Sex column important, needs closer eye

Todd Vanderwerff

Todd Vanderwerff

Quite frankly, I was expecting the abortion article to cause controversy. When I got the call from KELO-TV, I assumed that the Alpha Center or Planned Parenthood or somebody was upset about not presenting their side of the argument fairly enough and KELO had decided it would make a good story.

What they did have, of course, was our sex column, which, through a series of poor decisions bore a headline that practically dared the reader to dive right in to the lasciviousness. Perhaps it all would have been OK if the column itself had been innocuous, but the column also referred to a hickey on a certain part of the male anatomy. When an SDSU student who works at KELO showed his or her bosses that column, they smelled a story. Did they manufacture a controversy? I think so. Do I blame them? Not at all.

I myself have to admit that those two elements were rather shocking and I certainly apologize to anyone who read that column (or that headline) and felt that we had completely abandoned standards of common decency (surprisingly enough, we haven’t abandoned those standards just yet).

By now, you’ve seen me on TV discussing how our sex column is supposed to be educational or at least spark discussion. Certainly, last week’s column sparked a lot of discussion.

Was it educational? That’s open to debate. I do think it had some value, but it also had perhaps too much titillation.

I should probably point out at this point that SDSU has no editorial control of any kind over us. If you’re mad at us, don’t blame the university because there’s little they can do. If you’re mad at us, blame us. The university has a great policy editorially in regards to us and KSDJ: They keep their hands off and it’s going to stay that way.

Of course, it’s not just the language of that column that troubles some. Some would argue that the column should not run at all because of its subject matter, pure and simple. On that matter, I disagree.

Across the nation, 75 percent of college students are sexually active. Out of that 75 percent, 20 percent have had three or more partners in the past year. While abstinence is certainly preferable in most circumstances, clearly few of you are practicing it.

Is that wrong? It depends on what you believe. We, however, believe that if sex is going to be a part of your life, it will be a part of our newspaper. A recent article in U.S. News and World Report on the proliferation of college newspaper sex columns (and there are many around the country – google it sometime) stated that college students tended to appreciate sex columns because they talked about matters students discussed in their dorm rooms late at night in a frank and refreshing manner. In short, these columns made it OK to talk about sex.

Do I think children or even high school students should read this column? No.

To that end, we will be keeping a closer eye on the column to make sure it is educational and informative without being titillating and we will be printing it with a warning every week. However, I do think it is important for us as students to discuss this and I will think that way for as long as I hold this job. Sex is dangerous territory and if we can contribute to the public discussion somehow, hopefully, we can help you negotiate that mine field.

As always, if you have differences with me, you can e-mail me at [email protected] and (for this week only), you can call me at home at 692-5177. I hope you will.

Let’s continue this discussion together.