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College Sex Scribes Are Campus Stars

With sex on college campuses still often a taboo topic, Sex and the University shows how these authors generated important discussions amongst their peers.

“Is That a Gold Medal Between Your Tits?” That’s not a rhetorical question, but the title of a sex column in McGill Daily by Denise Brundson, one of over 2,000 author Daniel Reimold consulted to write Sex and the University: Celebrity, Controversy, and a Student Journalism Revolution (Rutgers University Press). The University of Tampa assistant professor of journalism believes that these student sex scribes have a lot to teach us about how a generation views sex, as well as offering lessons about free speech and modern media.

The first college sex column originated in 1997 at my alma mater, UC Berkeley, in the Daily Californian as a way, ironically enough, to stem controversy after 4,000 copies of the paper were stolen when they published an editorial endorsing an anti-affirmative action law. Features editor Matt Belloni (now at The Hollywood Reporter ) said, “We knew those people who were storming our halls wouldn’t be up in arms about sex. Berkeley’s a weird place…There are certain issues people would be enraged about, and sex just wasn’t one of them.” Thus, Sex on Tuesdsay was launched, written by Laura Lambert, who was studying to be a sex therapist and covering everything from hand jobs to HIV testing to sex during menstruation, and is still going strong. Belloni concludes, “I honestly don’t think the column would’ve happened if we’d been a university-controlled paper.”

From there, other papers followed, culminating in the rise to fame of Natalie Krinsky, who, with a single column on oral sex, “Spit or Swallow?” for the Yale Daily News , found her writing the tenth most-Googled page online, prompting major media coverage and leading to a deal with Hyperion for the novel Chloe Does Yale . Columns sprung up at other schools, leading some to actively seek out the job in the hopes of continuing on that path after graduation. Amber Madison ( Hooking Up and Talking Sex With Your Kids ) and Yvonne K. Fulbright ( Touch Me There! and Sex with Your Sex ), have also gone on to carve out careers in sex education, but most of Reimold’s interviewees have moved on, often to other media jobs.

One of the most infamous, Julia Allison, wrote for Georgetown’s Hoya under her birth name, Julia Baugher (she also blurbed the book). But while the controversy around her column simply echoes other controversies in the books, how it improved her relationship with her mother, Robin Baugher, could be of interest to wayward students. “Here’s my buttoned-down student who…makes up her mind that she’s going to become ‘popular’ and does everything in the book to try to do that short of drugs and a lot of alcohol, and I’m ripping my hair out…when you ask whether her column helped bring us closer together, yeah. It was one of the few things we actually agreed on and that I could be openly proud of her about.”

As a former Village Voice sex columnist, I found many of the students’ stories relatable. I also dealt with many of the highs and lows Reimold’s interviewees report: strangers confessing personal sex dramas and wanting advice, getting recognized in public, being called names, but within the confines of a college campus, all the attendant buzz is magnified. One creepy organic chemistry professor asked Kate Prengaman to come to the front of the room, followed by, “Actually, I don’t have anything to say. I just wanted to be close to you because you’re the sex columnist and you’re in my class and that’s just so cool.” Instead of delighting in giving Denise Brundson multiple orgasms, her exhibitionistic paramour was more excited by the prospect of landing in her column.

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