okay as long as these are well written and have an ethical foundation.

sheyenne.manning November 8, 2010 at 8:12 AM  

I couldn't have said it better myself, Alejandro. I believe college should be a place to learn fundamental components of news writing. There is a time and place for discussions on sex and that's not in the school newspaper, unless, as you said, they are well-written and ethical. Still, there is a risk of perpetuating vicious sexual stereotypes and that's what concerns me the most.

taramaurer November 8, 2010 at 10:03 PM  

I agree and disagree with this. I want to say that I agree that certain topics are inappropriate for a college newspaper, yet I also that it could be interesting.

I think a really interesting idea for a "sex column" would be a daily/weekly perspective of someone of a certain sex and what they notice or experience on a daily basis. For example, a man writing on things he notices people of the same sex or another sex doing, and then raising an issue that's associated with this. It may be extremely important, or just lead to some helpful advice. In this sense, I think a "sex column" would be interesting.

It's funny because even before you started mentioning oppression and stereotypes, I was planning on commenting about it. Maybe a sex column could recognize those stereotypes and "reveal the truth."

At Simpson, I feel like the the sex column would be cheesy and not attract any readers. I have a feeling it would be in the Dear Abby format. In my opinion, I think it's ridiculous to have these letters to the writer because they are usually easy-to-answer questions that have been though of by the newspaper staff.

sheyenne.manning November 9, 2010 at 2:28 PM  

Tara, I'd hope that a sex column's goal would be to recognize and dismantle those stereotypes, or at least not play into them. I think that's one reason you get the feeling that it would be lame if Simpson were to adopt a sex column. There is an atmosphere about Simpson that promotes equality among all groups of people, including male and female. That's a big reason the sex column might be dull in our newspaper.

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