The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Apparently there's been a proliferation of sex-talk columns in college/university campus newspapers across the nation. If they're anything like University of South Florida Oracle's "Campus Bedpost" column by Stephanie Oliveira, there's a lot of ink and paper being wasted on some very banal scribblings.

When I first read this article this morning, I thought it would make for an interesting blog post. After re-reading it, and reading Oliveira's current and past stuff (including the letter of complaint regarding her first rape column), I almost reconsidered, because it occured to me that it was, ultimately, much ado about very little. And I arrived at that view thanks to the details revealed about the author, the would-be (but, she stresses, would-rather-not-be) Carrie Bradshaw/Candace Bushnell. To me, she makes for a pretty lacking sex columnist.

In reference to the commentary on rape, I'll limit my reaction to saying that rape, while sexually motivated, is more an issue about violent force than sex, and so I can understand the objection to seeing it discussed in the same space that deals with masturbation and anal experimentation. It's interesting to note Oliveira's curious reaction to the criticism:
A day later, Oliveira stood in line at Einstein Bros. Bagels with college pal Lani McGettigan and fumed over the letter-writer.

"Say whatever you want ... say I'm a tramp, but don't say I don't care about rape victims," she fumed, her brown eyes narrowing.
Considering her background, I don't see why it would occur to anyone to call her a tramp:
She talks openly and freely about her own experiences. She has called herself a "well-read little nympho." She has referred to a five-second kiss with an "unforgettable girl crush" in high school...

She has kissed many but made love to only one, her 22-year-old boyfriend of a year. She pulls her thick red hair up into an almost '50s-style, bunlike ponytail and wears a tenth-of-a-carat diamond promise ring from her boyfriend on her left ring finger.
Am I missing something here? She's slept with a grand total of one person. One. The definition of "tramp" doesn't cover someone who talks a whole lot about sexual subjects, but whose experience is limited to one guy, along with her hand and (probably) a few dildoes. I'm sure she'd like to be thought of as tramp material, but despite her vicarious wishes, it ain't gonna happen. No one's calling her a tramp because, frankly, she doesn't qualify--not even close.

From that, I don't see how she has the credibility to pen a sex column at all. I'm not saying she needs to have slept with the entire football team, but some breadth of experience is an expected prerequisite for this subject matter. She can read all the "Sex for Dummies" guides available until her head explodes, but that's not an adequate substitute for actual experimentation. A sole sex partner really doesn't cut it; it's the equivalent of reading a restaurant critic who frequents only one restaurant.

We learn early on in the article that Oliveira is the product of Catholic school tutelage, and I have to assume that this background is what's giving her the false impression that she's "with it" regarding sex chat:
She bought book after book, filling the bookcase in her tiny peach-colored bedroom in St. Petersburg. Sex for Dummies. Sex in the South. Sexplorations. Sex and Temperament. Sex and the City.

She was a playwright in high school. The subject of one of her award-winning plays? A nun who gets pregnant.

"I have been the 'sex girl' ever since high school," she said.
Only in the cloistered world of a Catholic high school could a girl who never (at that time) had sex, but owned books with the word "sex" in the title, be considered the "sex girl". News flash: The real "sex girls" were actually having sex instead of only talking about it. Without even knowing them, I'd rather hear about their insights into sexual issues.

All in all, anytime you're producing an allegedly sexually explicit column that your parents and school officials approve of wholeheartedly, you have to figure you're not doing it right. The reason it's not really offending anyone is because it's doesn't have the capacity to even be offensive, and that stems from the lack of anything truly meaningful to convey. If Oliveira actually has some comparative sex in her life, she might develop something interesting for a column; until then, it's all empty talk.