Nothing’s too raunchy for the mostly female sex columnists in college papers

AMY CAMERON April 4 2005


Nothing’s too raunchy for the mostly female sex columnists in college papers

AMY CAMERON April 4 2005




Nothing’s too raunchy for the mostly female sex columnists in college papers

STUDENTS AND FACULTY at George W. Bush’s alma mater had never seen anything quite like it. On a December morning in 2001, the Yale Daily News ran a column on fellatio— specifically, the fine points of what to do with the outcome. And the response was astounding. The newspaper’s online message board lit up with you-go-girl cheers and how-dareyou rants. The Daily News site got 350,000 hits that week, and just as many in the weeks that followed. No one was more surprised than the author, Natalie Krinsky. “It was probably the most risqué column I wrote, and it got a sort of windfall reaction,” says the writer of the now-defunct feature Sex and the (Elm) City. And when the piece was emailed

to her Manhattan financier father, Itzhak, by a colleague who thought it was funny and hadn’t noticed the byline, it also outed Natalie to her parents. “So I get a call, ‘What’s going on?’ At first they were shocked—T thought I sent you to Yale.’ ”

Krinsky’s parents eventually became fans, and ultimately the sex column paid off. After three years of providing an Ivy League perspective on dance floor erections and faking orgasm, the native of Dundas, Ont., had enough material to write the just-out novel Chloe Does Yale (Hyperion/HB Fenn). Though fictional, the book reproduces some of Krinsky’s more infamous columns, and delves into what she now calls “the craziness of trying to find a halfway decent boyfriend and then stepping out of that role to write about it.” Now a 22-year-old bachelor of history living in New York (her family relocated there when she was 15), Krinsky is writing a second novel while contributing to The Village Voice and negotiating with a major Hollywood studio over rights to Chloe.

We all know sex sells, but it’s a particularly hot commodity on university campuses, where people are exploring their sexuality and testing their boundaries away from everwatchful parents. Tapping into the same vibe that makes TV shows like Sex and the City and The O.C. into hits, college newspapers in Canada and the U.S. are including regular features and columns on sex. Written by students for students, these articles include everything from crass diatribes on campus prudes to informed treatises on dental dams. “Young people want to hear about sex in a way that speaks to them, and

there isn’t a lot in the culture that does that,” says Toronto’s Josey Vogels, at 40 an older counterpart of the campus writers, and author of the syndicated weekly sex column My Messy Bedroom. “The writing from younger people is a less finger-wagging.”

But why would a co-ed choose to bare her fantasies to the rest of the student body, or risk offending her boyfriend to talk about ejaculate? For Wistaria Burdge and Zoë Davé, authors of The Sex Bomb, a biweekly column in Mount Allison University’s Argosy, it’s all about the dissemination of information. Oh, and having fun.

It also helps that they can write under pseudonyms. (All of the people interviewed agreed to use their real names, even though two sets of parents aren’t aware their children write regular sex columns. One asked that her bisexuality not be revealed.) “Pseudonyms allow you to write about whatever

you want without people coming up to you on campus,” says Davé, 21, of the small Sackville, N.B., institution she attends. Under the name Vision in Blue (her glasses have blue frames), she pens articles on lubrication, vibrators and hilarious sexual experiences. For columns that are really personal or deal with a current flame, Davé uses different names. “People find out I wrote a specific column and say, ‘You wrote that? You look so innocent.’ Just because you look innocent doesn’t mean you are. It’s a sex column. It’s not going to be PG-rated.”

Burdge, 19, writes from the more informational side of the bed—on things such as the prostate gland, the G spot and date rape. “I’m trying to appeal to the full community of students, and I’m a lesbian,” explains the Vancouver native. “To speak just from my perspective is somewhat excluding.” Burdge, the paper’s photo editor, writes under the pen name [Not] The Photo Editor, but is very open about the column. Burdge’s physician parents (her father specializes in HIV) are supportive, she says, and her girlfriend, who works at the local café, deals with more reaction than Burdge does. “I supply photos for my pieces, and I did an article about dildos,” says Burdge. “Everyone thought that my girlfriend was the one modelling the dildo, but she wasn’t.”

A major consideration for most campus sex columnists is impact on friends and family. Often, the writers walk a fine line. Julia Barnes, editor of the Mind&Body section of The McGill Daily, doesn’t use a pen name and has told her family about her writing. “My parents are against sex before marriage, but they’re supportive of me,” says Barnes. “I didn’t want them to read my stories about sex, but it was more important to me that I don’t want to feel ashamed about what I do.” Barnes is working toward an honours degree in international development studies with a minor in women’s studies. At the same time, the 21-year-old is tackling subjects like the female condom in her

articles. “The first piece I ever wrote was about how much I love to masturbate,” says Barnes. “I had become frustrated with the fact that people didn’t want to talk about sex openly. With masturbation, in particular, people would act disgusted or pretend that they didn’t do it themselves. Writing about it publicly legitimizes it.”

Some topics, however, are just too hot to handle. One of Barnes’ articles last year ridiculed the lesbian stereotypes some people find sexy. The photo of a lesbian orgy used as illustration prompted an angry letter from religious leaders in Montreal, who called the image offensive. In January 2004, the student newspaper at Memorial University of Newfoundland in St.John’s ran the first half of an article entitled “Mind-blowing cunnilingus.” Penned by The Muse’s sex columnist, Kaya Anderson Payne, the piece raised so many eyebrows that the editor-in-chief refused to print the second half. The furor over Payne’s article prompted a supportive letter-writing campaign by the women’s caucus of the Canadian University Press.

In Canada, sex stories don’t usually cause such a fuss. In fact, for many campus columns that rely on what-should-I-do letters, questions have to be made up because of a lack of reader response. Miles Baker, 23, is “Dr. Smoothmoves” in The Flying Walrus at Toronto’s York University. Baker created the persona to answer what he thinks are burning, or amusing, questions about sex—and to have fun. “Dr. Smoothmoves started off as a 1970s ladies man,” says Baker, who’s also the editor-in-chief of York’s

MONDO Magazine. “Real sleazy, been around the block several thousand times. It’s a bit of me. I definitely have a really sick sense of humour. He writes the things that I think of but don’t say in polite company.” Such as when to introduce your younger brother to porn.

Most campus sex columns by men are heavy on humour and light on substance. “The female sex columnist is willing to go to certain places I’m hesitant to go to as a male writing about how to please a girl, for example,” says Baker. “I get scared of sounding misogynist or being in bad taste.”

There may not be much of a future for Dr. Smoothmoves once Baker graduates. But female sex columnists definitely have better prospects. Can this country handle more than a couple of My Messy Bedroom-

type features? Lindsay Ross thinks so. “Being a sex columnist was always my dream job,” says Ross, a recent communications graduate from Calgary’s Mount Royal College. “It sounds kind of strange, but it’s all we talk about in my circle of friends.” Ross, 23, writes Doin’ It, a regular feature for Calgary’s free monthly arts and culture paper, BeatRoute. “My overall goal is to open people’s minds to new things, make them think about what they are doing in their own sex lives and how to enrich that.” During the past two years, while still in college, Ross—whose pen name is L. Sara Bysterveld (her maiden name)—wrote about sex for a zine. She started Doin’ It only after graduation. “It doesn’t pay anything but the fun makes up for everything.” Ross doesn’t try to hide the gig, though she does sometimes fret about how certain people will take it. “At one of my other writing jobs, for a real-estate magazine, I was a little worried about telling them. I thought they were more conservative. But it turns out that everyone thought it was funny. They even insisted on using it in my bio.” In a zipped-up world, it seems, a little literary unzipping can go a long way. m

Amy Cameron is the author of Playing with Matches: Misadventures in Dating


FOR THE RECORD, a room full of dancing naked people is not the most appetizing of scents. Sweaty naked people don’t smell so good. Additionally, there are some people here with odd-shaped body hair patterns ... A guy walks by me with the smallest penis I’ve ever seen. I know I’m not supposed to look, as it’s inappropriate naked-party etiquette, but I can’t help myself. It’s all just so funny ... The boy Lisa is talking to just reached down and itched his bare ass. As a result, the girl standing behind him gets a fist in the thigh ...

I begin to feel relaxed, but suddenly I am

hit with a new, jarring thought. What if it gets crowded?

You could get pregnant just waiting in line for a beer. I’d love to see that conversation go down with my mom. No, actually, I didn’t have sex; I just went to a party where everyone was naked.

“Nakeeed?” she would ask.

I would then have to say yes, and that the party got really crowded and some boy stood too close to me and all of a sudden I’m having twins.

“Jeweeesh?” she would ask.

And then I would have to tell her I’m not certain, but I’m pretty sure he was circumcised.

She would love that. I can see it now...

Left with little to do and not recognizing enough faces to want to stay, I decide to put my naked-party experience (and my naked self) to bed. As Hot Rob said, I can check this one off my list and move on with college life. Hallelujah ...

“Lisa,” I say, tapping her on the shoulder...

“Yes?” she says, turning to me.

“I think I’m gonna go.”

“Whoa,” Orpheus comments, “sex columnist leaving a naked party, huh? Can’t cut it in the nude world?”

From Chloe Does Yale (Fenn, $28.95) by Natalie Krinsky