Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Newspaper Sex Columns: College-level Sex Education?

College newspaper sex columns remain a very unfamiliar concept here at NIU, and, according to an article published by Alternet.org, it’s no wonder. “’Sex is one of those red-flag subjects,’ especially on conservative or religious campuses, whether in the form of sex columns, explicit pictures or other writing about sex,” reports Alex DiBranco, in this article originally published by The Nation. Reflecting back on my first-hand experience with the intricacies of NIU’s student governmental response to sexual “political” issues, I can only nod my head in agreement with the previously mentioned assertion. A student organization surrounding reproductive rights was nearly unimaginable at NIU, let alone a sex column in a paper that is reluctant to take a progressive stance on issues related to women, gender, and sexuality.*

Operating under the assumption that sexual health education increases the likelihood that students will make informed and safe decisions, it is surprising that college newspaper sex columns are relatively uncommon. Heather Strack asserts, "A sex column is a significant statement of female rights. Not only am I a female columnist, but I am writing about a topic considered taboo and improper for a woman." While some sex columns do reinforce a heteronormative mentality, many more promote a healthy exploration of gender and sexuality. Furthermore, studies indicate that “sex columns influence the rest of the newspaper by ‘getting sex out of the closet.’ National and campus sex and sexuality issues, such as LGBT rights, gender identity, abortion, birth control, STIs and sexual assault, gain recognition as significant, acceptable topics.”

Examining the pages of the Northern Star, it is hard to imagine that a sex column, especially one that has potential to influence acceptance of related issues would be embraced, accepted, or plausible. Why not? Though I’ve certainly encountered a few seemingly more liberal, energetic journalists from the student paper, it would be very difficult to infiltrate an editorial board that appears to pride itself on conservative politics and reporting. Why not me? Despite my rough track record with the Northern Star, I can’t help but be inspired by the idea of an informed and educational sex column on campus. I’m no expert, but the article states that sex columns provide women with the ability to assert themselves against mainstream patriarchal sexual messaging which is so especially prevalent in popular publications such as Cosmopolitan and Glamour. “Isabel Murray, feminist columnist for the Free Press, takes Cosmopolitan to task for its heteronormative, male-pleasure-oriented approach, while pointing out that it and similar women's magazines are nonetheless the only non-campus media addressing female sexuality” reports Alternet.org. If this genre of magazine is one of the only types of publicized means for men and women to obtain information about sex and what constitutes healthy sexual relations, it’s no surprise that the sexual double standard is alive and kicking.
Assuming that most NIU students have likely been exposed to inaccurate information provided by parents, peers, and abstinence-only education, it seems as though an informed and educational, college newspaper sex column could be the key to this perplexing paradigm of misinformation that continues to plague the nation.

* Jessica Valenti touches on the role of conservative religious aims, the myth of virginity, and its impacts on women in her book, “The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women”(Check it out!).

4 comments:

  1. I would honestly come back to DeKalb and throw a party if you got the Northern Star to do a sex column. Hell, I would be a guest journalist!

    ReplyDelete
  2. DO IT, B!! I'll see what I can do, but:
    1.) The Star already hates me.
    2.) I'm no journalist.
    3.) I'm only here until May and this is clearly going to take some work.

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