Being powerful, Margaret Thatcher once said, is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.
On college campuses, that rule applies to “sex columnists” who tell us they’re bold and cutting-edge for writing about their sex lives in the student newspaper. These columns are overwhelmingly written by uncreative girls who have modeled their personalities and lifestyles after Carrie Bradshaw from “Sex And The City”—right down to the slang, the clothes and, apparently, writing a ludicrous sex column.
“Vibrators, cross-dressing, oral sex, multiple orgasms, masturbation, bondage — no topic is too hot to handle,” USA Today said in 2002.
Actually, there are few things less “hot” (“hot” meaning controversial) than explicit sex talk on a college campus. As USA Today noted, sex columns are most popular at places like Berkeley and the Ivy League, where campus authority figures support events like Sex on a Saturday Night (required for all freshmen at Princeton) and an on-campus “Exotic Erotic” party at Yale. Only on a modern campus could an “iconoclast” be defined as “someone who engages in behavior accepted by 90 percent of students, faculty and administrators.”
Although many college sex columnists are indistinguishable from each other, two behaviors are extremely common to all of them. First, they assume the entire campus is fascinated by their personal sexual adventures. Second, they bash students who are unimpressed with their columns as “prudes.”
In an article for the Ivy Gate blog, Harvard “sex columnist” Lena Chen rated various sex and relationship columns for their alleged “shock factor.” She praised fellow sex columnist Miriam Datskovsky for her “risky approach” because she adopted a style “most reminiscent of Sex and the City” and tackled “adventurous topics.” Imitating a massively popular TV character: So bold!
Chen then attacked a relationship columnist who wrote a piece on dinner dates, sneering, “A virgin could write a better column. Next.”
I don’t know. Writing a column on dinner dates seems to require more creative brainpower and independent thinking than recycling articles from Cosmo. If one characteristic seems to link all raunchy college sex columnists, it’s a complete lack of originality.
Yale columnist Natalie Krinsky wrote a novel, “Chloe Does Yale,” which was savagely attacked by critics—not for being “shocking” but for being precisely the opposite. Reviewers on Amazon.com complained that Krinsky “stole shamelessly from Sex and The City” and wrote “a boring, half-baked ripoff.” “The worst thing about the book is how cliched every sentence is,” one said.
After publishing outside the Yale bubble, I’m sure Krinsky was shocked to find that the general public didn’t find her raunchy prattle all that fascinating.
I’d love to see these wannabe iconoclasts do something truly shocking, something that might actually be met with social disapproval on campus rather than widespread acceptance. Like defending gun rights in speech class (after a student at Central Connecticut State University did that this year, he was arrested by campus police). Or challenging the usefulness of a program like Sex on a Saturday Night (when Princeton’s Cassandra DeBennedetto did, she was slammed as a “virginity worshipper”). Or even, apparently, writing a column about dinner dates.
But that’s the problem with college campuses: the people who keep telling you they’re individualistic and anti-establishment never are.