Sunday’s New York Times Magazine features a profoundly fatuous piece on college sex magazines. The article seems rightly skeptical of some of the more outré publications’ claims to seriousness, but holds an absurdly high opinion of others:
Considering that a smorgasbord of Internet porn is but a mouse click away for most college students, there’s something valiant, even quaint, about the attempt to organize and consider sex in a printed magazine. It’s as if, though curious to explore the possibly frightening boundlessness of adult eroticism, they also wish to keep it at arm’s length, contained within the safety of the campus. The students involved display a host of contradictory qualities: cheekiness and earnestness, progressive politics and retro sensibilities, salacity and sensitivity. They aren’t so much answering the question of what is and what isn’t porn — or what those categories might even mean today — as artfully, disarmingly and sometimes deliberately skirting it.
“Valiant” and “quaint” — like Jimmy Stewart? Nope — let’s consider these “valiant and quaint” efforts to “organize” sex.
– “Topics considered within its [Squirm’s] pages have included bondage and sadomasochism, the history of the condom and the fluidity of gender.”
– “And Columbia now has, simply, Outlet, whose second issue, published online in December 2006, includes a review of eight vibrators and an article on ‘vaginal personality’ — shades of Dr. Betty Dodson, the masturbation instructress — subtitled ‘How snarky is your punani?’”
– “H Bomb initially shared at least some of Boink’s exhibitionism, if not quite the full-frontal erections. In the spring 2005 issue, undergraduates posed in various states of undress, using only their first names and responding to the question ‘How’d you lose it?’”
Now, it’s one thing to engage in a bit of naughty publishing (on the university dime, at least) but quite another to do so and pretend that it’s something high-brow. You’ve read Ulysses? Maurice? Tropic of Cancer? Well, clearly now it’s time for something with saucy pictures! Pornographic modeling, once thought to be the exclusive realm of would-be actresses, sexual abuse victims, drug addicts, and other exploitable populations has clearly found a new pasture for flesh, with Ivies offering extracurricular careers (and funding!) to anyone interested in getting a head start in the sexual entertainment industry. How is the pornographic model of old to compete with a Harvard graduate? Brains aren’t the only thing these girls have!