College Students Bring 'Pillow Talk' out into the Public Square

Article excerpt

They pose naked for student glossies and pen "how to" and "to avoid" advice on amorous engagement. Across the country, college students' choice of extracurricular activity is revealing a growing clinical frankness on matters that would have made their grandparents - and parents - blush.

Harvard University was sent reeling this month when two students announced their newest inspiration: H Bomb, a publication that would be replete with poetry, fiction - and photos of naked coeds. In the past several years, similar magazines, sex columns, even campus- wide events have become the latest trend.

The week before Valentine's Day, Yale students put on Sex Week, which featured panels with a pornographic movie star, among others. Columbia University's student newspaper just launched a weekly sex and dating column. Class lists nationwide increasingly feature the study of pornography and "sex-positive theory," and back at Vassar College, students are preparing the sixth edition of Squirm, the campus magazine of erotica.

To some students, not to mention parents, all this is inappropriate, even offensive, in the halls of American academe. But to those involved in the movement, mostly women, it's a valid form of campus entertainment. It's also about soul-searching and challenging perceptions of sex in an increasingly sex-saturated society.

Of course, interest in sex is not new on campus. The sexual revolution of the '60s was more radical. Colleges today, many say, only reflect society's tolerance of using sex to sell everything from music to shampoo.

And many students are feeling it's their right to express their sexuality however they see fit.

"It's a push back against the political correctness of the 1990s," says Robin Sawyer, a human sexuality professor at the University of Maryland."There is a lot of envelope pushing going on on college campuses."

Harvard students Katharina Baldegg and Camilla Hrdy (pronounced "Hurdy") wrote in their H Bomb mission statement: "What we are proposing is an outlet for literary and artistic expression that is both desired and needed...." The university initially accepted the idea, with reservations. But after the media likened the endeavor to pornography, Harvard's Committee on College Life backpedaled, reflecting the ambivalence universities feel about crossing the line between free speech and becoming platforms for sex.

But students seem undaunted. Indeed, while "Sex and the City" ended its six-year run Sunday, character Carrie Bradshaw seems to have inspired a cadre of young sex columnists.

This winter, Columbia University junior Jessica DiCamillo entered a contest to become the student newspaper's new sex columnist. "Sex is always a conversation starter, an icebreaker." Ms. DiCamillo says.

Yet some worry there is already enough sex in society. "There is a strong addictive quality associated with sex," says Bruce Cook, the founder and CEO of Choosing the Best, an abstinence-only program for teens. …

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