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Newsflash: Non-Threatening Sex Talk Increases Readership

The Village Voice notes a trend: college newspapers running female sex advice columnists. What are these columnist saying? Apparently, nothing:

Hyper-feminine, even reactionary, most articles read like giggly guides for good manners. We imagine these writers much like Carrie Bradshaw: on their beds with a shiny white laptop, typing, but also taking plenty of breaks to paint their toenails, peer out the window (is there a hot man on the stoop?), and fluff up their hair.

Now, frankly I don’t know if this is fair or not. But this has the ring of truth to me:

Yvonne Fulbright, the 29-year-old author of The Hot Guide to Safer Sex (Hunter House) and a columnist for NYU’s Washington Square News, says she too was disappointed with the Spectator’s final selection and takes offense whenever she’s clumped together with the rest of the sex-writing “pack.” “They make things so Mars-Venus. It’s nonpolitical and nearly always silly,” she says. “No one steps out of the system, because if they do, they think they’ll be called perverts.

(emphasis mine.)
The Voice ends on a weak high-note:

As Grantham puts it, “There’s politics in the act itself. It’s just like, Hey, look! I’m a woman. I enjoy sex. I’m talking about it. Isn’t this cool?”

I’m left unsatisfied, and I’m not sure what bothers me more, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

On the one hand, these columnists seem not to reflect the diversity of the sexual expression of their own peers. Either because they are scared to admit to too much knowledge or acceptance, or because the papers don’t want to go out on any limb. Assuming the latter is the lion’s share, what bothers me is that the papers get the cheap titilation of having a female columnist writing about sex, without having to deal with her saying anything that would rock the boat. Empty calories. I suspect this is at play a fair amount because it makes so much sense, and that the columnists selected fall within this mold because that’s the role they are meant to fill.

Maybe the thought that bothers me more is that these papers really are not chickening out, but are instead delivering exactly what their audience wants: reinforcement of a heterosexist, PV-intercourse dominated juvenial, stunted sexual culture. “Rules”-like rules for dating and hooking up, Cosmo-prescriptions instead of personal answers. Maybe they are preaching the religion of stupid to hordes of sheeple, who expect no less and demand no more.

I remember my undergraduate years as ones of profound self-discovery, for myself and my friends. But maybe I was just luckier than most, and universities out there are still marginalizing everybody but the straight overgrown high school kids fucking in the approved way.

2 thoughts on Newsflash: Non-Threatening Sex Talk Increases Readership

  1. This proud pervert says YUCK.

    It reminds me of a story a friend of mine told about a magazine industry conference she went to. During one of the panel discussions, about women’s magzines, one writer asked the crowd “When are we going to stop lying to our readers about sex? “because apparently, that’s what women’s magazines do. Often when they interview people about sex, before publishing they change details, genders, descriptions of practices, etc, in order to match some kind of vanilla-clean image of what their readers want to read about. But they’re not actually reflecting what they’re readers are doing and thinking about and telling them.

    Anyway, the connection I see is that these newspapers and magazines are trying to grab readers by talking about sex, (and having a woman doing it -OOH how titillating and modern) but then they try to avoid controversy by censoring. Either overtly, or by choosing writers who will only write unthreatening, vanilla heteronormative drivel…

    excuse me while I go vomit politely and girlishly…

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