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College Student Sex Column Movement Continues Nationwide

October 1, 2009

The college media sex column movement continues to be among the “most publicized, electrifying, and divisive phenomena in student journalism.”  So says a researcher quoted in a fantastic new Nation feature by Alex DiBranco on the columns’ journalistic, political, and feminist implications.  OK, so the researcher is me.

DiBranco’s original pitch for the piece immediately piqued my interest because (as my quote and some of my past research attest) I truly consider this sub-section of the student press to be of magnified importance that goes far beyond the student sex columns’ and magazines’ obvious entertainment and titillation factor.  These pieces and publications explore *real* issues involving student sex and socialization, the type of information left out of many public school curricula, stereotypical media representations, Internet pornography, and even parent sex talks.

In addition, the movement is blazing a path toward greater openness surrounding all sexual orientations and proclivities.  It also helps balance a still-present gender gap in sexualized media representations, in which females are often left out or objectified.  As one former female student sex columnist declared, “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.”

The sudden surge in the number of student columns and magazines directly on the heels of “Sex and the City” led many to characterize their existence as a passing fad.  More than a decade later, they still exist, and their numbers are growing stronger and continuing to cause controversy and debates.  As Dartmouth alum DiBranco shares, “This summer Dartmouth saw the launch of a journal of gender and sexuality, Sir & Madam (ahem…S&M), with articles and creative writing covering YouPorn, being a drag queen, a preteen girl’s awakening of sexual desire, and the rainbow of gender and sexuality. Regardless of accusations of unwholesomeness, sex doesn’t seem headed back into the campus closet anytime soon.”

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